Tory MP Geoffrey Cox is today clinging on after being accused of breaking a ‘basic rule’ by using his Commons office for his £1m-a-year legal sideline.

After footage was released showing the former Attorney General representing British Virgin Islands in a corruption investigation via video link from parliament, it seems that his troubles have intensified.

After the disclosure that Sir Geoffrey had traveled to the Caribbean for legal work earlier in the year, Sir Geoffrey found himself at the center of controversy. He was voting by proxy from Westminster. 

While there’s no indication that the rules were broken, questions have been raised about Sir Geoffrey’s commitment to his duties as a MP. Since the allegation, Sir Geoffrey was not seen publicly.

Boris Johnson is desperately struggling to contain the wider sleaze furore after his abortive bid to save Owen Paterson from punishment for lobbying. A press conference will take place at 4.30 pm to grill the PM. Johnson had hoped to concentrate on progress in Glasgow’s COP26 summit. 

The chair of the standards committee, Labour MP Chris Bryant, said this morning that the regulations against using parliamentary offices for outside business were ‘really important’.

‘You might end up occasionally meeting other people in your office but you’re not meant to run a commercial operation out of your taxpayer-funded office either in Parliament or in your constituency – it’s a really important, I’d have thought, kind of basic rule,’ he told BBC Breakfast.

Sajid Javid, Health Secretary was asked whether MPs could use their offices for work related to a second job during round of interviews. He answered, “No.”

While Mr Javid said MPs should spend the majority of their time on constituency and parliamentary duties, he also warned that an absolute ban could result in some politicians being forced to leave the House. 

He said, “It’s fair that these rules allow flexibility. But I believe the most important thing is that any MP, whatever they are, is totally transparent and open to all rules. So that their constituents know that they might not have an interest in the same things,” he added.

“Also I believe it is important for them to continue to devote the majority of their time to their parliamentary and constituency affairs.

Sir Geoffrey Cox has been referred to the Commons standards tsar over claims he 'broke the rules' by using his parliamentary office to offer legal advice to the British Virgin Islands

Sir Geoffrey Cox was referred to Commons standards tsar for claims that he “broke the rules” by using his parliamentary offices to give legal advice to British Virgin Islands.

The former Cabinet minister has been heavily rebuked following revelations he has been working in the Caribbean tax haven

After revelations that he was working in the Caribbean tax haven, the former cabinet minister has been severely rebuked

Cox denied that he did legal work at the office when The Times contacted him.   

Angela Rayner, Deputy Labour Leader, stated that it was an ‘egregious and brazen violation of the rules’. She has asked Kathryn Stone to guide her in starting a formal investigation into this matter.

In her letter, Ms Rayner stated that MP’s code was clear that representatives must ensure that any facilities or services received from the public purse are ‘always in support of their legislative duties’ and that they’shouldn’t confer any financial advantage on themselves.

“The media reports that we’ve seen indicate that this member clearly broke the rule,” she said.

“Members need to be clear about the fact that they can’t use the estate for their own financial gain. Where there is a conflict of interest with the public good, they should face serious consequences.”

New footage shows him based in his Commons office in London while appearing to carry out his second job

He appears to be doing his second job while he is based at his London Commons office.

The most recent register of financial interests showed that Torridge and West Devon MP Sir Geoffrey will earn more than £800,000 from Withers, an international law firm appointed by the British Virgin Islands (BVI) government in January.

Sir Geoffrey also disclosed in the register that from September 28 this year until further notice, he will be paid £400,000 a year by Withers for up to 41 hours of work per month.

On September 14th, Sir Geoffrey was heard telling the Commissioner: “Forgive me for my absence during part of the morning. I’m afraid that the bell went off.”

This bell could refer to the division bell, which sounds across parliament to notify MPs that a vote is taking place.

Sir Geoffrey seems to have left his chair earlier in proceedings at the twenty-minute mark of the video footage.

The Commons vote record of his Commons shows that he voted in-person six times on September 14, to help push for the Government’s Health and Social Care Levy.

Ms Rayner commented that it was an obvious, brazen violation of the rules.

“A Conservative MP using an office funded by taxpayers in Parliament to help a tax haven that is facing corruption allegations is insulting to British taxpayers.

The Parliamentary Commissioner must investigate the matter. Prime Minister Must explain to why he has a MP within his parliamentary party who views Parliament as a space for co-working, allowing him more time to do other things than represent his constituents.

“You could be a MP representing your constituents, or a barrister who works for a tax haven. Boris Johnson must decide which Geoffrey Cox will become.

Liberal Democrats also joined in the fight, Wendy Chamberlain being the chief whip of the party and urging the QC’s to save everybody the trouble and time spent on an investigation’ and ’come clean right now.

Ms Chamberlain said: “The true slap in his face is the fact that this happened on the exact same day he voted for a tax increase on millions of hardworking British citizens.”

It comes as Cox was ordered to spend more time in Parliament on Tuesday night – as it emerged he made a second trip to a Caribbean tax haven while the Commons was sitting.

After revelations today in the Daily Mail regarding his second lucrative job, Mark Spencer, Government Chief Whip, rebuked Spencer.  

Sources within the Government said that Mr Spencer had “reminded” him of his need to be physically present in Parliament and represent his constituents.

Sir Geoffrey Cox was ordered to spend more time in Parliament on Tuesday night ¿ as it emerged he made a second trip to a Caribbean tax haven while the Commons was sitting.

Sir Geoffrey Cox was ordered to spend more time in Parliament on Tuesday night – as it emerged he made a second trip to a Caribbean tax haven while the Commons was sitting.

Downing Street disassociated itself from Mr Cox as well, with No 10’s spokesperson saying that MPs’ ‘primary jobs’ should be serving constituents.

However, the Mail can confirm that Sir Geoffrey was able to make a second visit to the Caribbean during June to help clear the BVI government from corruption investigation launched by British Foreign Office.

Footage from the inquiry shows that Sir Geoffrey was present in the courtroom where the inquiry was held on the largest of the islands – Tortola – on June 22, when Parliament was sitting in London discussing Covid regulations.

On Tuesday, it was also revealed that Sir Geoffrey was forced to declare an interested in 2018. He voted against tightening anti-money laundering regulations tax havens like the Cayman Islands. There he supported a former premier from corruption charges. Sir Geoffrey, however, has not responded to numerous requests to comment.

The Mail can reveal that Sir Geoffrey made a second trip to the Caribbean in June as he battled to clear the BVI government in a corruption inquiry launched by the British Foreign Office. Footage from the inquiry shows that Sir Geoffrey was present in the courtroom (bottom left and centre) where the inquiry was held on the largest of the islands ¿ Tortola ¿ on June 22, when Parliament was sitting in London discussing Covid regulations

Mail has learned that Sir Geoffrey went back to the Caribbean to help clear the BVI government from corruption investigation launched by British Foreign Office. Footage from the inquiry shows that Sir Geoffrey was present in the courtroom (bottom left and centre) where the inquiry was held on the largest of the islands – Tortola – on June 22, when Parliament was sitting in London discussing Covid regulations

His West Devon house was visited by reporters yesterday who were told that the Chief Whip had been sent to him via phone. Sources within Government claim that the Chief Whip was reprimanded by telephone, suggesting that Sir Geoffrey was not present at Westminster for another day of Parliamentary sittings.

In addition, Sir Geoffrey was found to have voted in parliament in person only two times in the course of a thirteen-month period. This revelation was made following controversy about Boris Johnson’s unsuccessful attempt to prevent Owen Paterson being suspended for violating lobbying rules. This is how the row started:

  • The MPs were faced with a crackdown against second jobs. There was the possibility of rules that would limit working hours or ban lobbying firms from being employed.
  • Metropolitan Police stated that they are ‘considering” calls for information to examine ‘cash-for-honors’ claims relating to Tory donations to the Lords.
  • To move away from the sleaze, the PM was ready to go back to Cop26 Climate Change Summit today.
  • After it was revealed that Sir Keir Starmer had provided paid advice to an organization registered as lobbyists while he was a MP, there were accusations of hypocrisy.
  • No 10 stated that Parliament would be invited by the Prime Minister to “unpick” his failed effort to repeal anti-sleaze laws next week.

Milk expenses claim

An expense for milk was claimed by the former attorney general. Sir Geoffrey Cox also tried to charge the taxpayer £2 for a box of teabags – but both claims were rejected by Parliament’s expenses watchdog.

In the five years since 2010, Tory’s legal work has brought him millions of pounds. But he has billed the taxpayer more than £850,000 in expenses – excluding staffing costs – since 2010. These claims do not seem to be against the law.

Sir Geoffrey is not accused of breaking the rules in pocketing more than £1million in outside earnings last year on top of his £82,000 MP’s salary.

However, senior Tories privately expressed surprise at his decision not to leave the country for up to one month during the final lockdown to secure a lucrative contract.

According to one source, “It’s very sad that we have to tell MPs they must put the constituents first.”

Labour called for an investigation of his conduct. Labour also stated that the Prime Minster needed to determine whether Sir Geoffrey was either a Conservative MP or a Caribbean-based barrister.

Yesterday, Dominic Raab, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, appeared in support of Sir Geoffrey and stated that his work outside was legitimate.

Raab stated that it was important to have MPs with a basic knowledge of British territories overseas like the BVI.

However, anger grew and No 10 distanced itself later from former cabinet minister.

According to a spokesperson for Downing Street, the Prime Minister believes that MPs’ primary job should be to serve constituents and represent their interests in parliament.

Sir Geoffrey took advantage of lockdown rules to cast votes in the Commons by proxy as he worked 4,000 miles away in the Caribbean during April and May

Sir Geoffrey used the lockdown rules for proxy votes to the Commons during April/May, while working 4,000-miles away in The Caribbean

He stated, “They should appear in their constituents and be available to help constituents regarding their constituency issues.”

“If they aren’t doing that they don’t do their job properly and they will be held accountable by their constituents.”

Labour used the crisis to its advantage. Anneliese Dodds (Party chairman) wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him not to exploit the crisis and to show leadership.

She stated that Sir Geoffrey’s behavior suggests he would rather be a tax haven than representing the interests of his constituents.

This row about second jobs follows a recommendation by Owen Paterson, former environment secretary. He was recommended to be expelled for six weeks following a Commons Standards Committee finding that he violated the centuries-old prohibition on MPs lobbying paid.

After the dispute ended, Paterson declared that he would not be standing for election as North Shropshire MP. This was an attempt of the Government to defer his sentence by dismantling the existing standards system. Opposition parties were unable to support Paterson’s decision.

Boris Johnson (previously a well-paid backbencher for the Daily Telegraph column) suggested that Commons members should concentrate on electorates.

While refusing to comment on specific cases, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister stated that Mr Johnson believed an MP’s primary task was and should be to serve constituents as well as to represent their interests within Parliament.

A spokesperson from No. 10 stated that they should be present in constituencies, and accessible to constituents for assistance with matters related to their constituency.

“If they aren’t doing that they don’t do their job properly and they will be held accountable by their constituents.” 

Unspeakable truth: Dishonourable Member of the Virgin Islands. Shamed Geoffrey Cox has not spoken in Commons for 18 months… however, he appeared in Caribbean court for ten consecutive days as MPs sit. 

MPs had a busy April, with the Government trying to release Britain from lockdown and while simultaneously dealing with the turbulent waters surrounding Brexit, Prince Philip’s passing, and the scandals surrounding Boris Johnson and David Cameron lobbying.

Three days prior to Easter, Parliament saw an explosion of votes on issues ranging from immigration and national security to fire safety and abortion. There were many debates that lasted several hours in the afternoons. The busiest night of the week, Monday April 26, saw business not halted at 1.30 am.

Throughout this period, Sir Geoffrey Cox QC, the Tory MP for Torridge and West Devon, was – on paper – beavering away at the coal-face.

While his distinctive booming voice wasn’t actually heard in the chamber, he certainly gave every appearance of justifying that juicy £81,932 MP’s salary (plus expenses), turning out to vote six times that day, three times more on the 27, and a further three times on the 28.

This is what Commons records says at the very least. However, the truth is quite different. The reality is quite different. On each of the 12 occasions he used his democratic mandate, the former attorney general aged 61 avoided actually having to troop through the lobby. Instead, he took advantage of temporary Covid rules that allowed MPs to appoint a ‘proxy’ – in his case Deputy Chief Whip Stuart Andrew – to vote on his behalf.

This system was abolished to make it easier for Parliamentarians not to travel as much and to avoid social contacts during the pandemic. This means that they could ‘work from their homes’.

Herein lies the rub, as Sir Geoffrey’s legendary orator, William Shakespeare would call it. For the Conservative grandee was neither at his rambling constituency home near Tavistock, where he and wife Jeanie raised their three children, nor the £1.5million flat overlooking a Thames-side park in Battersea in London. Instead, he was found on Tortola, an island with a sunny beach, which is the administrative centre for British Virgin Islands. [BVI]

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox in the House of Commons on 25 September 2019

Geoffrey Cox, Attorney General in the House of Commons 25 September 2019,

Sir Geoffrey’s trip – at a time when most ordinary Britons were banned from taking holidays – was designed for business rather than pleasure. According to The Daily Mail, Geoffrey had actually gone to the Caribbean to do a second highly-paid job at the international law firm Withers.

Specifically, the MP – who was sacked as the Government’s top legal officer in February 2020 – was acting on behalf of the British Overseas Territory’s government in a courtroom inquiry, ordered by the UK Foreign Office, into allegations of ‘corruption, abuse of office, or other serious dishonesty’ by its political class. This work was extremely lucrative, as we will discuss in more detail.

Commons disclosures show that Cox, who charges almost £1,000 an hour (or £16 a minute) for his legal services, earned almost £300,000 from Withers between late March and the end of April, working for 311 hours in the process. This means that he spent an average 36 hour per week on legal work in the weeks before, during, and after his visit.

In the past six months, meanwhile, Sir Geoffrey spent an astonishing 680 hours toiling away for Withers (26 hours a week, on average), raking in some £637,235.11 in the process, and taking his total annual earnings from outside work well over £1million a year.

Side hustle: Geoffrey Cox (bottom left and centre) appears at the BVI inquiry on June 22

Side hustle: Geoffrey Cox, bottom left, and center appears at the BVI inquiry June 22

I am able to confirm that Geoffrey traveled again to the BVI in June during this period. According to court records and a video, Sir Geoffrey attended a one-day hearing at Tortola’s International Arbitration Centre.

He sat down in a suit and viewed two paintings by watercolour of palm trees on the spot, which were located at the pier that overlooks the superyacht-filled marina.

Devon constituents, who he seems to have briefly visited in May, may wonder how their MP managed to make enough time to represent them properly.

He hasn’t raised important topics in the Commons Chamber, however.

Hansard records reveal that Sir Geoffrey made not one speech in Parliament over the 18-month period after Boris Johnson fired him as Cabinet member in February 2020.

The only time that he spoke during this period was September 13, 2013, shortly after 6.30pm. He spoke a total 839 words in a debate about a bill regarding changes to rules for the dissolution of Parliament. It’s quite a feat for a man who, due to his distinctive voice and habit of using the despatch boxes, was nicknamed “The Tory Gandalf” during Theresa May’s post-Brexit government.

He spoke extensively on all of the BVI inquiries, in contrast to his quiet behaviour at Westminster. After arriving in the country 3 and 1/2 weeks prior to the start of preparations for the case, he made his appearance in person on May 15-20. He was also present in person on June 22. Public records via video link show that he attended the inquiry on May 13-21 and on September 14-15.

The outrage only grew when Parliament was present on each of these occasions. As has the fact that according to Commons expense claims, he billed taxpayers £629 late last year for an iPad ‘to enable effective working while travelling etc and another £419.95 for ‘tablet’ accessories to help with ‘remote working’.’

Although this can be done, one Westminster source says that people on all sides are clearly angry.

“The proxy voting rules were intended to permit MPs stop Covid spreading. These rules were not intended to allow you to piss abroad and make your own money, especially when it comes down the ban on normal citizens going on holidays. This is a horrible, terrible sight. Cox’s choice to represent the BVI government, against corruption accusations being made at the request of the UK Government is another way of provoking public outrage.

He was first involved in the investigation into allegations of corruption within the ruling class by Sir Gary Hickinbottom.

Members of the BVI government are (among other things) accused of giving £29million of Covid relief funds in cash handouts to political allies, misusing £70million of taxpayers’ money that was supposed to be spent on infrastructure projects, and wasting £23million building a pier after awarding construction contracts to cronies.

The wide-ranging inquiry is also examining a £5.1million grant given to an airline for flights to the US which never took off, and £730,000 handed to alleged political cronies in return for building a single wall at a high school.

Cox was recruited in January to assist the BVI with its fight against corruption. Cox actively accepted the position because of the “cab rank” rule. This means that barristers are not allowed to choose which clients they represent before UK courts. However, the rule does not apply in international cases.

The tax haven used press releases to trumpet the appointment of the ex-Minister for Cabinet.

The hearings that followed saw the strange spectacle of a British MP being paid by his government to support representatives from his home country in an international trial.

Cox seemed to be turning on the UK, when he complained that the Foreign Office-ordered investigation amounted the judicial review and reversal of virtually every major decision made by the BVI Cabinet in the previous 12-15 years. The whole affair ended up in London like a balloon. Whitehall insider claims that “The Foreign Office” is furious.

“Here are they, trying on corruption in an far-flung area, and they discover a British MP being paid to fly out to that country, locked down, to make it clear.

What is all the more scandalous – to critics, at least – is that all of Cox’s lucrative outside work is entirely legal. There are no restrictions on what MPs can do outside of work, or how much cash they can make from second and third jobs. However, Commons rules allow for them to declare their options.

Cox managed to sometimes fall foul of these rules during his 16 year tenure in Parliament. For example, Cox was found guilty of violating the rules in February 2016. MPs on the Standards Committee found that he had committed a ‘serious’ breach of rules by failing to declare more than £400,000 of outside earnings from legal work.

He has been criticized for his work with Caribbean tax havens. In 2014, taxpayers were forced to stump up £1,800 to fly him home from the Cayman Islands when Parliament was unexpectedly recalled during a recess to discuss an emergency in Iraq. Cox also supported both the British Virgin Islands government and that of the Caymans when, in 2018, he repeatedly rejected a proposal for greater transparency in tax-havens.

According to him, such an action would be considered as interfering with the internal affairs of countries outside of the jurisdiction of the Parliament.

It is ironic, then that Sir Geoffrey, a globetrotting traveler should be accused today of having compromised that dignity.