London- Britain will ban new MPs from employing spouses, relatives or business associates, according to rules announced Thursday in the wake of a scandal that has rocked France’s presidential election.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) outlined the change in a revised rulebook for MPs’ expenses, saying it does not affect existing employees with family or business ties to MPs.
Any member of staff who begins a relationship with an MP while working for him or her will also have their contract terminated after a period of two years.
The rules will apply starting with the next general election, currently scheduled for 2020.
“We believe that the employment of connected parties is out of step with modern employment practice, which requires fair and open recruitment to encourage diversity in the workplace,” IPSA head Ruth Evans said.
About 150 of the 650 MPs in the British parliament — almost a quarter of the total — employ family members.
Currently, parliamentarians are allowed to employ only one family member, a rule imposed in 2010 following a scandal over expense claims by MPs.
French presidential candidate Francois Fillon, once widely considered a frontrunner in the race, is under investigation for allegedly misusing public funds made available to lawmakers to hire assistants.
Investigators are looking into claims that he used the funds to pay his wife, Penelope, hundreds of thousands of euros over a period of several years as a parliamentary assistant.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II gave royal assent on Thursday to a bill empowering British Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and begin the process of leaving the European Union.
May has said she will send a letter to the European Council informing them of Britain’s decision to leave the bloc by the end of March, following a majority vote for Brexit in last year’s referendum.
May also rejected the Scottish government’s call for a second referendum on independence before Britain leaves the EU — but did not entirely rule out a vote.
“Now is not the time,” she said, arguing that all of Britain’s energies should be put into the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been sharply critical of May’s plan to pull Britain out of Europe’s single market, and on Monday said Scots should have a choice whether to follow that path or go it alone.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader suggested the referendum could take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 — before Britain is expected to leave the EU.