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…
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