Thursday, 6 January 2011

Have Your Say. The Clock Can't Be Turned Back



Sir Ian Kennedy (photo), the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority's chairman, certainly took some criticism from MPs last year once he introduced the new expenses reform.

David Cameron has already given IPSA until April to shape up or else. MPs are furious because they say IPSA leaves them unable to see their children at weekends and forces many to sleep in their offices. Poor souls. What MPs are so enraged about is that the taxpayer doesn't think they should pay for them to visit their children. What job in this country pays employees' visits to family other than the military who receive 2nd class travel to their home when they return from operational service? None, of very few, of the military have second homes within spitting distance of their base and certainly no home is paid for by the taxpayer.

But the PM wants change. A list of the new proposals is here.

Yesterday IPSA published a press release asking members of the public for their views:


05 January 2011

IPSA launches review of the Scheme

Today IPSA is issuing an open invitation asking for views on the rules governing MPs’ expenses.

Following the general election in May last year, IPSA, the new independent regulator created in the wake of the expenses scandal, introduced a fresh approach with greater scrutiny.
For centuries, MPs and the House of Commons decided the rules for themselves. IPSA brought an end to self-regulation and intends to continue giving the public a say about what the rules should be. For the next six weeks, we are asking people to come forward and offer their views about the rules for MPs’ claiming expenses.
Following preliminary discussions with the political parties and MPs, we have found that issues of concern to MPs include the impact of the rules on their family life, the definition of the ‘London Area’ and the budget for renting a constituency office.
To inform this consultation, we also conducted a poll of the public. The results show that 30 per cent of respondents trust MPs to claim only for legitimate expenses. A further 35 per cent said they had some trust, but not very much.
This suggests that some progress is being made but there is still a long way to go.
On specific issues, like family accommodation and office costs, the survey shows that a majority of the public is reluctant to see more generous funding at this stage. Likewise there are still strong views on the use of taxis and first class travel.
We will consider these findings and other feedback in the consultation but also invite all interested people – MPs, their staff and the public – to comment on any other aspect of the rules.
Speaking on the launch of the consultation, IPSA’s chairman, Sir Ian Kennedy, said:
“IPSA was created by Parliament to bring an end to the old, discredited expenses system and has introduced an integrity and probity to MPs’ expenses. Our new approach is working, but I know it is not perfect. We have learned many lessons in the eight months that we have been regulating MPs’ expenses and have taken them on board and acted where appropriate. But, of course, some still have concerns. We want to hear these concerns and the evidence which lies behind them. We want to hear not only from MPs but from taxpayers around the country. After all, it is the taxpayer who pays the expenses.
“Our commitment to giving the public a say on the rules is an historic shift from the practices of the past. I’m proud that IPSA is making its contribution to the process of restoring confidence in our democratic institutions.”

IPSA will review the rules annually, to make sure they are appropriate and keep pace with the challenges facing MPs and Parliament.


The public wanted change and Sir Ian provided it. Politicians don't like it. We have the opportunity to give our opinions. You can complete the online survey (it's anonymous and takes a couple of minutes) or email the address in the link.

MPs have to understand they are no different to any other working person who is entitled to claim expenses. Raewald says David 'Cameron is probably doing everything he can to engineer legislative changes before the public can be consulted - he may even block Sir Ian's consultation.' I too urge you to support Sir Ian in ensuring that we are given our say.

28 comments:

JJ said...

You know if you ran a business in this way of bowing to pressure because someone doesn't like the way you're doings things even though it's in everybody's interest...you'd be out of business in five minutes flat.

What I don't like as well about this, is...certain information can be redacted so as to conceal that information - why, what have they to hide?
All expenses data should be available for scrutiny, so long as it doesn't jeopardize their personal security.

In short very little has changed.

Oldrightie said...

We need a Cromwell!

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Morning Rosa: Done the survey and put the following comment.

The Gravy Train.
The performance of MPs cover a broad spectrum with few tests of ability. Their expenses should be no less and no more than would be expected from the private sector of business.

Many of the public have to meet costs associated with their work out of their salary. MPs are no different and knowing the potential costs should not have applied if they are unable, or unwilling, to meet them.

At a time when welfare and housing benefits are being cut and people threatened with eviction, for MPs to be quibbling over expenses shows little respect for the austerity they expect others to suffer. An austerity largely created by their incompetence of stewardship.

JRB said...

Morning SR.

I have, with much reluctance completed the questionnaire. It should have been unnecessary for me to do so.

It must be obvious to all MPs that their expectation as to what is and what is not acceptable in their interpretation of reasonable expenses has fallen well below that of the public’s interpretation.

Until MPs recognise the depth of the publics reaction they will continue to be treated with deserved contempt and derision by the electorate.

If any MPs read this - please pass on to your colleagues the depth of anger against all MPs this subject still generates. If you are indeed ‘honourable gentlemen’ then the time has come to put your house in order.

Dramfineday said...

Survey done. What an absolute shower!

subrosa said...

You would JJ but they think they're protected from the real world. I agree too about the redacting and that very little has changed.

The under £30 no receipt necessary narks me too. You could make a nice wee bit of pocket money with a few of these receipts a week.

subrosa said...

We need our heads looking to let them away with it OR.

subrosa said...

Afternoon RA. Excellent comment. I wrote something along similar lines saying I didn't expect to pay for the children of MPs. Nobody paid for mine.

subrosa said...

Afternoon John. I understand your reluctance. Felt the same myself.

What I don't understand is why these people think they can ride roughshod over us to this degree. Perhaps it's our fault.

subrosa said...

Thanks Dram. It was simple. I also emailed just to ensure they get my message.

Dioclese said...

I have not changed my opinion - the Inland Revenue are experts on deciding what is 'wholey, exclusively and necessarily' incurred in the course of business, so let them have the job!

Problem solved!

subrosa said...

Yes you've said that before Dioclese and I agree. Move IPSA staff to HCIR.

Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

I too filled in the survey, however, I may have been quite ferocious in my reply - you be the judge:

There should be no MP's Expenses Scheme, they should be subjected to the same rules as stated by HMRC that affect all private businesses and persons: "wholly and exclusively in the performance of the duties of the employment".

No second homes and other frivolous perks. My company hasn't paid second homes for its staff just because they have a 2-3 hr commute. They either rented or moved. As should all MPs. This should be a fully open, accountable public job based on a deep, selfless passion for making our country better, not a career progression plan based on how much you can profit from the taxpayers.

Any existing taxpayer funded property investment portfolios should be subject to capital gains and all profits returned back to the UK's treasury.

Maybe that way MPs will notice a strange feeling in the future (we less entitled folk call it "a connection") with people and SMEs whenever they suggest more ridiculous policies that crank up both the personal and private business tax take, and perhaps develop a sense of reality and an understanding of consequence and accountability.

subrosa said...

No Geeks, if that's your opinion then it's not ferocious. I do hope you emailed it too, just to ensure you have a record.

Only today a friend was telling me that MPs are listed on Dunn and Bradshaw - therefore they class themselves as a business.

English Pensioner said...

MPs should be given the Civil Service terms of employment that applied when I was a Civil Servant some 40 years ago. When I was on detached duty away from home, if I was away for more than a month, I was allowed to claim for a second class return ticket home for a weekend and had to travel in my own time. I went abroad for a couple of days on duty, and asked if the flight ticket could be made for a day later as I'd like to stay an extra day at my own expense, and was told that I could not as I would be "gaining a benefit as a result of carrying out my duties". I foolishly allowed them to discover that I'd bought back a bottle of duty free Scotch, and had the notional amount of duty deducted from my expense claim as otherwise "I would be gaining a pecuniary advantage at the taxpayers' expense".
And I remember one Blair flying off to some meeting in Egypt at our expense and then immediately going on holiday on the Red Sea. Clearly one rule for them and another for the workers. I wonder if the same rules are still applied to Civil Servants!

subrosa said...

Jings EP you're bringing back memories. I remember trying to get a ticket changed so as I could go to Bristol rather than Gatwick - from Somerset. No way.

For some civil servants I suppose it is the same but certainly not all these days.

Edward Spalton said...

IPSA is just another Quango - another 90 or so mouths to feed and pension, leeching on the taxpayer. I proposed a far simpler idea which would solve all the problems at a stroke and put the voters in IPSA's position.

MPs should be entitled to claim a flat rate maximum headage payment per voter, rather as doctors used to be paid per patient on their panel. They need not claim all of it, if they did not want to.
Part of each manifesto would be a budget, showing how each candidate planned to spend this allowance - so much for salary, so much to buy pension entitlement on the open market, so much for accommodation, so much for office expenses and staff and so on.

Each year, the elected MP would submit audited accounts and copies of vouchers to be made available to the local authorities in their constituencies so that the public could inspect them and see that they had met their budget proposals. Post codes make it simple to allocate charges in areas where the District Council includes more than one constituency.

A significant overspend would be grounds for disqualification or a recall election, if supported by a sufficient number of electors.

The money claimed would be added to the Council Tax bill and not funded by central government. An abstract of the MP's accounts would be sent to each taxpayer like the precepts for County Council. This would make it absolutely clear to everybody who it is that the MP works for.

I made this suggestion to the Committee on Standards in Public Life but it was too simple for them.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

So far 17 comments on this article.

I think we should get together and form a government.

Joe Public said...

Thanks for pointing out this survey.

One question from the survey:

"Newly elected MPs often incur extra costs in setting up their offices, which are not accounted for in the MPs' Expenses Scheme. Should they have a separate budget to fund these start up costs?"

What happens to all that expensive office equipment, paid for by us Taxpayers, when an MP is not returned to parliament?

Joe Public said...

@ Geeks 16:36

Two differences between MPs & 'normal' employees, are that:

(a) An MP faces reselection / deselection at least every 4 years. [The result being 90% independent of his/her personal skill or performance]

(b) Candidates, be definition, are from all over the UK. Unless 'suitable' accommodation is provided in London, only 'Londoners' would represent each constituency.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Except in October, we put the clocks back in October, don't we?

subrosa said...

Edward, I think it would be worth the effort putting your comment into an email don't you?

As with all the others it may be ignored, but at least we've tried.

subrosa said...

One thing's for sure RA, none of us would turn power-crazed.

subrosa said...

Erm Joe. Can I say pass to your question? Maybe an answer is the sale room?

subrosa said...

You know I thought about that Mark when I saw the post published this morning. :)

junican said...

Hi Subrosa.

There is a critical matter which not commenter has mentioned.

There is no obligation on a person living in London to become an MP candidate in an election in, say, Liverpool - they do so of their own free will.

As regards expenses,I would say that there ought to be an assumption that the candidate lives locally, in which case that person would be entitled to the expense of a small place for him/her self to live in while doing his duty in London (in this respect, the job of MP is not the same as an 'ordinary' job). Of course, a person living within commuting distance of parliament would not be so entitled.

This 'place' would not be described as 'a second home'. I feel sure that MPs have used the EU human right to 'a family life' to entitle themselves to 'second homes' (knowingly). It would be described as 'a base'. There are then two simple possibilities: either the MP receives a fixed allowance and finds his own place (which may be as expensive as he wishes and which he may buy if he wishes), or he allows the Commons Authorities to find a place for him, the cost of which is within the allowance limit. Is that not very simple?

As regards his constituency, his office hours should be such that he can get home by train or bus. In this case, the fact that he volunteered to become a candidate is important. No travel costs or over-night stays should be acceptable - because he volunteered his services. Such costs should be borne by his constituency office. This is a grey area, but it seems to me that such an office ought to exist in a constituency. Its location is not very important, apart from the fact that it may be desirable that it should be on neutral ground - eg. the local town hall, or even the local library. This office would have its own secretariat - again a grey area. But the important thing would be that the office would have an allowance which the MP controls. He can spend the allowance on his travel costs if he wishes. Any residue year by year can be carried forward. Again, I must reiterate that he volunteered to stand for parliament, and that, as far has his constituency is concerned, is the important thing. Voters could then decide whether or not they want a person who lives in London but whose constituency is in Scotland WANT a Londoner to be their MP! IE. The origin of their prospective MP would assume some significance as regards his availability for 'surgeries'.

These things are not that difficult if one breaks them up into their constituent parts.

I will now complete the survey. If it had not been for your post, I would not have know about it. I will also point that out if I can!

subrosa said...

I'm posting the following comment because Blogger hasn't:

junican (http://junican.livejournal.com/) has left a new comment on your post "Have Your Say. The Clock Can't Be Turned Back":

Hi Subrosa.

There is a critical matter which not commenter has mentioned.

There is no obligation on a person living in London to become an MP candidate in an election in, say, Liverpool - they do so of their own free will.

As regards expenses,I would say that there ought to be an assumption that the candidate lives locally, in which case that person would be entitled to the expense of a small place for him/her self to live in while doing his duty in London (in this respect, the job of MP is not the same as an 'ordinary' job). Of course, a person living within commuting distance of parliament would not be so entitled.

This 'place' would not be described as 'a second home'. I feel sure that MPs have used the EU human right to 'a family life' to entitle themselves to 'second homes' (knowingly). It would be described as 'a base'. There are then two simple possibilities: either the MP receives a fixed allowance and finds his own place (which may be as expensive as he wishes and which he may buy if he wishes), or he allows the Commons Authorities to find a place for him, the cost of which is within the allowance limit. Is that not very simple?

As regards his constituency, his office hours should be such that he can get home by train or bus. In this case, the fact that he volunteered to become a candidate is important. No travel costs or over-night stays should be acceptable - because he volunteered his services. Such costs should be borne by his constituency office. This is a grey area, but it seems to me that such an office ought to exist in a constituency. Its location is not very important, apart from the fact that it may be desirable that it should be on neutral ground - eg. the local town hall, or even the local library. This office would have its own secretariat - again a grey area. But the important thing would be that the office would have an allowance which the MP controls. He can spend the allowance on his travel costs if he wishes. Any residue year by year can be carried forward. Again, I must reiterate that he volunteered to stand for parliament, and that, as far has his constituency is concerned, is the important thing. Voters could then decide whether or not they want a person who lives in London but whose constituency is in Scotland WANT a Londoner to be their MP! IE. The origin of their prospective MP would assume some significance as regards his availability for 'surgeries'.

These things are not that difficult if one breaks them up into their constituent parts.

I will now complete the survey. If it had not been for your post, I would not have know about it. I will also point that out if I can!

subrosa said...

Junican, maybe Blogger didn't post your comment because it was slightly too long, however it's published now.

I do get your point. Throughout my lifetime there was the odd candidate who would stand for a constituency hundreds of miles from their home, but that didn't cause problems. Not then anyway, but it certainly stored up problems for today's nonsense.

There are are far more who are 'shipped into' places in order to suit party leaders but people do vote for them. I wouldn't. If someone didn't live in my area I certainly wouldn't expect them to know much about the place.

Please do the survey and it may be an idea, if you've time, to email you comment too.

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