An MP has been slammed for repeatedly referring to the women he works with a “girls” in a live radio interview.
Sir Roger Gale was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about changes to parliamentary rules which will see MPs banned from employing spouses or family members when he made the comments.
The Tory MP for North Thanet, whose wife Suzy has worked as his office director since he entered Parliament in 1983, was highly critical of the decision by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).
Gale started off using the word “ladies” when he told Today host John Humphrys: “The fact of the matter is my wife and I have offered my constituents a partnership, and a very successful one, along with a team of ladies who are utterly dedicated to the work they do and we all work together as a team.
“We provide what I like to think is a Rolls Royce service for lots and lots of things that don’t ever get publicised because they’re highly confidential.”
But while discussing his wife’s work, he then went on to say: “She is utterly dedicated to her job - as indeed are all the other girls in my office - but they don’t work in the same way and the same hours. Together they do a very, very good job.”
And later on: “She will visit constituents if necessary if they are in distress, as indeed will the other girls.”
His choice of language left many incensed...
Speaking to the Press Association, Gale described Ipsa’s decision as “crass”.
He said: “It will be incredibly damaging if we go down this route.
“Superficially, this is an easy hit for anybody wanting to show they are doing something. Actually, it is crass and they will live to regret it - and so will the House and its MPs.”
The benefits of employing a spouse are “enormous”, said Gale.
“Obviously, I trust her implicitly, she knows what I think and why I think it and constituents can call on her whenever I’m not around.
“She probably does 60 to 70 hours work a week, including most of Saturday, and I can call on her any time day or night. I couldn’t do that with an assistant recruited through an advert.”
Ipsa chair Ruth Evans said the body will stop paying for new staff members related to MPs from the time of the next general election, scheduled for 2020. Existing employees with close family or business links to MPs - known as “connected parties” - will not be affected.
After 2020, a member of staff who begins a relationship with an MP while working for him, or her, will have their contract ended after two years as partner or spouse.
Some 151 of the the 650 MPs at Westminster - almost a quarter of the total - employ family members, including 84 Conservatives, 50 Labour and 10 SNP MPs.