Gordon Brown earns over £1 million while absent from Commons

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By a Newsnet reporter

The Financial Times has revealed that according to the House of Commons register of members’ interests, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has earned over £1 million in the past year on top of his Commons salary.   Mr Brown, MP for Kirkaldy, receives a backbencher’s annual salary of £65,738 together with an extremely generous expenses package.  However despite public understanding that being an MP is a full time occupation, Mr Brown has spoken in the House of Commons less than a handful of times since losing the General Election in May 2010.

The figures published by the Financial Times now reveal that while absent from Parliamentary duties, Mr Brown privately earned £1.07 million.  The bulk of the income comes from making speeches to various companies around the globe. Companies which have paid Mr Brown for speeches include Visa International in Singapore, SkyBridge Capital in Las Vegas, Credit Suisse in Miami, and Comtecmed in Geneva.  Mr Brown typically charges over £30,000 per speech.

The Commons’ register also details that a further £123,429 has been paid directly to charities by organisations and companies as a result of Mr Brown’s work.  This sum includes a payment of £78,289 which Mr Brown received for a book he published in December last year.  Called “Beyond the Crash”, the book is Mr Brown’s account of the financial crisis of 2007-2010.  Mr Brown began writing the book after losing the General Election and announcing that he would remain as a full-time backbench MP.

Other details included in the House of Commons register are a payment of £181,468 for Mr Brown’s role as “distinguished global leader in residence” at New York University, and a payment of £86,324 for chairing the World Economic Forum policy co-ordination group.

Money earned by Mr Brown is paid into a company “The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown”, which Mr Brown has set up in his and his wife’s names.   According to the website of “The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown”, the company budgets £550,000 annually “to meet salaries, accommodation costs and staff expenses”.  The company’s registered address is at Broadgate Tower in the City of London.

However the Financial Times reports that calls to the company are directed to Reed Smith, a law firm whose partner David Boutcher is the company secretary for Mr Brown’s company.  Speaking to a reporter from the paper, Mr Boutcher said company’s office was based there but claimed he did not know how many employees it had nor whether it sublet office accommodation from Reed Smith.

Mr Brown insists that he does not receive “a penny” for his work outside Parliament and that all the money goes to employing staff and to charitable organisations.   Speaking to the Financial Times a spokesperson for Mr Brown said:  “Not one penny for speeches or for books goes to Mr Brown personally.  It either goes direct to charity or funds Sarah’s and Mr Brown’s staff for continuing public service.”

As an MP, Mr Brown is entitled to claim expenses to fund the cost of assistants and staff for his Parliamentary duties.  These expenses fund staff who deal with constituents’ letters and enquiries, and who assist Mr Brown with research and office administration.

The revelations that Mr Brown is earning large sums of money while absent from Parliament will give ammunition to those who claim former Labour ministers are cashing in on their time in office.  The private earnings of Mr Brown’s predecessor as PM, Tony Blair, have attracted considerable criticism.  The House of Commons register also reveals that Mr Brown’s chancellor, Edinburgh South West MP Alistair Darling, declared private earnings of £81,000 from after dinner speeches for various financial companies, and received £75,000 for his memoirs.

Mr Brown has spoken in the House of Commons on just two occasions since stepping down as Prime Minister and Labour leader.  The first occasion was in July 2011 when Mr Brown spoke about press intrusion in his family’s private life.  His speech was considered by many, including within Labour ranks, to be a bizarre and self-serving rant which blamed everyone except Mr Brown for the lamentable state of press regulation in the UK.  

The second time was in December last year when Mr Brown addressed the Commons about the radioactive waste in Dalgety Bay in his own constituency.  Mr Brown only appeared in the Commons to speak about the problem after numerous calls had been made from Scottish politicians, the media and local residents for the local MP to speak up on the matter.  On that occasion Mr Brown appeared to give the impression that the waste problem had only recently been discovered, when in fact his own government had been made aware of the problem when he was Prime Minister, yet took no action.