If the latest news reports are to be believed, then MPs will no longer be able to claim for mortgage payments on second homes, and even worse (for them) is that if they live within an hour of London they won’t be able to claim anything for a second home. Added to that – they won’t be allowed to employ family members.
So what do I think? Well as someone who commutes from Nottinghamshire – where a 6:24 am train means I can get to Parliament at 8:15am, long before many MPs roll up may I add, I have to say I don’t have much sympathy for MPs who will say this isn’t fair. If I can commute, and so does my wife, who works next to Waterloo, then so can many MPs. We each pay over £8,000 for our season ticket – which certainly isn’t value for money – though I suspect if more MPs did this we may get better informed public transport decisions.
On the subject of MPs employing family members I do have mixed feeling. I remember when I wrote to about 50 MPs after the 2001 election as someone in full time employment in the political arena, as someone not straight out of University, offering help for free, I received a total of 3 positive responses. It is notoriously hard to get a job in politics, and there is seemingly many MPs who hire family members, so I’m not sure proper rules on open competition were followed.
It is of course interesting to see my former opponent John Mann on all the news channels backing these measures. I guess he too will feel the brunt, as my understanding is that he has employed his wife Ms Joanna White in his constituency office for a number of years. Should he and others be able to do so? Well if they do a good job I have never really had an issue with it. Why? Well I truly believe that the vast majority of staff (relatives included) are extremely hard working and work many more hours than they are paid for.
I know of one person I only spoke to this week who goes into work on Sunday, and if you added the hours they work above their contracted hours they would be owed 9 months off for time in lieu.
It is one thing to try to standardise jobs in Parliament, and I will be interesting to see what is happening to plans to make all staff employees of the House rather than employees of MPs themselves. If that move goes through I can see no way that MPs will not be able to have relatives working for them – as they will be contracted not be MPs but by the House itself and under employment law how on earth could they make them redundant just for being married to what would then effectively be another employee of the House.
Frankly the move to make all MPs staff employees of the House is opening up a huge Pandoras box, and frankly given the House Authorities couldn’t manage the system of expenses (for it was them who signed the claims off) what is the likelihood that they are fit for purpose in managing thousands of more staff?
So yes, make them commute if they have to. Yes take a make sure in future jobs are advertised, but moves to remove family members currently employed especially if they will no longer be directly employed by the MP themselves could end up costing the taxpayer dearly in claims for unfair dismissal that I am sure will arise.