After the expenses scandal in the Parliament before I was elected, authority over MPs’ pay, pensions and expenses was handed to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. MPs and the Government have no authority over IPSA under the law.
There was one occasion in this Parliament when we were able to vote on our own pay – a vote which arguably ought not to have been brought forward – and we voted for a freeze.
IPSA have made proposals to reform MPs’ remuneration after the next election (PDF). IPSA Chair Sir Ian Kennedy has said the reforms “do not cost the taxpayer a single penny more and come on the back of our already having taken tens of millions out of the cost of politics with the changes we made to the business costs and expenses.” Nevertheless, the headline proposal to increase pay to £74,000 after the next election has justifiably been greeted with incredulity and rage in the context of 1% caps in the public sector.
It is not surprising we are now being asked whether we will decline or “hand back” the proposed rise.
IPSA have insisted they will pay MPs after the election at the rate they decide and it will not be possible to turn it down. We’ve therefore been asked if we will give the rise to charity.
It is my practice to give to charity in proportion to my income. It is also my belief that charity should be a strictly private matter between the individual and their conscience. I will not therefore make any commitment in relation to my charitable giving beyond stating that I will continue my present practice.
For IPSA to have any purpose, they must reach their judgments independently. We would have to change the law to recover the power to overturn IPSA’s decisions. That would defeat the purpose for which they were established. If in the longer term their proposals remain unacceptable to the public, journalists and politicians, then we may have to abolish IPSA. That would seem a step backwards.
Finally, my expenses are published here: www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk. I live in West Wycombe and I do not have the flat in London which IPSA would allow me. I lodge at my own expense when sittings are too late to get home, which is usually just Mondays. I commute by motorcycle or train at my own expense. I do not claim late meals, taxis home, overnight accommodation, my mobile phone, an iPad or travel around the constituency, all of which are allowable.
I regret that MPs’ pay, pensions and expenses remain so controversial despite the establishment of IPSA. I also regret that similar scrutiny is not applied to the long list of public-sector workers whose pay and pensions are higher, also at taxpayer expense.