How Independent is Ipsa?

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has now been set up and a Chairman appointed, but just how independent is Ipsa?

Ipsa

Ipsa

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, was appointed to the role as Chair of the Committee and has already announced that he doesn’t particularly like the idea of MPs not being able to employ family members, nor MPs not being able to make a profit on second homes paid for by taxpayers. Well as an independent individual, he is of course entitled to express a view, if only he were actually independent and Ipsa actually had any teeth.

Ian Kennedy

Ian Kennedy

Kennedy, who is being paid £700 a day, capped at £100 000 for the first year only, is a great friend of politicians. By ’98 he had managed to find a place on the committee investigating quarantine and pet passports, he subsequently chaired the inquiry into the deaths of children during heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary. Subsequent appointments saw him become became chairman of the Health-care Commission and in October he was appointed chairman of a King’s Fund inquiry into GP standards. Seemingly a Labour Party coterie, as Alastair Campbell noted in his diary, of a stay in his house in Puyméras,  “’…there were too many party people around in one go – Neil and Glenys at the bottom of the road, the Goulds in the village, Jonathan and family about a mile away, and the Kennedys…’. Kennedy was Campbells’ phone a friend on a television quiz programme.

The claim that Ipsa is an Independent body is something if a sick political joke, as not only did the actual appointment of Kennedy have to be approved by a panel chaired by Bercow, a man who readers of this blog will know I have scant regard, comprising: Leader of the Commons Harriet Harman, shadow leader of the Commons Sir George Young, Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey, Standards and Privileges Committee chairman David Curry, senior Labour MPs Sir Stuart Bell and Don Touhig and former Labour whip Liz Blackman but far more importantly the Quango has no teeth, but before I head down that line, let us look at the panel who is responsible for Ipsa appointments. The Panel who decided to put forward Kennedy’s name for Chair of Ipsa comprises:

Felicity Huston who chairs the appointments who has held appointments including: From May 2000 to September 2008 , she was an Independent Member of the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

Sir Christopher Rose
: Kt 1985; PC 1992: Chief Surveillance Commissioner, since 2006

Martin Sinclair: Responsible for the audit of a broad portfolio of clients including the Ministry of Defence, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development, Home Office, Ministry of Justice, Northern Ireland Office and Parliament.

Cindy Butts: Deputy Chair Metropolitan Police Authority; formerly a researcher for the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and then a House of Commons Researcher; an Assessor for the Judicial Appointments Commission and more laughably; Observer for the NHS Appointments Commission.

Not at all establishment of course?

John Bercow

John Bercow

The whole thing is an establishment stitch up and the whole process so convoluted, that by MPs shouting loudly enough, Kennedy is Independent, they hope to drown out the reality. Bercow has already sent out a missive to MPs urging them to express their concerns about the Kelly proposals to Ipsa. Bearing in mind Kennedy has already expressed that he doesn’t think the Kelly report permits MPs to rip off taxpayers enough and wasn’t a ‘proper consultation’, this is but an open door. He further adds Ipsa has a statutory requirement to consult, on allowances amongst other things, a number of specified persons and bodies as specified in the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 (s5(4)). These include the Speaker of the House of Commons… well, well, well there is a surprise, it may be pertinent to now have a chance to take a look at Bercow in my article about The role of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

So what exactly can Ipsa do?

As explained in the FAQs on the Ipsa website:

What will happen to MPs who break the rules?

A Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations will be appointed, who will investigate complaints against MPs in relation to the allowances scheme and registration of financial interests and who will be able to refer findings to the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges.

The Commons Committee of Standards and Priviliges comprises of- you guessed it  -MPs and the current line-up is: (MPs claims courtesy of the Daily Telegraph)

David Curry MP (Conservative, Skipton and Ripon) (Chairman) switched second home from London flat, where he spent £785 on furniture and £1,300 a month on rent, to constituency cottage he has owned since 1987.

Kevin Barron MP (Labour, Rother Valley) claimed London flat in 2004-05 as his second home with a monthly mortgage interest of £1,509, which rose to £1,791 in 2005-06. It increased in 2007-08 to more than £2,000

Andrew Dismore MP (Labour, Hendon) Spent £275 on an Afghan rug

Nick Harvey MP (Liberal Democrat, North Devon) had to be reminded twice by parliamentary officials to submit receipts with his expenses claims

Greg Knight MP (Conservative, East Yorkshire) claimed £2,600 in expenses for repair work on the driveway at his designated second home

Elfyn Llwyd MP (Plaid Cymru, Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) claimed £4,233.38 for a replacement boiler at his second home in London.

Chris Mullin MP (Labour, Sunderland South)

Nicholas Soames MP (Conservative, Mid Sussex) claimed up to £1,340 a month for mortgage interest on Westminster home

Paddy Tipping MP (Labour, Sherwood) claimed mortgage interest payments of about £500 per month on a flat in London.

Dr Alan Whitehead MP (Labour, Southampton Test) claimed mortgage interest payments of up to £730 per month on his second home in London. Also claimed £1,942.98 for a replacement boiler.

Will I be able to make a complaint about my MPs expenses?

The Parliamentary Standards Act allows for the Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations to conduct investigations following complaints from individuals. The procedure by which this will happen will be decided by the Ipsa Chair and Members.

The Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations has not yet been appointed, but under legislation has to be approved by The Speakers Committee, who report to? Mr ‘I forgot which was my main residence ‘Bercow.

This is how thick our politicians really are:

How much will IPSA cost?

The Ipsa is under a statutory duty to aim to do things efficiently and cost-effectively. Implementation of Ipsa is still at an early stage, with various options being developed. It is too early to say how much Ipsa will cost to run as this will depend on decisions which have not been taken.

In other words, we haven’t got a clue, but we can run the country really guv. Who in the real world develops a business entity with absolutely no budget, no idea and really not caring about costs?

As a further joke the legislation provides:

Paragraph 22 sets out that the Ipsa is to be funded by money voted by Parliament. This means that it will be voted annually by Parliament in the same way as departmental resources. It is for the Ipsa to prepare an estimate of the resources it will require. It is to submit this to the Speaker’s Committee, headed by the one and only Bercow and comprising of, we can sing the chorus together… MPs.

Is the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority really independent? No I didn’t think so either.

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3 Responses “How Independent is Ipsa?”

  1. James says:

    So the chairman of the Parliamentary Standards and Privileges Committee stands down to be investigated. Also on the committee is Plaid Cymru Member Elfyn Llwyd who I noticed, from the published expense claims (2007/08),is one of a number of MPs who obtained a 25% single occupancy discount off their ‘second’ homes. The usual second home discount allowable under Council Tax rules is 10% and indeed many MPs including Cameron claim this. However the 25% SOD is only granted if the home is your one or only main home (for the purposes of Council Tax you can only have one main home)You have to agree with the relevant council that this is your main residence, i.e. you spend most nights there. So why bother to claim a large discount off Council Tax when the taxpayer picks up the tab regardless of any discount? Perhaps these MPs can then show this to the Inland Revenue as evidence this was their main home thus avoiding Capital Gains Tax upon sale. Or are they doing as Ken Clarke stated to the Telegraph that by satisfying the relevant Council their Parliamentary ‘second’ home is in fact their main home, their spouse/partner can then claim a 25% SOD off their family home thus personally saving them hundreds of pounds.Or perhaps it is a combination of both.

  2. anarchyintheuk says:

    thanks for the additional info James

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  1. [...] the legislation passed on the 20th July 2009 were expressed at the time as my derisive comments of the real independence of IPSA in November of 2009 and nothing has changed. I have been looking forward to the Audited Accounts [...]

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