Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Proposed rules for MPs may force Robinsons to hire only non-family staff

Peter and Iris Robinson employ family members

Westminster politicians face a ban on employing their children at the taxpayers’ expense under a shake-up of parliamentary rules.

The proposals, announced yesterday, would force First Minister Peter Robinson and his wife Iris, both MPs, to review the position of the family members they employ.

Mrs Robinson employs their son, Jonathan, as an office manager, and daughter-in-law Ellen Robinson as a part-time secretary.

Mr Robinson employs his daughter, Rebekah Robinson, as an office manager and private secretary and their other son, Gareth Robinson, as parliamentary assistant.

Earlier this year a complaint was also made to the parliamentary standards commissioner about former First Minister Ian Paisley, over the employment of his son as a researcher. Ian Paisley junior was on a salary of between £9,000 and £11,000. Rev Paisley was also listed as employing two daughters.

Under the plans put forward by Commons leader Harriet Harman the practice would be banned, although spouses would still be allowed. It follows the Derek Conway scandal over payments he made to his sons.

The consultation document warned: “Whilst spouses may have the skills, experience or qualifications to make them the most appropriate candidate for work in their partners’ parliamentary or constituency office, this is less likely to apply to MPs’ children whether under 18 or young adults.

“Furthermore, recent incidents involving the employment by MPs of their children, demonstrate clearly the negative impact this has on public confidence in members.

“The proposal is therefore that MPs’ children should no longer be able to gain paid employment in their parent’s constituency or parliamentary offices, or in any other role relating to the parent’s work as an MP.”

From October, MPs will be required for the first time to provide the Commons with details of their employees’ job descriptions and contracts.

If adopted, the reform would force at least 22 MPs who currently keep their children as researchers, secretaries and assistants to find new staff.

However, it is not clear if the changes would be enforceable and could open to challenge.

A spokesman for the DUP said: “Everyone employed by the DUP is employed on the basis of merit and the skills they bring to the job.”

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