Osborne: Parliament 'enhanced' by my appointment as Evening Standard editor

George Osborne has defended his appointment as London Evening Standard editor, insisting Parliament is “enhanced” when people of different experience take part.

The former chancellor has faced criticism and calls to step down as MP for Tatton after news of the new job broke.

Appearing in the Commons after Labour asked an urgent question, Osborne said he will “listen” to what other MPs think.

Looking relaxed, he opened with a joke as he defended his new job to fellow MPs.

He said: “When I heard that this urgent question had been granted, I thought it was important to be here, although unfortunately we have missed the deadline for the Evening Standard.

“In my view, this Parliament is enhanced when we have people of different experience take part in our robust debate and when people who have held senior ministerial office continue to contribute to the decisions we have to make.

“But I will listen to what my colleagues have to say in this debate, I’m interested to hear.”

Osborne has taken a string of new jobs since leaving the Tory frontbench last year.

He earns £650,000 a year as an adviser to US investment firm BlackRock, chairs the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, is a Kissinger Fellow and has become a face on the lucrative after-dinner speech circuit.

Critics have questioned his ability to represent his constituents while juggling the new jobs.

They have also called for an inquiry into whether he broke rules for former ministers by failing to clear the appointment with the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), which vets new jobs taken by senior public figures.

Shadow minister Andrew Gwynne earlier said Osborne‘s new job “is a matter of great concern” which risks diminishing the standing of politicians and Parliament in the eyes of voters.

He called for a “stronger system” around business appointments of former ministers, adding: “To hold one outside interest is perhaps defensible, but to hold several time-consuming outside commitments that have a deep overlap with the political role of what is supposed to be a full-time commitment as a member of this House is impossible to defend.”

Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer said an application to Acoba for advice on the Evening Standard role was received on 13 March and is under consideration.

Gummer added: “Until this advice is made public, it is a confidential process between the committee and (Mr Osborne), although no doubt a matter of significant interest to this House.”

He said the Government does not have a view on the specifics of the case until the independent advice is published.

The issue of MPs having jobs outside Parliament is a matter of “ongoing concern to the public” and “is something this House will have to grapple with in the years ahead”, Gummer added.

Labour former minister Helen Goodman said: “In 1523, Cardinal Wolsey became the Bishop of Durham. He never visited his diocese.

“What steps is the minister going to take to make sure honourable members don’t start behaving like medieval clerics, rather than modern politicians?”

The SNP’s Roger Mullin (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) said: “You cannot get off treating this House and the people as a load of gowks, as we would say in Scotland.

“This is a disgraceful shambles and we need to know what this Government is going to do about it.”

Several Conservative colleagues defended Osborne, with former cabinet minister Michael Gove defending the right of a newspaper proprietor to appoint who they want.

Tory MP Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) joked that Labour had done a “tremendous job” in uniting his party behind Osborne.

At this point, Osborne could be seen laughing. He later left his seat in the Commons with a smile on his face and shared a few words with Tory colleagues before exiting the chamber.

Picture: PA Wire

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