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Members of the House of Commons salary and expenses

On 21 March 2011 the House of Commons agreed to the motion that means that the 650 MPs will forgo a recommended 1 per cent pay rise effective from 1 April 2011. The proposed pay rise resulted from a determination of the Senior Salaries Review Board released on 19 January 2011. The motion makes provision for MPs' salary and those of chairs of select and general committees to be frozen for two years at the salary level on 31 March 2011, that is at £65,738. The motion passed without a vote. Most Members of the House of Lords do not receive a salary but may be entitled to financial support arising out of their parliamentary duties.

However it has been reported that MPs were unhappy at having to vote on their own pay. It is argued that the measures put in place following the expenses scandal of 2009 meant that such a decision would be made outside the parliament. It also comes at a time when the government has introduced stringent measures to cut the deficit including a pay freeze for the public sector.

This comes on top of a series of issues relating to MPs’ pay and lack of regulation in their entitlements.

As a measure to address these issues the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) was created by the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009. Independent of both government and Parliament, IPSA was asked to devise a new scheme of expenses for MPs to help restore public confidence in the allowances system. Under the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 IPSA is also set to take over the setting of MPs pay.

On 2 December 2010 IPSA published the details of 20 000 expense claims made by 576 MPs. These were the first claims made and paid under the new independent expenses regime introduced after the 2010 General Election. However the new system has been criticised as being too bureaucratic and cumbersome and for blocking legitimate claims. The House of Commons passed a motion in December 2010 ordering IPSA to introduce a fairer and simpler system by April 2011.

On the 29 March 2011 IPSA announced that it has achieved £18million savings for taxpayers over the past 10 months and introduced changes to MPs expenses to allow more spending on accommodation, travel, and staff following criticisms that the expenses regime was "anti-family" and too bureaucratic. The changes also include:
• extending the definition of caring responsibilities to provide more support to MPs with dependent children
• changing the definition of the London Area to be 20 miles from Westminster – 97 MPs will be defined as London MPs
• simplifying the structure of the budgets for office costs and making clear the distinction between business costs and personal expenses
• revising MPs’ staffing budget to reflect the needs of MPs’ offices.

IPSA has proposed new measures to simplify the processing of expenses and claims by:
• expanding further the use of payment cards
• expanding further the availability of direct payments
• simplifying the process for claims mileage claims
• improving the technology to make it easier to use.

It is expected that the new expenses scheme will allow MPs to do their job and provide assurance and transparency to the public.

(Image sourced from UK Parliament: http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/directions/)