A GROUP of MPs in the south will be allowed to carry on employing family members at taxpayers’ expense after a call for a complete ban was rejected by the new ruling body on allowances.

Sir Ian Kennedy, the chairman of the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), said spouses and other family members who worked for MPs often provided “good value for money”.

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According to last year’s Register of Members’ Financial Interests, six MPs in the south have employed relatives using taxpayers’ money.

Winchester MP Mark Oaten employs his sister-in-law, Julia Harkness, as his secretary, Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner employs his partner, Carole Dennett, as his Parliamentary assistant, New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne employs his wife Moira as his part-time office manager and executive secretary, Salisbury MP Robert Key employs his wife Susan as a parttime senior secretary and North West Hampshire MP George Young employs his daughter, Camilla, as his office manager.

The new one-employee limit will cover cohabitees and financial partners as well as spouses and blood relatives.

The decision goes against the recommendation of the man who drew up the original blueprint for reform of the expenses system, Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The practice of employing family members came under fire after a Commons inquiry found that former Tory MP Derek Conway had paid thousands of pounds to his sons even though there was no evidence they had actually done any work for it.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group, said it was “unbelievable” that the employment of family members was being allowed to continue.