Tory MP moonlighting as packaging lobby chair tried to soften environmental laws on plastic
A Tory MP that makes £30,000-a-year as chairman of a packaging lobby group has spoken on multiple occasions in parliament in favour of watering down environmental laws to favour plastic producers.
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey spoke twice in the House of Commons since starting in the role to voice his concern about the effect of environmental legislation on plastic producers in interventions that have been branded as “deeply concerning” by Greenpeace.
It comes as a growing list of Tory MPs come under scrutiny for holding second jobs outside parliament, particularly those that engage in direct or indirect lobbying for the private sector – a practice that is banned.
Pawsey has worked as a paid chairman for the The Foodservice Packaging Association since April 2020 – a role he declared with the MPs’ register of interests – and also leads Westminster’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Packaging Manufacturing Industry.
The association calls itself the “representative voice of foodservice packaging” in the UK, with some of the country’s major plastic packaging producers counted as members.
Pawsey said in a June 2020 debate on environmental regulation that single-use plastic straws and stirrers should not be banned, saying “I think that is a pretty disappointing state to be in”.
In January 2021 during a debate on the government’s Environment Bill, he argued that the “industry is keen to ensure that the environmental impact of its product is minimised”, but that greater costs for recycling and disposal of packaging should not fall on producers.
“It is not the packaging manufacturer that is the polluter—people are,” he said.
The Conservatives are under serious pressure over allegations of sleaze and corruption, stemming from the resignation of ex-North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson last week over his position as a £100,000-a-year lobbyist for two private firms.
He resigned after the government and Tory backbenchers tried to overturn his recommended 30-day suspension for breaking parliamentary rules.
The media spotlight has now turned to other MPs with lucrative second jobs, with former attorney general Geoffrey Cox today referred by Labour to Westminster’s standards commissioner for appearing to use his parliamentary office while advising the British Virgin Islands.
Polling from Savanta ComRes out today showed just 21 per cent of Brits think MPs should be able to have second jobs.
Boris Johnson said today that he did not plan on banning MPs from holding jobs outside parliament, but that it is “crucial MPs follow the rules”.
“You must put your job as an MP first and you must devote yourself primarily and above all to your constituents – the people who send you to Westminster, to parliament,” he said.
“[The rules] also say you should not use your position as an MP to lobby or otherwise intervene on behalf of outside commercial interests … those who don’t obey [the rules] should of course face sanctions.”
Megan Randles, political campaigner at Greenpeace UK, questioned whether Pawsey was acting in his constituents’ interests.
“It’s deeply concerning that Mark Pawsey is taking a second salary from the plastic packaging industry, while also lobbying in parliament to water down legislation that would help tackle the plastic pollution crisis,” she said.
“The big question here is whose interests is Mark Pawsey serving when he stands up to speak about plastic in the Commons? Is it his constituents, or is it the plastic packaging industry that pays his second salary?”
Pawsey and the Conservative party were contacted for comment.