More than 100 MPs employ family members on expenses

More than a hundred MPs – including two cabinet ministers – employ family members as taxpayer-funded assistants, the House of Commons has disclosed. The first official list, published in the wake of the scandal which cost the former Tory MP Derek Conway his political career, showed that MPs of all parties have close relatives on the public payroll. It includes senior figures such as the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, the Housing minister, Caroline Flint, the shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, and the former Tory leader Michael Howard.

Five MPs employ more than one member of their family. The new Democratic Unionist Party leader, Peter Robinson, and his wife Iris, who is also an MP, employ all three of their children as well as a daughter-in-law.

Others included on thelist are the Tory MP Sir George Young, chairman of the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, and Sir Stuart Bell, the Labour MP who is among the senior politicians reviewing Commons expenses.

The current register is voluntary, and there are indications that many MPs have yet to declare their family employees. In February, David Cameron said more than 70 Conservative MPs employed family members, but yesterday's list showed only 39 Conservatives registering their relatives' employment.

It has been voluntary for MPs to name the family members that they employ since 1 April, although party leaders have urged them to do so. Registration will be compulsory from August.

The register was released late yesterday afternoon when many MPs had left Westminster for the week. Its publication was agreed earlier this year after Mr Conway was suspended from the Commons and stripped of the Conservative whip for misusing public money to pay his son tens of thousands of pounds as a researcher while he was a full-time student in Newcastle.

Ms Smith is the most senior cabinet minister on the list. She employs her husband, Richard Timney, as a senior research/parliamentary assistant. He will be earning between £27,780 and £40,052. Her cabinet colleague Hilary Benn employs his wife, Sally Clark, as a research/parliamentary assistant. The pay range for such a post is between £14,212 and £34,240.

Ms Flint, who attends the Cabinet, employs her husband, Phil Cole, as her office manager on a salary of between £21,320 and £40,052. Mr Howard discloses that his wife, Sandra, acts as a part-time secretary, while Mr Davis employs his wife, Doreen, as executive secretary.

Liberal Democrats on the register include Malcolm Bruce, Paul Burstow and David Heath, who all employ their wives.

There is no suggestion that employing family members breaks any parliamentary rules. Many MPs insist that close family members are well suited to the awkward hours and highly personal nature of political work. MPs say their relatives often work far longer hours than other employees would be prepared to accept.

Some backbenchers privately argue that their marriages have been strengthened by working alongside their spouses in the highly stressful environment of the Westminster village.

But Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "This is a completely outdated practice that raises people's suspicions about politicians' motives. To ordinary taxpayers, Parliament is an excessively generous gravy train at the best of times, but the fact that so many MPs employ family members is simply unacceptable. To dispel any suspicion that they are taking advantage of taxpayers' generosity, this practice should be banned once and for all."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Support Workers - Mother's Help / Buddy Support Role

£8 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A gentleman with congenital achondropla...

Recruitment Genius: Training Officer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Training Officer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent