” Now MPs want their own union to push for better pay because of new expenses regime’s ‘huge burden’
Labour MP says his colleagues have no one to fight their corner against independent watchdog
By Jason Groves, Political Correspondent Last updated at 8:11 AM on 16th December 2011
MPs are plotting to set up their own trade union to fight for better pay and expenses – amid claims that a tough new expenses regime has imposed a ‘huge burden’ on them.
Labour MP Barry Sheerman revealed the idea in the Commons yesterday as MPs launched an attempt to return to the discredited old expenses regime that heaped shame on Parliament.
Mr Sheerman said MPs had no one to fight their corner against the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), set up to clean up Parliament in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal.
He said many felt ‘exposed’ and needed the backing of a union or ‘parliamentary association’.
He was backed by millionaire Tory MP Adam Afriyie, who has led the campaign for MPs to be given flat-rate allowances potentially worth tens of thousands of pounds a year to cover expenses.
MPs would no longer have to provide receipts for most second homes and travel expenses.
Mr Afriyie, chairman of the Members Expenses Committee, said MPs needed a trade body to ‘give the other side of the story’ on expenses.
He said: ‘If we think about the rest of society and the work we do as MPs – this is not a sob story, but I am sure that it will reported as such – we will realise every other body has a pressure group, a trade association, a trade union or a communications or public relations company working for them.’
The idea was ridiculed last night by critics, who point out that MPs enjoy lavish expenses, a salary of more than £65,000 and one of the best pension schemes in the country.
Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘If they are open and transparent about their expenses, the actions of honest politicians can speak for themselves.’
During a two-hour debate, Mr Afriyie said it was unfair expenses details were now published.
The regime also threatened to make it harder for MPs from humble backgrounds to get by, he said.
He called on MPs to back a Commons report which suggested Ipsa should be effectively broken up, with administration returned to the discredited Commons Fees Office.
Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper warned the suggestions threatened to ‘trespass on the independent system’.
Former Labour Cabinet minister Andrew Smith said the public would see the changes as ‘self-serving’.