Labour MP for Erith & Thamesmead

Teresa Pearce MP

Archive for October 28th, 2009

MPs staff why they need real employment law. 4

Posted on October 28, 2009 by Teresa Pearce

Its suggested that new rules would forbid MPs from employing their spouses and  I can understand why this is being considered. However it doesn’t tackle the real problem of  MPs paying members of their household out of the public purse as if it only applies to family what about housekeepers, nannies, cleaners and chauffeurs? Forbidding the employment of spouses is missing the real issue which is not “who” is employed but how they are employed and what they actually do.

We need to tackle the problem of people having “phantom” jobs. For instance a nanny being paid for parliamentary work because she takes phone calls and of course there is no need to go into the Conway debacle. What needs to happen is that staff working for MPs do so under a proper contract with the Commons Office and are annually appraised.

That way the public can be sure the person is actually doing a real job and the member of staff has equality with other people in the same job. This will make sure that parliamentary staff  are treated with equality and that MPs can not be tempted to use their staffing allowance to fund their domestic arrangements. MPs offices are often staffed by young politically committed people who are over worked or underpaid or by interns who are nt paid at all. This is a disgrace which must stop.

In the business world H M Revenue & Customs carry out Employment Tax Reviews and one of the avoidances they will look for is a family member on the payroll who does nt actually do a real job but is paid a salary . This is more often found in small family businesses than in large corporates and that is because a large company is more likely to have a separate HR function and an equal opportunities policy which ensures that the people are appointed on their ability to do the job rather than who they know or who they are related to.

Once again this debate highlights the need for the Parliament to move into the 21st century and to operate less like a club and more like a modern business. One of the arguments often used for MPs having second jobs is that it keeps them in touch with the real world but if that’s the case then I don’t understand why they leave those “real world” practises at the door when they walk back into the commons.

If we are serious about “cleaning up” politics then we need to look at the role of the fees office and set up a real finance & HR function. In any other walk of life employees from the cleaner to the chief exec have rules and policies they must adhere but Westminster still seems to operate under the old system of “must not question the word of a gentleman” and therefore there is no rigour in the expenses and allowance systems. The real change that’s needed is to have a modern parliament that acts like any other large accountable organisation not like some Victorian smoking club.

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