» Tuesday, April 21, 2009

MP’s Allowances

The PMS said that we were setting out a set of interim proposals that the Government would put to a vote in the House of Commons within the next few weeks, with a view to these coming into effect by the 1st July. It was the view of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet that it was important to act now in order to deal with this issue, while of course respecting and waiting for the comprehensive analysis from Sir Christopher Kelly. So these were interim measures being put in place ahead of Kelly reporting.

These proposals were designed to be fair, reasonable and straightforward, they reflected the fact that the overwhelming majority of MPs did a good job and they accepted and acknowledged that being an MP and representing constituencies, particularly outside of London, did impose additional costs that needed to be recognised and dealt with.

In terms of the specific proposals, the Written Statement should be self-explanatory. We were proposing to abolish the second home allowance and replace that with a per diem allowance that would be limited to the parliamentary session or a maximum number of days and we would be asking the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) to set the appropriate level of allowance independently. By abolishing the second home allowance, it meant that there would be no claims for food, furniture, mortgage, bills or anything of that nature.

Secondly, we were proposing that MP s who represented constituencies in outer London were treated in the same way as MPs in inner London, which was that they did not get a second home allowance but they were entitled to the London supplement. On grace and favour homes, we were proposing that those who lived in these would also not receive this new allowance and we would be asking the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) to report on the arrangements more generally.

On MPs staff, in order to deal with the concerns that had been raised due to MPs directly employing family members, we were proposing that all staff appointed by MPs should become direct employees of the House of Commons. We were proposing that there should be receipts for all expenditure, not just those over 25.

We were also raising the issue of MPs second jobs and had asked the CSPL to look at this, but the Government was saying today that where MPs had a second source of income, every payment should be declared with a full description of who paid and what for and a full declaration of the hours worked and the payment received.

On pensions, we were essentially reiterating the announcement that the Leader of the House made a few weeks ago. There were particular issues in relation to Northern Ireland but we were asking the CSPL to look at that as well.

The Prime Minister was writing to the leaders of the main opposition parties to outline the Government s proposals and would be proposing a meeting with them, which we would expect to happen within the next week or so.

Asked why the opposition parties weren t consulted before these proposals were published and whether MPs would still have the power to appoint their own staff, the PMS said that these were Government proposals and ultimately it was a matter for the House of Commons. This would form the basis of any discussion with opposition parties within the next few weeks and then the House collectively would have to take a view, but it was right that in advance of those discussions the Government set out its own proposals. Any MP could put down any amendment that they saw fit to. We did want to take this forward in as consensual a way as possible.

In relation to MPs staff, it was pretty clear in the statement that all staff needed to be appointed directly by the House of Commons who would take responsibility for employment terms and conditions. It remained a matter for the MPs to appoint their own staff members and that would not in principle exclude family members, but what we were saying was that there needed to be more transparency around the system and that people employed by MPs were treated in the same as any other House of Commons member of staff.

Asked whether these proposals were unanimously backed by the Cabinet and whether it would be a free vote or a Government vote, the PMS replied that it was unanimously backed by the Cabinet. We would expect the payroll vote to support this. The expectation was that it would be a free vote for other MPs, but that was really a matter for the whips in the Labour party.

Put that this would make the Kelly Review obsolete, the PMS said that the view of the Prime Minister and the view agreed by Cabinet was that it was important to act on this now. These were interim proposals that would come into effect as soon as practicable. Sir Christopher Kelly was looking generally at the system and it would be his reforms that would provide the basis for any longer term settlement.

Asked if the level of the daily allowance would be announced before the parliamentary vote, the PMS replied that he would not necessarily anticipate that that would be agreed by the SSRB within the next few weeks. Put that MPs would essentially be voting on it blind, the PMS said that what we were asking was for the principle to be approved that it should be for the SSRB, an independent body, to decide what the appropriate level of allowance should be.

Asked what the purpose of bringing forward these proposals now was, the PMS said that it was the Prime Minister s view and the Cabinet s view that it was important that we took action now. This had clearly been a matter of public controversy that was affecting all MPs. Some of these wider issues would be addressed by a YouTube clip that the Prime Minister had recorded and this would be on the Downing Street website shortly, so he had set out in his own words, some of the wider context for this.

Put that the Government was dictating the terms of the Kelly Review, the PMS said that that was not the case. What we were doing was setting out some interim measures. The Prime Minister had spoken to Sir Christopher Kelly and talked him through the announcement we were making today and he would have a further meeting with him later today to discuss the issue in more detail.

Asked if it was Harriet Harman or the Prime Minister that had presented these proposals at Cabinet, the PMS said he would not get into the choreography of Cabinet but these were proposals that had been worked up by the Leader of the House, the Chief Whip and the Prime Minister had been closely involved as well. Asked whether the Commons Leader already had an idea on how to measure MPs attendance, the PMS said that clearly we wanted a system that was fair, reasonable and effectively enforced. There were detailed issues to be considered on the exact enforcement arrangements, but the system being proposed was not actually that out of line with systems that were used in other parliaments or other similar bodies. So it should be manageable to be able to find a way of doing this to ensure that the rules were properly enforced.

Put repeatedly that the Prime Minister had said in the past that a system for MPs allowances would have to come from the Kelly Review and now it seemed that he had changed his view, the PMS said that of course it was right that there needed to be a proper long-term solution that needed to have the trust of the public and that was why it was right that Sir Christopher Kelly had been asked to look at that. A long-term sustainable solution would be on the basis of the Sir Christopher Kelly Review.

What we were setting out today were interim proposals to come into effect as soon as possible that would take affect in the interim period until Kelly had reported. It was not for the Government to have the final say on this; it was ultimately for the House of Commons to have the final say. There would be discussion with opposition parties and it would be put to a vote in the House of Commons within the next few weeks.

Asked if this would be voted on in a take it or leave it package or would it be voted on bit by bit, the PMS said that the exact nature of the vote was something for the business managers in the House to consider.

Asked whether suggestions made by Sir Christopher Kelly that counteracted any of these measures would take precedent over them, the PMS said that that was a hypothetical question and advised people to wait and see what Sir Christopher Kelly did come up with. Asked whether in principle Sir Christopher Kelly would take precedence, the PMS said that he would put forward his proposals. We did not know what those proposals would be, but we did know that there was a need to act now and that was why we were putting forward these interim proposals.

Asked for more detail on the proposed meetings with the leaders of the opposition parties, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was writing to the leaders of the opposition parties this morning in order to outline our proposals and suggest a meeting, which would probably be in the next week or so.

Asked if it would be ordinary legislation that would be required, the PMS said that it would need to be Primary Legislation for a vote in the House of Commons, but on exact procedure people should speak to Harriet Harman s office. Asked if the measures would save money, the PMS said that the statement set out the fact that the proposals would reduce the cost to the taxpayer. Asked how much would be saved, the PMS said that that would depend on for example, what the allowance set by the SSRB would be.

Asked about MPs living in outer London and what a reasonable distance from London might be, the PMS said that this was something that would need to be part of the discussion and consultation over the next week or so. Asked if it would be in line with what used to be called the GLA, the PMS said not necessarily.

Asked if this had been brought on by the Government wanting to take the moral high ground, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had explained in his own words his own thinking behind these proposals in a video that would appear on the No10 website shortly, so he would refer people to that.

Asked if payments being declared related to a job or any outside activity on an ad-hoc freelance basis, the PMS said that he would double-check that point. It was his understanding that it did talk about second source of income and it was irrespective of whether it was in their capacity as an MP or not.

Asked whether Jacqui Smith had spoken about the proposals at Cabinet, the PMS said that he would not get into who said what at Cabinet. Asked if the Prime Minister regretted not voting for a substantial package like this on the 3rd July 2008, the PMS said that he thought that this was a much more substantial package than any that had been put forward previously.

original source.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. MP’s Allowances.
    I think it is essential that the whole matter is taken out of the hands of Memebers who simply cannot be trusted to act in an ethical manner.
    Tenders should be put out, and contracts arranged with providers – preferably medium price hotels – for a fixed number of SINGLE ROOMS to be available during the time Parliament is sitting, and at afixed price. Reservations to nbe made by Memebers and payments to be made DIRECT to Contractor.
    If a Member wants more or different ( eg double room ) he/she pays – not reimbursable.
    Furniture, TV’s, etc., are not eligible/
    Subsistence is a Member’s problem, and not reimbursable – there are subsidised facilities available, and these should be reduced also.
    MP’s choose to do the job, no-one forces them into it; and they are no different from any other employee working away from their homebase.
    If they don’t like it Members can always resign.
    If they worked for a plc most Members would have long ago been sacked.

    Comment by j pennington — 23 Apr 2009 on 8:01 pm | Link
  2. Pay them a bit more than they get now – about £100,000 upon which thay pay tax in the normal way. Then, let the Inland Revenue decide which of their expenses should be tax deductable, just as they do with the rest of us.

    Comment by Bill Bonnet — 21 May 2009 on 6:59 pm | Link

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