An MP is coming under increased pressure after employing her husband to work in her constituency office.
The leader of the opposition in South Tyneside has issued an open letter urging South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck to be more ‘transparent’ over her husband’s new job.
Questions have been raised after the MP made unemployment one of her key issues when she was elected in 2013 and vowed: “I will help get people back to work.”
She also launched annual jobs fair to help get people in the borough into work, but now South Tyneside Tory councillor Jeff Milburn has raised questions about the appointment.
Mrs Lewell-Buck has confirmed that she has taken on Simon Buck as a part-time parliamentary assistant at her constituency office, in Westoe Road, South Shields.
When asked about the appointment, Mrs Lewell-Buck’s office issued a statement, saying: “Simon has worked in the office since late last year and correct protocol was followed.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck declined to answer questions on her husband’s role, his salary - claimed to be £24,000 - or give details of the selection process.
MPs are allowed to employ one ‘connected party’ – which can be a family member or spouse.
Now Coun Milburn has written an open letter asking if the role was advertised at the annual jobs fair the Labour MP hosts - in October last year.
Unemployment is one of her main campaign issues.
Since she was elected in 2013, Mrs Lewell-Buck has organised three jobs fairs which have been sponsored by South Tyneside Council and Port of Tyne.
Coun Milburn wrote: “I am aware that it is not uncommon for MPs to employ a family member, but only if they are the best person for the position, something that can only be established by advertising the job properly and interviewing other candidates.
“I have to wonder, did Mrs Lewell-Buck advertise the position at her recent jobs fare?
“Members of all parties want an answer to that, especially as South Tyneside Council was the main sponsor of the event.
“If the fair wasn’t good enough for advertising the job, then why should other local and international businesses support it?
“Why should the taxpayers of South Tyneside sponsor this event?”
His letter added: “Emma, it’s nothing personal, just answer the questions being asked or else they might vote for me next time.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck did not wish to comment on the matter.