George Osborne tells MPs that Parliament will be 'enhanced' by his decision to edit the London Evening Standard

Osborne: Parliament enhanced by people from different backgrounds Osborne: Parliament enhanced by people from different backgrounds
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George Osborne has defended his decision to accept the editorship of the London Evening Standard, saying that Parliament will be "enhanced" by his appointment.

The former Chancellor spoke out in Parliament after Speaker John Bercow granted an urgent question to Labour to discuss his decision to accept the role at the Standard while staying on as MP for Tatton.

The news came as Tory MP Cheryl Gillan said Mr Osborne's decision will form part of a Parliamentary investigation into the Whitehall body that approves jobs for ex-ministers.

George Osborne with Sarah Sands, the editor of the London Standard Credit:  Lucy Young

There are now as many as four different probes into Mr Osborne’s decision to accept the job at the Standard and continue as Conservative MP for Tatton.

MPs on the House of Commons Standards committee, which monitors their Code of Conduct, will discuss Mr Osborne’s case at a meeting later on Tuesday.

Kathryn Hudson, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, is also considering whether to mount an investigation after receiving several emailed complaints.

Another watchdog – the Committee on Standards in Public Life – will also discuss issues raised by Mr Osborne’s decision at a scheduled meeting on Thursday.

Whitehall’s Advisory Committee on Business Appointments started its investigation on Monday last week and will publish its findings shortly.

Mr Osborne told MPs: "In my view this parliament is enhanced when we have people have 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.”

The former Chancellor joked that the debate - which started at 3.30pm - had come too late for the Standard's lunchtime deadlines.

Anna Soubry Credit: Julian Simmonds/Julian Simmonds

Mr Osborne was backed by former Tory minister Anna Soubry who said that "anyone who does any other work in addition to their work as a member of parliament actually brings huge amounts of experience into this chamber that makes all of us represent everyone in this country even better".

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat asked whether  MPs had to divest themselves of other second jobs, such as writing books or manage property and land in their spare time.

Simon Hart, another Conservative MP, pointed out that many MPs work as doctors and dentists while holding down a full time job in the House of Commons.

He accused Labour MPs of being more concerned "about the nature of the employment than the employment itself".

Earlier Ben Gummer, the Cabinet Office minister, had suggested that MPs' second jobs were a matter of "ongoing concern to the public widely" and will be reviewed again by Parliament.

He said: “It is a matter of ongoing concern to the public widely, has been for many years and is something that this House will grapple with in years ahead.”

SNP and Labour MPs lined up to criticise the Government. SNP MP Roger Mullin said that Mr Gummer and Mr Osborne had treated the House as a "case of gout" and a "disgraceful shambles".

Sir Oliver Letwin Credit: Julian Simmonds/Julian Simmonds

Labour MP David Winnick said the row risked reigning concerns about MPs that were last raised during the MPs' expenses scandal that MPs were "all greedy, on the make et cetera".

He added: "We have to be very careful we are not tarred with the same brush."

Mr Gummer replied that there was a "tradition in this House of contributing to newspapers and elsewhere even in the assembly in Holyrood".

Sir Oliver Letwin, the former Cabinet Office minister, pointed out that Labour had not complained when Mr Osborne combined his "onerous post" of Chancellor with that of an MP between 2010 and 2016.

Michael Gove, the former Education secretary and Times columnist, said that newspaper proprietors should be allowed to appoint who they want as editor "without the executive or anyone else interfering in that decision".

Mr Gove added that it was not up to MPs but to the people of Tatton to decide who their MP was.

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