UK Politics

MPs resist watchdog's proposal to curb expenses

Westminster Parliament
Image caption The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was set up after the 2009 expenses scandal

A powerful MPs' group has rejected a plan by Parliament's financial watchdog to cut expenses.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority wants to ban claims for tea and biscuits and installing televisions in second homes.

It also proposes cutting costs on hotel bills and evening meals.

But the Commons Standards Committee insists that other professionals would be able to claim such expenses in compensation for unsociable hours.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) was set up following the MPs' expenses scandal of 2009 and it has frequently come into conflict with those whose behaviour it was set up to police.

'Hard to believe'

In its latest report, it proposed MPs should get a £7,000 pay rise. But it said they should no longer be able to claim for:

  • A £15 evening meal when Parliament sits after 1930
  • Hospitality tea and biscuits
  • Hotels before 0100
  • Taxis home before 2300
  • Contents insurance for a second home
  • Installing a TV in a second home

Ipsa says these perks cost the taxpayer £161,000 in 2011/12, about £250 per MP, and that most professional people would be expected to pay for them themselves.

But the Standards Committee, in its formal submission to Ipsa's consultation, disagrees, saying MPs are like police, solicitors and junior doctors and should be able to claim expenses in compensation for "regular unsocial hours or residence away from home".

It adds: "Practices vary widely within and between professions. In some professions there is indeed no reimbursement for unsocial hours and the associated costs of those hours but salaries may be supplemented to compensate."

The committee is asking Ipsa to "establish an evidence base for the proposals", adding: "We do not consider that Ipsa has made a case for changing the boundary of the existing scheme of business costs and expenses."

It says: "We find it hard to believe that employers in other sectors would expect their employees to wait until 0100 before booking a hotel."

Internet access

On the curb on taxis before 2300, the committee says: "We are also concerned about the effects of such rules on members' ability to perform their duties effectively.

"We note that many committees begin work at 08.55, and members are expected to attend regardless of the hour at which they ended their work the night before."

And on the ban on claims for getting a TV installed, it says: "Since MPs' work involves being informed and available at virtually any hour, we consider access to media and the internet when residing away from home is a legitimate business expense."

The consultation on the proposals - including the pay rise - ended on Sunday.

Ipsa says it will announce its final decision on both pay and conditions before Christmas.

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