(CMR) British MP Sir Geoffrey Cox has come under fire for making thousands working as a lawyer in the British Virgin Islands while skipping several Parliament meetings. He is accused of taking advantage of lockdown rules to vote remotely so he could stay in the overseas territory to advise the BVI government in an inquiry over allegations of criminal activity.
The ex-attorney general, who reportedly made almost £900,000 in the last year as a barrister, is also accused of using his parliamentary office resources for his second job.
Opposition parties want Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, to investigate what they believe is a breach of the rules.
Footage has emerged of Cox taking part virtually in the BVI hearings in what appears to be from his parliamentary office. Cox represented the BVI and its premier, Andrew Fahie, in person in the Caribbean, in April, May, and June this year, including periods when the Commons was sitting.
He reportedly took part in a number of votes while he was away, doing so via a proxy. Proxy voting was first introduced to the Commons in January 2019, initially just for new parents.
In June last year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the arrangement was extended for MPs who could not be in Westminster for medical or public health reasons, and then in November, to any MPs who preferred to not vote in person “for medical or public health reasons relating to the pandemic”.
Under the rules, Cox would not have been allowed to cast a proxy vote to do non-MP work. However, the MP said he consulted the chief whip on this issue and was advised that it was appropriate.
Cox is also accused of spending a significant amount of time on his second job and not being visible enough in his constituency. This has renewed calls for a crackdown on MPs' second jobbing.