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Éthique, politique et corruption au Royaume-Uni

 | 
David Fée
, 
Jean-Claude Sergeant

An Expensive Nightmare : The Early Operation of the New British MPs’ Expenses System

Mark Stuart

Résumé

Le nouveau système de remboursement des frais des parlementaires qui a été mis en place est pire que celui, totalement discrédité, qu’il remplace, telle est la thèse développée dans le présent chapitre. La nouvelle Autorité indépendante (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – IPSA) s’est muée en une coûteuse usine à gaz bureaucratique. IPSA a totalement perdu de vue le fait que pour que le Parlement puisse assurer efficacement la mission de contrôle législatif qui est la sienne, les parlementaires doivent pouvoir exercer leur activité en toute sérénité.

Texte intégral

  • 1 See for instance R. Winnett and G. Rayner, No Expenses Spared, London, Bantam, 2009 ; A. Kelso, “Pa (...)

1The purpose of this chapter is not to provide an exhaustive account of the MPs’ expenses scandal of 2009. This task has been performed adequately already.1 Instead, this account will examine the early operation of the new MPs’ expenses system, concluding that in many respects it is worse than the one it replaced.

  • 2 However, in doing so the Government ignored clear warnings from the Joint Committee on Human Rights (...)

2Indeed, such was the public furore surrounding the scandal over MPs’ expenses that Gordon Brown’s ailing Labour Government felt obliged to rush through the Parliamentary Standards Bill before the Summer recess of 2009. The legislation hastily established the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to oversee the operation of a new system of MPs’ expenses and all Commons stages of the legislation were completed within three days.2

  • 3 House of Commons Debates, 23 June 2009, col. 678.

3Taken at face value, the Government’s aims seemed laudable as they sought to restore public confidence in the parliamentary system. As Harriet Harman, Leader of the House of Commons, stated : “The public want to have full confidence in the parliamentary system. Members want there to be full confidence in the system, so that the cloud of suspicion is lifted and the reputation of the House can be restored”.3

4What the Government was doing in effect was establishing the independent body to oversee MPs’ expenses before a separate independent inquiry – the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly – had reported in the late Autumn of 2009 on how the new system of expenses should be reformed. As will become evident later, this decision meant that the IPSA overruled some of the suggestions for reforming expenses that Kelly had suggested, particularly in the area of the Additional Cost Allowance (ACA), and as this paper will show this turned out to have disastrous consequences.

The old system

  • 4 The Green Book, 2006, p. 10.
  • 5 In May 2009, Legg had been asked by the Government to review all previous claims for the Additional (...)

5The ACA, introduced in 1972, had been at the heart of the old MPs’ expenses scheme. Recognising the need for MPs to operate in both constituencies and in London, it allowed them to claim for “expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred when staying overnight away from the main UK residence for the purpose of performing parliamentary duties”.4 In 1972, the annual limit was set at £750, but this rose steadily to £1,639 in 1975-1976 before mushrooming to £24,222 by 2008-2009. Not only did the allowances scheme expand in value, it also expanded in scope : as well as mortgage interest, rent, hotel costs, claims were made for fixtures and fittings, repairs and maintenance, as well as utility bills. One of the other major flaws in the old system was that it was unclear what the money was supposed to be for. As Sir Thomas Legg,5 in his later report, observed :

  • 6 The Legg Report, 2009, Appendix 2.

6Many members have made the point to me that the maximum allowed did not and could not cover the real costs of maintaining even a modest second home. That may well be right, but the ACA was not a lump sum allowance. It simply enabled a Member to recover each year for certain types of expenditure.6

  • 7 Members’ Estimate Committee, Review of Members’ Allowances – Threshold for Receipts, House of Commo (...)
  • 8 “How Additional Cost Allowance Works", The Daily Telegraph, 2009. <http: /www.telegraph.co.uk/newstopics/mps-expenses/5335097/MPs-expenses-how-Additional-Cost-Allowance-works.html>.

7MPs could also submit expenses without the need for receipts, up to the value of £250, before this was reduced to £25 in April 2008, following a recommendation by the Members’ Estimate Committee (MEC), who were concerned to put in place a more robust system of auditing the petty cash used by MPs.7 MPs also held the power to appoint their own staff, with many choosing to employ close relatives. The scheme was governed by a set of rules outlined in the so-called “Green Book” which, in theory at least, set high standards of probity, stating that “claims should be above reproach and must reflect the actual usage of the resources being claimed”.8 Typically, MPs submitted a bundle of receipts to the House of Commons Fees Office, the body responsible for handling all MPs’ claims. A culture developed whereby MPs relied almost totally on the Fees Office as the final arbiter of the validity of their claims. When the crisis over MPs’ expenses erupted in the Spring of 2009, many MPs cited as their defence that they had relied almost wholly on the advice given by the Fees Office. While this may have been true in some cases, abuse of the old system was found to be widespread. MPs were found to have routinely used taxpayers’ money to refurbish their second homes, only to sell them on for a profit. By re-designating these homes as their primary residence, MPs could avoid paying capital gains tax and were able to pocket a tidy profit. The process became known as “flipping” and led to some outrageous cases, most notably that of Margaret Moran, the Labour MP for Luton South from 1997 to 2010, who “flipped” her second home from Westminster to her partner’s home in Southampton, ninety-five miles from her constituency, claiming £22,500 for treating dry rot in the property.

8There were two main reasons for the abuse of the system. The first reason derived from the inevitable consequence of increasing the resources of MPs as they responded to a growing public demand that they spend more time in their constituencies. Office support, travel expenses to and from Westminster, and greater accommodation costs resulted. However, these growing demands on MPs’ time were not properly remunerated in terms of their salaries. The Top Salaries Review Body (TSRB), later renamed the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB), became responsible for examining Members’ pay. However, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the recommendations it made had to be approved by a division in the House of Commons, meaning that MPs had to make the politically sensitive decision of whether or not to vote themselves a pay rise. Successive Governments, beginning with Mrs Thatcher’s first Administration from 1979 to 1983, baulked from increasing MPs’ pay, fearing a backlash. The result was that as MPs’ pay fell further and further behind comparable salaries amongst senior officials in the rest of the public sector, some members increasingly came to regard expenses as part of their income (a view encouraged by the parliamentary whips), and a claimant culture took root.

  • 9 House of Commons Debates, 21 March 2011, cols. 807-824.

9In July 2008, Gordon Brown’s Government attempted to resolve the vexed issue of MPs’ pay once and for all by asking the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSBR) to uprate Members’ salaries automatically, on the basis of a median basket of comparable jobs in the public sector. However, this carefully constructed formula came unstuck in 2011 when the Coalition Government asked MPs to set aside their pay increase and to accept a pay freeze instead. Although the Government motion was accepted without a vote, the preceding debate saw howls of protest from MPs who strongly objected to the idea of reintroducing the disastrous principle of Members once again determining their own pay.9

  • 10 It is interesting to note here in light of the recent scandals involving The News of the World that (...)

10Westminster’s secret system of expenses lay uncovered until the Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into effect on 1 January 2005. This legislation applied to MPs in the same way as to other public bodies but Members led by Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons, acting in his capacity as Chair of the Members’ Estimate Committee, resisted a full disclosure of information, fearing that the publication of MPs’ private addresses might compromise their safety. The courts rules in May 2008 that receipts had to be released as they were of direct interest to the taxpayer. However, The Daily Telegraph purchased receipts and copies of MPs’ expense claims and began to publish them in May 2009 before the official release of papers.10 For the next two months, the MPs’ expenses scandal almost entirely took over the news headlines, leading to the resignation of the Speaker and rapid legislation in the form of the Parliamentary Standards Bill.

Improvements and Contradictions

  • 11 Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, The MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 2nd ed., HC 405, 2010, p.  (...)
  • 12 Ibid., Rule 5.15.

11Clearly, the public outcry demanded swift action, and a number of new rules sought to address specific abuses in the system. For instance, if Members wanted to claim an allowance for a property outside of London, it now had to be “within the Member’s constituency or within twenty miles of any point on the constituency boundary”,11 preventing a repeat of Margaret Moran’s afore-mentioned claim for dry rot in a house located well outside her constituency. The regulation of ACA has also been tightened in relation to spouses. Under the old system, Tory MP Andrew Mackay was able to claim £1,000 a month for interest payments on a property near Westminster which he shared with his wife, Julie Kirkbride, herself an MP, while she claimed £900 for a loan on their family home, meaning they had no “main home”, and were both claiming money for their second homes. The IPSA regulations now prohibited such practices, stipulating that “if two Members elect to share rental accommodation […] the combined Accommodation Expenses budget for those two members is to be increased by two thirds of one Member’s budget”.12

  • 13 Committee on Standards in Public Life, Supporting Parliament, Safeguarding the Taxpayer, (The Kelly (...)
  • 14 Ibid., p. 58.

12But while many undoubted improvements were made compared with the old system, the fact that the Government had established IPSA in the Summer of 2009, before Sir Christopher Kelly, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, had completed his report on MPs’ expenses that Autumn,13 led to conflicting recommendations between Kelly and Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, the new chair of the regulatory body. One notable area of dispute concerned Sir Christopher’s proposed ban on MPs employing any family members on their personal staff from public funds. He justified the ban on the grounds that it was against general practice both in the public and private sector, threatened meritocracy and risked undermining public confidence in the system.14

  • 15 These observations are based on anonymous interviews with MPs.
  • 16 Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, The MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 2010, Rule 8.8.

13However, his findings ignored the reality that many MPs had employed their partners or spouses for many years. A typical case was that of Eve Burt, the wife of the Conservative MP for Bedfordshire North East, who had worked for her husband for twenty-five years. Similarly, Leo Beckett, husband of former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, had worked with her for even longer. Kelly had not taken into account the strong likelihood of strains put on personal relationships when MPs and their spouses spent so many hours apart. Rather than engaging in nepotism, by employing their partners many MPs were merely utilising one of the best means of guaranteeing seeing each other on a regular basis.15 Sensibly, IPSA disagreed with Kelly, limiting each MP to employing one family member.16

Complaints

  • 17 Parliamentary privilege grants certain legal immunities to Members of both the House of Commons and (...)
  • 18 Westminster Hall Debates, 16 June 2010, col. 145.

14Before outlining the specific complaints of MPs over the operation of the system, it is important to highlight the extent of the cultural shift that establishing IPSA involved. It was never going to be easy for MPs suddenly to adjust to the idea of an independent body overseeing MPs’ expenses.17 As one senior Tory backbencher, Sir John Stanley, put it, “never before in the history of Parliament has a statutory body outside Parliament been created with the ability to introduce rules that directly impact on the ability of Members of Parliament to perform their parliamentary duties”.18

  • 19 House of Commons Debates, 2 December 2010, col. 1018.

15Moreover, the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 had failed to construct a satisfactory means of oversight and accountability for IPSA. As Adam Afriyie MP, a trenchant critic of the new system, complained : “IPSA is judge and jury ; IPSA is both a regulator and regulated”.19 Afriyie was raising the age-old question of who was responsible for regulating an independent body in charge of regulation. While overall policy responsibility for IPSA rested with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, because IPSA was independent of Government, day-to-day operational responsibility lay with IPSA, blurring the lines of accountability between it and the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office. More generally, the IPSA case raised an important problem with quasi non-governmental organisations (“quangos”) in the UK : when exactly are government ministers accountable to Parliament for their failings, if day-to-day responsibility rests with quangos ?

16But if the oversight of IPSA was found to be in urgent need of reform, then another central flaw remained unmentioned by MPs. Although IPSA had wide-ranging powers, these did not extend to meting out punishment, which remained in the hands of the Members’ Estimate Committee. Members could therefore be found to be in breach of IPSA regulations, only to be let off with a light punishment from their fellow MPs. Surely if the Government had been completely committed to a truly independent system for regulating MPs’ expenses, it would have gone the whole hog, ensuring that the punishment fitted the crimes committed.

  • 20 House of Commons Debates, 2 December 2010, col. 1025.
  • 21 M. Korris, A Year in the Life : From Member of Public to Member of Parliament, Hansard Society, 201 (...)

17Too much of the old system had purely been based on trust. The principle was rightly established that all claims required accompanying receipts, bringing MPs into line with the rest of the public and private sector. However, basing the entire system around the reimbursement of expenses rather than paying allowances has proved problematic to say the least. MPs must now meet these costs up front, a change which had led to financial hardships in some cases. Angry MPs recounted stories of their colleagues borrowing money from their parents and sleeping on the floors of offices to save money.20 Pressure was most keenly felt by the large number of new MPs, particularly Greater London MPs with caring responsibilities, especially those with dependent children. A recent study of new MPs has found that 85 % were dissatisfied with the training provided by IPSA on how to operate the new MPs’ expenses system at the beginning of the Parliament (in comparison to the high levels of satisfaction with all other aspects of induction provided by the political parties and by Parliament), while six months later that figure had only fallen marginally to 79 %.21

  • 22 House of Commons Debates, 2 December 2010, col. 1018.

18Having attempted to regain hard won public trust in this area, when IPSA issued their first list of successful MPs’ expense claims on 2 December 2010 for the previous six months, the receipts were not published. One MP was moved to describe such decisions as “calamitous” because “it implies secrecy and concealment when MPs should have nothing to hide”.22 Moreover, such decisions came to typify the cack-handed way that IPSA was operating on a day-to-day basis.

  • 23 Westminster Hall Debates, 16 June 2010, col. 139.
  • 24 Ibid., col. 157.

19Inevitably, any new system was going to experience teething problems. But, as with so many public sector IT projects, the decision to opt for a completely on-line system for submission of expense claims, without the benefit of a pilot scheme or transitional arrangements, could be described as foolhardy at best. The outcome was entirely predictable. Brian Donohoe, the Labour MP for Central Ayrshire, spoke of a colleague who spent four hours trying to submit claims for the cost of petrol, only for the new system to crash.23 MPs also found it impossible to get through to the helpline – which was christened the “anti-helpline” – or to receive a response to e-mail requests due to a lack of trained staff. Jack Straw, the former Justice Secretary, who had played a key role in the passage of the Parliamentary Standards Act, conceded that IPSA did not make enough trained staff available at the beginning to talk MPs through the process, which could have potentially reduced the number of problems encountered later.24 Other early foul-ups included security breaches such as the wrong e-mails being sent to MPs.

  • 25 Ibid., col. 139.
  • 26 House of Commons Debates, 3 June 2010, col. 579.
  • 27 Interview with Rt Hon. Rosie Winterton MP, 2 December 2010.

20One of the central complaints against IPSA is that submitting claims took up so much of MPs’ time that it was directly impairing their ability to do their jobs properly. For example, David Winnick, a senior Labour backbencher, explained how one new MP told him that since being elected 80 % of his time had been spent as an administrator,25 while fellow Labour MP, Ann Clwyd, went as far as to say : “I did not come into this Parliament to be an accountant and yet I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to sort out all the demands on the IPSA”.26 The bureaucratic nature of IPSA was variously described as “byzantine”, as an “oligarchy” and as an “administrative monster”. Even Rosie Winterton, Labour’s Chief Whip”, acknowledged with more than a hint of understatement that “we now have a rather bureaucratic system”.27

  • 28 The Backbench Business Committee was established in June 2010, following the recommendations of the (...)
  • 29 Interview with Natascha Engel MP, 2 December 2010.
  • 30 Interview with Rt Hon. John Bercow MP, 2 December 2010.
  • 31 M. Crick, Newsnight Blog, <www.bbc.co.uk/newsnight/michaelcrick>, 8 December 2010.

21It is difficult to express on paper the sheer level of vitriol directed by MPs against IPSA during its first six months of operation. During the early Summer of 2010, the Leader of the House, Sir George Young, faced a barrage of hostile complaints during his weekly Business Question Time on Thursday mornings. In response, a one-and-half hour debate was organised in Westminster Hall on 16 June. By the Autumn of 2010, Natascha Engel, the Chair of the new Backbench Business Committee,28 was reluctant to schedule a debate on IPSA because it related more to the concerns of MPs than to their constituents’, but she felt that the “wave of opinion” amongst MPs was against her and so a backbench debate on the issue was hastily arranged on 2 December 2010.29 Similarly, while acknowledging that the old system of MPs’ expenses was unsustainable, John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, was quite adamant that “IPSA needs to change very significantly and change soon”.30 Six days later, according to the BBC Newsnight journalist, Michael Crick, at a meeting of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, MPs “suddenly went mad” when the subject of IPSA was brought up.31

Responding to Complaints

22Sir George Young, the experienced Leader of the House, co-ordinated the Government’s response to the growing demand for reform of IPSA. On 23 June 2010, he swiftly established the membership of the eight-member Speaker’s Committee on IPSA. This statutory body had been created in the Parliament Standards Act 2009 and amended in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act of 2010. The Speaker’s Committee had two fairly narrow functions : to ratify the nomination of IPSA’s chair and board members before they were put to the House and to approve IPSA’s annual resources. Initially, it comprised five ordinary MPs plus three ex-officio members : the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Leader of the House and the Chair of the Standards and Privileges Committee. As a result of the recommendations of the Kelly Report into MPs’ expenses in November 2009, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill was amended to ensure that three lay (ordinary) members from outside Parliament were added to the Committee, which duly took place on 26 January 2011. However, Sir George’s timely actions proved insufficient to stem the tide of MPs’ anger. Eventually, MPs succeeded in establishing a Liaison Group to IPSA in January 2011 designed to allow MPs to have a sounding board, through which they could channel their complaints with IPSA.

  • 32 Committee on Standards in Public Life, Response to IPSA Review of MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 2011, Point (...)

23Further pressure on IPSA to act came from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly, which published its response to IPSA’s annual review of the new parliamentary expenses scheme in February 2011. Sir Christopher noted that the principal function of the expenses scheme was “to support Members of Parliament effectively in carrying out their important and difficult jobs”, and yet he concluded that the current scheme as presently constituted is not yet succeeding in fully meeting that objective, even allowing for inevitable teething difficulties”.32

  • 33 IPSA, The MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 3rd ed., HC 890, 2011.

24One month later, on 25 March 2011, ISPA responded to these growing criticisms by announcing major changes to the system of MPs’ expenses. They agreed to extend the definition of caring responsibilities to provide more support to MPs with dependent children. Travel allowances for London MPs were increased by £1,300, while thirty-one more constituencies were now re-classified as “non-London” areas, allowing MPs from these seats to claim second home allowance, rather than commuting in and out of the capital every day. IPSA took away rental limits from accommodation expenditure, giving MPs one single budget of £19,900. Measures were also introduced with the aim of making the computer system easier to use and expanding the use of payment cards and direct payments to ease the financial burden of up front expenses. Finally, there would be a revision of MPs’ staffing budgets to reflect the needs of MPs’ offices.33 However welcome these changes were to hard pressed MPs, they were widely regarded as a case of too little, too late.

Conclusion

25There can be little doubt that a new system governing MPs’ expenses needed to be established because the British public had lost confidence in the old one. Too much of the old system was built on trust, which too many MPs forfeited by their abuse of the system. Acknowledging the need to be seen to be taking immediate action, the Brown Government rushed through the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009. However, it established a body to oversee parliamentary expenses without first exploring whether that system was sustainable in the long-run. As the constitutional expert, Lord Norton of Louth, warned as early as July 2009 during the passage of the Parliamentary Standards Bill :

  • 34 House of Lords Debates, 8 July 2009, col. 726.

[…] the problem is not one only of public disapproval of how the allowances are being administered ; it is the fact of the allowances themselves. Having an independent body dispersing public money to MPs for furniture and mortgages, however independent the body and however rigorous the rules, will not lance the boil of public anger. Believing that this Bill will have such an effect is not only misguided but dangerously so.34

26No consideration was given to simplifying MPs’ allowances, such as introducing a daily subsistence rate, or increasing the salary of MPs, thereby removing the enormous cost of administering the new expenses system, currently standing at £6.6 million.

27Some of the new regulations have undoubtedly succeeded in stamping out the sharp practices which had existed under the old system, but overall, the Government opted for an overly bureaucratic scheme run by a dictatorial independent body that has failed to recognise the complex and special nature of the job that MPs do. No system of expenses should either impoverish or impair the ability of elected representatives to do their jobs properly, and yet the new system has succeeded in doing just that. While forcing MPs to book advance train tickets may have helped assuage public anger, no-one seemed to consider the entirely predictable outcome of elected representatives finishing late in the evening and ending up to stump up the full fare anyway. Similarly, the new system initially forced MPs living in Greater London to commute to and from the House of Commons every day, but no thought was given to the adverse effect on their ability to work late and scrutinise the executive in Westminster.

28The fact that IPSA has belatedly responded to the numerous complaints of MPs should not disguise the fact that its failings are far more fundamental than mere teething problems, as the Committee on Public Standards has rightly pointed out. Insufficient note was taken of warnings of the consequences that too strict a regime of expenses would have on new MPs. As one of them commented anonymously :

  • 35 M. Korris, A Year in the Life : From Member of Public to Member of Parliament, op. cit., p. 5.

29We are now living through a post-expenses period in which parliamentary morale has collapsed and in which a new generation of untainted MPs are finding it impossible to cope with a split life, seven day a week life, young families, etc., on £60K. Many will leave.35

  • 36 Ibid., p. 3.

30There is now a very real danger that the new system of expenses will discourage quality people from becoming parliamentary candidates. Membership of the House of Commons could once again become the preserve of the independently wealthy. Already, over half of the new MPs (56 %) indicated that they took a salary cut on becoming an MP.36 Within a decade, it could be back to the bad old days of the early 1970s when half a dozen Labour MPs shared a flat, taking it in turns to sleep on the sofa.

31In short, the new system governing MPs’ expenses has turned out to be a disaster. Driven by an overriding desire to appease public anger, too little consideration was given to considering how the new system might inhibit the ability of Members to carry out their duties efficiently. IPSA entirely lost sight of the fact that MPs need to be able to do their jobs without hindrance in order for Parliament to function effectively.

Bibliographie

References

Committee on Standards in Public Life, Supporting Parliament, Safeguarding the Taxpayer (The Kelly Report), 12th report, Cm 7724, The Stationary Office (TSO), 2009.

Committee on Standards in Public Life, Response to IPSA Review of MPs’ Expenses Scheme, The Stationary Office (TSO), 2011.

Crick Michael, Newsnight Blog, BBC Website, 8 December 2010.

Heath O., “The Great Divide : Voters, Parties, MPs and Expenses” in Allen N. and Bartle J., Britain at the Polls, London, Sage, 2010.

Hansard Society Newsletter, June 2011.

House of Commons, The Green Book. A Guide to Members’ Allowances, March 2009.

House of Commons Debates, 23 June 2009 (col. 678) ; 3 June 2010 (col. 578) ; 16 June 2010 (cols. 139, 145, 157) ; 2 December 2010 (cols. 1018 and 1025) ; 21 March 2011 (cols. 807-824).

House of Lords Debates, 8 July 2009, col. 726.

Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, The MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 2nd ed., HC 405, The Stationary Office (TSO), 2010.

Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, The MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 3rd ed., HC 890, The Stationary Office (TSO), 2011.

Kavanagh Dennis and Cowley Philip, The British General Election of 2010, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Kelso Alexandra, “Parliament on its Knees : MPs’ Expenses and the Crisis of Transparency at Westminster", The Political Quarterly, vol. 80, n° 2 (2009), p. 329-338.

Korris M., A Year in the Life : From Member of the Public to Member of Parliament, London, Hansard Society, 2011.

Members’ Estimate Committee, Review of Members’ Allowances – Threshold for Receipts, HC 415, The Stationary Office (TSO), 2008.

Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, Rebuilding the House, (The Wright Report), HC 1117, The Stationary Office (TSO), 2009.

Winnett Robert and Rayner Gordon, No Expenses Spared, London, Bantam, 2009.

Notes

1 See for instance R. Winnett and G. Rayner, No Expenses Spared, London, Bantam, 2009 ; A. Kelso, “Parliament on its Knees : MPs’ Expenses and the Crisis of Transparency at Westminster", The Political Quarterly, vol. 80, 2009, p. 329-338 ; D. Kavanagh and P. Cowley, The British General Election of 2010, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010 ; O. Heath, “The Great Divide : Voters, Parties, MPs and Expenses” in N. Allen and J. Bartle, Britain at the Polls, London, Sage, p. 120-147.

2 However, in doing so the Government ignored clear warnings from the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the House of Lords Constitution Committee : “We note, with a certain irony, that although the Bill is designed to restore public confidence in the House of Commons, it is being rushed through into the statute book and will not receive proper scrutiny, as a result.” (House of Lords 124/ House of Commons 844 : 3).

3 House of Commons Debates, 23 June 2009, col. 678.

4 The Green Book, 2006, p. 10.

5 In May 2009, Legg had been asked by the Government to review all previous claims for the Additional Cost Allowance from 2005 to 2009. His report, published on 1 February 2010, required some 392 MPs (52 %) to repay funds amounting to £1.3 million. However, after a lengthy appeals process, that amount fell marginally to £1.12 million (House of Commons 348 : 28).

6 The Legg Report, 2009, Appendix 2.

7 Members’ Estimate Committee, Review of Members’ Allowances – Threshold for Receipts, House of Commons Report, HC 415, 2008.

8 “How Additional Cost Allowance Works", The Daily Telegraph, 2009. <http: /www.telegraph.co.uk/newstopics/mps-expenses/5335097/MPs-expenses-how-Additional-Cost-Allowance-works.html>.

9 House of Commons Debates, 21 March 2011, cols. 807-824.

10 It is interesting to note here in light of the recent scandals involving The News of the World that The Daily Telegraph had paid for files that had been illegally obtained though almost everyone would now accept that the decision to do so was correct in terms of the wider public interest.

11 Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, The MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 2nd ed., HC 405, 2010, p. 13.

12 Ibid., Rule 5.15.

13 Committee on Standards in Public Life, Supporting Parliament, Safeguarding the Taxpayer, (The Kelly Report), 12th Report, Cm. 7724, 2009.

14 Ibid., p. 58.

15 These observations are based on anonymous interviews with MPs.

16 Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, The MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 2010, Rule 8.8.

17 Parliamentary privilege grants certain legal immunities to Members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, including freedom of speech and freedom from arrest (on civil matters). Members are also immune from legal action in terms of slander but must adhere to the principles of parliamentary language.

18 Westminster Hall Debates, 16 June 2010, col. 145.

19 House of Commons Debates, 2 December 2010, col. 1018.

20 House of Commons Debates, 2 December 2010, col. 1025.

21 M. Korris, A Year in the Life : From Member of Public to Member of Parliament, Hansard Society, 2011, p. 4-5. The findings were based on the analysis of two surveys of new MPs, conducted in August 2010 and March 2011, to which approximately one quarter of the new intake responded. See Hansard Society Newsletter, June 2011.

22 House of Commons Debates, 2 December 2010, col. 1018.

23 Westminster Hall Debates, 16 June 2010, col. 139.

24 Ibid., col. 157.

25 Ibid., col. 139.

26 House of Commons Debates, 3 June 2010, col. 579.

27 Interview with Rt Hon. Rosie Winterton MP, 2 December 2010.

28 The Backbench Business Committee was established in June 2010, following the recommendations of the Reform Committee of the House of Commons in November 2009 (Reform of the House of Commons Select Committee, Rebuilding the House, HC 1117, 2009, aka The Wright Report). The Committee is responsible for scheduling debates on matters suggested by ordinary backbench MPs on thirty-five days per session. Its Chair is elected by a secret ballot of all MPs.

29 Interview with Natascha Engel MP, 2 December 2010.

30 Interview with Rt Hon. John Bercow MP, 2 December 2010.

31 M. Crick, Newsnight Blog, <www.bbc.co.uk/newsnight/michaelcrick>, 8 December 2010.

32 Committee on Standards in Public Life, Response to IPSA Review of MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 2011, Point 5.

33 IPSA, The MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 3rd ed., HC 890, 2011.

34 House of Lords Debates, 8 July 2009, col. 726.

35 M. Korris, A Year in the Life : From Member of Public to Member of Parliament, op. cit., p. 5.

36 Ibid., p. 3.

Auteur

Nottingham University
Depuis quinze ans attaché de recherche à l’Université de Nottingham où il participe aux travaux menés sous la direction du Professeur Philip Cowley sur le vote des parlementaires à Westminster. Il est l’auteur de deux biographies politiques, Douglas Hurd, the Public Servant (Edimbourg, Mainstream, 1998) et John Smith, a Life (Londres, Politico’s, 2005). Il enseigne la vie politique à l’Université de Nottingham et assure une contribution régulière au site www.revolts.co.uk. Mark Stuart est l’auteur de plusieurs entrées dans le Dictionary of National Biography.

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