Image source, EPAImage caption, Geoffrey Cox represents the seat of Torridge and West Devon as an MP

Labour has called on the PM to launch an investigation into one of his Tory MPs, who earned almost £900,000 through jobs outside Parliament.

Sir Geoffrey Cox racked up the wage bill as a lawyer, including travelling to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to advise on a corruption inquiry.

Labour chair Anneliese Dodds said he "took advantage" of Covid restrictions to work remotely from the Caribbean.

No 10 said an MP's primary job "must be to serve their constituents".

Politicians are allowed to have second jobs outside Westminster, but the work they do has come under the spotlight since ex-Tory MP Owen Paterson broke lobbying rules when working as a consultant.

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Now Sir Geoffrey is facing questions after declaring on the Register of Members Interests – where MPs publish details of any additional work – he has made nearly £900,000 over the course of the year working as a lawyer.

The Daily Mail revealed one of his contracts saw him travel to the British Virgin Islands in April to work on a corruption investigation into the government of the Overseas Territory, which was launched by the UK Foreign Office in January.

The former Attorney General, who represents Torridge and West Devon in Parliament, was there for a number of weeks, meaning he was carrying out his work as an MP – including voting – from the Caribbean.

There's no suggestion he has broken any rules.

But Labour's shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Louise Haigh, told BBC News it was "absolutely staggering" the Tory MP was carrying out all this extra work at a time when "the vast majority of MPs were working harder than we've ever worked – helping serve our constituents through the toughest times of their lives".

'Sense of duty'

In a letter to the PM, Ms Dodds wrote: "It seems Sir Geoffrey took advantage of Covid-related parliamentary rules and flew out to the BVI to vote by proxy from the other side of the Atlantic.

"The irony is not lost on me that he arrived in the Caribbean on the day that those MPs who actually feel a sense of duty to their constituents were debating global anti-corruption standards.

"The people of Torridge and West Devon must be wondering if Geoffrey Cox is a Caribbean-based barrister or a Conservative MP."

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said all MPs should be "visible in their constituencies and available to help constituents with their constituency matters".

He added: "If they're not doing that, they're not doing their job and will rightly be judged on that by their constituents."

Sir Geoffrey has not commented on the reports, but broadcasters at his constituency home have been told he is abroad.

Tuesday morning's headlines will not have been warmly received in Downing Street.

What started as a story over one MP – Owen Paterson – morphed into one about the government's approach to standards.

Now, the balance of MPs work in Parliament is being questioned.

There is no suggestion that Geoffrey Cox has broken any rules. Indeed, many MPs have second jobs.

But the extent to which he has focussed on his legal work – and the fact he appears to have spent a number of weeks in the Caribbean – leaves question marks over whether he has got the balance right.

From the start of 2021 until 7 September, all of Sir Geoffrey's votes in Parliament were carried out by a proxy – although many MPs were voting by proxy during this period because of the pandemic.

He spoke in a debate in the House on 13 September, but since then he has missed over 30 divisions – where MPs vote – and only voted in one.

When it comes to remuneration, according to the Register of Members' Interests – where MPs have to declare other earnings outside Parliament – Sir Geoffrey was paid £156,916.08 before VAT for 140 hours work over the period he is understood to have been in the British Virgin Islands for Withers LLP.

He also earned over £280,000 with the same firm for almost 300 hours of work between January and July this year.

Sir Geoffrey also declared on the register that from 1 November he will receive £400,000 plus VAT annually from Withers LLP for up to 41 hours of work a month.

In a statement, the law firm confirmed the MP had worked for them as a consultant global counsel since September 2020, adding: "As a leading QC, we very much value Sir Geoffrey's huge depth of expertise and experience in domestic and international legal disputes."

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab defended his fellow Tory, telling Times Radio, it was "legitimate" for the British Virgin Islands to hire Sir Geoffrey, "as long as it's properly declared".

But he also said it was up to voters to judge if MPs had the "right priorities" alongside any additional work they did.

However, the Liberal Democrats said the public would be "gobsmacked" by the reports into Sir Geoffrey.

And one of its MPs, Wendy Chamberlain, calling it "frankly astonishing" that Mr Raab could defend his Tory colleague.

The deputy chair of Sir Geoffrey's local Conservative Association, Debbie Flint, told the BBC the group "fully supports our MP".

'Cox is excellent with constituents'

Dominic Raab says it is up voters to decide if they want to stick with an MP working a second job.

And Geoffrey Cox's local party seem confident that decision would fall in his favour.

A county councillor in his Devon constituency, Debo Sellis, said the work he did locally was "phenomenal" and he was "passionate about the community".

Ward councillor Peter Crozier also had no doubt he would win any upcoming vote, saying the MP was "excellent with his constituents".

Mr Crozier added: "He is visible for those in need of help and is probably one of the best MPs with his constituents, and that's probably why he increases his majority every time."

But a local councillor outside of the Tory Party, independent Steve Hipsey, had his own issues with Sir Geoffrey over the amount of time he spent in Westminster, rather than locally.

"If I have any beef with him at all it is about the time he spends in Parliament representing his constituents," he told PA.

"As a local councillor I am very concerned that we seem to be getting so little value for money out of him in Whitehall."

The prime minister has come under fire from all sides after trying to overhaul standards rules and block the suspension of his colleague, only to perform a U-turn less than 24 hours later.

Mr Johnson then faced further criticism for refusing to apologise for the scandal and failing to turn up to an emergency debate on the issue in the Commons on Monday.

But the leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, accused the PM of "running scared".

The three-hour emergency debate on standards saw Cabinet Office Minister Stephen Barclay expressing his "regret" over the "mistake" the government made with the vote on Mr Paterson's conduct.

The plan began as an amendment from allies of Mr Paterson hoping to block a recommended 30-day suspension for the MP, who had been found to have made an "egregious" breach of lobbying rules when acting as a consultant for two firms – something he denies.

But it later got the backing of Downing Street and saw Conservative Party whips pressure their MPs to support it.

Less than 24 hours later, the government ditched its plans after a furious backlash and Mr Paterson later resigned as an MP.