Tuesday, 1 August 2017

All in the Family

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Politics Home reports that dozens of Westminster MPs still have family members on the public payroll. 

If I remember correctly, this practice has been outlawed in the likes Germany for years which is as it should be if you ask me.

Because when it comes to spending public money only the highest standards should apply and that means using modern recruitment methods instead of personal, family or business contacts.



Dozens of MPs still employ family members as staff
By Emilio Casalicchio - Politics Home

Scores of MPs continue to employ a member of their family at the expense of the taxpayer despite a ban on newly elected parliamentarians doing the same.

Campaigners said the practice should be phased out - Credit: PA Images

Some 122 returning MPs continue to employ a family member or relative according to the latest Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

The number has decreased from 135 before the general election was called - after a crackdown meant new MPs would have to pay any ‘connected’ parties out of their own pocket.

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

Third of MPs have claimed unemployment benefits

Labour MPs employing staff on zero-hours contracts

The rules were due to change at the scheduled general election in 2022 but came in sooner after Theresa May called the snap vote in June.

Unlock Democracy, a campaign group calling for voting reform, said a transitional period for those MPs still employing family members was reasonable.

"The ban on new MPs employing family members reflects the public's concerns about nepotism and the potential abuse of public money,” said director Alexandra Runswick.

"A transitional period is reasonable, particularly as the snap election means that these rules have come into force three years earlier than expected.

"However, there does need to be a clear end date. If MPs employing family members is wrong in principle then when the MP was first elected is irrelevant.

“While it is reasonable the current employees have some protection, it is important that we move to a situation where the rules apply equally to all MPs."


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

By Emilio Casalicchio and Tom Barnes - Politics Home

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.


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.

All in the Family

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The employment practices and expenses of Westminster MPs have come in for considerable scrutiny since the great MPs' expenses scandal.

The Scotsman keeps up that honourable tradition with the report below which focuses on major overtime payments approved by two SNP MSPs.



SNP’s Paul Monaghan pays his brother Mark over 225 hours overtime

Paul Monaghan SNP MP
Picture: TSPL 

A SNP MP has been accused of “cavalier behaviour” after it emerged that he use the public purse to pay his brother seven weeks overtime in only a year. 

Paul Monaghan, the MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, signed off 255.75 extra hours for his brother Mark, who he employs as his constituency communications manager. 

The payments were revealed in an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) document, which also showed that SNP MP Corri Wilson for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock paid her son Kieran Donoghue 118 hours of overtime. Mr Donoghue has since left the role and been replaced by his sister Shannon. 

All in the Family (20/03/10)

As widely predicted, the new expenses watchdog for Members of Parliament IPSA (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) - has diluted earlier proposals to ban MPs from employing members of their family.

Sir Ian Kennedy has gone against previous recommendations from Sir Christopher Kelly and the Commitee on Standards in Public Life - by, in future, allowing one family member to be employed per MP.

IPSA took its decision after fierce lobbying from MPs - many of whom have their spouses and/or children on the public payroll.

This widespread practice came under intense scrutiny only after a Tory MP, Derek Conway, was forced into the spotlight - for having several members of his family on his staff - and was rightly shamed for a gross misuse of public funds.

IPSA conducted a public consultation exercise in which 59 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to outlaw the practice of allowing MPs to employ family members. 

Yet, this new quango decides to go against the views of the wider public - and says that IPSA knows best. 

But the fact is that MPs brought all of this public scorn and derision on themselves - it was not a case of a few bad apples spoiling the rest of the barrel.

Because more than half of our MPs were at it - in one way or another - over their expenses claims.

IPSA has done the public a dis-service - the views of MPs should have had no bearing on this issue - they have a such an obvious vested interest. 

All in the Family (08/01/10)

If anyone wants to know why MPs should keep their families and politics separate - look no further than the case of Peter and Iris Robinson.

Not only are they both Westminster MPs - they are both Members (MLAs) of the Northern Ireland Assembly - and enjoy an 'extended' family income of around £572,000 from their joint salaries and expenses - according to The Mail newspaper.

The Robinsons earn a combined total of £246,017 from their MP and MLA jobs - plus £71,434 that Peter Robinson is paid as Northern Ireland's First Minister (on top of his other salaries) - while Iris Robinson earns an extra £9,550 as a local councillor for Castlereigh.

Just where do they find the time? 

In addition, Mr Robinson employed his daughter, Rebekah, as his office manager and private secretary, while his son, Gareth, is his parliamentary assistant. 

Not to be outdone, Mrs Robinson employs their elder son, Jonathan, as her office manager, and her daughter-in-law, Ellen, as a part-time secretary. 

The existing 'rules' on MPs' expenses mean that this is all fair and above board - but that's exactly why the system is in such desperate need of reform.

All in the Family (24/01/10)

The Sunday Times today lays bare the behaviour of another Westminster MP - who used his family to exploit expenses - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ - here's a summary of the paper's investigation into Labour MP David Chaytor. 

MP David Chaytor used daughter in expenses scam

David Chaytor, pretended his daughter was his landlord so he could claim almost £13,000 in expenses from the Commons for “renting” a flat that he himself owned.

David Chaytor, MP for Bury North, drew up a tenancy agreement with his daughter but disguised their relationship by giving her middle name as her surname.

Land Registry records show that Chaytor and his wife were the real owners of the property and there was no reason to claim his rent from the Commons. The mortgage had been paid off.

He is being investigated by the police after it was alleged he had claimed interest payments for a “phantom” mortgage that had already been paid off.

So far Chaytor has gone along with the false assumption that his claims had been for interest. It has allowed him to brush off the discrepancy as an “error” in his “accounting procedures”.

However, a Sunday Times investigation casts doubt on the MP’s claims. It is clear that Chaytor was claiming rent rather than interest and did so by creating a false tenancy agreement with his daughter as landlord.

It has also emerged that he received expenses for renting a property from his mother, after Commons rules were introduced to prohibit MPs from claiming on homes leased from relatives.

Chaytor is a 60-year-old former lecturer who entered parliament in 1997. As an MP he can claim expenses for the cost of maintaining a second home in London or his constituency.

In autumn 2005 he told the Commons that a house in Todmorden, Lancashire, was his main residence and began claiming expenses for his second home on a flat with commanding views across Westminster.

He and his wife had owned the flat since 1999 and had paid off the mortgage in full in January 2004. As a result, he should have been allowed to claim only expenses for upkeep, running costs and necessary household items.

However, Chaytor submitted claims for £1,175 a month on his expense forms under the heading “mortgage payments (interest only) or rent”. Until now it has been assumed these were erroneous interest payments for the “phantom” mortgage, but this was not the case.

A closer inspection of his expense forms provides the first clue. In one of the forms he crossed out the words “mortgage payments [etc]” and underlined the word “rent”.

Chaytor claimed that he was renting his flat from a woman he called Sarah Rastrick. These are the first names of his daughter Sarah Rastrick Chaytor, who had recently graduated from university when the arrangement started.

Chaytor had also used the name Sarah Rastrick when paying his daughter £5,000 from his Commons office allowances for research while she was a student.

The MP claimed a total of £12,925 for his rent payments between September 2005 and August 2006. It is not known whether any rent changed hands, but his claim was paid.

He stopped the claims for rent when he bought another flat in the same block using a mortgage. While keeping the original flat, he told the Commons his new property was his second home. This flipping of homes meant he could claim more than £11,000 in stamp duty and legal fees on his new purchase.

It was one of four home flips by Chaytor in less than three years. In August 2007 he began claiming rent for another property he had designated as his second home. This cottage in the village of Summerseat, near Bury, belonged to his mother Olive, who had moved into a care home because she had Alzheimer’s disease.

The Commons had introduced new rules in July 2006 preventing MPs from claiming expenses on properties rented from relatives. Nonetheless, Chaytor claimed a total of £5,400 over the six months that he rented the flat from his mother. The relationship would not have been obvious to the Commons authorities as his mother, who died last year, had remarried and used the surname Trickett.

The police have passed a report on Chaytor, who will step down at the election, to the Crown Prosecution Service. A decision on possible charges is expected before spring. His lawyers say he should be immune from prosecution as he is protected by parliamentary privilege.


January 2004

Chaytor pays off mortgage on Westminster flat
September 2005 

Flips second home to the flat and claims £12,925 in “rent”
September 2006

Buys another flat in same block and flips second home. Claims £11,500 in stamp duty and legal fees
August 2007

Flips second home to mother’s Bury cottage and claims £5,400 in “rent”
February 2008

Flips second home to Todmorden and claims £1,500 for furnishings