1. In this report the Members Estimate Committee
sets out radical issues for our root and branch review of allowances.
Nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out but leaving things
as they are is not an option. Many of these issues will be controversial.
We want to hear comments from within and outside the House on
which are the best ideas to pursue. There may be other issues
we have not yet considered which could be brought forward now.
The next stage will be for us to produce emerging conclusions
in May. We aim to report in time for a debate in the House in
July. This report therefore contains no recommendations. The
House itself will have to decide on any changes to the allowance
system in July.
2. The House referred to the MEC, on 24 January 2008,
11 recommendations from the Senior Salaries Review Body on Members'
allowances. Shortly afterwards MEC's work was extended following
the Fourth Report from the Standards and Privileges Committee
concerning the use of the staffing allowance to employ relatives.
3. The MEC therefore decided to conduct a root and
branch review of the allowances system. On 26 February the Committee
"Our first priority is looking at radical options
for restructuring pay and allowances. We are conscious of the
need to establish a structure which will endure and will rebuild
confidence. In doing this we will consider in detail the recommendations
of the SSRB and review the Additional Costs Allowance.
As a first step, the Committee has agreed that the
threshold of £250 for invoices and receipts should be reduced
from the start of the next financial year.
The next priority is a robust and transparent process
for claiming allowances and auditing them. Building on the recommendations
of the Audit Committee and the SSRB we have asked the Department
of Resources to draw up in consultation with the NAO and others
several options for a better way of claiming and checking allowances.
These will help identify a new system which is workable, in line
with practice elsewhere and able to command public respect."
4. We have already decided that all claims for items
worth £25 or more should be accompanied by receipts with
effect from 1 April 2008.
In paragraphs 49-53 below we raise issues about how this new
claims threshold can be under-pinned by a more rigorous audit
5. In drawing up this issues paper, the Committee
has taken into account suggestions made in meetings with Members
from all sides of the House as well as the many comments made
from outside the House. It is clear that there is a widespread
desire for radical reform. The Members Estimate Committee is
committed to leading and delivering this reform. We want the
House to have a system that is above reproach and transparent.
It must support and meet the costs of Members in their democratic
role. It must also encourage candidates from diverse backgroundsirrespective
of personal financial meansto stand for Parliament. This
paper poses a series of questions for those inside and outside
the House across a wide range of issueswith nothing ruled
in or out. The aim is to elicit reaction about which ideas seem
the most workable. We will discuss these matters and our emerging
conclusions with the Committee on Standards in Public Life, among
others. We expect these conclusions to be tested thoroughly against
the principles which apply generally to expenses systems in the
public and private sectors.
6. The Committee has also taken into account the
reportpublished on 11 March 2008of the Independent
Review of Parliamentary Allowances in the Scottish Parliament
which deals with many of the same issues. The papers to that
review include a description of pay and allowance arrangements
in Commonwealth and European Parliaments.
1 First Special Report, HC 368, paras 2-4. Back
First Report, HC 415. Back