Monday, June 15, 2009

Mr and Mrs

On the front page of the Western Mail last Saturday, there was a story relating to AM’s employing relatives. This is something that crops up time and time again, and it’s always made to sound scandalous. This time, critics are calling for a ban on AM’s being able to employ family members. I can’t say I agree with that.

Granted, some people definitely do take advantage of the system and there have been instances of AM’s and MP’s employing their spouses or children for phantom work. That is wrong, and a complete abuse of the system. No one should be paid for work that they don’t do, and there should be spot checks to ensure that they are doing what they’re being paid to do. But a complete blanket ban on any family member being employed? Well, I could never condone such a move. After all, the vast majority of those employed do work exceptionally hard for their AM or MP. Indeed, some of the most effective teams are husband and wives. Some even met that way in the first place! And it makes sense, sometimes, for a wife or husband to employ their partner. After all, politics can put an enormous strain on a relationship, forcing partners to spend a huge amount of time apart. By working as a team you can keep your relationship strong and spend more time together. Plus you know that you can trust your partner, who will often work longer hours than usual and can be far more dedicated because they want to see you succeed.

I’d therefore argue that it’s very short sighted and reactive to propose a blanket ban. What we should be looking at instead is ensuring complete transparency in the system, and thinking of ways to ensure that everyone who is employed actually does carry out the work they’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes, the best possible and most dedicated employee will be a partner or a family member. We shouldn’t always assume that it’s dodgy. If the proper checks are in place, then I can’t see a problem with it. New regulations are needed, but they need to be well thought out if they’re going to be effective. Banning certain things may win you a few favourable headlines in the short term, but it doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to do…


Anonymous said...

Its not good practise to have family working for you.It causes resentment and often leads to the opposite - family members working longer and for less.
Couples need time to do their own thing too, being in each others pockets cannot be good in any relationship.
It really depends on what skills are needed and what skills are invented just to employ your spouse e,partner ,significant other , mother child etc.
Looking at that article I would say quite a few could be questionable.
Much better to have nothing that can be questioned after recent events.
This after all is not a business you own this is a service paid for by the tax payers and s such each job should be open competition not just appointed as most of these sinecures are.

Peter Black said...

The issue surely is one of equal opportunity. Are other candidates being excluded because you short circuit the proper selection process to appoint a member of your family. If a family member is employed then at the very least you should be able to demonstrate that the job was advertised, that a proper evaluation of the applicants has been carried out, including interviews and that there is a paper trail to back all that up.

Heledd Fychan said...

You both make excellent points, and I don't disagree with either. Personally I'd hate to work with a partner! And Peter you're right - there has to be proper selection, which is all above board. All I'm saying is that I wouldn't like to see a blanket ban.

Sweet and Tender Hooligan said...

Peter hits the nail on the head.

The public simply do not believe that there is a fair selection process, and are never likely to. That is the point, even though there may well be.

Can anyone recall a family member losing out to a better candidate?

It is a tough one, but i would imagine we are living in rather extraordinary times.

The family member i worked with in a shared constituency office worked tremendolously hard.