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‘UK is not remotely a corrupt country,’ says Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson has told the world’s media that Britain is not a corrupt country despite the controversy over Conservative MPs’ paid lobbying and other second jobs. Speaking at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, Mr Johnson said MPs faced tough scrutiny and those who broke the rules should be punished.

“I genuinely believe that the UK is not remotely a corrupt country and I genuinely think that our institutions are not corrupt. We have a very, very tough system of parliamentary democracy and scrutiny, not least by the media,” he said.

“I think what you have got is cases where, sadly, MPs have broken the rules in the past, may be guilty of breaking the rules today. What I want to see is them facing appropriate sanctions.”

Conservative MPs have faced increased scrutiny over their outside interests since Mr Johnson’s botched attempt to overturn sanctions against former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson for breaking rules on paid lobbying. The prime minister reversed his position within 24 hours following a political backlash and Mr Paterson resigned as an MP.

Sideline work

Former attorney general Geoffrey Cox is facing questions over the £1 million he earned over 12 months as a barrister representing clients including the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in a legal inquiry initiated by the foreign office. Sir Geoffrey spent part of this year in the Caribbean, using the House of Commons proxy system to vote remotely.

The Times on Wednesday published a video showing Sir Geoffrey taking part in a hearing from his Commons office, which should only be used for public business. He has admitted that he was in his office but denies breaking parliamentary rules, adding that it was up to his constituents in Torridge and West Devon to decide if they were happy for their MP to carry on working as a barrister.

“That has been the consistent view of the local Conservative Association and although at every election his political opponents have sought to make a prominent issue of his professional practice, it has so far been the consistent view of the voters of Torridge and West Devon. Sir Geoffrey is very content to abide by their decision,” said a statement posted on his website.

World ‘experience’

Mr Johnson declined to discuss Sir Geoffrey’s case but he said an MP’s primary duty was to devote themselves to their constituents’ interests.

“For hundreds of years, MPs have gone to parliament and also done work as doctors, lawyers or soldiers or firefighters or writers, or all sorts of other trades and callings. And on the whole, the UK population has understood that that has actually strengthened our democracy, because people basically feel that parliamentarians do need to have some experience of the world,” he said.

“But, if that system is going to continue today, then it is crucial that MPs follow the rules. And the rules say two crucial things: you must put your job as an MP first and you must devote yourself primarily and above all to your constituents and the people who send you to Westminster, to Parliament.”

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