We undertook to review the Scheme for MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses each year. This year’s Review reflects our commitment to introduce improvements in the administration of the Scheme wherever possible. It also continues the process of evolution towards a Scheme which gives appropriate discretion to MPs in the management of their affairs, commensurate with assurance to taxpayers as to how their taxes are spent.
We conducted our Review in a time of severe economic restraint. MPs cannot be immune to this. What we set out, therefore, reflects a compromise between what may be appropriate in an ideal world and what can be afforded.
The Scheme has already evolved significantly, and therefore much of this Review was refining the rules rather than making substantive changes. In addition, the Review pays special attention to MPs’ needs for staff. It is an important issue: if MPs are to serve their constituents they need the support of staff. But, as MPs work in many different ways, arriving at some standard approach is not easy. We have carried out a thorough examination and set out a way forward that recognises the increased demands on MPs since the last review nearly five years ago. We give MPs a clear budget limit for staff, but one that allows for flexibility so as to reflect the differences in their ways of work. This staffing budget is not to meet the personal expenses of MPs: it is to cover the important business cost of employing staff.
One other area warrants comment here. We explored in this Review the separation between parliamentary functions and party political activities. Taxpayers’ funds are not to be used for the latter. Recognising that MPs are politicians, we have identified certain activities which will not be supported and left MPs to decide whether or not others support their parliamentary or their party political work. They must then account for those decisions. This is the great strength of having a system which has transparency at its centre.
This Review, and the consultation which was a central part of it, has been greatly assisted by the responses that we have received. We wish to single out for special thanks the staff of MPs, who contributed significantly to the process. We commend the Review to MPs and taxpayers alike. We believe we have established a Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses which is fair, workable and transparent, and which safeguards the public’s money while allowing MPs to do what they were elected to do.
Professor Sir Ian Kennedy
Sir Scott Baker