Top Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith received a cool £5,020 for just four hours of work, giving a speech to some estate agents. As the housing crisis bites ever harder, it's an example of a high profile MP taking money from the industry that's laughing all the way to the bank as others suffer.
Duncan Smith, one of the figureheads of the right-wing of the Conservative Party, topped up his £74,962 salary by giving a speech at "The Negotiator Conference", which paints itself as "the UK's premier event for estate and letting agents". The £1,255 an hour gig for estate agents was revealed in the register of MPs' interests, published in December. Duncan Smith was paid in November, although the speech itself happened on the 31st of October.
Iain Duncan Smith's moonlighting in this way is not breaking any rules. MPs are allowed to earn money on top of their salaries as long as it is properly declared, as it was in this case.
The Negotiator conference is run by Propertydrum Ltd, who also publish The Negotiator magazine, "the only printed trade magazine which is distributed to the entire UK estate and lettings agency industry". The magazine and the conference are a central part of the estate agency industry.
The conference was held in the "sumptuous surroundings" of the London Hilton Hotel in Park Lane. For their tickets attendees got not only Iain Duncan Smith as a keynote speaker, but also "catering... of the highest quality" The estate agents were also roused by an inspirational slogan encouraging them to "rise above the rest, be the best", and become "the Uber Agent".
Iain Duncan Smith is one of the Conservative party's most prominent Brexiteers. The advertised subject of his talk for the estate agents was "Brexit, business and the property market", giving his thoughts on how Brexit "might impact the property market".
At this year’s Conservative Conference, ministers made efforts to show they understood people’s anger with the housing crisis. Theresa May admitted we have a "broken housing market". Chancellor Philip Hammond spoke of the "frustration among the young, who fear that the combination of student debt and sky-high rents and house prices will condemn them never to access the opportunities of property ownership their parents enjoyed".
This isn’t Duncan Smith’s first speech for the housing industry. In June he was paid £4,000 for an appearance at the National Landlords Investment Show, a trade fair for private landlords, according to his entry on the Register of MPs' Interests. The organisers of this landlords' fair celebrated the top Tory MP's work for them with a press release saying Duncan Smith's paid gig created "a great forum for landlords to interact with a key Tory influencer". Again, doing this paid work was perfectly within the rules of Parliament and was properly registered – but it's yet another example of the way that those who profit from high property prices and high rents keep giving money to the Conservative Party and Conservative MPs.
VICE asked Iain Duncan Smith if voters who are worried about house prices and rising rents could have confidence in MPs like him, who get paid so generously by the estate agency businesses that profit from those high rents and prices.
Duncan Smith’s spokesperson responded that, "In common with many MPs, Iain Duncan Smith is keen to discuss the issues affecting the housing sector with those who work in it."