Member Allowances Committee: The formal minutes of the Members’ Allowances Committee list only the various formal decisions and other proceedings of a formal nature. They are not a record of all the discussions which may have been held.
Members Estimate Committee: The Members Estimate Committee considers matters relating to MPs pay and expenses insofar as these are covered by the Members Estimate. From the start of the current Parliament, responsibility for Members’ expenses has been transferred to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). The Members Estimate Committee has the same membership as the House of Commons Commission.
House of Commons Commission: The Commission is responsible for the administration and services of the House, including the maintenance of the Palace of Westminster and the rest of the Parliamentary Estate. Once a year the Commission presents to the House for its approval the ‘Estimate for House of Commons: Administration’, covering spending on the administration and services of the House for the financial year. The Commission meets approximately once a month in Speaker’s House. The Commission provides the non-executive governance of the House by Members, but it does not manage day to day operations. It has delegated this power to the senior officials who make up the House of Commons Management Board. The Commission is not responsible for expenditure on Members’ salaries, pensions and allowances.
Committee on Members Expenses: The Committee on Members’ Expenses is established under Standing Order No. 152G (as amended on 7 July 2011). Its role is to consider matters relating to Members’ expenses referred to it by the House.
Standard & Privileges Committee: The Committee considers reports from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, oversees his work and recommends any changes to the Code of Conduct or to the rules relating to the conduct of MPs, and inquires into matters relating to privilege that have been referred to it by the House.
Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority: The Speaker’s Committee considers the candidates proposed by the Speaker, following fair and open competition, for the posts of Chair and members of the IPSA. The candidates for these posts are then approved by the House of Commons and appointed by the Queen. The Committee also reviews the IPSA’s annual estimate of the resources it needs, in order to ensure the estimate is consistent with the efficient and cost-effective discharge of the IPSA’s functions, before the estimate is laid before the House by the Speaker. The Committee has a membership of 11. The Speaker, the Leader of the House of Commons and the chair of the Committee on Standards and Privileges are ex officio members, and five further members of the House of Commons are appointed by the House. In addition, three lay members are to be appointed by the House of Commons following fair and open competition. A lay member is defined under the Act as a person who is not, and has never been, a member of either House of Parliament. Lay members have not yet been appointed. The quorum of the Committee is three. (Emphasis mine)
Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA): IPSA was created by the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 and was tasked with bringing independent oversight and control over MPs’ expenses. IPSA put in place new rules which are a clean break from the past. IPSA operates transparently by regularly publishing details of MPs’ expense claims.
Notice anything about the above? No doubt readers will have ‘got it in one’. They all comprise MPs, or appointees of MPs, who decide their (MPs) pay, pension, the money required to maintain them (in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed), their ‘standards’ of probity and behaviour, the ‘rules’ under which they operate, whether they are guilty of any breach in those ‘standards’ – and it is all done ‘amongst themselves’, without any agreement, or consultation, with those that provide the monies required.
The best condemnation of the Expenses Scandal was summed up by Simon Carr in the Independent of 22nd June 2009 when he wrote that the cost was nationalised and the profit was privatised. He also proposed what is perhaps the most obvious system to negate all the problems – and public expense – caused by the foregoing committees and what are quangos. On the basis that it is well known that Legislators can make language mean what they want it to mean it has to be asked why we, the public, allow our politicians to ‘self-police’ and to self-decide what they should earn and what pension they should get, what expenses they should receive, how much their food and drink should cost them, etc. No statutory code, or set of rules, drawn up by those that will ‘benefit’ is worth the paper on which it is written!
Where politician’s ‘expenses’ are concerned, why not one website on which everything is recorded – and let those who provide the funds for that be the judge? Where MPs salaries are concerned, why not one website containing any requests from MPs for a ‘raise’ – and let those who will be providing the funds be the judge? Why not one website on which the costs of ‘Parliament’ are provided and let those whose money provide for that decide what is and is not ‘acceptable’. I believe all that to be part of the idea of ‘Referism‘ proposed by Richard North.
The foregoing negates the need for legislation, quangos, complex bureaucratic structures, summonses and appeals, interminable consultations. It puts scrutiny in the hands of the people, it devolves power to the people – which after all is what politicians maintain they wish to do. Above all, it ensures the participation of the public in politics – something that is missing at present and about which all politicians complain (tongue in cheek?).
There is another – one might say overriding reason – for the change I suggest and that is where politicians present any scheme covering their personal income or behaviour, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will already have found a way round it!
With acks to Stuart Wheeler: “A Crisis of Trust”. Crossposted at Witterings.