Sir Ian Kennedy, chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) announced the rules on parliamentary allowances on Monday. There was much media comment and various aspects of the new arrangements. Sir Ian, and Sir Christopher Kelly who put Sir Ian’s template together, have made much of how the total cost of MPs will be reduced. I’ve no qualms about that, and while I can see some significant administrative problems ahead for IPSA, I think on the whole the new set-up will help restore public trust in parliament.
I’ve been looking at how the reductions in expenditure to be made. Like any other big organisation, a lot of the expenditure lines produce only modest savings. The big savings are in salaries and pensions. And so it is here. Unheralded, until now I hope, Sir Ian has announced that pensions will now be paid from MP’s staffing allowances. That means a 10% cut in salary expenditure. There’s around 2000 folk employed by MPs. I just spoke to the Resources Department at the House of Commons and they noted that it’s not their area now (it’s IPSAs) but that this would mean either pay reductions for staff or job losses. IPSA said they couldn’t tell me anything on the ‘phone and that they’d email me yesterday – this hasn’t happened yet.
Has Sir Ian really made an announcement about significant job losses and pay reductions without any consultations with trades unions and without any scope for discussion or appeal?
I should say that I’ve no idea where MPs sit in all of this. Technically, we’re told,we’re the employers. Yet we’re also told the House of Commons is. Yet neither seems to have had a say here. So who’s legally liable? In effect, Sir Ian seems personally unaccountable in his role which sees him setting pay and pensions (note that in 2012 maximum employer pension contributions will drop to 3% – what will be Sir Ian’s policy then?), disciplining and making public speeches about the hours parliament should sit. In effect, he’s the boss of parliament. If he is, and I’m not at all sure that’s a good thing, then he’ll need to behave less like a mill-owner and more like a modern chief executive.
I’ve no idea what’ll happen next. But one thing’s for sure. I won’t be casually accepting sackings are pay reductions for my staff lying down. And I doubt any of my colleagues, of all parties, will either.