Four money-bags barristers in crosshairs if Miliband’s MP earnings cap wins day

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Tory Geoffrey Cox QC heads the list with his reported annual haul of more than £800k from the bar, but former Solicitor General would also be in trouble


Top barristers would be some of the hardest hit MPs if Labour leader Ed Miliband becomes prime minister and gets his way by slapping a £10,000 cap on additional earnings for lower house parliamentarians.

Last night, the government defeated a Labour motion for a ban on MPs holding paid directorships or consultancies. But commentators anticipate that Labour’s ultimate plan would be to impose a cap on MPs’ outside earnings.

If that is the case, it is understood that four big names would immediately be in the line of fire if outside earnings were limited to 10% to 15% of MP salaries.

Miliband’s call comes in the wake of the latest cash-for-access scandal, in which the Daily Telegraphy newspaper stung former foreign secretaries Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw for allegedly attempting to line up lucrative consultancies while still sitting in the house.

Both politicians are lawyers — Rifkind qualified as a Scottish advocate in 1970 and practised for about four years; Straw was called to the bar in England and practised as a criminal hack between 1972-74. Both were made political silks.

Their four barrister MP colleagues, who will currently not be best disposed towards either Rifkind or Straw for drawing attention to outside earnings, are all Tories.

Geoffrey Cox QC — a white-collar crime and courts martial specialist, who founded Thomas More Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn Fields — clearly leads the pack. He is reported to have hauled in more than £820,000 from the bar last year.

Former Solicitor General and current media law specialist Sir Edward Garnier QC — from One Brick Court in the Temple — is thought to trouser more than £275,000 a year.

Stephen Phillips QC — an insurance and reinsurance expert at the Temple’s 7KBW — is reported to pull down nearly £260,000.

While Sir Tony Baldry — a commercial disputes hack and head of chambers at One Essex Court in The Temple — takes home a more modest £190k from the bar, but he is also understood to hold several executive positions.

All four feature in the list of top-10 outside earners in the House of Commons. Surprisingly, Cox’s bucket-load only places him second in the overall list, behind former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown, who manages to take just a few thousand shy of a smooth million every year back to his Fife home.

Garnier clocks in at fifth place on the money bags league table, Phillips follows right behind in sixth, while Baldry comes in at eighth position, right behind the Dr Spock of the Commons, John Redwood.

The four most loaded barrister MPs are clearly doing well for themselves, but just how well relative to their peers is difficult to say. Arriving at an average earnings figure at the bar is a slippery business, with the Bar Council demurring on the subject in its statistical report on the profession.

As Chambers Student directory points out:

“Since the bar is a gentlemanly, old-school sort of place at times — your typical barrister would probably consider it a little vulgar to reveal how much wedge he’s packing …This is probably the reason the Bar Council seems extraordinarily reluctant to publish anything about barristers’ earnings, deeming it too sensitive a topic to comment on.”

Nonetheless, Chambers Student does its bit to fill the gap — at least as far as the early years of call are concerned. Commercial barristers in their second year of call are likely to earn between £70,000 and £200,000 annually.

But at the other end of the spectrum, public law and family specialists of the same vintage will be on between £40,000 and £90,000.

Which chambers pay their pupils most wedge? Check out the Legal Cheek Chambers Most List.



Tony Baldry is at 1 Essex Court, which is a different set to One Essex Court (at which Lord Grabiner is head of chambers)…



I’ve always thought it’s ridiculous that people could combine being a barrister with being an MP. It means one of two things – they are either a rubbish barrister or a rubbish MP. There is no way you can adequately cover both jobs at the same time.

I’ll hazard a guess that they are rubbish MPs – given the bar pays more I imagine they turn their attention more to that.



I don’t see a problem with keeping a hand in the business but earning ten times more from your ‘part time’ job than you do from parliament is taking it a bit far. How on earth does he have time for his constituents?



I really hope Baldry decides to stick to the bar.


Not Amused

Any restriction on the freedom of MPs will inevitably lead to higher MP salaries. Full time MPs, with engorged staff.

I get just as angry about the prospects of MPs turning in to a huge cost base with a professional entourage as I do about the same thing happening to the senior judiciary. It’s all very American. It all ends up costing the public a great deal of money. It all brings no obvious benefit.

I want amateur politicians with real world experience. I want a judiciary comprised of good lawyers not bureaucrats with a press office and pet pretend academics.



Why should MPs be paid any less than consultant surgeons for example? Both are public servants at the top of their careers.

Why should the Prime Minister earn less than the Chief Executive of a local authority?

They have an important job with extremely long and anti-social hours. So unless you drastically increase the number of MPs so as to spread the workload a bit, I don’t see how you can justify paying them less.

The case for paying MPs more, certainly over £100k, is overwhelming. It’s a mixture of petty jealousy and snobbery that ensures they don’t.


Evan Price

I think that one of the reasons that we have so many pygmies in Parliament is that we have too many professional politicians as MPs. These are people who have completed undergraduate degrees in politics or economics, have worked as politicial researchers or lobbyists or for a trade union and have never worked anywhere other than in a politicial campaign or for a political cause. The result is that they have no ‘bottom’; have an eye on the political advantage, rather than the national advantage in every policy area; and look, inevitably, to the next campaign, rather than to seeing to improve the body of laws that govern us.

It is this that has led to the increased intrusion into privacy; the increased legislation and regulation that results from the bad cases and the hyperbolic reporting of such cases; and the hyperactivity of Parliament and its legislative programme (although, as a result of the existence of the coalition and the proximity of the election, we do see that slowing down now).

An example of the absurdity of all of this is the so-called debate about tax avoidance. Tax avoidance results from the rules made by Government that favour one type of saving or investment or spending over others. The tax code increases in complexity as time progresses and no-one actively debates that it is that very complexity that enables the clever accountants and lawyers to seek out new ways to limit an individual’s contribution by way of tax. The blame for that increase in tax avoidance is not to be laid at the door of any individual taxpayer or even their advisors – it lies with the successive Governments who have abandoned sense and increased the number and ways of permitting people to save, invest or spend and reduce their tax liability. The “party politicking” is caused by an absence of understanding of this issue; the absence of understanding is caused by the lack of “bottom” or experience; the result is a debate that deserves to be heard in the 6th form, rather than Parliament.


Evan Price

I should have said that, to complete my contribution, I believe that MPs should have jobs and that it is the role of MP that ought to be part time!


Ann Onymous

I agree with Evan Price.

If you want a diverse mix of people in Parliament (which should be the aim as it should be representative of those it represents) it should include at least some (if not more ) very educated and highly professionally able people. The sort of people who in the working world will command annual income (Whether as salary or self employed income of £150k +. There will become a diminishing prospect of attracting this sort of (non-career politician) person into parliament if additional earnings are capped at £10k. Fine if that’s what the electorate say they want, but Parliament will be composed of (a) those with a private income/wealthy partners (b) career politician inadequates for whom £60k is beyond their wildest dreams in the real world and (c) a rag-bag of those driven by a lust for fame and an eye on IACGMOOH!



The answer is to pay MPs more. Then you will attract serious talent to the Commons. In the current situation serious high achievers in the private sector don’t want to give up lucrative careers to earn a fraction of what they can earn outside politics. You are left with career politicians as you said, those with inherited wealth, and those who continue to be distracted by ongoing outside interests.


Not Amused


Stop saying ‘the answer is’. There is no need for an answer if there isn’t a problem. The current system works fine – you will still get the odd greedy MP even if the salaries go to 200k. The only “problem” is with our society.

The media produce a narrative in order to sell their product. The people buy that narrative and so clamour for “something to be done”.

There are 650 MPS. It’s been nearly ten years since we had a story about an MP selling access. Two MPs now have created a story – but it is by no means clear that either of those two actually did anything wrong. So what problem do we have? Something so statistically minute as to be irrelevant and you kids want to spend 65 million pounds (that’s assuming you only up pay by 100k per head – there will be ancillary costs) doing “something” that won’t impact it in any way?

*slow hand clap*



You are glossing over the expenses scandal of 5 years ago. The cause of this was, though few will admit it, MPs not being paid enough. A culture developed whereby MPs would supplement their salaries with their expenses, thus topping up the salary to something approaching ‘market’ figure.

Face it, MPs are paid well below market. If this was private sector, rather than an artificial system, and MPs were selling their labour on an open market, they would command far more for their services.

I’m really not bothered that they’d get paid more out of my pocket, and that I’d be paying an extra 0.1p in tax or whatever it would be. I’m not some nutty libertarian who believes we should pay no tax, and most British people don’t mind paying their taxes provided it is justified and they see results.

I’d be no more bothered about paying an MP over £100k than I am paying my local authority Chief Exec £200k through my council taxes. The council wouldn’t be able to attract someone of the appropriate level of talent if they were forced to pay less. Parliament is forced to pay it’s MPs an artificially low salary, and as a result we have a pretty poor Parliament currently. Frankly, I believe that MPs justify earning more than an NQ city solicitor.


Not Amused

“The council wouldn’t be able to attract someone of the appropriate level of talent if they were forced to pay less. Parliament is forced to pay it’s MPs an artificially low salary, and as a result we have a pretty poor Parliament currently. ”

I reject both of those statements and if you reflect on them honestly, you’ll see that really you have no evidence and the fact you think this is only a matter of belief.

The idea that increasing MP pay will improve anything is fundamentally naïve. We’ve had two types of MP – those who top up their pay by working harder and getting a second income and those who did nothing but exploited the expenses system.

Stop trying to outlaw the hard working MPs – it’s them we need to encourage



The Council absolutely would not be able to attract someone of the required experience and talent if they were forced to cut the chief exec’s salary. you are talking about an organisation with a budget of hundreds of millions, in the case of my council around £400m I believe. I challenge you to name any private company with an annual budget of that size that would not pay its CEO several hundred thousand in order to attract candidates of the required quality.

It’s not a massive leap to suggest the same principle applies to MPs.


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