Around half of sitting Welsh MPs have accepted gifts or paid work from organisations in the past year, according to official records.
The most recent parliamentary Register of Members’ Interests shows that MPs accepted tickets to sporting and music events worth hundreds of pounds, while others engaged in highly paid consultancy work for global firms.
Since April 2020, the basic pay for a Member of Parliament has been £81,932 per year. On top of this, MPs are permitted to make expense claims for their commute between Parliament and their constituency.
They also receive heavily discounted food and drink at parliament, subsidised by public money.
Yet many MPs in Wales continue to accept lucrative work from private companies alongside their role as an elected representative, hold shares in private companies, and accept valuable gifts.
Perhaps the most high profile example this past year was Alun Cairns, MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, and Secretary of State for Wales before his 2019 resignation over an aide’s involvement in the sabotage of a rape trial.
Mr Cairns accepted consultancy roles at BBI Group, a Caerphilly-based “global life science and diagnostic company” and at Veezu Holdings Ltd, a Newport-based “private hire transport and technology platform” which owns Dragon Taxis, last year.
BBI Group is a partner on the UK government’s Rapid Test Consortium and was contracted to provide lateral flow Covid-19 antibody tests in October 2020.
Mr Cairns earns approximately £214 per hour for his work “providing strategic advice to the Board” at the firm, totalling £15,000 per year on top of his MP salary. He makes the same amount for his role at Veezu.
This year Mr Cairns also accepted employment at Singapore-based asset management company Elite Partners Capital, which owns a number of UK commercial properties rented out by the government.
On its website the company boasts: “Eighty-five percent of the assets are based in town centre locations and are core locations occupied by UK Government.
“Secured top grade tenant with over 99% of the income secured by the UK Government.”
Mr Cairns sits on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Singapore, which aims to “promote and advance relations with Singapore”. He earns approximately £357 per hour in his role as a strategic consultant for Elite Partners Capital, adding up to £30,000 a year.
Cairns also sits on the APPGs for Taxis and Financial Markets and Services.
This Govt should always be there to support those who need help but the days of blank cheque benefits are over. #welfareparty
— Alun Cairns (@AlunCairns) July 15, 2013
A tweet by Mr Cairns from 2013 reads: “This Govt should always be there to support those who need help but the days of blank cheque benefits are over. #welfareparty”
“All [my] roles have been scrutinised and approved by Parliament’s independent advisory body, ACOBA,” he told The National today.
Many of Mr Cairns’ Welsh Conservative colleagues also registered extra income streams.
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Vale of Clwyd MP Dr James Davies, who practiced as a GP before entering Parliament, has, the parliamentary Register of Members’ Interests shows, continued to work occasional shifts – including NHS out of hours work.
But while former Cabinet Minister Cairns is able to collect a £15,000 salary for 70 hours’ work, Dr Davies had to put in 246 hours as a GP – spread over 10 months – to earn around the same amount.
Current Welsh Secretary Simon Hart accepted £7,000 from Landsker Business Club this February. The Club is registered as an “unincorporated association”; such groups are able to direct significant funds to politicians without disclosing the identities of their members. The practice is legal.
Hart received a further £3,000 from 8hwe Ltd, a strategic comms company.
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This past year Virginia Crosbie, Conservative MP for Ynys Môn, accepted £17,500 in donations from the Cayzer Trust, which manages the commercial interests of the billionaire Cayzer family. The trust owns controlling shares of financial giant Caledonia Investments.
Crosbie also received a £20,000 donation in-kind from trust fund manager and Conservative stalwart Patrick Evershed in May this year. The money was received indirectly through a Conservative Party organisation.
Mr Evershed is the president of the Cities of London and Westminster Conservative Association, and has previously told interviewers that he owns a cottage in north Wales.
In all, Virginia Crosbie registered gifts worth £46,000 over the past year. She also earned £1,100 completing surveys for companies YouGov, Ipsos MORI and Yonder but all of those fees were paid directly to charity.
She said, via email: “I regularly receive donations and I use the money for the benefit of my constituents.
“For example, I used one donation to pay for the distribution of a leaflet across the island on mental health. Other future initiatives in a similar vein will also use donations.
“I make no apology for using this money to help all my constituents on Anglesey.”
This week both Ms Crosbie and Alun Cairns voted in favour of throwing out the current parliamentary standards watchdog, which investigates rule breaches and conflicts of interest, after the body recommended the suspension of MP Owen Paterson. Westminster later u-turned on the decision.
MP for Bridgend Jamie Wallis receives more than £10,000 per year in rent from commercial properties in Bridgend. He also holds significant shares in sixteen different companies, some worth thousands of pounds.
Mr Wallis said: “Following my election as the MP for Bridgend I resigned all my Company Directorships. ”
Media, music and Clement Attlee
A handful of Welsh MPs earn additional income from writing articles and books, while one even earned extra cash for performing in a rock band.
Chris Bryant, Rhondda MP and Chair of the Parliamentary Standards Committee, has authored a number of books and also regularly contributes articles to publications such as The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express and Attitude.
In addition to his MP salary, the Labour member earned an extra £33, 961, with fees ranging from £600 for three hours presenting an LBC radio programme to £7,600 for the film rights to his book, The Glamour Boys.
Bryant also picked up £2,000 in March for giving a talk on his book at an LGBTQ+ webinar organised by American investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Shadow Home Secretary and Torfaen MP Nick Thomas Symonds registered £15,134.96 in additional income, with £13,125 apparently for legal services provided before entering parliament in 2015.
The remainder was made up of royalties for biographies that the former Oxford lecturer had written on Nye Bevan and Clement Attlee before entering parliament.
According to his website, the Torfaen MP is currently working on his third book – a biography of former Labour PM Harold Wilson.
Meanwhile, Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West, was paid £960.28 last November for a performance with his band “MP4” at television writer Matt Forde’s 2019 Christmas Special stage show in London.
Described as “the world’s only parliamentary rock band”, MP4 consists of guitarist Brennan, SNP MP Pete Wishart on keyboards, Conservative and lead singer Sir Greg Knight, and former Labour MP Ian Cawsey.
New Pontypridd MP Alex Davies-Jones, who sits on the APPGs for Music Education and Media, accepted Brit Awards tickets and hospitality worth £875 from Google, as well as a £444 ticket to the Ivor Novello music awards from the Betting and Gaming Council.
Similarly, Jo Stevens, Cardiff Central MP and Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, accepted nearly £2,000 in sporting event and music award tickets.
Some Labour MPs also earned thousands completing surveys. Mark Tami, MP for Alyn and Deeside, earned more than £1,000 in a matter of months.
And the rest?
Not all MPs reported extra income streams.
One such MP, Cynon Valley’s Beth Winter, told The National: “Being the MP for Cynon Valley is a great privilege. It is also a very time consuming and extremely well paid job.
“I fail to understand why any of my colleagues should feel the need to do second jobs, or where they find the time.
“MPs should be focused on serving their constituents, not lining their own pockets working for big business. Second jobs for MPs must be banned.”
Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, Ben Lake, added: “I find that my duties as an MP keep me busy enough, and so have never sought [extra income].”
Other MPs reporting no additional financial interests included Preseli and Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb, Newport East MP Jessica Morden, Aberconwy MP Robin Millar and Arfon MP Hywel Williams.
All named MPs were approached for comment.
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