The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has called for the end of the “fundamentally wrong” practice of giving backbench MPs government jobs, consultancies, or positions of trust.
The investigation, which began after a complaint from MP Godfrey Farrugia, found that roughly two-thirds of all backbench MPs are employed by the government, whether they worked in the public sector, statutory bodies, university, on a person of trust basis, or as government consultants, chairpersons, or directors.
All of the government’s backbenchers are employed by the government, while members within the opposition are also working in state departments or agencies.
The Commissioner, George Hyzler, explained that by placing MPs in the position of financial dependence on the Executive, the practice endangers the role of Parliament to scrutinise the government, goes against the underlying principles of the Constitution, and breaches Codes of Ethics.
Beyond creating unnecessary jobs or simply putting the wrong people in the roles, the engagement of an MP as a ‘person of trust’ or on a ‘contracts of service’ may be in breached of article 55(1)(g) of the constitution, Hylzer said, calling on the issue to be solved within the Constitutional Court.
The issue surrounding the poor pay packages MPs receive (they are the lowest around Europe) also rears its head in the report, with Hyzler questioning whether this was the reason by the MP’s government employment.
“The issue of MPs’ remuneration is a matter that needs to be addressed by Parliament with urgency”.
Hyzler also added that if an inadequate salary is the reason behind the employment, it raises a fundamental problem with discrimination, since “the current practice is restricted to the appointment of members of Parliament on the Government’s own backbenchers”.
He then said that the appointment of backbenchers to government position might also be a means of keeping MPs not selected for cabinet positions happy.