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Sir George Young: Expenses report should be accepted in full

I thank the Leader of the House for her statement. Can I take this opportunity also to deplore the way in which Sir Christopher’s report was selectively leaked last week?

Mr Speaker, this report was commissioned because neither the House nor the Senior Salaries Review Body was able to come up with a sustainable solution to the vexed question of our allowances. On behalf of these benches, I’d like to thank Sir Christopher and his colleagues for producing a thorough report whose conclusions we should accept in full and take forward.

My brief questions fall into two parts: first, on the process for implementing reform; and second on the substance of some of the recommendations.

First: on process.

Does the Right Honourable Lady agree that now that the report has been published, our priority should be to ensure these reforms are implemented as quickly as possible?

The position now, however, is very different to that when Sir Christopher began his review.

Then, he was going to produce the definitive response, on which we would vote and possibly resolve by this Christmas.

Since June, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Act has been put on the statute book giving IPSA – not Kelly – the final say on our allowances: so today’s report is not the last word. That rests with IPSA which currently is not yet constituted.

So does she agree it is important is that the consultation on Sir Christopher’s report and the consultation which IPSA is obliged to carry out should happen at the same time? Doesn’t that mean that IPSA should be up and running as soon as possible, taking Kelly as its text? And, if we move quickly, might IPSA come to its conclusions on Kelly by February?

Under that scenario, can she confirm that the interim arrangements might run until the IPSA regime kicks in, possibly at the beginning of the next parliament? And, related to that, does she recognise that the continued uncertainty of the timetable for establishing IPSA is causing anxiety for many of the current staff at the Department of Resources who have to keep the show on the road without knowing their future?

Finally on process, does she recognise that some of the recommendations require primary legislation? When does she plan to introduce this?

Turning to the substance of some of Sir Christopher’s recommendations:

On the employment of relatives, I declare an interest. I believe that there is insufficient appreciation of the demanding jobs that all staff do, often at anti-social hours. Many colleagues on both sides of the House, and indeed their constituents, will attest to the invaluable service that family members can and do provide, as confirmed by Sir Christopher this morning.

But does she accept, as I do, that in a modern Parliament the current arrangements no longer carry public confidence? Would she agree with me that we need to accept Sir Christopher’s recommendations while looking closely at his proposed transitional period, to ensure that the House doesn’t fall foul of employment law?

On communications, we welcome Sir Christopher’s endorsement of our proposals to scrap the Communications Allowance.

And I welcome his line on MPs retaining outside interests.

We welcome the recommendation to enable IPSA to look at pay, pensions and allowances, enabling the full spectrum of MPs’ remuneration to be considered in the round. Does she agree that it was the fragmented approach of the past that is partly to blame for the mess that we’re in today?

On accommodation, we support Sir Christopher’s recommendations. The public has lost confidence in the current regime and it has to change. As Sir Christopher says, IPSA will need to look closely at the proposals in this report. There are legitimate concerns with aspects of it, particularly the rules surrounding who was expected to get back to their constituencies at night.

Does she accept that Sir Christopher’s proposals on rent will need to be reviewed by IPSA to ensure that the overall package is not more expensive than it is at present?

On that point, does Sir Christopher’s package meet the Prime Minister’s test on reducing the cost to the taxpayer?

Finally, Mr Speaker, this issue has dogged the House for the past twelve months. The public are waiting for action. Sir Christopher provides the basis for an enduring settlement which is fair both to the taxpayer; and fair to Members of this House, existing and potential, who need the resources to do the job properly without relying on private means.

Is it not paramount that we make urgent progress in what remains of this parliament, so that we can return to our core tasks – scrutinising legislation, holding the govt to account and fighting for our constituents; and also so that we can bequeath our successors in the next Parliament the opportunity for a fresh start?

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