MPs will be banned from hiring family members at the public's expense, IPSA says as 130 relatives of MPs could lose their jobs

Ben Riley-Smith
MPs will be banned from hiring their children and spouses on the public purse - Tim Ireland 

MPs will be banned from hiring their children and spouses on the public purse after the next election, it has been announced. 

Politicians will be barred from using taxpayers’ money to employ relatives and other “connected” people from 2020, the expenses watchdog has said. 

Such contracts are “out of step with modern employment practice”, according to Ruth Evans, chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

It comes after criticism that allowing MPs to hire relatives is "unjust" and encourages "nepotism". 

Ruth Evans. the head of Ipsa Credit: Eddie Mulholland 

Some 139 spouses, family members and other “connected” individuals are employed MPs currently at a cost to the taxpayer of 4.5 million a year. 

None of those currently in roles will be forced to resign, with the rule change only applying to new hires after the May 2020 election. 

The tightening in the rules, which was first revealed by The Sunday Telegraph, is part of the biggest shake-up in rules for six years. 

Other changes include a £2,000 increase in how much MPs can spend on renting accommodation in London and a higher allowance for those with children. 

Ms Evans, the Ipsa chair, 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.”

Ipsa, the watchdog set up after this newspaper’s expenses watchdog, announced the changes after a consultation on its rules. 

The body decided to reject a total ban in the Scottish Parliament which would have forced wives and children currently working for MPs. 

However sources feared a repeat of the French scandal that has seen François Fillon’s presidential bid derailed by claims he paid his wife for work she did not do. He has rejected the allegations. 

Concerns about MPs hiring family members have persisted since a new system of rules came into place after the expenses scandal.  

Ipsa said that one MP said politicians employing family members was “unjust and encouraged nepotism”. It also noted concerns were raised about the professionalism of the job. 

The watchdog did note the “majority” of MPs supported no change in the rules. 

“The response from a group of Conservative MPs stated that spouses can represent good value for money as they often work well beyond the hours that other staff would be prepared to work,” it said. 

“MPs who employed connected parties themselves gave personal reasons why the practice should be allowed to continue, such as the need for a member of staff whom they can trust completely and who is willing and able to take on the necessary evening and weekend working.”

However it concluded: “MPs should be expected to follow best practice in their approach to recruiting and managing their staff, as well as to ensure the proper use of public funding. We acknowledge the need for MPs to employ people they can trust, but do not consider that these can only be connected parties.

“We have also noted that other legislatures have followed this best practice; the employment of connected parties is already restricted in the legislatures of Scotland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.”

Other changes were announced. MPs will be able to spend around £2,000 more than previously for renting accommodation in London, with the budget now £22,760 a year. 

The extra amount they can claim for each child in accommodation costs is also doubling from £2,425 to £5,435. MPs will only be able to claim for up to three children. 

Politicians will be able to travel to Europe as many times as wanted after a cap on three return journeys a year was lifted in the wake of the Brexit vote. 

Staff bonuses have also been capped for the first time, with no employee able to be given more than £1,000 a year. 

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