The UK is planning to curb the practice of nepotism in the House of Commons by banning elected lawmakers from employing spouses and other relatives with public money.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) that governs the expenses and pay of Members of Parliament, said the ban will come into place after the next general election, scheduled for 2020.
“We believe that the employment of ‘connected parties’ is out of step with modern employment practice, which encourages fair and open recruitment to encourage diversity in the workplace,” IPSA chairwoman Ruth Evans said in a statement.
“On balance, the need for good employment practice which is transparent and encourages diversity outweighs the benefits which some MPs find in being able to employ connected parties.”
Keeping it in the family across party lines
Some 151 of the the 650 MPs at Westminster – almost a quarter of the total – employ family members using their allowances for staff, according to the Press Association. The practice is common across parties with, for example, 84 Conservatives and 50 Labour lawmakers employing a spouse or relative.
A move in 2010 to limit the number of family members employed to just one, caused a near outcry at Westminster.
The change led to a drop in the number of MPs employing family members from 32.8% of male MPs and 23.1% of women in 2009 to 26.6 percent of male MPs and 12.9% of women in the period 2012 -13, according to PA.
Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale told PA that IPSA’s decision was “crass and they will live to regret it”.
Gale’s wife Suzy has worked as his assistant since he first entered parliament in 1983.
“She probably does 60 to 70 hours work a week, including most of Saturday, and I can call on her any time day or night. I couldn’t do that with an assistant recruited through an advert,” he said.
The new rules will not however prevent children and spouses from being employed by political colleagues.
Beyond the UK
The move to clean up the housekeeping of the world’s oldest parliamentary democracy comes as a nepotism accusation is threatening the election hopes of French Presidential candidate François Fillon.
Fillon’s problems began when a newspaper published reports that his wife and and two of his children earned more than a million dollars as parliamentary assistants but didn’t show up for work.
Fillon, who was prime minister from 2007 to 2012, has rejected the claims and insists that he has “nothing to hide.”
He said his wife worked for 15 years as his “deputy,” managing his schedule and representing him at cultural events. His daughter and son were employed in similar positions for 15 months and six months respectively, which he said is not illegal, but was an “error of judgment.”
In the US, the Justice Department concluded that US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner would be able to serve as a senior advisor.
Kushner, a 36-year-old Harvard-educated businessman and husband of Trump’s daughter Ivanka, was a key political strategist on Trump’s election.