Monday 15 June 2009

Missing the point

When Tory MP Derek Conway was caught out paying large sums of taxpayers' cash to his sons, the real scandal for me was not simply that they were his sons, but that they appeared to have done very little to earn the money which they were paid.

I can understand why people might think that there is something inherently wrong with the idea that elected members should employ their relatives, and the news that one in four of Wales' AMs employs a relative sounds intuitively to be a high proportion. But provided that the people are selected on merit, and there is some sort of control that they actually earn what they are paid, I'm not convinced that the practice is necessarily and universally wrong.

In any other walk of life, would being related to the boss automatically disqualify someone from doing a job? I don't think it would, or should. And which is the bigger scandal – appointing a relative who does the job thoroughly and professionally, or appointing someone unrelated who does very little?

Merely prohibiting our elected politicians from employing their relatives misses the point, I fear. The real loopholes that need to be plugged are the method of appointment and the lack of any objective assessment of whether their employees are actually earning what they get paid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

there's a lot to be said for employing a member of your family. COnfidentiality is the main one- that is they're more likely to keep you confidence - which is very important in this job.

The other, for many AMs and MPs being a politician is very disrupting for the family. Employing a wife or husband at least means that side of life can be maintained and I'd imagine, make it more likely that the politician will turn up to the local Merched y Wawr or YFCs event too.