Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, which relates to royalties received from works recorded prior to becoming a Member of this House, and on which I work zero hours. There is one recording not in the register: the record by MP4, the cross-party parliamentary group, which has made almost £1 million for charity in the past 10 years. I know you have a certain affection for the recordings of MP4, Mr Speaker, and we greatly appreciate that.
Here we go again. Just when we think that the Westminster establishment could not be held in lower esteem by the public, something comes along to disabuse us of that notion. It is all so familiar: a sting operation by the media using a fake company involving some of our senior Members of Parliament and the lure of access. Underpinning it all is the possibility of cash in the hands of those Members.
Mr Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): My hon. Friend talks about cash. Does he not find it strange—it seems strange to me—that it is so simple to entrap people in this place with the lure of cash? Members do not even take simple steps to find out if these people are genuine.
Pete Wishart: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) made that very same observation about an almost identical sting prior to the last election, when it was then Labour Cabinet members who were caught up in a rotten affair.
The public observe this House with something approaching bemused bewilderment, concluding that the Westminster Parliament exists as little more than a self-serving institution for its overpaid Members. This Parliament has never been held in such contempt. Never has there been such a profound alienation between those who are governed and those who occupy the corridors of power.
There is a massive disconnect between this House and the people of Britain. All that has happened in the past week makes that disconnect even wider. People will observe the comments from Conservative Members with something approaching disbelief. We see that reflected in how the public respond to this House—of course we do. The two major establishment parties can barely get above 60% in the polls. The public are not prepared to accept this anymore.
Graham Jones: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could tell the House how many Scottish National party MSPs who are standing in the general election intend to stand down as MSPs, or will they be dual-hatted?
Pete Wishart: I know one, and yes he will.
This House is able to secure only 60% of popular support. That suggests to me that the people of these islands are looking for something different. They are sick and tired of the antics of this particular House. That is reflected in how they are responding to the way the Westminster establishment parties do their business. They are sick and tired of the self-justification: the special pleading; the bleating; the idea that somehow this House is enriched because Conservative Members can make some extra money; that this House is enriched because they bring outside experience to it; and that we cannot live on £67,000 a year. Tell that to our constituents! That is treble the national average wage. Our constituents are currently suffering austerity and a diminution of their annual income. They are experiencing real poverty and real difficulty, yet this House tells them that right hon. and hon. Members cannot get by on £67,000 a year.
I believe that being a Member of Parliament is a full-time job. In fact, we have got two jobs: we have our responsibilities in this House, and then we have our obligations to our constituents. Becoming a constituency Member of Parliament has changed dramatically in the 14 years that I have been here. It has become much more technical and much more complicated, with a greater amount of different tasks and skills needing to be acquired to serve members of the public efficiently and effectively. The suggestion that this can be combined with a second job with outside earnings is something I believe our constituents would find very difficult to accept.
Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Pete Wishart: I cannot; I have no more time left.
No SNP Member has a second job, a directorship or a place on a company. Our responsibilities here are our sole concern and our only responsibility. SNP Members serve our constituents and ensure that the agenda for the nation is progressed. That is what we do when we come here. It is only this House among the Parliaments and legislatures of this nation that seems to have this difficulty. It is only at Westminster where there is an issue about paid directorships and second jobs. We certainly do not have such issues in the Scottish Parliament, and I do not believe they have them in the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Welsh Assembly. I believe that there is something peculiar and particular about this House. It has something to do with the history and the culture, something to do with the sense of entitlement that almost seems to come out of the pores of this place—the idea that people came to this Chamber because it was something for them to do after their main job.
25 Feb 2015 : Column 407 John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Pete Wishart: I have no time to give way. That is what we see with this particular House. It is built into the culture and the history. We need a 21st-century institution that is equipped to deal with the Britain we currently serve. It is no good relying on these old ways of doing things; we need to look carefully and clearly at how we conduct our business. What the public are seeing is cash for access and cash for honours. The public are looking at that absurd, ridiculous place down the corridor, with 850 ermine-clad unelected Lords. That is what they are seeing in this rotten democracy. We have a task to do if we are to ensure that we clean up this House.
I will support the Labour motion, but I observe that a number of Labour Members are among the top earners when it comes to outside interests. I would say to the Labour party, “If you are sincere, do it from next week.” I really hope it goes through with this and can maintain it as a policy.
We owe it to our constituents to try to ensure that we do better. We are not part-time Members of Parliament. Looking after our constituents is a full-time job. A second job means a second master, and that second master expects something back in return. Let us make sure that we do this job exclusively on behalf of our constituents. There should be no second jobs, no paid directorships, no outside interests with a financial return. Let us work for our constituents and make them our only priority.