Chris Bryant: MPs have not behaved this badly since the expenses scandal

The Commons standards committee is currently drawing up a new code of conduct for MPs following concerns that the previous rules were out of date.

Among other issues, it will deal with the question of MPs’ second jobs, in the wake a row over the lobbying work of Owen Paterson, who stepped down as a Conservative MP last autumn.

Mr Bryant said that the recent spate of poor behaviour from MPs could be a result of working-from-home policies and a large number of new members after the 2019 election.

“I don’t know whether Covid has made things worse,” he said. “There’s very little corporate memory around in Parliament because we’ve had such a big turnover of MPs.

“Every generation of MPs is a set of guardians for the reputation of Parliament, and all those shenanigans last year did a lot of damage to trust in Parliament.”

Danger of populism

He also warned that damage to public trust in politicians could see British politics become more polarised.

“The danger is that you end up in a French situation where people are choosing between hard Left and Right because the people who offer the populist stances become the most palatable,” he said.

Both committees that Mr Bryant chairs have the power to request evidence from the Sue Gray inquiry into Downing Street parties and the Metropolitan Police, and could publish a dossier of more than 300 photos of the events Ms Gray seized from officials.

The photographs are not expected to be published alongside her official report, which could be made public later this month.

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