Lawmakers on Wednesday wrapped up discussion of a government bill regulating the employment of advisers or aides working at the presidential palace or for ministers.

The House ethics committee will revisit the matter in early January, when it will decide on whether to send the bill on to the plenum for a vote.

The issue of the hiring of these advisers has long been seen as a backdoor for nepotism, with such appointments often handed to friends and relatives of politicians.

It regained traction earlier this year, when the government took flak after the deputy minister for tourism decided to appoint a 19-year-old without a university degree as his associate. The auditor-general described it as “illegal and unlawful”.

As it stands, the bill would require such advisers to hold a university degree.

According to Demetris Demetriou, chair of the House ethics committee, once enacted the law would see at least four advisers lose their jobs. Two of these advisers are seconded to the presidential palace, and two at the junior ministry for shipping.

“As painful as it may be for these persons, that is what is going to happen,” Demetriou said.

But MPs from the Diko and Dipa parties have suggested that the university degree requirement not apply retroactively – allowing those already hired to keep their job.

Akel said it opposed this idea.

Demetriou also clarified that when an adviser is hired, the contract is between the person and the minister. Therefore, were a minister to quit or lose his/her post due to a cabinet reshuffle, the contract with the adviser would be rendered null and void.

The attorney-general’s office appears to agree with this.

The four individuals in question happen to be journalists, but do not possess a university degree. Earlier, lobbying on their behalf, the head of the journalists’ union Giorgos Frangou said these persons should get a waiver because they are of a certain age, and back in the day many people did not attend university.

He suggested that as long as they had work experience in journalism of 10 to 15 years, they should be kept on.

But his proposal does not seem to have convinced MPs.