MPs to be banned from employing family members in major expenses crackdown

Posted On: 
15th March 2017

MPs will be banned from charging the taxpayer millions to hire family members as staff in a major crackdown by the expenses watchdog.

Ipsa has written a new scheme of MPs' business costs for 2017/18
Credit: 
PA Images

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority said the hiring of “connected parties” by MPs was “out of step with modern employment practice”.

It will also cap the amount MPs can pay staff in bonuses to £1,000 in any year, after some were found to be handing employees lump sums of up to £4,000.

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The new rules on connected parties will come into force after the next election and will stop MPs newly hiring a family member or a partner they live with.

Some 135 MPs - including Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling - currently employ family members, according to analysis by PoliticsHome of the MPs' Register of Interests.

According to Ipsa they can choose to pay family members up to £43,000 a year - so the current bill to the taxpayer could be as much as £5.8m.

Unveiling the new rules today, Ipsa chair Ruth Evans said: “We have decided to end funding for new employees who are related to MPs from the next general election onwards.

“We believe that the employment of ‘connected parties’ is out of step with modern employment practice, which requires fair and open recruitment to encourage diversity in the workplace.”

MPs have been forced to reveal any ‘connected parties’ they employ since 2008. At a high point in 2009 some 204 MPs were employing 220 family members or partners.

In that and surrounding years former DUP leader Ian Paisley had two of his daughters and one son - now also a DUP MP - all working for him at the same time.

BONUSES

Elsewhere Ipsa has increased the amount MPs can pay staff - but put a cap on the sum they can dish out in bonuses to £1,000. Previously MPs were urged to give only “modest” bonus payments.

The issue hit the headlines last year when it emerged 58 MPs had spent £116,000 in staff bonuses, with half of that sum being dished out by SNP MPs.

Former party leader Alex Salmond had given six staff a total of £10,000 while MP John Nicolson gave £7,000 to three staff.

Meanwhile, Ipsa said in light of the Brexit vote, and therefore the likelihood of more MPs travelling to the continent over the next couple of years, it would lift the cap covering just three journeys a year within the EU.