More than 70 Tory MPs employ relatives

LONDON (Reuters) - More than 70 Conservative MPs employ relatives as members of their personal staff, the party’s leader David Cameron said on Friday.

Conservative Party leader David Cameron is shown in this file picture. REUTERS/David Moir

The disclosure comes after Conservative MP Derek Conway was suspended from the Commons for 10 days for paying his son almost 50,000 pounds of taxpayers’ money for work he apparently never did.

Conway, who says he will quit politics at the next election, has been expelled from the parliamentary Conservative party and could face a police inquiry.

MPs are allowed to employ relatives out of public funds and some pay their wives or husbands to work as secretaries, saying it can help marriages to survive long hours or living apart.

But the scandal surrounding Conway, who had also employed his other son as a researcher and his wife as his secretary, has prompted calls for greater disclosure over the practice.

“I believe the public are right to demand more transparency and openness when it comes to MPs’ staff, pay, allowances and expenses,” said Cameron.

“As a first step I will ensure that from the start of the new financial year (1st April 2008) all Conservative front bench MPs must declare if they employ family members in the Register of Members Interests.

“I hope all other Conservative MPs will follow suit.”

Cameron said he had asked earlier this week how many of his party’s MPs employed family members had been told there were over 70.

On Thursday, Gordon Brown’s spokesman said the prime minister also wanted more transparency over MPs’ expenses.

“How this is achieved is up to the House (of Commons) and other relevant authorities to decide,” the spokesman said.

Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Steve Addison