MPs challenged to reveal family salaries

MPs have been challenged to break their centuries-old tradition of self-governance and submit their use of public money to checks from an outside body.

Sir Christopher Kelly, the standards watchdog, said there was a case for a ban on MPs hiring family members as he intervened in the row over payments by the Tory MP, Derek Conway, to his sons.

He said the Commons had to at least introduce more transparent rules and a system of checks on how MPs spent their £144,927 allowances and expenses, excluding travel. If MPs themselves failed to do so, he said his Committee on Standards in Public Life would conduct its own review and publish recommendations for the reform of Commons allowances.

The Commons Commission is appealing against a decision by the Information Commissioner ordering them to disclose a detailed breakdown of the £22,110-a-year allowance for MPs outside London to fund and furnish second homes.

This follows a freedom of information request by Heather Brooke, an FOI campaigner, asking for the release of a list of how the money is spent. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, refused this level of detail, arguing it would compromise MPs privacy, but suggested they should disclose information under 12 more general headings.

Parliamentary authorities argue that MPs were told in 2002 that this information would not be disclosed and that any change would be unfair. They claim there is no distinction between professional expenses arising out of public office and personal expenses, and that the activities of individual MPs “are not themselves public authorities”.

Come clean on family salaries or prepare to be investigated (The Times, 31 January 2008)

See also Heather Brooke's website:
My Tribunal hearing on MPs’ expenses this Thursday (Your right to know website, 6 February 2008)

See also: All parties in scramble to be transparent on jobs for family (The Herald, 2 February 2008)