'Moonlighting' MPs braced for embarrassing revelations: 'One member runs an eco-cemetery and occasionally digs graves'

MPs WERE facing intense scrutiny of their second jobs last night as the deadline loomed for them to declare details of "moonlighting".

Parliamentarians have been raking in extra cash doing everything from advising drinks firms to crofting, according to research by a Sunday newspaper.

One MP, shadow transport minister Robert Goodwill, runs an eco-cemetery at his farm and occasionally digs graves.

His business is expected to make a loss this year. But the revelations, which come ahead of the publication of an official Commons list of pay and hours worked, are likely to prove most embarrassing for the highest earners.

They include former housing minister Nick Raynsford, who receives 148,000 from six private sector posts – mostly connected to housing.

Former health secretary Alan Milburn earns at least 115,000 a year from five outside employers, including Lloyds Pharmacy and PepsiCo.

Paul Keetch, the Liberal Democrat MP for Hereford, is paid 48,000 a year through a company he owns for about 36 days work a year advising an insurance broker and a tent supplier.

Another Lib Dem, John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) earns 7,500 a year for ten hours helping to organise the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

John Bercow, the new Speaker of the House of Commons, was paid 40,000 by a healthcare firm that runs special needs schools after he wrote a government report on children with communication difficulties.

Under current rules, MPs must name all their outside employers and directorships in the Register of Members' Interests. However, they do not have to say how long they spend on the work, and only need to give an indication of much they are paid if the job relates to their work as an MP.

Reforms coming into force from Wednesday mean they will be obliged to list hours and details of salary.

More than half of the MPs with outside interests are Conservatives, but many have already announced they are giving them up ahead of the changes. Shadow foreign secretary William Hague, who last year earned around 230,000 from after-dinner speeches, advice to private companies and writing books, is to step down from several posts with engineering and financial companies by the autumn.

Other senior Tories who are quitting their outside positions include policy chief Oliver Letwin, who earns a 60,000 salary for eight hours a week at investment bank NM Rothschild, and shadow skills secretary David Willetts, who is paid 80,000 a year to advise a pensions company.

Shadow Commons leader Alan Duncan has already given up directorships of two oil companies and a US-based engineering company, from which he earned more than 80,000 a year.

Former Labour minister Ian McCartney has dropped a 115,000-a-year post advising a US nuclear power company. He apparently gave the money to charity.

Many at Westminster argue that allowing MPs to hold down outside jobs keeps them in touch with the outside world., and gives them a fall-back career option if they lose their seats.

However, in the wake of the damaging expenses row, there are likely to be accusations that some MPs who work long hours for private companies are effectively "part-timers".

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