Family Affair: Nearly 90 MPs Still Employing Family Members With Taxpayer Money
Nearly 90 MPs still use taxpayer-funded expenses to employ members of their own family, according to the most recent register.
More than one in eight MPs employs a loved one, despite a ban on the practice coming into force for new hires in 2017.
Analysis by HuffPost UK finds that husbands, wives, sisters, stepsons, stepdaughters, mothers and fathers are all still on the public payroll.
Some 87 MPs have declared the employment of a relative in the latest register of members’ financial interests, dated November 1, 2021.
63 per cent of those MPs who employ relatives are from the Conservative party, followed by Labour on 26 per cent.
The jobs range from personal assistants to communications managers – and include full-time roles that can earn up £50,000 a year.
The practice is banned for new hires, but family members employed by an MP prior to the 2017 ban were allowed to continue in their roles.
A review by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority [IPSA] at the time noted that the practice “can be perceived as providing personal gain to MPs and their families at taxpayers’ expense”.
However, some argue that it has helped them maintain a family unit alongside the hours and pressures of being an MP. They are also not breaking any rules.
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries, who recently hit out at the BBC for “nepotism”, lists one of her daughters as a senior parliamentary assistant, according to the register.
Tory MPs listed as employing their wives include chairman of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady, former justice secretary Robert Buckland, ex-veterans minister Johnny Mercer and former transport secretary Chris Grayling.
Pensions secretary Therese Coffey employs her sister and health minister Maria Caulfield employs her partner, according to the register. International trade minister Ranil Jayawardena also employs his wife as part-time senior researcher.
Meanwhile, Labour MPs Hilary Benn, Margaret Beckett, Diana Johnson and Barry Gardiner all employ their spouses, according to the list.
Shadow defence secretary John Healey employs his wife and shadow pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds also employs his spouse part-time.
House of Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle is listed as employing his wife, but a spokesperson said it was an “error” on the register and she stopped working for her husband two months after he was elected speaker.
Meanwhile, the SNP’s Ian Blackford employs his stepson as a part-time senior caseworker. Also according to the register, DUP MPs Jeffrey Donaldson and Ian Paisley employ their wives.
Former senior Lib Dem politician Tom Brake said he had employed relatives when he was an MP but it was “right and proper” that eventually no MP would be doing so.
Now as director of Unlock Democracy think tank, he said: “Eventually no MP will be employing a family member.
“That is right and proper and avoids any actual or perceived nepotism.
“For MPs who still employ one family member, total transparency over that family member’s role and salary is essential.
“This should guarantee that their salary matches their workload and level of responsibility, and is not being used to supplement the MP’s income at the taxpayer’s expense.”
The declarations are all made on the register of members’ financial interests which MPs are required to update within 28 days of any change.
The rules state: “Members are required to register within 28 days any change in those registrable interests. Such a change includes both the acquisition of a new interest and the ceasing of any registered interest, for example because an employment has ceased or because a holding has reduced in value or been sold.”