When certain MPs gain the confidence that they can carry out the full extent of their role as a Parliamentary representative for their constituents and find they still have some time left over, some of them choose to carry out other types of work that will pay them well. According to current arrangements all MPs are entitled to do so, even though some people including myself have concerns about this. It is of course clear that if they spent spare time in settings where they could improve their understanding of their constituency or of what laws need to be made, that we can all potentially benefit from such an arrangement. However if they earn large sums of money, working for people who may wish to influence law makers in an unhelpful way, such arrangements are very concerning. Unfortunately MPs are not accountable to anyone except their voters at the next election and if they are located in safe seats such as South Holland and the Deepings it seems unlikely that they would pay attention to any of their constituents who oppose their behaviour. However just to try to manage any problems, ex Ministers such as John Hayes MP do have to go through a check with a body called ACoBA (Advisory Committee on Business Appointments) before they can take on such roles. Some of their colleagues such as Boris Johnson often forget to even do that so it seems good when ACoBA is contacted. However it would appear that based on the track record of John Hayes and ACoBA, that both parties are capable of lacking in thoroughness.
According to the Register of Members Interests last updated on 4th March, Sir John Hayes is listed as carrying out 4 pieces of additional paid work. The first three together represent 220-260 hours a year and the total remuneration for these three roles is £85,000 so this equates to an average payment of £325-£385 per hour. Only one of these stands out as being questionable because it is an organisation that is funded almost exclusively by the Government. That said it pays only £125 an hour so it is not the highest payment from this range of jobs.
The fourth role is much more concerning for a number of reasons and it should also question if the judgements made by ACoBA are credible. This role is described by John in his register as being a Non Executive Director of a charitable foundation called ESharelife which pays him a sum £1,333 a day for 18 days a year. It seems very concerning for any charity to make such a high payment. A few years ago Priti Patel MP raised concerns about charities that operate overseas which pay any of their workers in excess of £100,000 a year or £385 a day. In fact even today 75% of all charities have an income lower than £100,000. However there is a much more fundamental challenge connected with this organisation that John has been working for since January and which he would have checked out before he took on the NED role. According to the Charity Commission, which is also a Government body, ESharelife is not registered as a charitable foundation. They do allow small charities to remain unregistered, but these organisations must have an income of less than £5,000 a year! As ACoBA points out “ESharelife, described on its website as a ‘charitable foundation’” and their website calls for donations from people so they can distribute this to other charities. However because they are not a charity, not only does their website break the law by claiming to be one, but they lack the transparency that charities are obliged to offer to help show where their funds go. Whilst it can take several weeks to register as a charity, it only takes a minute to change the words on a website John!
At the beginning of March, an ex-Conservative party member, Baroness Tina Stowell who is now the Chair of the Charity Commission stated that charities are facing societal issues, such as the impact of new technology, communities feeling left behind and forgotten, environmental problems and the divisions caused by Brexit, coupled with growing public distrust in national institutions. She said that this meant that charities had to show they understood and reacted to public concerns about how the sector conducted itself. Perhaps John and his other directors will consider this statement as they set about putting right their problems from the past over ESharelife!