Select Committee on Members Estimate Committee Second Report


39. The SSRB reviewed travel costs and did not recommend any change except that partners of MPs should be entitled to the same travel arrangements available to spouses and civil partners. This would only apply to a partner who was nominated as the sole beneficiary for the purposes of the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund. The SSRB said:

"We also heard from MPs who suggested that spouses' and civil partners' travel costs allowance should be extended to unmarried partners. They pointed out that the rules relating to this allowance were at odds with the way unmarried partners are treated in pension schemes. We agree and therefore recommend that partners of MPs who are named in the PCPF as sole beneficiaries should be entitled to the same travel arrangements available to spouses and civil partners."[16]

40. The Members Estimate Committee has not heard any direct views on this recommendation. We have heard suggestions from women Members that the family travel system should take fully into account the needs of those with small and school age children who have to travel weekly between the constituency and Westminster. The Scottish Parliament review has recommended a change in the practice there: "Family travel should not be funded out of public funds".[17] We are aware that there may be tax implications of such a change. We understand that the current arrangement is an extra statutory concession which may have to be withdrawn anyway by HM Revenue & Customs. We are seeking advice on this from the Department of Resources and HM Revenue & Customs. That advice will be reflected in our paper on emerging conclusions in May.

Should the SSRB's recommendation to extend provision for family travel to partners be implemented?

41. In the context of a root and branch review, however, one suggestion which has been put forward is that the cost of travel between Westminster and constituencies should be put on a different footing. A separate travel budget could be based on the facts that constituencies vary in distance from London, size and access to public transport. We have not yet identified a model from another Parliament in which this system operates.

Is there a case for a single travel grant for each MP, based on location and size of constituency? How would this be calculated and operated with simplicity and transparency? What would be an appropriate control system? How would this be accounted for?

16   para 5.51. Back

17   Recommendation 59. Back

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