No investigation into Sir Geoffrey Cox over Commons office use

Media caption,
Video shows Sir Geoffrey Cox's work for British Virgin Islands inquiry

Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Cox says he will not be investigated over accusations he used his Commons office for legal work.

MPs cannot use public resources, including parliamentary offices, for "personal or financial benefit".

But the former Attorney General was pictured in September in a virtual meeting representing the British Virgin Islands government, from what appeared to be his Commons office.

Labour had reported it to the Standards Commissioner.

Sir Geoffrey said there would be no further action, confirming to BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that the Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, had declined to open an investigation.

The BBC understand Ms Stone decided there was insufficient evidence to justify an inquiry, believing the rules on the use of parliamentary offices should be operated with "a sense of proportion".

A spokeswoman for the commissioner said Ms Stone does not comment on the conduct of individual MPs outside the information published on her website and reports published at the end of an investigation. 

Sir Geoffrey came under fire for his work outside the Commons as a lawyer amid the row over MPs' second jobs, in light of the row over former MP Owen Paterson.

The Register of Members' Interests showed the 61-year-old MP for Torridge and West Devon made almost £900,000 last year working as a barrister, including travelling to the British Virgin Islands during lockdown to advise its government on a corruption inquiry.

A picture of him carrying out this work that emerged earlier this month appeared to show him in his Commons office, while a clip of the meeting also appeared to show him leave his desk after a division bell went off - a signal for MPs to go and vote.

Labour's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said Sir Geoffrey appeared to be in "brazen breach of the rules" and called for an investigation.

But a statement on behalf of Sir Geoffrey was posted on his website after, saying: "He does not believe that he breached the rules but will of course accept the judgement of the Parliamentary Commissioner or of the Committee [on Public Standards] on the matter."

Sir Geoffrey has insisted he only participated in the inquiry from his office once.

Ban on consultancy

A wider argument broke out around second jobs over the following days, with Labour setting out plans to end all external work for MPs - unless it had a public service element.

At the same time, the government said it planned to ban MPs working as paid consultants or lobbyists, and won a vote in the Commons backing its proposals.

But steps for implementing the recommendations were not set out.

On Monday, the MPs' Standards Committee also recommended a ban on providing paid parliamentary advice or consultancy services, among a broader overhaul of the code of conduct.