A DUP MLA has defended his employment of his wife, son and daughter at public expense, saying that for MLAs the practice of employing relatives has “distinct advantages”.
East Belfast MLA Robin Newton made the comments after a newspaper reported that he was paying his wife and son a total of £60,831 a year.
The former junior minister paid his daughter, Emma, up to £13,780 — either under her name or as ‘ERN Research Services’ — for research and secretarial work prior to a change in the rules in 2009 when MLAs had to declare payments to their families, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
It reported that the Newton family had earned £818,110 from the Assembly in the nine financial years since 2003.
Mr Newton is far from alone in employing his family — almost a third of MLAs currently employ family.
The MLA also employed his wife, Carole, as his office manager and his son, Adam, who is also a DUP councillor, in the office.
Mr Newton stressed that each of the individuals were well-qualified for the roles and that he had not broken Assembly rules.
“Carole and I have worked together and it seemed to be a natural progression,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show.
Mr Newton said working as an Assembly member is a “24/7 job” and there are also security issues, so employing family members has “distinct advantages”.