The Operation of Parliamentary Standards Act 2009

Written evidence from Members’ and Peers’ Staff Association (MAPSA)

Thank you for giving MAPSA the opportunity to present evidence to the Committee. As Members' staff are the people who are in most regular contact with IPSA we feel our views are vital to the continued workings of, and hopefully progress of, the current expenses system.

After consultation with MAPSA members, asking them about the main impact of the expenses system upon staff is it clear that, whilst there are those who would like to see the whole system replaced, we do not feel that is a practical or indeed necessary move.

However, there are clear areas of concern to us, not least with the "efficiency" of the IPSA process, and these are as follows:

· IPSA training should focus as much on the business process as on the technical use of their claims system. An efficient method for MPs and staff of collecting receipts and submitting claims is as important as actual inputting.

· Whilst acknowledging that the claims system has improved, the IPSA website is still slow and difficult.

· MPs are often in four different locations (Constituency office, London office, London home and Constituency home), or travelling, and it can be difficult to collate paperwork in between leading to delays.

· Because of the slowness of the system, some staff would like the 90 day limit to be extended, and have suggested allowing all claims to be paid within the tax year arguing that, because of delays, some expenses end up being too late to claim.

· Some of the main headaches arise around submitting evidence to set up employment, flat rental etc, rather than individual claims, and it these can take a long time to resolve.

· Some elements of the scheme could be more efficiently handled such as second home rental and associated utility and other costs – especially in the constituency.

· The IPSA helpline needs to provide help for the convenience of staff not for the convenience of IPSA so should open longer, and if not longer, in the morning rather than the afternoon. There should be more specific options at entry point, instead of just one gateway number.

· The payment card should continue to be revised, allowing it to be used more widely but with easier reconciliation, and less need for individual receipts – especially when it is clear from the statement what the payment is for. There is too much inconsistency in what is allowed as proof and what is not.

· Anecdotal evidence suggests that fear of claims being rejected and published as such by IPSA stops MPs from submitting perfectly legitimate expense claims in case of public backlash. There needs to be more clarity as to why a claim is rejected in order to prevent this.


It is a matter of regret that IPSA often seems more concerned with public perception and accountability rather than actually designing a system that works. Whilst we all understand the issues (even staff have been accused of having their "snouts in the trough") and IPSA’s statutory responsibilities, we feel this should not be the priority. Throwing open the staffing review to public consultation is unlikely to achieve anything positive for example.

In order to facilitate further progress with the claims system, and the understanding IPSA has of the work of and MP and their staff, we do believe that there should be more regular contact between staff organisations and IPSA. At the moment this is sporadic, and often at our instigation – the current staff review is a case in point.

25 October 2011

Prepared 15th November 2011