The Operation of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 - Committee on Members' Expenses Contents

Summary of recommendations

1. Independent determination of the payments system for MPs' costs and independent regulation of it are fundamental and should continue. (para 177)

2. The Act should be amended in accordance with the CSPL's recommendation to provide that IPSA's primary duty is "to support MPs efficiently, cost-effectively and transparently in carrying out their parliamentary functions". It would continue to be IPSA's role to determine what assistance for MPs was necessary. (para 177)

3. IPSA's current administrative role should be carried out by a separate body, so that IPSA is not regulating itself, and the Act should be amended to permit this. The best arrangement would be for that separate body to be within the House of Commons Service, both because such a body would avoid imposing undue burdens on MPs and because it would benefit from the economies of scale of being part of a larger organisation in areas such as human resources and IT. Independent regulation by IPSA and transparency would ensure that it did not replicate the deficiencies of the old expenses system. (para 177)

4. The body administering MPs' expenses should implement a more risk-based and therefore cost-effective approach to validation, as recommended by the NAO. (para 181)

5. The body administering MPs' expenses should extend its use of direct payments to cover as near to 100% of transactions as possible. (para 181)

6. The body administering MPs' expenses should make more extensive use of its capacity to purchase and provide centrally. (para 181)

7. IPSA should improve its system of publication by:

  • Creating an enhanced scheme of annual publication of claims, which would be searchable and facilitate comparisons, and would include the underlying receipts (subject to safeguards relating to personal details and security);
  • Begin developing and implementing a cost-effective system of real-time publication of claims, or at least publishing on an accruals basis (reflecting when the costs were incurred), and immediately ceasing the misleading bi-monthly publication. (para 183)

8. When publishing claims, IPSA should make a clear distinction between (a) costs commonly regarded as personal, such as accommodation and travel, and (b) office and staff costs. The latter would not be described as "expenses" in any other profession, and should not be so described by IPSA, which should publish them separately from other costs. (para 183)

9. When publishing "not paid" and "part-paid" claims, IPSA should classify each one in respect of the reason for non-payment; and it should review whether publication of such claims increases or reduces public confidence in the payments system and Parliament. (para 183)

10. In order to use publicly-funded resources more effectively, IPSA should offer MPs the option of submitting claims in paper form only, allowing IPSA more efficiently and in a more controlled way to enter the data into their online system. (para 188)

11. IPSA should merge the office and staff budgets. (para 188)

12. IPSA should, on request from MPs, indicate to them whether a specific claim will be accepted or rejected; any subsequent claim would of course be published in the usual way. (para 193)

13. IPSA should make it easier for MPs to find out online how much of each budget has been spent. (para 193)

14. IPSA should establish a liaison group with MPs' staff, and should include their representatives in consultations on the same basis as the statutory consultees. (para 194)

15. IPSA should review the overall remuneration package of MPs' staff, and in particular redundancy pay, with a view to ensuring that they are appropriately rewarded and that MPs are able to retain experienced staff and provide opportunities to interns. (para 194)

16. IPSA should make it a consistent practice that MPs' staff who incur legitimate costs relating to the MP's parliamentary duties receive reimbursement direct, and should ensure that such reimbursement is made promptly. (para 194)

17. To facilitate informed consideration and public debate about cost-effectiveness and accountability, we recommend that:

a)  IPSA provide a detailed explanation of the rationale for its existing London supplements (especially the Outer London one) and make transparent its current methodology for calculation of the rates.

b)  A body independent of both Parliament and IPSA be commissioned by the House Service to undertake a financial cost-benefit analysis to determine whether extending IPSA's current system of London and Outer London supplements to other regions in the UK could provide greater value for money for taxpayers, and an evaluation of the extent to which each of the aims for the Act set out in 2009 would be achieved.

c)  In not more than six months' time, the House should have the opportunity to consider the merits of that cost-benefit analysis and evaluation and to make a decision on whether there should or should not be a system of regional supplements instead of the existing travel and accommodation provisions. (para 200)

18. The levels of salaries and rates and maxima for any other payments to MPs should, whenever possible, be set by IPSA at the start of a Parliament for the duration of that Parliament. (para 202)

19. When it examines the matter of resettlement grants for MPs who lose their seats at a general election, IPSA should take into account the arrangements in the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. (para 202)

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Prepared 12 December 2011