Wednesday, November 04, 2009

No Surprises From Kelly

There was nothing hugely surprising in the Kelly Report. Most of it had been trailed widely last week. Sir Christopher blamed the party leaders for the leak. The main measures included...

* End of mortgage interest relief. All MPs will have to rent in future through a central agency
* Those in outer London will have to commute or stay in hotels for late sittings
* No claims for furniture or food to be allowed. Only utilities.
* Transition period of 5 years
* End of the Communications Allowance
* Redundancy payments for retiring MPs to be reduced to 8 weeks
* Family members to banned from being employed by MPs after 5 years

Kelly also said that MPs' salaries should be looked at by the Senior Salaries Review Body but he had no remit to cover that himself.

I see no possibility of MPs being able to argue against these measures. I do take issue with the family members' provision, even though I have in the past given an undertaking not to employ family members myself if I ever became an MP. I still don't see how they can legally be made redundant. I have no issue with the provisions applying to new MPs, but for those who already hold posts, it is deeply unfair and would not be countenanced in any other walk of life.


AVI said...

I still don't get the 'family members' ruling practically.
What happens if you employ a random office assistant, but two years down the line the MP and asst get married? Does one of them have to resign?
That would seem a bit hard.

iain said...

'it is deeply unfair and would not be countenanced in any other walk of life.'


All MP staff members will be made redundant if they don't win their seats.

Plenty of people are made redundant in the private sector.

It is this nepotism that would not be countenanced in any other walk of (public) life.

Brishank said...

5 years phase in period?

Not good enough.

Until MPs are treated just the same as those they represent then I for one will not be happy, and I suspect I will not be alone.

Why do I suspect this? It's because of conversations I have had with many, many friends, family, collegues, neighbours, strangers etc from all around Britain, none of whom are connected in any way with MPs or Westminster directly.

Veeryone of them is angry at the abuse and subsequent lack of 'getting it' by our MPs.

Sack the guilty now.

Sean Haffey said...

"... it is deeplyunfair and would not be countenanced in any other walk of life".

That's quite possibly true, but politicians hold themselves above the law in many other ways. All Women Shortlists are one - blatantly discriminatory.

If MPs want to be treated equally under the law they should apply that when it doesn't suit them also.

Number 7 said...

The subject of family members being made redundant raises an interesting point.

Who is the employer?

Surely this would be the MP concerned and the taxpayer is merely reimbursing the cost.

If this is the case, the only claim that could be made is against the MP.

Carl Gardner, Head of Legal said...

I agree that the Kelly committee's suggestion (para. 6.24 of the report) that spouses will be made redundant must simply be wrong, since the need for someone to do their jobs will continue.

But as I blogged last week, spouses can be dismissed fairly following Kelly:

It's not about redundancy, but dismissal on grounds of contravention of a statutory restriction, under section 98(2)(d) of the Employment Rights Act - the same provision that applies whenever is legally barred from a job. It follows that no right to a redundancy payment will arise.

I also suggested in another post that Kelly and/or the IPSA might be wise to phase the "ban" on spouses in so as to avoid the only possible risk of legal challenge from a few people like Suzy Gale -

and I note he is proposing it be phased in. This looks legally watertight to me.

Alex said...

"it is deeply unfair and would not be countenanced in any other walk of life."

Wrong. Just plain wrong. Please learn more about the real world before you apply to another constituency.

In many firms close relations are not permitted to work together, particularly where one might be required to appraise the work of the other.

In banking and other financial firms it would be absolutely forbidden and an audit fail simply because of the potential for collusion in fraud.

In auditing it can be even worse. I have seen partners at large US accounting firms be forced out of the partnership with little compensation simply because a close relation was appointed to a senior position in an SEC registered audit client.

Jimmy said...

The principle is sound but hasn't been thought through. What about unmarried partners for example? Also it remains (presumably) permissible to hire friends with whom the MP is not sleeping. Surely the requirement should be simply to use best practice in advertising and recruiting for the position.

Matthew Hewitt said...

I disagree with the prohibition on employing family members. Those who draw an analogy to 'big business' are correct in saying that spouses working together would not be tolerated; however it seems to me that the appropriate analogy to draw is actually to a small business, where spouses often work together. Given the nature of committment of being an MP, having family members working for you can be an effective way of structuring things, but if family members are being employed at public expense, it must be based on a fair salary for the experience of the individual and work being done.

These reforms would be implemented after the next election - whether they agree or disagree with them, at least people will be able to decide not to stand in the next election if they aren't prepared to accept the conditions of the job.

The real solution to this, however, is to increase an MP's salary to a level where it is properly comparable to the private sector given the work we demand of MP's - this probably involves a salary of c. £100k per annum, but a significant reduction in the number of MP's so there is no overall cost increase to pay for it.

davidc said...

m.p.'support jobs '

as these are taxpayer funded, recruitment should be by advertisement followed by competitive interview.

when a g.e. is called all m.p.'s cease to be 'employed' and therefore any support jobs are redundant

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

The point both Kelly and Legg seem to have grasped is that modification of behaviour cannot be expected and so these indecent troughers will continue to have their snouts firmly thrust into whatever trough is available - hence the only remedy is to diminish the trough itself:and hence measures like a complete ban on employing family members.

Wallenstein said...

I think the "outer london" limit for rental allowance is tricky.... the MP for Cambridge (David Howarth) has a direct train home from Kings Cross which takes 45 mins.

Even driving it's a straight blast up the M11 which takes about 1hr if traffic is quiet.

But it might well take 90+ mins for an outer london MP to travel back home at the same time of night, as there is no direct link.

The limit is viewed in strictly "miles as the crow flies" terms it doesn't take account of how long that journey takes on the ground, as London is a pig to travel around at night.

Elby the Beserk said...

"it is deeply unfair and would not be countenanced in any other walk of life."

You mean, like how Hazel & Jacqui behaved? That would not be countenanced in any other walk of life, either, and they have got away with it. Smith robbed the public purse of £100,000 and just got a slap on the wrists for it.

Caesar's wife, from now on, Iain. Any less than that stinks. Remember, pay is already c£83k pa when the generous pension is factored in.

Let them earn their money and be seen to.

Elby the Beserk said...

Regarding "unfair" - how unfair is it that many public service jobs are only opened to existing members of whatever? Notably councils.

How come that is still allowed to go on?

Damon said...

'it is deeply unfair and would not be countenanced in any other walk of life.'

Complete rubbish

That you react this way just demonstrates how much you have accepted the Westminster village view of the world

Such an arrangement would not be permitted in any other public service or in huge areas of business as others have commented

The 'family life' issue is another red herring; many people have a reduced family life due to their employment - it goes with the job and is hardly a secret

The transitional arrangements seem to be extremely generous too

Before you apply for another seat you might like to reflect on the life experience of your prospective constituents

If MPs were not able to construct such terms of employment for themselves would any public body have authorised them?

Bill Quango MP said...

Alex is correct. In many corporations it is forbidden for a husband and wife to work together. As many people meet and marry through work it is not uncommon for one of them to have to transfer to another sector or office to continue in work. Many firms have strict rules about dating,relationships and working with family members.

Brining it ion with a five year transition is perfectly reasonable. I believe 3 months is the requirement for terms and conditions of employment changes.

Victor, NW Kent said...

Poor Iain - still believe that life must be fair? It would have been fair if a large number of MPs had not twisted the "rules" to their personal advantage. Their amoral abuses have brought about the necessity for Kelly.

Iain - you really must stop seeing these matters only through the eyes of your political pals. Some of those are mentally corrupt. The public has had enough and will not tolerate any more of this troughing.

Kelly has made wise and ample provision for phasing in. Live with it.

Iain Dale said...

Victor, what part of "I see no possibility of MPs being able to argue against these measures." do you not understand?

Madasafish said...

MPs lost any sympathy when they voted to continue on thieving 12 months ago.

If they don't like it, they can resign.

Welcome to the real world where others set the rules and enforce them: unlike the HOC which is full of nepotism and corruption.

Glyn H said...

The point about employing family members that you seem to be missing (and Kelly only implied rather stating directly) is that it is quite unacceptable in normal commercial or civil service life, but it is found in small family business – BECAUSE IN THAT SITUATION YOU ARE ACTUALLY EARNING, (that is generating), THE MONEY. Thus you can dispose of it as you will.

Just using taxpayer funded expenses to pay £20/30/£40K pa to a spouse or child such as Mrs Timney and Mrs Beckett, Mr Conway, and Mrs Dorries (who was, as usual, embarrassing to hear on R5 earlier today) is an abuse of the public purse.

And £65K pa is a great deal more than most of these folk could earn elsewhere. Do you think that any of those four I’ve just mentioned could earn £65K elsewhere?

Hours of sitting should be returned to what they were before and MP’s should have outside interests. The abysmal level of general knowledge and common sense, particularly Labour ones (viz. David Lammy on that quiz show) is directly down to our terrible state education system and lack of external competence (One only has to see where putting up a socially inept policy wonk as Prime Minister has got us). The very thought of becoming an MP before you have achieved stability in your personal and professional life is risable. And to equate a GP’s remuneration to that of an MP is equally absurd. Those guys start with several straight ‘A’s, have a huge challenge to get to medical school and then do five years of high grade academic training plus constant subsequent updating of their knowledge. I doubt 90% of MPs could get the ‘A’ levels let alone the rest of the requirements. £65K is good money indeed for them

Jim said...

Would you agree that, given the current climate, Nadine Dorries' decision to appoint a 2nd daughter to the payroll is somewhat ill-advised?

Victor, NW Kent said...

Well Iain - what I did read is that you felt they did have a valid argument - against the phased stoppage of employment of spouses. I am sure that was what you meant. If not then we must conclude that either you are imprecise in your wording or that I am too thick to understand the inferences that must be drawn from what you wrote.

Iain Dale said...

You said it!

I clearly said I would not employ familymembers myself.

I also said that I think it is deeply unfair to expect people to lose their jobs, who have done perfectly good work over the years.

If there are people who have abused the system, they should be dealt with. But to penalise people like Suzy Gale or Eve Burt is patently unfair. And if you can't see that you are being deliberately blinkered.

David Lindsay said...

An MP's job is in London, where MPs were long ago given the use of a Royal Palace in which to live. So why do they need the money for one house, never mind two?

Victor, NW Kent said...


A great many parliamentarians are going to lose or give up their jobs shortly. Their parliamentary employees whether family or not will also become unemployed. Some of those may have done sterling work for years but they will have to go. They knew that when the job came along so there is nothing unfair about it.

What do you suggest? That we hold a few hundred trials to assess whether individual spouses and partners should stay or go?

There is no hardship here. Those who can't stomach it should get out at th next GE so they get the big parting gift, not the small one later.

glenn said...

Surely everyone who works for a MP has a contract that covers what happens in a GE. I fail to see how a wife or husband of a MP could sue for their job when their job should expire when the Queen disolves Parliament. If a MP has been foolish enough to not cover this situation they deserves to be sued by their partner. It would be very interesting watching it go through the courts.

Judy said...

I still don't see how they can legally be made redundant. I have no issue with the provisions applying to new MPs, but for those who already hold posts, it is deeply unfair and would not be countenanced in any other walk of life

MPs have a mandate till the end of the current Parliament. That ends their contract. The people of this country vote as to whether any MP candidate will gain a fresh mandate as a result of the next election. It is perfectly reasonable to insist that the next mandates will operate under new contractual terms which are intended to ensure that previous abuses of public funds cannot be repeated..

This regularly happens in various spheres of public endeavour (such as rail services, power supplies, school inspections) where the service is put out to tender or other competitive format. The new contracts can be more or less generous, and involve different terms from the old ones.

I see no reason, and I personally am deeply disappointed that Kelly proposes that re-elected MPs--and possibly even newly elected MPs will still be able to employ family members. It is not clear whether they will still be able to employ individuals with whom they have intimate or household-sharing relationships.

And all this could be eliminated if MPs lost the right to select their own staff--they can't do this for a whole range of servicing staff, so why should they have such privileges over secretarial, admin and research staff. No minister employs a spouse in this way.

Anonymous said...

Excluding MPs' family members from employment by them is weak willed showboating.

They are not all former Dave Davis Campaign Chief Derek Conway with teenaged sons "advising" or Caro Spelman pretending her kids' nanny is an aide of some sort.

It should be perfectly possible to set out whatever restrictions are necessary to permit relos to work in an MP's office. If standards are not immediately apparent then the Inland Revenue or benefit Inspectorates should be asked for advice.

Obviously insisting that MPs do not marry their secretaries unless they want to sack them is somewhat against the conservative zeitgeist, and less than romantic or Christian either.