Wednesday 17 November 2021 / 12:25 PM Keir Starmer / Press Releases

Keir Starmer responds to Conservative’s corruption

We are fortunate in this country.

Voters may not always agree with politicians.
They often don’t.

But they can trust that disagreements are sincere.
That their representatives are acting in what they think is the public interest.

And that we can resolve our sincere disagreements in debate, and at the ballot box.

The vast majority of MPs care about our democracy.
And they honour that trust.
They don’t earn millions from foreign governments.
They don’t use the proxy vote rules to bunk off to the Caribbean.
They don’t lobby government because they’ve been paid to do so.

Instead, they just go about their job, trying to make sure that our laws are written in the best interests of their constituents and of the country

But those MPs have been let down.
And more importantly so have the British people.

Because the corruption scandal that has engulfed the Tory Party is corroding trust in our parliament.
And in the belief that politics is a force for good.

Everybody who cares about British democracy wants to call time on the scandal that the Prime Minister has created and allowed to fester.

Tomorrow, Labour will give MPs the chance to begin to repair the damage.

It’s time to ban MPs from being paid directors and commercial consultants.

This shouldn’t be a controversial statement.

Labour has long called for this.
The current Code of Conduct recognises that these roles are a potential conflict of interest, but doesn’t ban them.

We voted to fix that in 2015 but were blocked by the Government.

A change along these lines has been recommended by the independent Committee for Standards in Public Life.

But there hasn’t been any action from the Government.

We also know that Randox have been awarded Government contracts worth over £600 million without competition or tender.

We know that the former Member for North Shropshire lobbied for Randox.

We know that he sat in on a call between Randox and the Minister responsible for handling health contracts.

Against this backdrop there is obviously a concern that the use of tax-payers’ money may have been influenced by paid advocacy from the former Member for North Shropshire.

So, if the Prime Minister is interested in rooting out corruption, he needs to launch a full investigation.

We need full transparency, with all the relevant correspondence published.

The Prime Minister’s decisions led to this scandal.
He has repeatedly failed in his leadership over this issue.

The Prime Minister now has a choice.
Support Labour’s plan to fix our politics, or whip his MPs to vote against a ban on MPs being paid directors and commercial consultants, and for a cover-up of the Owen Paterson scandal.

Wednesday’s vote is vital.
But let’s be honest, it’s only the start of what we need to do.

These are the changes Labour is calling for:

Firstly, ban all second jobs for MPs, with very limited exemptions, starting with a vote tomorrow on banning MPs from working as a paid Parliamentary strategist, adviser, or consultant.

Secondly, stop the revolving door between Government and the companies that ministers are supposed to regulate with a ban for five years after leaving office.

Third, stop Tory plans for foreign money in British politics and create strict rules about donations from shell companies.

Fourthly, stop waste and corruption with taxpayers’ money with a new Office for Value for Money and reform of the public procurement system.

And fifthly, strengthen the government standards system with a new independent Integrity and Ethics Commission to defend and extend standards in government.

We have a strong system in the House of Commons with the independent Commissioner for Standards and the Standards Committee.

In addition, we need an overarching independent body across government, with adequate powers, to look at ministers’ behaviour both in and out of office.

Enough is enough.

It’s time to draw a line and wash away the Tory sleaze that is doing such damage to our politics.

I hope the Prime Minister agrees and will take these measures forward.

If not, the next Labour government will legislate to do so.

There are plenty of MPs who have acted in accordance with the rules and done nothing wrong.
But there are moments that cause us to reflect.
This current Tory sleaze row is one such moment.

When faced with the scale of the Owen Paterson scandal the Prime Minister’s instinct was to rip up the rules.
To protect a mate.

My instinct is the complete opposite of the Prime Minister’s.

I believe profoundly in the values of public service.
It’s why I became Director of Public Prosecutions and prosecuted MPs who broke the expenses rules.

That’s why I feel so passionately that we have to meet this pivotal moment.
We have to make the change that is necessary.

What the Prime Minister and the Government have done in the last two weeks was corrupt and contemptible.
It was not a one-off.
It is a pattern of behaviour.

We can tolerate this political corruption, turn a blind eye, shrug our shoulders, or we can decide that Britain deserves better.

We need a government that governs in the public interest.
Where standards stand for something.
Where truth means something and where honesty is at the heart of everything that it does.

The Prime Minister is not capable of such a government.
I know it.
He knows it.
Increasingly, the British people know it.

This is a pivotal moment.
It’s time now to act.

Thank you.