It has been argued that the expenses scheme introduced by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is expensive and counterproductive. It is certainly disconcerting that, in a period of austerity, IPSA appears to have increased the cost to taxpayers by a few million pounds. But IPSA’s staff seem to be working hard and so we must ensure that their efforts are achieving the objectives of the original legislation. It is therefore timely to review the operation of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 under which IPSA was established.
Whether or not the scheme costs taxpayers more than necessary is an issue that must be assessed. Another issue to consider is bureaucracy. There are concerns that IPSA may be imposing unnecessary extra burdens on MPs’ offices and consuming time previously used to serve constituents and perform parliamentary duties. The scheme’s impact on less well-off MPs and those with families is an issue of huge significance. Nobody wants to return to a Parliament where only the wealthy can thrive.
Given these concerns, a thorough review of the legislation is in the public interest. Thankfully, the House of Commons passed a motion on 12 May to re-establish the Committee on Members’ Allowances, which will assess the operation of the Parliamentary Standards Act. This is good news for taxpayers, constituents and British democracy.
The committee’s work is part of the process of cleaning up our politics and restoring public confidence in MPs. The committee will make recommendations with a view to providing value-for-money to taxpayers, whilst improving accountability and removing unnecessary bureaucracy.
In making its recommendations, the committee will give due consideration to:
- value for money for taxpayers;
- public confidence in Parliament;
- the ability of Members to fulfil their duties effectively;
- fairness for less well-off Members and those with families; and
- that Members are not deterred from submitting legitimate claims.
The Committee on Members’ Allowances will report its findings in due course. I am confident for taxpayers and constituents that we will see sensible recommendations which will cut the cost of Parliament, improve accountability and, over time, help to restore the public standing of our elected representatives.
Adam Afriyie is the Conservative MP for Windsor