Law Commission on Parliamentary Salaries and Perks

December 7th, 2010 at 1:28 pm by David Farrar

The has published its review of the Civil List Act 1979, which sets out and expenses. They recommend:

  • Travel, accommodation, attendance and communications services for members of Parliament and members of the Executive should be determined by an independent body – an enhanced which includes a former MP and a person with appropriate skills and
    experience in the administration of Parliament
  • The RA should also determine entitlements to funding and services to support parties’ and members’ parliamentary operations
  • The Official Information Act 1982 should be extended to cover information held
    by the Speaker in his role with ministerial responsibilities for Parliamentary
    Service and the Office of the Clerk; the Parliamentary Service; the Parliamentary
    Service Commission; and the Office of the Clerk in its departmental holdings
  • The OIA should not apply to information held by members in their capacity as members of Parliament, information relating to the development of parliamentary party policies,  and party organisational material, including media advice and polling information.
  • Unauthorised absences of greater than nine days should result in 0.2% of annual salary being deducted a day. That is around $250 a day, up from $10.

Overall this looks very good. I’ve long supported the OIA applying to the financial aspects of Parliamentary Service, but have not supported full inclusion, where someone like me (for example) could send in an OIA asking for all e-mails between Phil Goff and his press secretaries. No parliamentary party could operate with its internal e-mails being made available to the media and other parties.

So I think the Law Commission have done a good job on the OIA side, as their proposals hopefully stand a good chance of being adopted.

The handing over of perks, expenses and parliamentary party funding to an independent body is also an idea whose time has come. Having a former MP and someone with parliamentary administration experience on the Remuneration Authority should mean that its decisions will be made on practical experience, not textbook theory.

I hope the Government, and indeed all parties, support the report. There may be some fine-tuning to be done, but the principles look good to me.

UPDATE: Yay the PM has just announced that the Government has accepted in principle the recommendation to have MPs and Ministers expenses set by an independent body. By the end of this term of Parliament, things will be hugely more transparent and accountable compared to 2008 and before.

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7 Responses to “Law Commission on Parliamentary Salaries and Perks”

  1. CJD (333 comments) says:

    Has anyone really taken a look at MP’s salaries. The private sector makes them look silly. So we are not necessarilly getting the best people, but those that are prepared to live with a middling salary. Add to that the fact that people generally are quick to grumble and slow to say thanks. And MP’s live in a fishbowl with no private life at all.
    Now we seek to strip them of any extras they may get. How pointless and childish. How very, very tall poppy. How will we ever get ahead as a country when we seem determined to indulge in navel gazing on a grand scale?????

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  2. insider (1,028 comments) says:

    I disagree with making this independent because it removes all accountability from politicians and gives them too easy a ride on their salaries, whihc are very high by most standards, and particularly when they are making calls on what others get and often turn that into a political football.

    There is a far less cosy club than there used to be in Parliament around setting remuneration. I like to see them having to stand up and attempt to justify their worth. Making them have some accountability perhaps makes them slightly more in touch with the realities of ordinary salary earners by forcing them to think about issues. Leaving it to outsiders means they can just wash their hands of the issue.

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  3. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    “Unauthorised absences of greater than nine days should result in 0.2% of annual salary being deducted a day”

    I hope they introduce this scheme at my work. After holidays etc are accounted for I have around 230 working days per year. I’d be very happy for them to deduct 1/500th of my annual pay in exchange for 1/230th of the year off.

    [DPF: Only around half of what an MP does is at Parliament, so I think they have it about right]]

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  4. Chris2 (766 comments) says:

    It would be better to return to the regime where a backbench MP’s salary is aligned with another occupational class, so that only if that other occupational class got an increase, so too would MP’s.

    In the past MP salaries were closely pegged to that of Headmasters and school principals.

    This method would ensure the apparently independent RA is not some tame toady patsy subject to pressure from MP’s to increase their salaries.

    I don’t see the need for a former MP to have any input, other than to exert undue pressure on the RA.

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  5. tvb (4,430 comments) says:

    I assume Sir Geoffrey had a big role to play in this and while I have been critical of his involvement on alcohol abuse, on this issue he is very well placed to be extremely effective. But I do feel disappointed that MPs cannot be trusted to be fair to the public on this. We must have a system that once an MP retires they have no further claims on the public purse except for pension entitlements.

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  6. Bryce Edwards (248 comments) says:

    Yes – the issue about applying the OIA to Parliament is crucial. So there is a great need to look further into these proposals in detail.

    But the idea of shunting the setting of MP pay and perks off to so-called independent bureaucrats is actually not any real solution at all and quite possibly makes it much worse.

    What is actually required in order to reform the system is to see it democratized and opened up to full view – and that can only really be done via our actual elected representatives. After all the main problem with the current system is not actually that MPs are involved in establishing remuneration and perks, it’s that the whole decision-making process and the use of the resources is kept firmly behind closed doors. The best solution, therefore is to have a select committee take charge of these issues. This would allow public input and a full public discussion to occur. What’s more all the political parties and MPs would have to justify their own stances on the level of MP pay and perks to the public at election time.

    Instead, at the moment there is a mania amongst politicians and bureaucrats to call for an independent body to review or oversee MP pay and expenses. It’s a con-trick of course. More often than not it’s really about trying to remove the issue from the public arena and put it again behind closed doors where it can be more carefully managed. Thus the ‘cult of independence’ in parliamentary politics is really a devious tool to take power away from the public.

    For more on this and much more, see my extensive blog post entitled “10 pertinent questions (and answers) about axing the MP international travel perk”:
    http://liberation.typepad.com/liberation/2010/11/10-pertinent-questions-and-answers-about-axing-the-mp-international-travel-perk.html

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  7. Johnboy (16,651 comments) says:

    “[DPF: Only around half of what an MP does is at Parliament, so I think they have it about right]]”

    Specially in Trev’s case.

    Doesn’t he do his best work extra-curricularly up north somewhere? :)

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