Select Committee on Members Estimate Committee Second Report



EMPLOYMENT OF STAFF

27. The House agreed on 24 January 2008 to implement the SSRB recommendations on the staffing allowance, subject to consideration by the MEC of administration and timing. The SSRB recommendations were as follows:

  • Recommendation 20: We recommend that the Staffing Expenditure ceiling should increase to allow MPs to employ up to 3.5 full-time (or equivalent) members of staff.
  • Recommendation 21: We recommend that the ceiling on Staffing Expenditure for the equivalent of 3.5 full-time staff where all those staff are based outside London should be £96,630.
  • Recommendation 22: We recommend that the ceiling on Staffing Expenditure for the equivalent of 3.5 full-time staff should be increased by £1,720 for each full-time equivalent member of staff based in London, up to a maximum of £102,650 where all staff are based in London.

28. The Committee agreed on 10 March, in accordance with the decisions of the House on 24 January, that the staffing allowance for 2008-09 should be the figure of £96,630 (recommended in July 2007 by the SSRB for staff based outside London) uprated by 3.7% in accordance with the Average Earnings Index to £100,205; that this should take effect from April 2008 ; that the timing of the implementation of the SSRB recommendation for a higher rate for staff based in London should be considered with other aspects of the Review of Allowances in July; and that the Department of Resources should notify all Members as soon as possible.

29. While the Committee's decision on 10 March covers recommendations 20 and 21 from the SSRB, we have not yet decided on the timing and administration of recommendation 22. Members have been advised not to make commitments beyond this. We will consider at the next stage of our review how the SSRB recommendation about a higher rate of pay for London-based staff fits in with other proposals we may make.

30. The Standards and Privileges Committee has produced two reports on the employment of family members and the Register of Interests.[11] The Committee proposed a new category in the Register of Interests for family members employed and remunerated through the Staffing Allowance. This was agreed by the House on 27 March. The Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life has said "the current ability of MPs to use public money to employ members of their own family is an unusual arrangement which might not be allowed elsewhere".[12] We note that the Independent Review of Allowances in the Scottish Parliament did not consider it right to disqualify relatives from being employed purely on that basis.

31. At present Members employ their own staff in the way a small business would, but using a standard House contract and with the salaries paid directly by the House to the staff. Some Members have put to us the suggestion that Members' staff should be employed directly by the House. They point out that it is misleading for the staffing allowance to be totalled with their salary and represented as part of a Member's personal benefits. Staffing costs in other organisations are not treated as spending by the individual in charge. In Scotland, the recent review of allowances has concluded that MSPs ought to continue to employ their own staff. We intend to study the system in the Greater London Assembly where we understand that staff are nominated by elected members but employed directly by the GLA. We will also seek information on the arrangements in Australia (Senate and House of Representatives), where Members' staff are employed centrally.

Is central employment of staff worth examining in greater detail? How different would that be from the current arrangement? Would the House be taking on additional responsibilities under employment law? Are there advantages in greater transparency about how public money is spent on staffing to support constituency and scrutiny work? What additional costs would be incurred by the House?

It always remains an option to continue with the current arrangements for staffing but to tighten the control regime to improve transparency and reduce the risk of abuse. What changes to the administration of the staffing allowance would achieve this?


11   Sixth Report, 2007-08, HC 383. Back

12   Seventh Report from the Standards and Privileges Committee, 2007-08, HC 436, appendix 2. Back


 
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