Give MPs deadline on hiring relatives, campaigners urge

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One in five MPs continue to employ a member of their family using taxpayers’ money despite the practice being banned for new members of Parliament.

Of the 589 returning MPs, 122 have declared the employment of a relative in the latest Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

None of the 61 new MPs who secured their seats at the general election on 8 June are allowed to do so.

Campaigners say there needs to be a clear end date for all MPs.

Announcing the ban in March, the parliamentary watchdog, Ipsa, said employing family members was “out of step” with modern employment practices, and would not be permitted for new MPs in the next Parliament.

It was brought in sooner than expected when Prime Minister Theresa May announced a snap general election. However, MPs who served in the previous Parliament were allowed to continue their existing employment arrangements with relatives.

Alexandra Runswick, the director of Unlock Democracy, which campaigns for voting reform, said: “The ban on new MPs employing family members reflects the public’s concerns about nepotism and the potential abuse of public money.

“A transitional period is reasonable, particularly as the snap election means that these rules have come into force three years earlier than expected.

“However, there does need to be a clear end date. If MPs employing family members is wrong in principle then when the MP was first elected is irrelevant. While it is reasonable the current employees have some protection, it is important that we move to a situation where the rules apply equally to all MPs.”

There was anger among MPs at the introduction in 2010 of a limit of one family member of staff in the wake of the expenses scandal.

Many argued that spouses were best able to handle the unpredictable work patterns, long hours and need for absolute trust associated with being an MP’s secretary or assistant.

Ipsa said the crackdown was not due to any abuse of the rules or inappropriate claims, but that the need for transparency and good employment practice outweighed the benefits MPs found in hiring relatives.

Darren Hughes, the acting chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said it was fair to phase out the practice.

“Given the high rate of turnover of both MPs and staff, it is clear that within the next few electoral cycles it will apply to the vast majority of Parliamentary staff.

“Voters must be able to have confidence that our democracy is resourced in an open and transparent way, so it’s welcome that Parliamentary authorities have taken steps to reform the system.”

The data was scraped from official parliamentary registers.