The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is the body created by Parliament to independently oversee and regulate MPs’ expenses, pay and pensions. Tomorrow, they release a consultation document on what they propose to bring forward after the next election.

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, IPSA Chair, made a related speech on 5 July. I thought these sections particularly interesting:

There was even a time during the Middle Ages when each community paid its own MP. A number of cunning plans emerged – some communities paid their MPs in fish or local produce so as not to have to find the money.

And, of course, there was always the subtext: should MPs be paid at all. In 1839, the Chartists made pay for MPs one of their six ‘key points’. By contrast, John Stuart Mill campaigned against pay, saying that, if MPs were paid, being an MP ‘ would become an object of desire to adventurers of a low class’. …

It may appear even more pedantic to remind everyone, including leading politicians, that IPSA was created by Parliament to effect a clean break with the past. That past, as regards pay, was a frequent rejection by the Government of the day, with MPs, often reluctantly, falling into step behind them, of external bodies’ recommendations that MPs’ pay be increased. This rejection was coupled with a gradual engorgement of a system of “allowances”. It was inevitable that such an approach would end in tears. The only hope for successive Governments, all of whom knew that things were a bit dodgy, was that when the balloon went up, it would not be on their watch. The balloon duly went up in the summer of 2009.

My hope is that, as the discussion is joined, political leaders will accept that we have a job to do which they gave us. If they do really believe that pay and pensions should never ever again be the business of MPs, they should enter the debate with care and accept that external, independent regulation means what it says: that you don’t tell the regulator what to do. It also means that you trust the regulator to have a vision for the future that does not ignore the present.

IPSA is independent so there is little point me commenting on their proposals. However, if they propose arrangements which the public cannot bear, which the media think scandalous and which party leaders feel obliged to condemn, then we may as well vote on it ourselves.

Last time we did so, we voted down a pay rise.

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