Rugby MP speaks out about his £30k-a-year second job as chairman of plastic packaging group after facing criticism

Greenpeace and Labour have expressed concern, but Mr Pawsey says he declared the interest from the start and drew on 30 years of industry experience when he spoke about packaging

File image, Rugby MP Mark Pawsey.

Rugby MP Mark Pawsey has defended having a £30,000-a-year second job as chairman of a packaging group after a Greenpeace spokesperson questioned whether his loyalty is to his constituents or the group.

A report published last week by the London-based 'CITY A.M' news outlet highlighted Mr Pawsey's second job as chairman of the Foodservice Packaging Association, mentioning two instances in which he addressed plastic packaging in Parliament.

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Labour MP Fleur Anderson, the shadow cabinet office minister, has asked for the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, to investigate Mr Pawsey and three other MPs over lobbying claims.

In June 2020 Mr Pawsey spoke in Parliament again the banning of single-use plastic straws and stirrers and in January of this year, also in Parliament, he suggested that, although the packaging industry was keen to minimise its environmental impact, the extra costs of recycling single-use plastics should be passed to consumers, rather than companies.

He said: "It is not the packaging manufacturer that is the polluter—people are."

In both instances Mr Pawsey declared his interests to Parliament when he spoke.

A spokesperson for Greenpeace told CITY A.M: “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.

“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?”

Rugby Lib Dem councillor Tim Douglas also expressed concern.

He said: “Plastic waste is damaging to our environment so it very concerning that our local MP has been embroiled in accusations of lobbying to water down environmental standards.

"It is ironic we are learning of this the week COP26 concludes, and also the fact that Mark Pawsey attended the Climate Change Conference.

"As we all try to tackle climate change emergency, Rugby’s MP should be doing all he can to shape laws that improve our environment both locally and nationally.

"Sadly, it would appear that Mark Pawsey is out of touch and prepared to put outside interests first instead of making things better for local residents.”

The Advertiser contacted Mr Pawsey for comment and he responded, stating that he believes his 30 years in the food packaging sector means he is able to offer important contributions to the debate.

He also reiterated that he declared the interest to Parliament as soon as he took up the chairman role - and then declared the interest on both occasions he spoke on the matter.

He said: “Prior to becoming an MP, I spent 30 years working in the food packaging sector starting as a sales representative and then running my own small local business.

"Throughout its existence my business was a member of the relevant trade association, the British Disposable Products Association, later to become the Foodservice Packaging Association.

"I ceased ownership of the business in 2008.

“In 2010 when I became an MP, I joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Packaging Manufacturing Industry which brings together parliamentarians and managers of the broader packaging industry.

"The APPG discusses matters affecting all packaging materials including plastic, paper, metal, and glass. I was elected to the role of chairman in 2015.

“In 2020 I was asked by the members of Foodservice Packaging Association to take on the role of chairman.

"I immediately declared this interest on the register of Members’ Interests and have drawn attention to it on each occasion that I have spoken on matters relating to the sector in parliament.

“At a time when the government is looking at the future role for packaging and bringing forward new rules and regulations, I believe it is helpful for someone with a long working experience of the sector to contribute to an important debate.“