Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 10:12 UK

Bid to ban MPs employing children

MPs in the Commons
MPs have been urged to go further in making themselves accountable

Proposals to stop MPs from employing their children using taxpayers' money will not apply to those who are already employed, officials have confirmed.

Harriet Harman's office has proposed stopping MPs' employing their offspring as researchers and assistants, but has said it would not be retrospective.

It would also not stop MPs from employing their spouses or partners.

A consultation paper said the practice of MPs employing children was damaging to the reputation of the Commons.

The paper, issued by Commons leader Ms Harman's office, flagged up the furore over Tory MP Derek Conway, who paid his son more than 40,000 out of his staffing allowance for work as a parliamentary researcher, despite him being a full-time student in Newcastle.

Recent incidents involving the employment by MPs of their children demonstrate clearly the negative impact this has on public confidence in members
Consultation paper

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

The paper warned: "Whilst spouses may have the skills, experience or qualifications to make them the most appropriate candidate for work in their partners' parliamentary or constituency office, this is less likely to apply to MPs' children whether under 18 or young adults.

"Furthermore, recent incidents involving the employment by MPs of their children demonstrate clearly the negative impact this has on public confidence in members."

Expenses regime

At least 22 MPs employ their children and there may be more as it only become compulsory to register them from this month.

Some have given jobs to more than one of their children - DUP MPs Peter and Iris Robinson - who are married - employ two sons, a daughter and a daughter-in-law between them.

MPs now have a staffing allowance worth 10,205 a year to pay for assistants.

MPs must have the resources to do their work effectively, and they must command the confidence, respect and trust of the public.
Harriet Harman
Commons leader

From October, MPs will have to provide the Commons with details of their employees' job descriptions and contracts.

The proposal comes as Ms Harman launched a consultation on tighter controls of the 93m parliamentary expenses regime.

It follows a review of MPs' allowances which recommended abolishing the so-called "John Lewis list", in which they can claim for household items and refurbishment of their second homes, along with an external audit of their claims.

'Gone AWOL'

Those recommendations were rejected by MPs by a majority of 28 - 33 government ministers had voted against them, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown was not at the vote.

Two weeks later MPs backed plans to change the John Lewis list, by restricting annual claims to 2,400 - under pressure from the government and party leaders.

The Conservatives said many of the issues now in the consultation paper would have been addressed if MPs had voted through the original recommendations in July.

Shadow Commons leader Theresa May said Mr Brown and the government had "repeatedly voted against reform or gone AWOL when key decisions have had to be made".

But Ms Harman said: "MPs play a vital role in our democracy - representing their constituents, legislating and scrutinising the executive.

"To do this, they must have the resources to do their work effectively, and they must command the confidence, respect and trust of the public.

"We need arrangements which achieve both these aims."


SEE ALSO
Inquiry into MP expenses delayed
28 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Watchdog 'baffled' by MPs' probe
10 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
Blair was chased over unpaid bill
23 May 08 |  UK Politics
MPs 'give up secret expenses bid'
19 May 08 |  UK Politics
Commons loses MPs' expenses fight
16 May 08 |  UK Politics
'Lax' MP expenses rules condemned
26 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
'John Lewis' list kept from MPs
08 Feb 08 |  UK Politics


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