MPs are to be hit with tougher restrictions on employing their wives and children amid concern of a François Fillon-style scandal in Britain, The Sunday Telegraph understands.
New stricter rules on employing relatives from the taxpayers’ purse are expected to be announced this month in the biggest expenses shake-up in six years. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), created after The Telegraph’s expenses investigation, will start contacting MPs from tomorrow.
Politicians are likely to be urged to advertise all available jobs, interview candidates not linked to them and justify any hiring of relatives to voters.
There remains some public concern about MPs’ employment of ‘connected parties’ ... and any financial support provided to MPs’ families, such as by paying for their related travel and accommodation
However, it is understood that copying a blanket ban on employing family members currently in place in the Scottish Parliament has been rejected.
Sources said the scandal in France over allegations that Mr Fillon, the presidential candidate, paid his wife hundreds of thousands of pounds for little work is being borne in mind.
The move comes as the publication of new expenses records revealed nine MPs claimed for subscriptions to the online video streaming service Amazon Prime. Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters and Jeremy Clarkson’s The Grand Tour are among thousands of shows available on the service, which costs £79 a year.
Some MPs involved said they had made the claims by mistake or were caught in a “subscription trap” after taking out a free trial.
Conclusions from a consultation into Ipsa’s rules – the first comprehensive review since 2011 – will be published as early as this week. The consultation covered a wide array of topics, from how MPs claim expenses for travel and accommodation to diversity among their employees.
The body is expected to approve a significant pay rise for MPs’ staff for the first time in years after a review of current caps. Staff have received only a 1 per cent annual pay rise on average.
But it is changes to rules around MPs employing their wives and partners that are likely to generate headlines. Last March it was found that 139 relatives or people with a “close business connection” were working for Britain’s 650 MPs.
In total they are paid around £4.5 million a year, which has recently made up around 5 per cent of total staffing expenditure. Ipsa warned in its consultation that “controls to prevent misuse of funding on employing connected parties were limited”.
It also said staff with links to MPs had “salaries significantly higher than the average [employee] across all MPs’ staff”, although only because they tended to work in more senior roles. “There remains some public concern about MPs’ employment of ‘connected parties’ ... and any financial support provided to MPs’ families, such as by paying for their related travel and accommodation,” the consultation said.
This newspaper has learnt that the watchdog is planning to do more to reassure the public the system of employing spouses and relatives is not being abused. A source said the focus would be on MPs “providing a justification for what they are doing” and “having a recruitment process that is more like the rest of the world”.