- 24 Apr 08, 07:01 PM
The new Register of MPs Interests, published today (24 April), lists 106 MPs who employ their wives, husbands, or other relatives, and pay them from their Parliamentary Staffing allowances.
This is the first time MPs have had the opportunity to declare this, though it won't be compulsory to do so until 1 August. Until then, it's still voluntary whether MPs register such details or not.
A lot of MPs seem to have delayed registration, perhaps because it's such a sensitive issue.
Perhaps the most glaring omission so far is the Speaker Michael Martin (who employs his daughter as a constituency case-worker), which may not go down well with his critics when he is officially overseeing the enquiries into reforming the whole expenses system.
Other omissions include Margaret Beckett, who employs her husband Leo, and Sir Ming Campbell who employs his wife Elspeth.
Several MPs are revealed to employ more than one relative, whilst the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Peter Robinson, and his wife Iris, who is also an MP, have turned politics into a real family business. Peter Robinson himself employs both their son and daughter-in-law, whilst Iris Robinson employs another son, and their daughter. So six Robinsons in all are paid by Parliament in one way or another. I can see headlines along the lines of "something Family Robinson" in tomorrow's papers.
It's also interesting to see that the former Conservative leader Michael Howard employs his wife Sandra as a part-time secretary. I'm surprised she has the time with her new novel-writing career. (I've just read her first novel, Glass Houses, by the way, and rather enjoyed it.)
Last February, when this issue first blew up over the Derek Conway affair, Newsnight identified 96 MPs who employed relatives (see past blogs). Many on the Newsnight list have yet to submit their details on this to the official register, but equally the register published today has furnished us with 56 more names. So the total of names is now 152; by 1 August that total could well reach 200 or more.
The new names are:
Sir Patrick Cormack
Michael Foster (Hastings)
Sir Aan Haselhurst