Boris Johnson has said he will not intervene after Tory MP Geoffrey Cox was found to have voted from the Caribbean during lockdown, insisting the controversy is not a matter for him.
Asked if it was “appropriate” for the former UK attorney general to have worked in the British Virgin Islands, the British prime minister’s spokesman said the “rules are set” by the Commons – not by Downing Street.
It comes as Labour demanded No 10 investigate whether the £1m-earning lawyer “is a Caribbean-based barrister or an MP”.
“The irony is not lost on me that [Mr Cox] 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,” Labour chair Anneliese Dodds wrote in a letter to Mr Johnson.
Labour is calling for an urgent investigation after a Cabinet minister deemed it was “legitimate” for Mr Cox to earn hundreds of thousands of pounds advising the British Virgin Islands in a corruption probe launched by Britain’s Foreign Office.
Dominic Raab, who launched the commission of inquiry into what he called “very serious” allegations in the governance of the islands, said it was useful for the Houses of Parliament to have some knowledge of what was going on in the overseas territory.
But Mr Raab, who is now Justice Secretary, said it is for voters to decide whether they feel Mr Cox is dedicating enough time to being an MP.
The most recent register of financial interests showed that Mr Cox will earn more than £800,000 (€935,000) from Withers, an international law firm appointed by the British Virgin Islands (BVI) government in January.
But Labour’s chair Ms Dodds, in a letter to the prime minister, said Mr Cox’s constituents “must be wondering if Geoffrey Cox is a Caribbean-based barrister or a Conservative MP.”
No 10 said Mr Johnson felt an MP’s duties in Parliament must come first, but would not be drawn on individual cases.
A spokesman said Mr Johnson thought an “MP’s primary job is and must be to serve their constituents and to represent their interests in Parliament”.
He said: “They should be visible in their constituencies and available to help constituents with their constituency matters.
"If they’re not doing that, they’re not doing their job and will rightly be judged on that by their constituents.”
In the Commons register of financial interests, Mr Cox disclosed that from September 28 this year he will be paid £400,000 a year by Withers for up to 41 hours of work a month.
Documents also show how he received from Withers this year the sums of: £52,535 for 60 hours of work between January 25 and February 28; £45,354 for 55 hours of work between February 28 and March 26; and £72,569 for 89 hours of work between March 26 and April 29.
He also got £156,916 for 140 hours of work between April 29 and May 31; £63,143 for 50 hours of work between June 1 and June 30 and £46,716 for 40 hours of work between July 1 and July 31.
Ms Dodds said, in her letter to Mr Johnson: “It appears that your former attorney general is profiting from advising an administration accused of corruption and tax avoidance.”