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MPs still on the make - Despite the expenses scandal, 136 MPs still employ family members

(52 Posts)
ttosca Thu 08-Sep-11 20:30:50

MPs are still paying nearly £3m of public money to family members despite attempts by the new expenses watchdog to tighten up the system, research for The Independent has found.

ttosca Thu 08-Sep-11 20:31:07

Why do we put up with this? When is the public going to revolt?

Gleek Thu 08-Sep-11 20:37:26

It often does make sense for MPs to employ family members, specifically wives. They wouldn't get the hours/commitment from a random secretary, they need someone with a bit of vested interest to do all of the out of hours stuff. Wives pretty much earn a pittance on an hourly rate basis, it would more than likely cost taxpayer more if they didn't employ family members.

ttosca Thu 08-Sep-11 20:38:35

Oh my God...

ttosca Thu 08-Sep-11 20:40:22

Do you have any idea what a spectacularly bad argument that is?

Gleek Thu 08-Sep-11 20:45:57

Its not really an argument, I don't really care enough to argue about it.

It's merely a point and I think there are many worse things that our MPs are doing at the moment.

They shouldn't be allowed to determine salary levels themselves but overall I don't have a problem with it. It happens in the private sector all of the time, yes, we should probably expect a little more of our elected representatives but really this isn't surprising.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 08-Sep-11 20:54:46

I think Gleek is simply saying it how it is. The MP role is hardly a regular 9 - 5 job. Lots of travelling, social functions and late nights in the House. I think a family team working together often works well. Provided the family member is recruited openly, is competent and paid a fair rate, I can't see why it is something the public would revolt over.

ttosca Thu 08-Sep-11 21:12:12

It's a bad argument because it gives the impression that MPs are employing family members and friends so that they can effectively earn double salary. No doubt, some of them do precisely this.

Secondly, it is nepotism; when a family member is employed, they are denying the job of someone else from the public. You could argue that a family member may be 'more efficient', but you're not exactly going to get MPs hiring people on an equal basis when there is the choice between hiring a family member, who will add £35 K to the family income, or a member of the public, who won't.

Thirdly, if you can find a member of the public who is better trained than a family member at this sort of job, then there is a serious problem with your recruitment process.

Finally, at a time when trust in politicians is (rightfully) at an all-time low, MPs should be doing everything they can to alter the impression that they're corrupt bastards in it for themselves and their rich buddies. They're playing with fire, here.

NormaSnorks Thu 08-Sep-11 21:34:51

I doubt you'd find many 'ordinary joes' who's be willing and/or able to do the sort of all hours/ jack of all trades types of jobs the wife/husband of an MP finds themselves doing sometimes - admin/ secretary/ office manager/ chauffeur/ hostess/ chef/ childcare etc - often at odd times of day and night, and 45+ weeks/ weekends a year.

Some MPs work so damn hard they'd probably never see their family if they didn't work with them!!

Doesn't bother me, really, I expect it's actually rather efficient and relatively good value for money...

GoToGirl Thu 08-Sep-11 21:40:36

Tosca is right.
This is a scandal.
Wtf isbthis argument that secretaries can't be found who work long, unsociable hours unless they are married to the boss?
I have always worked in large, corporate organisations where secretaries would be there for the hours their bosses were. Ie all the hours God sends. For a salary of around 30-40k.

newwave Thu 08-Sep-11 21:42:28

TBH I dont have problem with MP's employing their wives/husbands as long as they do the job properly.

My local MP's wife seems to attend every function with him, if you phone his number at say 9pm if he is not there she will take a message and you always get a response, she will be at garden fetes and other social occassions. The MP would not get the almost 24/7 support from anyone else.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 09-Sep-11 07:33:19

Another important factor is that MPs have to employ people they can implicitly trust. With the media breathing down their neck, digging every bit of dirt, secretly recording conversations etc., what price an employee that you know won't let you down or spill the beans? Remember that odd story with MP Mike Hancock and the alleged 'russian spy' he employed as an assistant? Of course, I'm sure Chris Huhne is wishing he'd stayed on better terms with his ex after the 'he made me take his driving points' allegations. (Rider... don't know that he actually employed her)

Other people could be found that are trustworthy, willing to follow their MP around 24/7, hard-working etc. But wouldn't it be discrimination to say that someone is excluded from a job, simply because they are related to the one paying their wages?

Abra1d Fri 09-Sep-11 07:38:17

Can't get too bothered about this, as long as the family members are competent. My SIL works as her husband's office manager, he being a lawyer. Should we insist that he advertises externally?

aquashiv Fri 09-Sep-11 10:51:55

I have nothing whatsoever againsnt employing family members. My brother has worked for me and a nephew. I always paid them the going rate though. £35k for a part time sec? Rather alot isnt it?
As for the MP's working hard bit - we live in a Tory strong hold so that argument does not apply. You are lucky if the lazy wankers answer an email.

bobthebuddha Fri 09-Sep-11 12:33:02

If the family member does a good job, then I don't really have a problem with it. But who aside from the press scrutinises whether a good job is being done?

Stuart Bell ('Sir' missed off deliberately given that he got this honour for services to Parliament and not his constituency) is Labour MP for my home town of Middlesbrough. His wife is employed as his office manager for the princely sum of £35k a year. The local paper recently put through 100 phone calls from a variety of numbers to his office over a period of months. None were answered, all went to voicemail, none were returned. He hasn't held a surgery for 14 years; apparently it's 'too dangerous' for him & he deals with his constituents on an appointment basis. How this can be arranged when calls are never returned I do not know.

If any town in England needed a bloody good MP it's Middlesbrough, but it doesn't look like he or his wife do a very good job for the taxpayers' money they're given. Pays for a nice flat in Paris though.

bobthebuddha Fri 09-Sep-11 12:34:59

sorry, meant to link

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 09-Sep-11 13:15:28

So why does Middlesbrough keep returning Mr Bell if he's so rubbish?

WhereYouLeftIt Fri 09-Sep-11 13:17:32

I really don't have a problem with MPs employing their spouse, for all of the reasons already mentioned here. As long as that spouse is competent in the job, not a problem.

Besides, I'd imagine for a few of them, the job predated the espousal. Should they have to resign on getting married?

bobthebuddha Fri 09-Sep-11 13:23:28

Because Middlesbrough itself has always remained staunchly Labour I guess...he lost a lot of ground at the last election & the remaining main party votes were pretty well split..

Middlesbrough South saw Labour only scrape through against the Cons. That covers the bit where I grew up & where I seem to recall we had a Conservative MP until 90-something, much to my disgust at the time grin

niceguy2 Fri 09-Sep-11 14:01:47

Yep, i also agree that as long as the recruitment is done openly, the family member is competent to do said job then I don't have an issue with it at all.

Do you have any idea what a spectacularly bad argument that is?

Yes, I do! Given Newwave and I probably couldn't agree what time of day it is, you know you have a spectacularly bad argument when we both agree and you do not.

ttosca Fri 09-Sep-11 15:11:56

Amazing what the British will put up with. I guess they're so used to being screwed that they experience things like this as normal.

Does anyone want to actually address any of the arguments in my post?

ttosca Fri 09-Sep-11 15:16:04

So what other public positions would you be comfortable with this sort of nepotism?

If MPs, why not other positions in government or other public service jobs?

Hell, why not prioritize family on the basis of the arguments put forth in this thread: the person hiring knows the family member well and can trust them. That's fair, isn't it?

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 09-Sep-11 15:41:24

I'm quite comfortable with relatives being employed in any capacity, any business, any public office as long as they meet the same selection criteria & standards as anyone else, are competent in the role and that it is handled in an above-board fashion. For it to be 'nepotism' there would have to be some sort of special treatment, secrecy, blind-eyes being turned.

You seem rather dismissive of 'the British'.....

yousankmybattleship Fri 09-Sep-11 15:45:35

I really don't understand why you're so bothered about this. Why shouldn't MPs employ family members? As many have said, there are often good, practical reasons why it makes sense and there is no reason to think they can't do a perfectly good job. There are enough real scandals and problems in the world, let's not get all excited about something which is a total non issue.

Laugs Fri 09-Sep-11 16:03:05

Isn't the problem that it's one rule for them and another for us (^again^)? My DH has always worked in the public sector. For him to move up a grade, he has to apply for an externally-advertised position and pit himself against often hundreds of other candidates, even though he might already be doing the job unofficially. If this is deemed to be fair for civil servants, then why isn't it the case for MP's assistants?

That said, I can see that it might make life more family-friendly for MPs (which obviously I agree with).

But I just don't buy that nobody else would want these jobs. It sounds like the role of a PA to me, which is not a bad job at all. Only someone who is massively privileged to start with can imagine they are doing society a favour by not offering that job to external applicants.

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