Former minister takes second job as No 10 drops plan to cap MPs’ earnings

Caroline Dinenage given approval to take up nonexecutive role at care home developer owned by Tory donor

Rowena Mason www.theguardian.com 

A Conservative MP and former social care minister has signed up for a second job working as a director for a care home developer, just months after Boris Johnson promised a crackdown on outside earnings.

Caroline Dinenage asked for formal approval to take up a job as a nonexecutive at LNT Group, a developer of new care homes owned by Tory donor Lawrence Tomlinson.

Many of her party colleagues have been offloading second jobs following a furore about MPs spending too much time on outside interests after the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal that forced him to resign.

The government pledged to bring in changes to the rules on MP jobs to tighten restrictions around lobbying and consultancy after a consultation held by the Commons standards committee, but last week No 10 quietly dropped support for capping hours and earnings.

Despite the lack of formal new rules, many MPs have cut back their work for private companies.

Julian Smith, a Conservative former cabinet minister, quit all of his private sector advisory roles, which had been earning him £144,000 a year, while Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, ended his advisory board role at Tunstall Healthcare, which had been earning him £20,000 a year.

In contrast, Dinenage, the MP for Gosport, was given approval for the new part-time role at the care home developer earlier this month by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), which noted that she had toured an LNT site while she was a social care minister but said her former department had no concerns about her taking up the job.

It said she must not lobby the government on behalf of LNT, draw on privileged information, advise on government contracts or use contacts from her time in office.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “Just as Boris Johnson breaks his promise to crack down on Tory MPs’ outside work, it emerges one of his former health ministers has a second job with a care home firm.

“This is a prime minister who has repeatedly allowed his own MPs to put their own private business interests ahead of their constituents and it must be stopped. Labour will set up a commission for integrity and ethics to make sure the British people’s interests always come first.”

The government’s pledge last year to put tighter restrictions on second jobs came amid a public outcry over lobbying breaches by Paterson, whom MPs were initially whipped to try to protect, and a furore over the former attorney general Geoffrey Cox being paid nearly £6m as a lawyer since joining parliament, voting by proxy on days he was undertaking paid work.

Two cabinet ministers, Dominic Raab and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, backed a time limit on second jobs last autumn, suggesting it could be 10 to 15 hours a week.

But with pressure off Johnson’s premiership because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ministers submitted their view to the Commons standards committee that a time limit or ceiling on such earnings would be “impractical”.

At least 20 Conservative MPs have lobbied the standards committee investigating new rules on second jobs and their behaviour in the Commons chamber, with many saying they strongly disagreed with time limits on outside work.

Dinenage has been contacted for comment.