Money in politics is once again under the microscope after a new database revealed the amount donated to MPs as well as their earnings from second jobs in the past four years.
Analysis of the Westminster Account database, produced by Sky News and Tortoise Media, shows MPs have earned a total of £17.1m from work outside parliament since the 2019 election.
Collectively, they have also received hundreds of thousands in donations from trade unions, the state of Qatar and little-known companies.
If declared properly, donations to MPs and political parties – and second earnings – are entirely legal. MPs are allowed to have a second job provided they are not a minister. Earnings and donations must be declared on the members’ register of financial interests.
However, how much MPs should be able to earn from outside work – and the time spent doing it while parliament is sitting – became the subject of fierce debate 2021 when it emerged that a Conservative MP broke lobbying rules and another earned more than £900,000 in the previous year from his legal work.
A number of Labour MPs also earned significant sums outside of parliament. Here, The Independent takes a look at some of the MPs bringing in the most money. The database does not cover the expenses MPs claim to run their offices or their annual base salary of £84,144.
Theresa May, the former prime minister, is parliament’s biggest earner and has received around £2.8m in donations, gifts and payments on top of her salary since 2019.
The largest single amount Ms May has declared is £408,200 in secondary earnings from the Cambridge Speaker Series. Once they leave office, prime ministers often earn more money by taking up speaking engagements and can command large fees for being former occupants of No 10 Downing Street.
The smallest single item listed for Ms May is a gift worth £300 from Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Sir Geoffrey Cox
Sir Geoffrey Cox was the second-highest earner, raking in just over £2,191,000 from his legal work. The Tory MP said there was “no conflict of interest between my work as a barrister and my role as a member of parliament”.
An MP, KC and former attorney general, Mr Cox was the focal point of much of the outrage over MPs’ second jobs when it emerged in November 2021 that he had been working in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) while the Commons was still sitting.
The prominent barrister had been advising officials from the government on an independent inquiry into alleged corruption.
After being ousted from office in the summer, Boris Johnson has also taken to the global speaking circuit, delivering talks to investment bankers in New York, the Hindustan Times in India and a TV network in Portugal.
He has declared £1.2m in gifts, payments and donations since 2019, with £277,723 of that total coming from Centerview Partners, an investment banking firm with offices in New York, London and Paris.
This was also the single-biggest amount received by Mr Johnson. The smallest is £88 in secondary earnings from Editions Robert Laffont.
The current prime minister, who with his wife is worth an estimated £730m, has declared 37 donations, gifts, payments and other benefits worth approximately £546,000.
The largest single item Mr Sunak has declared is a donation worth £50,000 from Yoginvest, a company controlled by the property investor Nick Leslau.
The smallest single item is a donation worth £1,270 from Bridge Consulting.
Since 2019, Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has declared 104 donations, gifts, payments and other benefits worth the equivalent of approximately £799,900.
The largest single item Sir Keir has declared is a donation worth £100,000 from Lord Waheed Alli, a British media entrepreneur and a member of the House of Lords.
The smallest single item is a gift worth £73 from Trust Reservations.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy was the biggest earner in his party, making just over £202,000 from outside work, including more than £87,000 from his work on LBC Radio.
Mr Lammy made 92 declarations of gifts, payments and other benefits worth a total of £313,300.
The largest single item Mr Lammy has declared is a donation worth £25,000 from Jeanne Marie Davies. The smallest is a gift worth £90 from Tottenham Hotspur Football & Athletic Co.
Speaking on the issue on Monday afternoon, Rishi Sunak warned that MPs should be prepared to “justify” their political donations to their constituents amid concern over a lack of transparency and the origin of some payments.
He said politicians “should be a no doubt that the public will pay close attention”, Downing Street said.
Asked if it was right that “companies that don’t seem to exist” could donate to MPs, Mr Sunak said: “I think transparency is really important for the healthy functioning of democracy, it’s absolutely right that there’s disclosures around donations and outside interests. Transparency is a good thing. I fully support it.”