Monday, May 28, 2007

Commons job for Conservative MP's son highlights expenses row

Conservative MP Derek Conway has been employing his 21-year-old student son as a researcher. There is nothing wrong with this. But, as the Guardian points out this morning, it does add extra backing to those arguing that the Freedom of Information act parliamentary exemption amendment is aimed at quietly covering up details of MP's expenses:

Public embarrassment over MPs' use of official parliamentary allowances deepened yesterday after it was revealed that a senior Conservative MP had employed his 21-year-old student son as a part-time researcher at the Commons.

According to the Sunday Times, Derek Conway, a former government whip and an MP for 23 years, paid his son, Freddie, a third year geography student at Newcastle university, £981 a month for unspecified work. The facts were not denied last night, although his allies say the young man only works in his father's office part-time.

Mr Conway has not broken either the law or parliamentary rules which allow MPs to employ family members on their staff. But MPs, who have allowances of up to £80,000 a year for staff in London and their constituency, disagree as to how appropriate such employment is.

"Others do it," said one MP.

But the disclosure comes as the Tory private member's bill to exempt MPs from requests under the Freedom of Information Act makes its way through parliament. MPs on both sides of the argument are pointing to media attacks as proof either that their colleagues have something to hide - or that they are being unfairly persecuted by those settling scores.

Update: After posting this I saw that the Norfolk Blogger offered some trenchant views on it yesterday.

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