Smoothing the cliff edge: supporting MPs at their point of departure from elected office

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

First Report of Session 2022–23

Author: Administration Committee

Related inquiry: General Election Planning and Services

Date Published: 8 February 2023

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Contents

1 Introduction

Background

1. We launched this inquiry to consider the support and services provided by the House of Commons Service and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to Members of Parliament and their staff at general elections. With the House having passed the half-way point of the parliament we felt that now was the time to review the support and services offered to Members joining or departing the House.

2. Our predecessor committees examined some of these issues as early as 2005–06, when the report on Post-Election Services was published. This was followed by two further reports looking ahead: First Weeks at Westminster: induction arrangements for new MPs (2013), and Election Planning and Services (2017).2 This focus on support and services provided to Members at general elections led to noticeable improvements, with the House Service setting up the General Election Planning Group (GEPG) ahead of the 2010 General Election to provide greater coordination in this area.3

3. The 2005 report gave equal attention to incoming and departing MPs. However, its successors remained relatively silent on the experience of Members when they leave the House. The aim of this Report is to address this imbalance and to ensure that the gaps in support for Members as they leave Parliament we have identified during our inquiry are addressed by the House Service, IPSA and the political parties. We intend to take further evidence in early 2023 and to report in the spring on services for arriving Members.

4. Our underlying interest in this subject is that Parliament matters. Members of Parliament matter. They debate and make the laws that affect each and every one of us, and work to improve the constituencies they represent. However, without providing access to the right support when Members leave Parliament, it is possible that potential candidates are put off from standing for election. In this Report, we have looked at those areas within our remit — namely the services provided by the House and IPSA — and focused primarily on departing Members. We need to do as much as possible to ensure that how Members leave Parliament does not deter others from seeking election.

5. Collecting evidence for this inquiry was not always easy. Members who had left the House did not always want to put on record the challenges they had faced. As part of this inquiry we therefore met with a number of individuals and organisations informally for advice and to inform our thinking. We have referred to these meetings as informal discussions throughout the report. We would like to thank all those who took the time to share their experiences, whether in public evidence or informally, as well as those who submitted written evidence to the inquiry. We would particularly like to thank the following for their advice and assistance: Dr Peter Ferguson, Professor Matthew Clarke, Dr Amy Nethery and Dr Zim Nwokora, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia; John Austin, Association of Former Members; Mel Barclay, Head of Career Transition, and JC Townend, Chief Executive Officer, Lee Hecht Harrison UK and Ireland; Rob Flello; Nick Maher, Chief Executive, Industry and Parliament Trust; Lynette Obika, Athlete Support Manager, and Alex Rolfe, Public Affairs Lead, UK Sport; Andrea Trainer, Partner, Miles Advisory; Sophie Tredinnick, Saxton Bampfylde; a former member of the Armed Forces; and the former Members and Members’ staff representatives who spoke to us informally.

Planning and preparedness for elections

6. While there is more uncertainty over the timing of elections since the repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in 2022, even before this the timing of an election could be uncertain as the elections of 2017 and 2019 have shown. For departing Members, this means that while the timing of an election is sometimes predictable, they have less certainty on when their jobs will end. Several former Members told us informally that the suddenness and timing of the 2019 General Election made their departure from Parliament more difficult.

7. House Services and IPSA now need to be ready for an election at any time. Some former MPs felt that the surprise over the timing of the 2019 General Election was reflected in the response by the House and IPSA. Stephen Gethins told us: “I am not sure that the House authorities and others, and in particular IPSA, were ready or prepared for the series of snap elections that we had”. Mark Prisk had a similar view: “I was surprised that the House authorities were not quite where I would have expected them to be, in terms of preparation, information and communication”, while in his view IPSA “was wholly unprepared”.4

8. Several former Members told us how IPSA accounting system errors and inaccurate inventories of office equipment held by the House Service and IPSA had made the process of winding-up their offices more burdensome. In one instance IPSA was unable to resolve an error affecting a former Member’s account in its system, while in another an individual was asked to return office equipment they had no knowledge of receiving.5 Rob Sanders, Director of Live Services, Parliamentary Digital Service, told us that the House was working with IPSA on ways to address issues relating to the return of IT equipment.6

9. The availability of up-to-date dissolution guidance was a key issue raised. For Mark Prisk, the guidance “was good on the whole” but could have been made available sooner, even if that meant details such as specific timings and dates were issued later, to allow Members and their offices to prepare. He also suggested an online chat version.7 IPSA recognised the importance of “early and regular dissemination to MPs and staff before any election (with ideally annual updates)” in its written evidence.8 This was supported by the General Election Planning Group, whose Chair and Senior Responsible Officer, John Owen OBE, told us that from January 2023 guidance would be updated annually to ensure that key information was available to Members and their staff at the earliest opportunity.9 Members’ staff noted in an informal discussion that dissolution guidance was currently available online only and said that it would be useful if hard copies could be provided to all offices.

Changes since the 2019 election

10. There have been several key developments, both in the House and IPSA, since the 2019 election. In 2020, the Members’ Services Team (MST) was created in response to Gemma White QC’s report and recommendations on the working lives of Members’ staff. The MST has expanded since its inception and provides support to Members and their staff. We heard from MST Director Chris Sear that the MST had taken on responsibility for training Members and their staff and had already started meeting with Members who have announced they will be standing down at the next election.10 The MST has a representative on the General Election Planning Group. Steps have also been taken to improve collaboration and communication between the House Service and IPSA, including the creation of an IPSA-House Forum.11

11. Since 2019, cooperation and collaboration between the House and IPSA has improved, with a House-IPSA forum now established and regular meetings between officials in both organisations. We welcome this approach and increased joint working between officials in the House and IPSA. It is important that the momentum is not lost in election planning, especially given uncertainty about the timing of the next general election. Regular updates to the Committee from both the House and IPSA would allow Members to ask questions on the work underway and ensure both organisations are election ready.

12. We recognise and welcome the significant strides taken to improve the support and services available to Members and their staff since the last election, with the creation of a dedicated Members’ Services Team (MST) and the collaboration between the House Service and IPSA on the planning and preparations for future elections. We also acknowledge that the snap elections in 2017 and 2019 were unusual. Prior to 2017, most elections in recent years have either been towards the end of a term or relatively predictable.

13. The Administration Committee should receive quarterly updates from the House Service and IPSA on election planning from the publication of the report until the next general election. These should include an update from IPSA on the resolution of outstanding accounting queries. Updates should continue in the new parliament, with the frequency of post-election updates to be agreed by the Committee. A single person in each organisation should also be nominated to be accountable to the Committee on the implementation of the recommendations of this Report and to work regularly with a nominated Member of the Committee.

14. The House Service and IPSA must work together to keep accurate and up-to-date inventories of Members’ office equipment.

15. We welcome the commitment by the House Service and IPSA to ensure that dissolution guidance is updated on an annual basis from 2023, however this is not sufficient.

16. Members and their staff should have as much notice as possible of the processes they will need to follow after an election is announced. Dissolution guidance should be updated every six months and made available online and in print to Members and their staff.

2 What does “leaving well” look like?

Why does it matter how Members leave Parliament?

17. We want the House Service and IPSA to be exceptional at both welcoming new Members after an election and supporting former Members in leaving. Both are equally important if people are not to be deterred from making Parliament a part of their career.

18. While support for politicians leaving elected office has attracted increasing attention in recent years, there remain only a few voices in this area. Dame Jane Roberts, a former councillor and academic, has published three studies on the experience of UK politicians leaving office, while Deakin University has published a ground-breaking report based on its research on the support provided to former MPs by the Parliament of Victoria, Australia.12

19. We heard evidence that ensuring that Members feel supported when they leave the House of Commons could have wider benefits for our democracy and representation. As Dame Jane Roberts told us:

the issues around losing political office and MPs departing is important for our representative democracy … If you narrow access to Parliament, and if MPs are not that well supported … that might well put people off entering in the first place.13

The conclusions reached by Deakin University in their research for the Parliament of Victoria, Australia, go further, stating that “the ‘barriers to entry’ to parliament and the ‘costs of exit’ from it are two sides of the same coin”.14

20. The Leader of the House recently committed to “making our legislature the best in the world” with Members having access to the services they need to carry out their roles.15 Reflecting this view, one former Member told us during an informal discussion that parliamentarians should be advocates for Parliament to encourage a talented range of candidates to seek election.

21. Political developments over the past decade or so have contributed to a feeling that MPs do not require or are not deserving of support when they leave the House. Comments made by Professor Meg Russell of the UCL Constitution Unit noted the increasingly “brutal, toxic political culture” in which MPs were operating, which corresponded with the curtailment of the financial support available to them once they had left Parliament, so that since 2010 there was a sense that MPs were being “hounded out”.16 A similar view was provided by Dame Jane Roberts, who saw a need for a more positive discourse around the work and role of MPs.17

22. Defeat or leaving the House at some point is a known eventuality for all MPs; and those in more marginal seats might be expected to anticipate such changes. However, research has also shown that loss of political office can have a considerable emotional and psychological impact on politicians and those in their support network, which includes family members and their staff.18 A study by the University of Leeds focusing on the experience of former MPs recognised that leaving after an electoral defeat “For most … aroused strong or even traumatic feelings”.19 For MPs, loss of office can be exacerbated by the competing demands of closing their offices and concluding their parliamentary affairs.20

23. The public nature of the work of an MP, the demands of the role and in many cases the years of dedicated service that are part of it can serve to heighten the emotional response for departing MPs. Former Member Luciana Berger told us how she saw Members in tears in the days after the 2019 General Election and reminded us of the investment made by individuals: “These are people’s lives. These are things that people have done and given of themselves, for however many years they have served in this place.”21 Another former Member, who spoke to us informally, noted how for many MPs Parliament was not simply a vocation but their life. Their experience reflected the assertion by Dame Jane Roberts that “holding political office … is often an all-consuming affair”.22

24. For some Members, coming to terms with their departure, whether through choice or not, could be similar to the grieving process.23 Dame Jane Roberts told us how “That loss … is akin to grief. That is true about all work but … leaving Parliament involves an intensity of emotion that does not often apply to other jobs”.24 She noted in her research how the majority of those she had interviewed

had grieved the loss of political office in some way, often intensely. In adjusting to a very different life, most had experienced a sense of dislocation. They had initially struggled to find a new narrative about who they were and what they did, and a number had struggled to find employment.25

25. This personal response can be common, and in some cases even lead to depression and other mental health challenges.26 Former Member Nick de Bois CBE told us how he saw “Members … who had lost their seats, and who were on their knees. They were absolutely shaken by the experience”.27

26. Several former Members argued that the House, IPSA and the political parties did not show enough sensitivity to the emotional and personal aspects of leaving Parliament. Mark Prisk told us that:

The House is quite good at dealing with the administration side of things, and that is it … There is a failure—be it of the House or the political parties—to think about the person and the shift and transition in their life.28

Nick de Bois CBE told us: “Sensitivity is lacking in the whole process.”29 This was re-enforced by Luciana Berger, who told us:

You come out of an election when you are losing the thing that you have given your life to, for however many years. I have taken that as an experience of how I would not want to treat my employees today. It was an experience of what not to do rather than what to do. You immediately had your pass removed. You had to be escorted everywhere, whether it is around that centre or around the building. At moments, it felt like you were a criminal.30

27. We heard that departing Members often relied on the kindness of friends and former colleagues for pastoral support and even practical advice (discussed in chapter 4). Nick de Bois CBE, who received assistance in this way, told us that there was:

a huge gap that … the party needs to address … you are cut off overnight. Your phone stops ringing pretty quickly. Friends are there, but there is not the support that some colleagues need.31

28. This experience was not universal. Some former Members said they had received suitable support and guidance from their political party, while others did not.32 Several Members’ staff representatives spoke positively about the support provided by IPSA during an informal discussion.

29. A phrase that we heard frequently during our inquiry was “duty of care”. Several former Members who gave evidence or spoke to us informally believed that there was a need for the House Service, IPSA and the political parties to show greater recognition of their responsibilities to outgoing MPs. There was a feeling that those who provided support or services currently took the view that their duty of care to Members ended once they had left the House.33

30. As Parliament aspires to be the “best in the world”, we must ensure that the best candidates for election are not deterred by the experiences of departing Members. Sometimes departures are planned or expected, but often a Member may be contesting an uncertain and small majority or there may be a surprise upset. Defeat will create not only practical challenges in terms of winding down offices but also personal challenges such as the emotional impact and the need to find alternative employment, and the duty of care of those to provide services to Members must extend to this period.

31. The House Service, IPSA and the political parties must recognise that in the months that follow an election they each have a duty of care to Members who stand down or lose their seats and must work together to ensure that Members receive the support and services they require when they leave Parliament. We expect the House Service, IPSA and the political parties to establish how this will be achieved by the end of this year.

The Non-Returned Members’ Reception Area

32. The location, signage and look and feel of the Non-Returned Members’ Reception Area (NMRA) in Richmond House added to the perception of a lack of empathy and consideration for outgoing MPs in 2019. Some felt the NMRA process was difficult, with inflexible rules such as whether office managers (who might hold useful information on the issues to be resolved) could accompany Members.34 However, others pointed to a more positive experience of the NMRA where they received helpful information on managing the redundancy of office staff.35

33. Chris Sear, Director of the Members’ Services Team, recognised that the location of the NMRA was not the best it could have been and said that the House Service was seeking a more appropriate and convenient location for the next election.36

34. In 2019 the Non-Returned Members’ Reception Area and the inflexibility of processes added to feelings by outgoing MPs that they were no longer valued by the House. We welcome the commitment made by the House Service to find a more suitable location for the NMRA.

35. The House Service must identify a more suitable location for the Non-Returned Members’ Reception Area and take steps to improve the look and feel of the area so that Members who stand down or lose their seats feel welcomed, valued and supported when beginning the process of leaving the House.

Wellbeing support

36. Evidence from the Association of Former Members suggested that there was a lack of awareness among Members about the wellbeing services available to them and a low take up of those services.37 Mark Prisk also suggested there might be a reticence among Members to address or discuss their mental health needs.38

37. Being an elected representative is often experienced as a vocation. We therefore held informal discussions with organisations who provide support for individuals transitioning from other all-encompassing careers. UK Sport told us about their development programme for athletes which provides wellbeing support as well as preparation for moving into other employment when sporting careers ended. Career transition experts told us that any career support provided to Members when they left had to recognise their emotional and wellbeing needs and provide them with a safe and confidential space to come to terms with such a major life change.39 We also held an informal discussion with a former member of the Armed Forces, who told us about the mentoring support offered to service personnel preparing for career transition.

38. In its research on Commonwealth parliaments, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia, identified three typical models for the provision of short-term mental health support to parliamentarians:

  • access to a set number of sessions;
  • time-limited access after leaving; and
  • a cost limit that a member requiring these services could claim for.40

The Deakin University report recommended that former members of the Parliament of Victoria should have access to these services after leaving, subject to the advice of a qualified professional.41

39. The House Service provides mental health and wellbeing services to MPs through the Parliamentary Health and Wellbeing Service and external provider Health Assured, which provides the Individual Assistance Programme to Members.42 These confidential services can be accessed in person, by telephone or online and provide emotional and practical support for Members’ emotional health and wellbeing needs. The Individual Assistance Programme is available to Members for up to three months after they have left the House and this can be extended in certain circumstances.43 However, this is not made clear to Members in dissolution guidance or on the Parliamentary Intranet.

40. The Association of Former Members, a voluntary association which provides a network for former Members, advises on individual problems and engages in outreach work to promote understanding of Parliament, suggested to us informally that a Members’ support group should be set up, comprised of those who had left either at the most recent elections or within a certain time period. It offered its assistance in setting up this group ahead of the next election if the House wished to explore the idea.

41. House officials from the General Election Planning Group recognised the need for wellbeing services, including mental health support, to be accessible to Members when they leave the House. John Owen OBE made a commitment that where an MP who lost their seat contacted the Parliamentary Health and Wellbeing Service they would

be supported and continue to be supported until another appropriate service is in place. We have agreed that for the last two elections and there is not a time limit on that.44

42. A further commitment which recognises the wellbeing needs of MPs came from the Members’ Services Team, which said that it would “work with Members and selected ex-Members, as well as IPSA and the Parliamentary Health and Wellbeing Service … to look at the best way to support Members in this position, and what support would be required”.45

43. Leaving Parliament can be an emotional and traumatic experience for Members, particularly where that departure follows electoral defeat. Support should be available to Members for as long as they need to help them in their transition to life after Parliament. We welcome the commitment made by the House in this regard.

44. The House Service should work with former Members to direct them to the wellbeing services available to them and ensure that they have access to those services for as long as needed. This must be supported by better communication of the support and services available which must be included in dissolution guidance.

45. The House Service should engage with the Association of Former Members to identify an opportunity to raise awareness of its work. A member or members from the Association’s Executive Committee should be consulted on shaping the wellbeing and practical support for outgoing MPs.

Recognition of service

46. A perceived lack of sensitivity to the emotional experience of the leaving process can be compounded by a lack of recognition of Members’ public service. Several former Members told us during informal discussions about the demanding nature of the role of an MP and the many years of dedicated public service that it entailed. Professor Meg Russell told us that “everyone in public life … needs to be aware of the importance of valuing and talking about the value of Parliament and the people who work in it.”46 Dame Jane Roberts’ research explained that the lack of recognition of the service of former politicians can make the experience of departure worse and that recognition of the work of a departing politician, even in the smallest of ways, could help ease the pain of transition.47 Ways to mark the departure of outgoing MPs were also considered in the research by Deakin University. They recommended hosting an event for former Members and their guests.48

47. The role of a Member of Parliament—of debating and making laws, scrutinising draft policies and representing and serving constituents—is a noble enterprise and one that should be encouraged and recognised. When Members leave the House, their contribution to public service and our democracy should be valued and the closure of that chapter marked appropriately.

48. The House Service should work with the Administration Committee and the House of Commons Commission to find, agree and implement a suitable way to mark a Member’s departure. This could be an event with family and friends and/or presentation with a medallion of service, with eligibility at the discretion of the Commission.

Personal security

49. During our inquiry we became aware that for a very small number of MPs, their security continues to be an issue after they leave Parliament due to risks that emerged because of their role.49 This is not an area for which the House is currently responsible. We believe the House should consider whether there is any further support that could be offered in these cases.

50. We note it is right that in most cases the House of Commons ceases to have responsibility for the security of former Members—this is the responsibility of local police forces.

51. The House Service must consider whether any security-related support can be put in place for former MPs on an exceptional basis where the Parliamentary Security Department and police have assessed that an individual remains vulnerable to a significant and ongoing threat as a result of his or her role as a MP. The House should also consider how long that support would reasonably be available for.

3 Careers

Planning for the future

52. A key message we heard in our inquiry was that career planning should begin from the day that a Member is elected to Parliament, or even earlier—as Dame Jane Roberts emphasised: “you should be planning for it before you arrive.”50 It became clear that for MPs, planning and preparing for a career after Parliament can be difficult.51 This difficulty can be particularly acute for those leaving involuntarily as they will not have had the benefit of time to prepare.52

53. Between 2015 and 2019 we saw three elections. The elections in 2010, 2015 and 2019 saw more seats change hands than in any elections since 1979 (225, 182 and 153 respectively), apart from 1997 (249).53 In 2019, the average age for the 72 MPs who lost their seats as a result of electoral defeat was 55, and their average length of service was around 8 years and 10 months, meaning that a substantial number of MPs leaving the House were years away from retirement and likely to seek employment, so their time as an MP was likely to be just one stage in their career.54

54. The demands placed on MPs mean that planning for a career post-Parliament can be unintentionally neglected or deliberately avoided. Interviews conducted with former UK MPs and councillors have noted a disinclination, particularly among MPs, to reflect on or discuss the end of their political careers. For those standing in an election, their time and energy is focused on their campaign, as Former Member Luciana Berger told us

You go into election mode; you can’t think of anything else. If you’re fighting an election, you’re in it because you think there is a chance that you might win it. You can’t really consider what to do or what might happen if you don’t win.55

55. A lack of preparedness can also extend to those who are standing down, as Dame Jane Roberts told us. Of those politicians she had spoken to during her research “most … had made no plans at all. It was unbearable to think about”.56 This is supported by the findings of the University of Leeds based on interviews with former MPs.57

56. There is also perhaps a taboo around discussing the future. As the Association of Former Members recognised “The decision to retire or to pursue a career change, for whatever reason, is not an easy one and clearly for a sitting MP is not a discussion that can be publicly known.”58 Informal discussions we held with former Members also made it clear that thinking about a future role whilst also potentially standing as a candidate was likely to reflect negatively in the view of at least some constituents and supporters.

57. We also heard about the difficulties faced by Members’ staff who were made redundant when their employer stood down or lost their seat and that this should be better recognised in the support available.59 Mark Prisk told us:

It is particularly difficult for staff … who are effectively being made redundant, it is a really difficult time. They are being asked to pack the boxes quickly, but also to think about their future. One of the important issues here is making sure that we do not lose sight of their needs and their concerns.60

58. We recognise that negative experiences of wind-up that affect Members will also have an impact on their staff as they look for future employment. The current Speaker’s Conference is considering the employment conditions of Members’ staff and we hope this will consider their position and available support at election time.

59. The next section of our report makes proposals to support better career planning.

60. Increasingly, and mirroring the broader job landscape, being an MP is just part of an individual’s career. If we want to attract the best representatives, being an MP needs to be seen as an attractive career option, which will support and not detract from future career ambitions. We recognise that there are barriers and constraints which can make discussions around Members’ career planning challenging.

The challenges of changing career

61. For Members leaving at an election, finding a career after Parliament can be difficult. In their report focusing on the experience of former Members of the Parliament of Victoria, Australia, academics at Deakin University noted that “One of the largest difficulties for former members of parliament is establishing a post-parliamentary career and identity”, countering the assumption that former parliamentarians can easily obtain employment in top roles once they have left.61 The notion that there is a “revolving door” between Parliament and employment is far from the reality. As Dame Jane Roberts told us, former MPs face significant challenges when searching for jobs:

The interviews painted a really vivid picture … of literally wearing out a pair of shoes, struggling to find employment. It is a long-standing issue, which undoubtedly has been made worse over the last 20 years.62

Evidence submitted by the Association of Former Members also supported this view.63

62. Some evidence suggested that that the public and overtly political nature of the role of an MP could actually operate as ‘political baggage’ which hindered an individual’s chances of finding employment. Nick de Bois CBE told us: “MPs are not actually very attractive to employ. The brand of an MP is not in a good place—wrongly, in my opinion”.64

63. We also heard during informal discussions how some prospective employers were unwilling to hire a former MP because of a fear they would leave after a short time to return to politics or that they would be unwilling to take instruction. This was further supported by the findings of the study by the University of Leeds.65

64. We are aware from the experience of former MPs that some face difficulties finding employment and financial hardship when they leave the House. They can face a career penalty or need to change careers from their employment prior to entering Parliament. We recognise that constituents across the country face similar challenges on a regular basis, but that should not stop us being a good employer with the appropriate structures and support.

65. We recognise that there has been an increasing number of academic studies focusing on the challenges experienced by former MPs entering the labour market but that the House Service has not collected feedback on the experiences of MPs when they leave the House.

66. The House Service should gather or commission empirical data on the trajectory of MPs when they leave the House so that it can provide the necessary career support for their departure.

Career transition

67. We heard that Members often relied on colleagues for mentoring, career advice or even practical support. Mark Prisk told us he had provided assistance to colleagues in this way on several occasions.66 Others we heard from during informal discussions said that they had received help from former colleagues. Nick de Bois CBE told us:

On the help that is available, I have not heard of anything substantive for any colleagues … A number of marvellous colleagues and friends tried to give advice and help, but that wasn’t structured; that was friendship.67

This was echoed by a Member who lost their seat in 2019, who shared their experience with us during an informal discussion.

68. Arguments were made to us that the House should provide formal mentoring and career coaching support. Mark Prisk told us that

the focus should be on ensuring that for at least a year after people have left, there is somebody who they can turn to in confidence and have a genuine conversation with.68

69. In the informal discussions we held with executive search and outplacement experts, as well as other sectors, we identified that early engagement and access to ongoing support is key. UK professional sport athletes have one-to-one access to Professional Development Coaches, who are trained and accredited in executive coaching which combines career and wellbeing support.69 In a similar way we heard how outgoing service personnel are assigned mentors to discuss and plan their transition to civilian life and identify their needs and future direction and this is made available early in the transition process. Service personnel have access both to a formal programme, the Career Transition Partnership (CTP), which is outsourced to an external provider, and support provided through informal channels such as the Armed Forces charities.70 Similar provision is made for UK professional athletes through its Performance Lifestyle support programme.71 The former member of the Armed Forces who we spoke to informally suggested that a mentoring programme could work in a parliamentary context, with former Members who had gone through the transition process being recruited to mentor others.

70. Employers often work with external providers to ensure that staff who are facing redundancy or have been made redundant have access to career transition or outplacement support. This might include one-to-one career coaching, skills marketing (including CV writing and interview techniques), access to skills workshops and links to employment networks.72 The focus of outplacement is to support individuals to ensure that they are able to market themselves effectively to prospective employers when making the ‘leap’ to a new career.

71. The lack of career transition support provided by the House was raised on several occasions during our inquiry. The Association of Former Members pointed to examples in the public and private sectors where career transition or ‘outplacement’ was provided by employers to those who had lost their jobs.73 Luciana Berger also told us about the absence of career transition support available to Members. Along with several other MPs, she had relied on the goodwill of an associate for practical assistance with writing a CV.74

72. A suggestion made to us during an informal discussion with outplacement experts was for the House to consider working with an external provider to ensure that good practice and developments in the field were reflected in any future offer and for the service to be tailored to the needs of MPs. These services could also assist retiring MPs seeking to find continued purpose once they had left.75

73. A useful model for an outplacement service can be found in the example of other parliaments. The Scottish Parliament provides career transition support to former Members that combines services provided by parliamentary staff with those provided by a contractor.76 The Welsh Parliament / Senedd Cymru also provides support in this respect, and examples can also be found among several Commonwealth parliaments.77

74. We recognise that there are ways of providing support to departing MPs and encouraging career planning that are proven in other sectors, private and public, and would make the role of an MP more attractive as part of a potential career.

75. The House Service should work with a service contractor to develop and provide a career transition programme to support outgoing MPs, available for 18 months after a Member leaves Parliament. This contract should identify clear measures of success.

Articulating and demonstrating skillsets

76. A further issue identified during our inquiry was the difficulty that former MPs encountered in articulating the skills and experience they had gained during their time in Parliament. There was both a lack of awareness by some employers about the role of an MP and uncertainty by former Members on how they could translate their skills and experience into other roles. As Former Member Luciana Berger told us: “It is also difficult for both headhunters and employers to work out where MPs fit”.78 Several former Members shared with us the difficulties they had experienced in getting across to prospective employers the skills and experience they could bring to an organisation.79 This is not unique to MPs. As representatives from UK Sport told us in an informal discussion, athletes often found it hard to articulate their skillsets so helping them to draw out their skills and to recognise their potential was key.

77. Academic research also recognises problems with articulating skills. Dame Jane Roberts told us that that Members developed a range of skills during their time in the House but “that those skills are not well understood or well articulated to prospective employers”, and this is borne out in the findings of the research conducted by Deakin University.80 Luciana Berger summarised some of the valuable skills she had gained as an MP:

it turned out that I have some really good skills, and that spending 10 years in this place—essentially managing my own social media, writing and editing everything that went out, and managing stakeholder relations at the highest level, both at a constituency level and as a shadow Minister—meant that I had lots of skills to offer.81

78. A lack of understanding by employers about an MP’s role and skills is perhaps more pronounced in the corporate sector, as Alex Gordon Shute, a headhunter and Founder of Ithaca Partners, told us:

The main difficulty is that the corporate world often does not know what to do with you as ex-Members of Parliament. You have had very high-status public roles, but you often do not know very much about their world and they do not know very much about your world, … I think it is hard.82

The Association of Former Members noted the issue that “business couldn’t translate the value of our experience to the business world” and suggested that former Members might therefore find that they were pigeonholed into particular careers or undervalued in recruitment processes.83 Research by the University of Leeds has also highlighted that there could be a perception among former MPs that their skills were not always harnessed for the public good.84

79. A former Member who spoke to us informally suggested that the House Service should act as a referee to provide a testimonial summarising a Member’s career in Parliament.

80. Support must be provided to ensure that former MPs can articulate their skills and experience when making the transition to make them a desirable proposition for potential employers given the challenges they face.

81. The House Service should develop a costed proposal for career coaching to Members to help them identify and articulate their skills and experience and areas for development and future career direction. This should form part of a costed comprehensive career development programme available to Members from the day they arrive in Parliament and be provided in a safe and confidential setting.

Members’ professional development

82. Members’ professional development was raised by several witnesses and contributors to our inquiry. It was suggested to us that improving the existing training offer to current Members of the House would improve their skills and knowledge to make them more effective in their legislative, scrutiny and representative functions and could help to “future proof” a career once they had left.85 Sense About Science, a charitable organisation which aims to improve public knowledge of and interest in science in the UK, told us that further resources should be dedicated to the Members’ training offer and for the House to make a formal commitment “to equip … members with the essential skills needed to scrutinise policy evidence … to hold themselves and policy makers … accountable for decisions, and fulfil their function as representatives and legislators”.86

83. One possible solution raised during our inquiry was that the House should provide access to “micro-qualifications” or “micro-credentials” in the skills Members typically used in their roles.87 These are certified short courses typically provided by an accredited college or university and might be in subjects such as managing an office, negotiation and dispute resolution or communication.

84. We also took informal advice from an executive search expert who saw the value in Members be given access to “C-suite” or executive-level training for senior leaders. The Industry and Parliament Trust suggested that there was room for the Trust to further support the House in leveraging in individuals from large companies to provide talks and support on relevant skillsets or industries.88

85. John Owen OBE, Chair of the General Election Planning Group, told us that the House would explore possible options based on any recommendations we made in this respect.89 Chris Sear, Director of the Members’ Services Team, explained that a piece of work was already underway to review the training offer for Members and that certification could be considered as part of this work.90

86. The Association of Former Members suggested that “discretionary grants … for education, retraining, employment advice and for skills assessment” be made available to former MPs. They proposed that the cost of such grants could be covered either by a career transition service provided by the House or through the House of Commons Members’ Fund.91

87. The House Service must provide a training offer to Members during their time in Parliament that takes account of the difficulties faced by many MPs when making the next step in their career. It should consult with key stakeholders and work with accredited providers such as universities and colleges to provide and fund cost-effective certified micro-qualifications to capture the core skills which Members use. Our work has not considered in detail the training offer for Members’ staff, but we encourage the House to review this and ensure it is appropriate. The Committee will ask for further updates on this work.

4 Administration and finances

Winding-up and clearing offices

88. Members who stand down or lose their seats at an election are funded for two months to wind-up their parliamentary and constituency offices.92 During this time outgoing MPs can claim for office costs and those costs associated with concluding the winding-up of their offices. They also receive a winding-up payment equivalent to two months’ salary.

89. Former Members who gave evidence or spoke to us during informal discussions all raised issues with the winding-up process. Several told us there was a lack of flexibility in the process while the strictness of timescales only added to the other pressures they faced on their departure.93 Luciana Berger told us:

it’s kind of like a three-stage process where you’re expected to do all three things concurrently, but you’re not really afforded the time or space to be able to do that … “You must do x, y, z, boom, boom, boom, boom. This is what we expect of you. Here’s a timetable.” There was no accommodation [at the last election in December 2019] extended to the fact that it was the Christmas period, when things obviously slow down and it’s really hard to get hold of people.94

90. The winding-up process and IPSA’s handling of it appears to show a lack of sensitivity to the challenges Members face when they leave at an election and the trauma experienced by those who had lost their seats. Nick de Bois CBE told us he had received a letter shortly after the election in 2015 notifying him of the various tasks he would need to complete in winding up his office and that until these were done he would not receive his redundancy payment.95 We also heard during informal discussions with former Members of scenarios where IPSA failed to appreciate individual circumstances, and how it became very difficult to resolve issues with them.

91. Some former Members described what they felt was a lack of responsiveness by IPSA and a need for better customer service. Stephen Gethins told us that he had found it “very, very difficult” to make contact with IPSA and spoke of the frustrations he and his staff experienced when dealing with them. This had been compounded by having to travel from Scotland to attend in-person meetings with IPSA to resolve issues with them.96 Mark Prisk told us that IPSA had been “bureaucratic and unresponsive” and that he had made several visits to their offices in order to raise issues with them directly.97 Dame Jane Roberts suggested that in 2019 there had been a sense that IPSA was focused more on supporting incoming MPs rather than those who were departing the House.98

92. We also heard how the recommended winding-up period did not allow enough time for Members to conclude their financial and administrative affairs. Three of the former Members we spoke to had not been able to conclude the process in the two-month period specified by IPSA, with it taking between five and eight months in practice, while one Member told us they had only just managed it in two months.99 Outgoing MPs receive a payment equivalent to two months’ salary for the winding-up period, so in these examples the former MPs we spoke to were not paid for the work they were required to do beyond the two-month limit to ensure the proper closure of their offices.100 One former Member suggested that in the longer term a centrally managed scheme should be considered to administer the closing down of offices.101

93. Some of the tasks that had to be completed during the winding-up process were time sensitive, particularly the redundancy of staff. Members’ staff must receive notice of their redundancy within the two-month timeframe as they can only be employed for that time.102 At the 2019 General Election, more time was allowed for the winding-up of offices to account for the timing of the election.103

94. Ian Todd, IPSA’s Chief Executive, expressed his disappointment at the standard of service that some outgoing MPs had experienced at the last election and emphasised that the organisation was learning from past experience, with a more people-focused approach.104 In written evidence IPSA committed to working more collaboratively with the House Service on the winding-up process to provide a more seamless service for outgoing MPs and their staff, as well as to hold meetings with MPs in locations other than on the Parliamentary Estate.105

95. We received a commitment from John Owen OBE, Chair and Senior Responsible Owner, General Election Planning Group, that the House Service would aim to ensure that outgoing MPs were better supported and made aware of their data protection responsibilities where they wanted to transfer active constituency casework to their successor after an election or following boundary changes to a constituency.106 This was an issue raised in informal discussions with the Association of Former Members and Members’ staff.

96. For outgoing MPs and their staff, the winding-up process, an essential step, can add to the pressures they face when they leave Parliament. We welcome IPSA’s commitment to develop a fit-for-purpose programme for winding-up offices, to work more closely with the House Service on the winding-up process, and to provide greater flexibility when meeting with outgoing MPs. However, there is still more to be done, given that in the examples we heard it took up to eight months for former Members to conclude administrative and financial matters and for them to receive a final loss-of-office payment. The tightness of timescales for the winding-up of offices can, for some, add to their difficulties and there is a need for greater flexibility in recognition of this.

97. IPSA must continue to improve the training of its staff in dealing with former Members.

98. IPSA should review the average winding up periods required in 2019 and set an appropriate evidence-based timetable for the next election with the ability to extend it on a case-by-case basis.

99. The House should seek advice and provide options on ways to ensure constituents with active casework can continue to be supported without undue delay where their elected representative has changed due to a general election or the boundary commission review.

The financial impact on outgoing MPs

100. We also heard that the significant financial impact on Members when they left at an election was not fully appreciated by IPSA. There appeared to be an assumption that Members were independently wealthy and could easily bear any losses or additional costs in settling matters during the post-election period. Stephen Gethins told us:

where there was a dispute, be it in terms of office payments or something else, you were expected to pay for that and collect it later. Now, paying thousands of pounds up front when you have just lost your job is not something that everybody can afford, but IPSA was treating people as if they were independently wealthy.107

101. Luciana Berger told us “there were massive delays when it came to receiving payments for things” and that she had lost hundreds of pounds over a dispute over the lease of her office.108 Another former Member, who spoke to us informally, believed that IPSA assumed that Members had alternative sources of income they could rely on.

Loss-of-office payments

102. Members who lose their seat at a general election after a period of two years’ continuous service are entitled to a loss-of-office payment equal to double the statutory redundancy entitlement.109 In the case of MPs the statutory maximum wage of £571 per week is used for the calculation.110 Receiving the payment is conditional on several matters first being concluded in the winding-up of offices, as set out below.

Box 1: Conditions for the receiving of loss-of-office payments

IPSA will only pay the loss-of-office payment after former MPs have made the following arrangements to wind up their affairs, where necessary:

  • issuing redundancy notices to staff and sending instructions to IPSA
  • repaying any outstanding debts to IPSA (such as repayment of deposit loans and overpayments)
  • submitting all business costs claims for the period running up to the election (or point at which the seat was vacated)
  • carrying out administrative tasks, such as cancellation of the IPSA payment card
  • any other necessary tasks identified by IPSA [8.13]

MPs may have outstanding debts to IPSA deducted from their entitlement to a winding-up or loss-of-office payment.

Any remaining entitlement will be subject to the conditions above. [8.14]

Source: IPSA Guidance online, “Conditions for loss-of-office payment

103. We heard in evidence and in informal discussions that the conditional nature of the loss-of-office payment meant that IPSA withheld payments where it felt that winding-up tasks had not been completed.111 We were also told that while the loss of office payment was considered a redundancy payment for tax purposes, the strict conditions that IPSA placed on payment to Members diverged from the way in which a redundancy payment is meant to support an individual on leaving employment. Stephen Gethins told us:

Redundancy is supposed to help people transition from one job into the next. It is meant to help them out, as in any organisation … what they [IPSA] were doing was holding that money because they do not quite trust the people. So what is it for? Is it there in the same way as you put down on a deposit on a flat, or is it redundancy? If it is for redundancy, it performs a very different job from being a deposit. I think that that needs to be looked at.112

He waited for over a year because of an outstanding issue in the winding-up of his office, only receiving payment after he had taken the matter to the ombudsman.113

104. We also heard that there was a need for the loss-of-office payment to be a sufficient enough ‘parachute’ to cushion the financial impact of departure. One former Member, who we spoke to informally, felt that that the loss-of-office payment, which had been enough to cover costs for only a few months after they had left, reflected a wider issue about the value and recognition of MPs and their work. Another told us informally that as the financial support provided to MPs who had held their seats for a short period was minimal, IPSA should consider providing some further support in this respect.

105. This was further reflected in the evidence we heard from experts. Alex Gordon Shute, headhunter and founder of Ithaca Partners, told that once the winding-up of office had been completed, the payments allowed “no breathing space” for outgoing MPs to reorientate and think about and plan their career once they left the House when compared with a typical redundancy package.114 She told us:

To not give anybody a breathing space in terms of money feels like a mistake to me, and it is certainly not something that pretty well any other organisation would ever do—public sector or private sector. There is usually some kind of breathing space on redundancy.115

As Professor Meg Russell told us, this reflected a wider trend in which the allowances provided to help MPs when they left the House had become “much less generous”.116

106. International comparisons show that the financial support for outgoing Members of some other parliaments is higher than those made to Members of the UK House of Commons. In Germany, Members of the Bundestag with a minimum of one year’s membership receive a transitional emolument to help with the step into employment post-parliament. This is equivalent to one month’s salary (€10,083.47 / £9,020)117 for each year of service up to a maximum of eighteen months.118 Unlike the UK House of Commons, where financial support for Members who leave after a short time is minimal, Members who leave with less than one year’s service are entitled to a severance payment.119

107. In Australia, a resettlement allowance is available to members of the House of Representatives who have served as a member for a continuous period of more than one term and are defeated or de-selected, as long as they are not eligible for a Members’ pension, or where they are seeking employment. This is equivalent to six months’ base salary (AUD$108,530 / £62,909).120 For other members the allowance is set at three months’ base salary (AUD$54,265 / £31,455).121 In the Canadian House of Commons, most Members who are entitled to a severance allowance receive a sum equal to 50% of their sessional salary (CA$94,750 / £57,798), plus any additional salary to which they are entitled, as well as CA$15,000 (£9,176) to help them with the transition.122

108. Comparison with other UK legislatures shows that the payments made to Members of the House of Commons on departure are lower than those paid by the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments. Members of the Scottish Parliament are entitled to a resettlement grant worth six months’ salary for up to six years’ service, with an additional month for each subsequent year up to a maximum of 12 months’ salary. For the Welsh Parliament / Senedd Cymru, Members defeated at an election receive a resettlement grant worth one month’s salary for each completed year of service subject to a maximum payment equal to six months’ salary.123 However, we understand there is not a winding up payment in Scotland and Wales, and just costs are covered.

109. Members of the UK Parliament who lose their seats are entitled to a loss-of-office payment equal to double the statutory redundancy entitlement if they have held their seat for a continuous period of two years or more when they lose.124 For MPs defeated in the 2019 General Election the median loss-of-office payment was £5,250, equivalent to less than one month’s salary.125 We are also aware that a further issue that arises from the current system is that because the loss of office payment does not apply to those standing down there is no financial incentive to do so and give advance notice of leaving Parliament.

110. Members who lose their seats after a short time in the House receive either minimal or no financial support, although this is dependent on their length of continuous service.126 We understand that Members elected to the House in 2019 can expect to receive on average a loss-of-office payment of £5,139.127

111. We recognise that MPs are paid considerably more than the UK average and public sympathy for their financial situation will be limited. However, one of our aims in this report is to ensure the best people come forward to be candidates and stories of financial challenges and hardship will not encourage wider representation in Parliament. It is not reasonable to assume that Members will have alternative sources of income to shoulder the costs incurred during the winding-up process. The purpose of financial support for departing MPs needs to be reframed as supporting them in their transition into life after Parliament and to allow those who need it the time and space to make the step into their next career whatever their personal background or wealth.

112. The loss-of-office payment should be treated as a redundancy package to support MPs when making their transition from the House to another vocation. Payment should not be contingent upon the completion of the winding-up tasks as this goes against the spirit of the payment and its intended function.

113. IPSA should provide the Committee with examples of comparable redundancy payment schemes in other sectors and organisations against which to test the loss-of-office payment system for MPs. This should be used as a benchmark for a future review of the system.

Pensions

114. As part of our inquiry, we held an informal discussion with a representative from the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) and the House officials involved in overseeing the Members’ Pension scheme. They suggested that there was a lack of engagement by some Members on the issue of pensions because of the demands of the role even though representatives from the PCPF provided the option of one-to-one pension sessions and arranged regular pension surgeries. In 2022 there were 2,075 members of the Scheme, which includes serving Members and former Members of the House of Commons.128

115. During the informal discussion we were told that the scheme’s complexity meant that there was also a need to improve Members’ knowledge about its benefits and the way it worked. Some Members had retained benefits built up before they became an MP, which had the potential to reduce the pension they could draw from the final salary section of the PCPF. However, despite numerous communications on retained benefits over the years, Members often did not realise the effect of their retained benefit until the point at which their PCPF pension became restricted at retirement. Understandably, those approaching pensionable age were far more interested in their pensions than those who were not. We also heard that, while the PCPF and IPSA provided information to Members about the pension scheme, they could not provide financial advice to them on pensions.129

116. We also heard informally that tax allowances were a particular area of concern, given that it was not until Members retired or were close to retirement that many realised they would be exceeding the lifetime allowance. Many Members were also unaware of the reforms to the scheme in 2015 and the impact of the McCloud judgment although we understand this is improving.130

117. We recognise that the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) scheme has taken steps to engage Members on their pensions but more needs to be done to raise awareness. The busy role of Members, the complexity of the scheme and a need to understand the tax implications and benefits associated with Members’ pensions means that there is a need for sound financial advice, funded by the scheme itself, to be offered frequently to those enrolled in the scheme

118. In view of the complexities of the McCloud judgment and its impact on the Members’ Pension Scheme, IPSA should fund the training of three pension advisers to ensure that members of the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) have access to financial advice on their pensions. Advisers should have an in-depth knowledge of the scheme and Members should then be required to pay for using the service.

119. The PCPF should also continue to find ways to communicate the pension situation and changes with Members, working with the House and the party Whips.

Conclusions and recommendations

Introduction

1. Since 2019, cooperation and collaboration between the House and IPSA has improved, with a House-IPSA forum now established and regular meetings between officials in both organisations. We welcome this approach and increased joint working between officials in the House and IPSA. It is important that the momentum is not lost in election planning, especially given uncertainty about the timing of the next general election. Regular updates to the Committee from both the House and IPSA would allow Members to ask questions on the work underway and ensure both organisations are election ready. (Paragraph 11)

2. We recognise and welcome the significant strides taken to improve the support and services available to Members and their staff since the last election, with the creation of a dedicated Members’ Services Team (MST) and the collaboration between the House Service and IPSA on the planning and preparations for future elections. We also acknowledge that the snap elections in 2017 and 2019 were unusual. Prior to 2017, most elections in recent years have either been towards the end of a term or relatively predictable. (Paragraph 12)

3. The Administration Committee should receive quarterly updates from the House Service and IPSA on election planning from the publication of the report until the next general election. These should include an update from IPSA on the resolution of outstanding accounting queries. Updates should continue in the new parliament, with the frequency of post-election updates to be agreed by the Committee. A single person in each organisation should also be nominated to be accountable to the Committee on the implementation of the recommendations of this Report and to work regularly with a nominated Member of the Committee. (Paragraph 13)

4. The House Service and IPSA must work together to keep accurate and up-to-date inventories of Members’ office equipment. (Paragraph 14)

5. We welcome the commitment by the House Service and IPSA to ensure that dissolution guidance is updated on an annual basis from 2023, however this is not sufficient. (Paragraph 15)

6. Members and their staff should have as much notice as possible of the processes they will need to follow after an election is announced. Dissolution guidance should be updated every six months and made available online and in print to Members and their staff. (Paragraph 16)

What does “leaving well” look like?

7. As Parliament aspires to be the “best in the world”, we must ensure that the best candidates for election are not deterred by the experiences of departing Members. Sometimes departures are planned or expected, but often a Member may be contesting an uncertain and small majority or there may be a surprise upset. Defeat will create not only practical challenges in terms of winding down offices but also personal challenges such as the emotional impact and the need to find alternative employment, and the duty of care of those to provide services to Members must extend to this period. (Paragraph 30)

8. The House Service, IPSA and the political parties must recognise that in the months that follow an election they each have a duty of care to Members who stand down or lose their seats and must work together to ensure that Members receive the support and services they require when they leave Parliament. We expect the House Service, IPSA and the political parties to establish how this will be achieved by the end of this year. (Paragraph 31)

9. In 2019 the Non-Returned Members’ Reception Area and the inflexibility of processes added to feelings by outgoing MPs that they were no longer valued by the House. We welcome the commitment made by the House Service to find a more suitable location for the NMRA. (Paragraph 34)

10. The House Service must identify a more suitable location for the Non-Returned Members’ Reception Area and take steps to improve the look and feel of the area so that Members who stand down or lose their seats feel welcomed, valued and supported when beginning the process of leaving the House. (Paragraph 35)

11. Leaving Parliament can be an emotional and traumatic experience for Members, particularly where that departure follows electoral defeat. Support should be available to Members for as long as they need to help them in their transition to life after Parliament. We welcome the commitment made by the House in this regard. (Paragraph 43)

12. The House Service should work with former Members to direct them to the wellbeing services available to them and ensure that they have access to those services for as long as needed. This must be supported by better communication of the support and services available which must be included in dissolution guidance. (Paragraph 44)

13. The House Service should engage with the Association of Former Members to identify an opportunity to raise awareness of its work. A member or members from the Association’s Executive Committee should be consulted on shaping the wellbeing and practical support for outgoing MPs. (Paragraph 45)

14. The role of a Member of Parliament—of debating and making laws, scrutinising draft policies and representing and serving constituents—is a noble enterprise and one that should be encouraged and recognised. When Members leave the House, their contribution to public service and our democracy should be valued and the closure of that chapter marked appropriately. (Paragraph 47)

15. The House Service should work with the Administration Committee and the House of Commons Commission to find, agree and implement a suitable way to mark a Member’s departure. This could be an event with family and friends and/or presentation with a medallion of service, with eligibility at the discretion of the Commission. (Paragraph 48)

16. We note it is right that in most cases the House of Commons ceases to have responsibility for the security of former Members—this is the responsibility of local police forces. (Paragraph 50)

17. The House Service must consider whether any security-related support can be put in place for former MPs on an exceptional basis where the Parliamentary Security Department and police have assessed that an individual remains vulnerable to a significant and ongoing threat as a result of his or her role as a MP. The House should also consider how long that support would reasonably be available for. (Paragraph 51)

Careers

18. We recognise that negative experiences of wind-up that affect Members will also have an impact on their staff as they look for future employment. The current Speaker’s Conference is considering the employment conditions of Members’ staff and we hope this will consider their position and available support at election time. (Paragraph 58)

19. Increasingly, and mirroring the broader job landscape, being an MP is just part of an individual’s career. If we want to attract the best representatives, being an MP needs to be seen as an attractive career option, which will support and not detract from future career ambitions. We recognise that there are barriers and constraints which can make discussions around Members’ career planning challenging. (Paragraph 60)

20. We are aware from the experience of former MPs that some face difficulties finding employment and financial hardship when they leave the House. They can face a career penalty or need to change careers from their employment prior to entering Parliament. We recognise that constituents across the country face similar challenges on a regular basis, but that should not stop us being a good employer with the appropriate structures and support. (Paragraph 64)

21. We recognise that there has been an increasing number of academic studies focusing on the challenges experienced by former MPs entering the labour market but that the House Service has not collected feedback on the experiences of MPs when they leave the House. (Paragraph 65)

22. The House Service should gather or commission empirical data on the trajectory of MPs when they leave the House so that it can provide the necessary career support for their departure. (Paragraph 66)

23. We recognise that there are ways of providing support to departing MPs and encouraging career planning that are proven in other sectors, private and public, and would make the role of an MP more attractive as part of a potential career. (Paragraph 74)

24. The House Service should work with a service contractor to develop and provide a career transition programme to support outgoing MPs, available for 18 months after a Member leaves Parliament. This contract should identify clear measures of success. (Paragraph 75)

25. Support must be provided to ensure that former MPs can articulate their skills and experience when making the transition to make them a desirable proposition for potential employers given the challenges they face. (Paragraph 80)

26. The House Service should develop a costed proposal for career coaching to Members to help them identify and articulate their skills and experience and areas for development and future career direction. This should form part of a costed comprehensive career development programme available to Members from the day they arrive in Parliament and be provided in a safe and confidential setting. (Paragraph 81)

27. The House Service must provide a training offer to Members during their time in Parliament that takes account of the difficulties faced by many MPs when making the next step in their career. It should consult with key stakeholders and work with accredited providers such as universities and colleges to provide and fund cost-effective certified micro-qualifications to capture the core skills which Members use. Our work has not considered in detail the training offer for Members’ staff, but we encourage the House to review this and ensure it is appropriate. The Committee will ask for further updates on this work. (Paragraph 87)

Administration and finances

28. For outgoing MPs and their staff, the winding-up process, an essential step, can add to the pressures they face when they leave Parliament. We welcome IPSA’s commitment to develop a fit-for-purpose programme for winding-up offices, to work more closely with the House Service on the winding-up process, and to provide greater flexibility when meeting with outgoing MPs. However, there is still more to be done, given that in the examples we heard it took up to eight months for former Members to conclude administrative and financial matters and for them to receive a final loss-of-office payment. The tightness of timescales for the winding-up of offices can, for some, add to their difficulties and there is a need for greater flexibility in recognition of this. (Paragraph 95)

29. IPSA must continue to improve the training of its staff in dealing with former Members. (Paragraph 96)

30. IPSA should review the average winding up periods required in 2019 and set an appropriate evidence-based timetable for the next election with the ability to extend it on a case-by-case basis. (Paragraph 98)

31. The House should seek advice and provide options on ways to ensure constituents with active casework can continue to be supported without undue delay where their elected representative has changed due to a general election or the boundary commission review. (Paragraph 99)

32. We recognise that MPs are paid considerably more than the UK average and public sympathy for their financial situation will be limited. However, one of our aims in this report is to ensure the best people come forward to be candidates and stories of financial challenges and hardship will not encourage wider representation in Parliament. It is not reasonable to assume that Members will have alternative sources of income to shoulder the costs incurred during the winding-up process. The purpose of financial support for departing MPs needs to be reframed as supporting them in their transition into life after Parliament and to allow those who need it the time and space to make the step into their next career whatever their personal background or wealth. (Paragraph 110)

33. The loss-of-office payment should be treated as a redundancy package to support MPs when making their transition from the House to another vocation. Payment should not be contingent upon the completion of the winding-up tasks as this goes against the spirit of the payment and its intended function. (Paragraph 111)

34. IPSA should provide the Committee with examples of comparable redundancy payment schemes in other sectors and organisations against which to test the loss-of-office payment system for MPs. This should be used as a benchmark for a future review of the system. (Paragraph 112)

35. We recognise that the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) scheme has taken steps to engage Members on their pensions but more needs to be done to raise awareness. The busy role of Members, the complexity of the scheme and a need to understand the tax implications and benefits associated with Members’ pensions means that there is a need for sound financial advice, funded by the scheme itself, to be offered frequently to those enrolled in the scheme (Paragraph 116)

36. In view of the complexities of the McCloud judgment and its impact on the Members’ Pension Scheme, IPSA should fund the training of three pension advisers to ensure that members of the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) have access to financial advice on their pensions. Advisers should have an in-depth knowledge of the scheme and Members should then be required to pay for using the service. (Paragraph 117)

37. The PCPF should also continue to find ways to communicate the pension situation and changes with Members, working with the House and the party Whips. (Paragraph 118)

Formal minutes

Monday 6 February 2023

Members present:

Sir Charles Walker, in the Chair

John Cryer

Michael Fabricant

Rt Hon Sir Greg Knight

Giles Watling

General Election Planning and Services

Draft Report (Smoothing the cliff edge: supporting MPs at their point of departure from elected office), proposed by the Chair, brought up and read.

Paragraphs 1 to 119 read and agreed to.

Summary agreed to.

Resolved, That the Report be the first Report of the Committee to the House.

Ordered, That the Chair make the Report to the House.

Ordered, That embargoed copies of the Report be made available (Standing Order No. 134).

Adjournment

Adjourned till Monday 20 February at 4.30pm.


Witnesses

The following witnesses gave evidence. Transcripts can be viewed on the inquiry publications page of the Committee’s website.

Monday 20 June 2022

Nick de Bois CBE, Former Member of Parliament; Stephen Gethins, Former Member of Parliament; Mr Mark Prisk, Former Member of ParliamentQ1–12

Monday 24 October 2022

Alex Gordon Shute, Founder, Ithaca Partners; Dame Jane Roberts DBE, Visiting Fellow, Open University; Professor Meg Russell, Director, Constitution Unit, University College LondonQ13–32

Monday 14 November 2022

Marianne Cwynarski CBE, Director General (Operations), House of Commons; John Owen OBE, Director of Strategic Business Resilience, House of Commons; Chris Sear, Director, Members’ Services Team, House of Commons; Kate Emms, Director of Member Engagement, House of Commons; Rob Sanders, Director of Live Services, Parliamentary Digital ServiceQ33–67

Monday 12 December 2022

Luciana Berger, Former Member of ParliamentQ68–94


Published written evidence

The following written evidence was received and can be viewed on the inquiry publications page of the Committee’s website.

GEP numbers are generated by the evidence processing system and so may not be complete.

1 Association of Former Members of Parliament (GEP0001)

2 General Election Planning Group (GEP0006)

3 Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) (GEP0004)

4 Nokes MP, The Rt Hon Caroline, (Chair, Women and Equalities Committee) (GEP0005)

5 Sense about Science (GEP0003)


Footnotes

1 Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, Leader of the House of Commons, “Delivering through Parliament for the British people”, accessed 26 January 2023

2 Administration Committee, First Report of Session 2005–06, Post-Election Services, HC 777; Administration Committee, First Report of Session 2013–14, First weeks at Westminster: induction arrangements for new MPs in 2015, HC 193; Administration Committee, First Report of Session 2016–17, Election Planning and Services, HC 588

3 Administration Committee, First Report of Session 2013–14, Election Planning and Services, HC 588, paras 3–6

4 Qq1–2 and 9

5 Qq9 and 76

6 Q56

7 Q9

8 Independent Parliament Standards Authority (IPSA) (GEP0004)

9 Q35

10 Q64; General Election Planning Group (GEP0006), para 7

11 General Election Planning Group (GEP0006), Annex C, para 3c; Independent Parliament Standards Authority (IPSA) (GEP0004)

12 Dame Jane Roberts, Losing Political Office (Open University, 2015), “Exiting the political stage: exploring the impact on representative democracy”, British Politics 14 (4): 391–407 and “The underappreciated loss of political office”, Journal of Loss and Trauma 24 (8) 706–720; Amy Nethery, Peter Ferguson, Zim Nwokora and Matthew Clarke, Transitioning to Life after Parliament, (Deakin University, 2021)

13 Q28

14 Nethery and others, Transitioning to Life after Parliament, p. 9

15 Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, Leader of the House of Commons, “Delivering through Parliament for the British people”, accessed 26 January 2023

16 Q27

17 Q24

18 Dame Jane Roberts, Losing Political Office, pp. 4 and 10–12 and “Exiting the Political Stage”, pp. 396–97; Kevin Theakston, Ed Gouge and Victoria Honeyman, Life After Losing or Leaving: The Experience of Former Members of Parliament (University of Leeds, 2007), p. 10

19 Theakston and others, Life After Losing or Leaving, p. 6

20 Informal discussions with former Members

21 Q72

22 Dame Jane Roberts, Losing Political Office, p. 14

23 Theakston and others, Life After Losing or Leaving, p. 6; Dame Jane Roberts, “Exiting the Political Stage”, p. 396

24 Q22

25 Dame Jane Roberts, Losing Political Office, p. 2

26 Nethery and others, Transitioning to Life after Parliament, p. 23

27 Q5

28 Q6

29 Q8

30 Q74

31 Q5

32 Q7

33 Qq5 and 6; also during informal discussions with former Members

34 Qq72–74

35 Informal discussion with former Members

36 Q33

37 Association of Former Members (GEP0001)

38 Q12

39 Informal discussion with career transition experts

40 Nethery and others, Transitioning to Life after Parliament, pp. 50–51

41 Nethery and others, Transitioning to Life after Parliament, p. 48

42 The Individual Assistance Programme (IAP) is an independent and confidential service for MPs which provides support and advice on work-related, health or personal issues.

43 Q60 – this was confirmed by the Director of the Members’ Services Team in advice received.

44 Q61

45 General Election Planning Group (GEP0006), Annex A, para 12

46 Q24

47 Dame Jane Roberts, Losing Political Office, pp. 11–12

48 Nethery and others, Transitioning to Life after Parliament, p. 41

49 Informal discussion

50 Q32

51 Informal discussions with former Members

52 Dame Jane Roberts, Losing Political Office, p. 15; Nethery and others, Transitioning to Life after Parliament, pp. 20–21

53 General Election 2019: full results and analysis, Briefing Paper CBP 8749, House of Commons Library, January 2020, p. 43

54 Calculations based on data provided by the House of Commons Library, 20 January 2023

55 Q70

56 Q22

57 Theakston and others, Life After Losing or Leaving, p. 20

58 Association of Former Members (GEP0001)

59 Qq3–4 and 78; also during an informal discussion with former Members

60 Q2

61 Nethery and others, Transitioning to Life after Parliament, p. 10

62 Q16

63 Association of Former Members (GEP0001)

64 Q7

65 Theakston and others, Life After Losing or Leaving, p. 22

66 Q7

67 Q7

68 Q6

69 Informal discussion

70 Informal discussion. For details on the Career Transition Partnership see https://www.ctp.org.uk/

71 For details see https://www.uksport.gov.uk/afn

72 Informal discussion with career transition experts

73 Association of Former Members (GEP0001)

74 Q86

75 Informal discussion with career transition experts

76 Informal advice from staff in the Scottish Parliament

77 Nethery and others, Transitioning to Life after Parliament, p. 39

78 Q86

79 Informal discussions with former Members

80 Nethery and others, Transitioning to Life after Parliament, pp. 11 and 55–56

81 Q93

82 Q14

83 Association of Former Members (GEP0001)

84 Theakston and others, Life After Losing or Leaving, pp. 26–27

85 Informal discussion with former Members

86 Sense About Science (GEP0003)

87 Qq19–21; informal discussion with a career transition expert

88 Informal discussion

89 Q63

90 Q64

91 Association of Former Members (GEP0001)

92 The winding-up period for Members who stand down or lose their seat at an election begins the day after the election and Members have a maximum of two months to complete the tasks required to close their offices. This includes practical and administrative tasks, including the termination of office leases and settling of outstanding office costs and payments, the clearance of offices and the redundancy of office staff. For further information see https://www.ipsaonline.org.uk/guidance/ending-employment

93 Qq8 and 9

94 Q77

95 Q8

96 Q9

97 Q9

98 Q27

99 Qq10 and 77 – For comparison, in the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Parliament / Senedd Cymru Members can retain staff for up to three months to assist with the winding-down of offices (information provided by the House of Commons Library, 26 January 2023).

100 For further information on the winding-up payment see https://www.ipsaonline.org.uk/guidance/ending-employment

101 Q10

102 Informal advice from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

103 General Election Planning Group (GEP0006)

104 Informal discussion with representatives from IPSA

105 Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) (GEP0004)

106 Qq 42–46

107 Q9

108 Q76

109 IPSA Guidance online, “Loss of office payment”, accessed 5 January 2023

110 Weekly pay is capped at £571 – see “Redundancy: your rights”, accessed 5 January 2023

111 Q9

112 Q9

113 Q9

114 Q25

115 Q25

116 Q27

117 Currency conversions based on exchange rates on 2 February 2023

118 Members of the Bundestag Act 1996 (amended 2021), section 11 and section 18

119 Members of the Bundestag Act 1996 (amended 2021), section 23

120 Currency conversions based on exchange rates on 2 February 2023

121 Australian Government, Remuneration Tribunal (Members of Parliament) Determination 2022, paras 2.1 and 4.7 and table 4.7

122 House of Commons, Canada, Frequently Asked Questions – pension plan, pay and benefits of departing Members of Parliament and during dissolution of Parliament, undated, accessed 6 June 2022; for salaries and allowances see Indemnities, Salaries and Allowances, accessed 2 February 2023

123 Information provided by the House of Commons Library, 6 June 2022

124 IPSA Guidance online, “Loss of office payment”, accessed 5 January 2023

125 Figure provided by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, 2 February 2023.

126 Informal discussion with former Members

127 Calculation based on data provided by the House of Commons Library, 26 January 2023 – this assumes that there will be an election in the autumn of 2024, when the average age of a Member elected in 2019 will be 47, based on those who provided their ages at the last election, while the length of complete years of service will be three.

128 Information provided by the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF), 1 February 2023

129 Informal discussion with representatives of the PCPF

130 The Members’ Pension Scheme was reformed along the same lines as other public service pension schemes in May 2015. A new scheme was introduced with pensions based on salary in each year of service (a Career Average Revalued Earnings scheme), rather than final salary. The McCloud judgment subsequently ruled that the transitional protection arrangements for the introduction of the new public service pension schemes in 2015 to be discriminatory on grounds of age. Although the PCPF was not initially affected by the judgment, IPSA decided that the PCPF should remain in line with the Government’s approach to other public service schemes. In February 2022, IPSA launched a consultation on the Members’ Pension Scheme to seek the views of those enrolled in the Scheme on its proposed approach (information provided by the House of Commons Library, July 2022).