POLITICS, as today's list of MPs' interests shows all too clearly, can be a highly lucrative business.

There is an awful lot of money to be made by politicians who fancy turning their hand to writing, public speaking, consultancy, or television presenting.

It shouldbe noted that most of the region's MPs claimed nothing or little.

It also has to be stressed, of course, that earning extra cash is not against the rules for MPs. It is entirely legitimate as long as they declare their earnings to public scrutiny.

But, as we have noted before, perception goes a long way in politics and many people will find the annual House of Commons Register of Members' Interests hard to swallow.

Ordinary folk will find it hard, for example, to accept that William Hague can earn the bulk of a million pounds from writing books and newspaper columns, staging one-man shows and presenting television shows.

Or that Alan Milburn can earn between £25,000 and £30,000 through membership of an advisory committee for an investment company, or clock up fees of up to £35,000 for making four speeches.

Or that Robin Cook can quit the Cabinet and then cash in to the tune of £50,000 or so for the paperback version of his resignation.

Leaving the Cabinet, it seems, is not always a retrograde step.

There will inevitably be questions in constituents' minds about whether MPs should instead be fully focused on serving those who elected them in the first place.

As far as the rules are concerned, it isn't wrong. It just doesn't seem right.