Page last updated at 18:52 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 19:52 UK

More than 100 MPs employ family

MPs in the Commons
MPs' expenses have been in the news for several months

More than 100 MPs have declared family members they employ using their taxpayer-funded expenses.

The list of 106 includes the home secretary, environment secretary and the standards committee chairman.

A register of employed relatives was set up after revelations about Tory MP Derek Conway's payments to his son. It will become compulsory in August.

There is no rule against MPs employing relatives but the European Parliament has voted to ban the practice for MEPs.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith lists her husband, Richard Timney, as a "senior research/parliamentary assistant", which attracts a salary of between 27,780 and 40,052.

Voluntary register

Sir Stuart Bell, one of the senior MPs looking at expenses, employs his wife, Margaret Bell, as office manager.

Housing Minister Caroline Flint's husband, Phil Cole, is employed in the same role, as is Tory MP and standards committee chairman Sir George Young's daughter, Camilla Young.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with employing family members, but it is important that we have openness and transparency so that the system is not abused
Theresa May
Shadow Commons leader

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn's wife, Sally Clark, is listed as his "research/parliamentary assistant", attracting a salary of between 14,212 and 34,240.

Others to declare relatives on the register include shadow home secretary David Davis, former work and pensions secretary Peter Hain and former Tory leader Michael Howard.

The register was set up at the recommendation of the Standards and Privileges Committee, following the revelations about Mr Conway.

'Severe consequences'

It emerged in January that he had paid his son Freddie more than 40,000 over three years for work as a Parliamentary researcher, despite him being a full time student in Newcastle.

He was suspended from Parliament for 10 days and was ordered to repay 13,161. Mr Conway also lost the Conservative whip.

Sir George, as standards chairman, has warned fellow MPs of "severe consequences" if they could not show they were "beyond reproach" in the way they employed relatives.

This practice should be banned once and for all
Matthew Elliott
Taxpayers' Alliance

The register is currently voluntary but will be compulsory by 1 August.

It is likely more will come forward. The current list amounts to 54 Labour MPs, 39 Conservatives, eight Liberal Democrats, one independent, two DUP and two SNP MPs.

But in February Tory leader David Cameron said "just over" 70 of his MPs employed family members.

Five MPs employ more than one relative - including husband and wife DUP MPs Peter and Iris Robinson.

Expenses review

Mrs Robinson employs their and daughter-in-law and son Jonathan; Mr Robinson employs their daughter and other son.

There are no rules against employing relatives and previously there had been no obligation to declare them publicly.

Shadow Commons leader Theresa May said: "In principle, there is nothing wrong with employing family members, but it is important that we have openness and transparency so that the system is not abused."

But Matthew Elliott, of the pressure group the Taxpayers' Alliance, said the employment of relatives was "completely outdated" adding: "To dispel any suspicion that they are taking advantage of taxpayers' generosity, this practice should be banned once and for all."

MPs only have to give job titles of employed relatives - they do not have to spell out details of the work they do.

A "root and branch" review by the Commons estimates committee into MPs' allowances and pay is expected to report in the autumn.


SEE ALSO
Speaker facing expenses inquiry
01 Apr 08 |  UK Politics
Publish expenses now, says Clegg
27 Mar 08 |  UK Politics
Bid to block expenses questioned
26 Mar 08 |  UK Politics
'Lax' MP expenses rules condemned
26 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
A guide to MPs' pay and expenses
26 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
MP expenses 'should be published'
22 Jan 08 |  UK Politics


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