Newly elected MPs will no longer be allowed to employ spouses and other relatives using taxpayers' money. The new rules will come into force at the next election, expected to take place in 2020, although the 151 MPs who currently employ "connected parties" will be able to continue to do so. The parliamentary watchdog, Ipsa, said employing family members was "out of step" with modern employment practices. Many MPs argue partners are uniquely placed to do the jobs expected of them. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which processes and polices MPs expenses, announced the ban as it published a revised version of the rulebook for MPs' claims.
Family members employed by MPs are paid on average 5,600 more than other staff, a watchdog has revealed. Pay of such "connected parties" has also risen at twice the rate of other staff, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) found. The group called for a review of whether MPs should be allowed to employ relatives in the future, arguing jobs must not be "personal benefits". In total, 139 MPs employ family members at a public annual cost of about 4.5m. The review will only apply to future staffing as the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) said it would be "unfair and legally challengeable" to investigate existing contractual arrangements.
Final recommendations for new parliamentary boundaries that could see the number of MPs cut from 650 to 600 have been published. The Boundary Commission proposals, which still need to secure the backing of MPs and peers, have been laid in Parliament. The commission said it was "confident" in its new map, which covers constituencies across the UK. Parliament approved the principle of reducing the number of MPs in 2011. Since then, the Boundary Commissions of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were meant to redraw the UK's political map every five years to take account of changes in population shifts.
A new electoral law is expected to be ratified by Lebanon's parliament on Friday, paving the way for the first parliamentary elections in eight years. On Wednesday, ministers announced that Lebanon will be holding the long-delayed legislative elections in May 2018 after the country's cabinet approved a new electoral law, staving off a fresh political crisis that threatened to leave the country without a parliament. The move will also end a stalemate that saw the country's parliament extend its tenure twice. Current members of parliament were elected in 2009 for what was meant as a four-year term, but became protracted as key political figures disagreed on various proposals for fear of losing parliamentary seats. Parliamentary elections were scheduled to take place last month, but with MPs unable to decide on an electoral law, the country drifted towards a political vacuum that threatened to unravel the political deal that brought Michel Aoun into office in October last year.
The departing head of the Parliamentary expenses watchdog has defended the decision to award MPs a 10% pay rise in a parting shot at his critics. Sir Ian Kennedy said the "unpopular" decision had been proved right. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was set up as a response to the expenses scandal, but the new system has been criticised by some MPs. Sir Ian compared his task to "mud-wrestling" and being a "voyager through Dante's Inferno". In the introduction to IPSA's report on the last Parliament, he said he had been "turned over" by Westminster journalists when he was appointed to the job, and said there were loud "noises off" criticising the new body after it was created in 2009.