House of Commons Speaker John Bercow demands four expenses watchdog board members re-apply for their jobs

 

The independence of the watchdog which sets MPs pay and expenses has been called into question after it emerged that the House of Commons Speaker had demanded that four of its board members re-apply for their jobs.

Correspondence released by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) revealed that John Bercow insisted that four board members could not be automatically re-appointed to their positions when they came up for renewal in January.

Instead he said he had taken legal advice which stated they would have to re-apply for their roles in an open competition and that former MP should have a key say in deciding whether they should keep their jobs.

As a result the four board members whose contracts were up for renewal decided not to reapply while the chair of IPSA warned that Mr Bercow’s intervention could undermine public trust in the organisation.

The new arrangements, Sir Ian Kennedy said, introduced “a level of parliamentary influence which I believe could cause some to question IPSA’s future independence”.

Ipsa took charge of MPs' expenses in 2010 in the wake of the scandal that engulfed Westminster.

However, tough new rules sparked fury among many politicians, who complained that they were having to subsidise their work and that claims were taking up too much time.

Although some elements of the system have been eased tensions remain.

The regulator is currently carrying out a review of MPs' pay, amid calls for salaries to be raised, and has already signalled that MPs pensions will be cut.

In a series of letters, which were sent over the summer and published today, Sir Ian made plain that he disagreed with the Speaker’s insistence that he was legally obliged to hold a full selection process, estimated to cost as much as £100,000 to carry out.

He also said forcing the four board members to reapply for their jobs would create the “perception” that they had failed in their duties.

Sir Scott Baker, Jackie Ballard, Ken Olisa and Isobel Sharp have now decided to leave Ipsa, meaning it will haemorrhage experience.

Sir Ian added that the inclusion on the selection panel of the former Tory MP Peter Atkinson would “inevitably introduce a perception of party politics”.

“This would be wholly undesirable given the need for Ipsa to be and be seen to be independent of political influence,” he wrote.

An Ipsa spokesman confirmed that four board members would be leaving, adding: “Of course, these are individual choices but one contributing factor was their concern about the process used to appoint and reappoint members to the Board.”

It is understood that the process of identifying new board members is well advanced and their names will be put to parliament soon.

The Speaker's Office played down the row, insisting it was merely a disagreement over “legal interpretation” of the Parliamentary Standards Act.

But a spokesman confirmed it had declined a request from Sir Ian to seek legal advice on the meaning of the Act.

The Commons spokesman said: “The existing four 'ordinary' board members were appointed for a three year fixed term which will expire on January 10, 2013.

“The Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 states that candidates put to the House for appointment to Ipsa must have been selected on merit and on the basis of fair and open competition.

“The Speaker took legal advice which confirmed that this provision required him to initiate a fair and open competition at the end of every fixed term.

“The Speaker accordingly set up an independent panel, including Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, to run such a competition.

“Under the statute, the current board members may be re-appointed once only for a term of up to three years, subject to the requirement that they re-apply and are again selected on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition.

“The current four ordinary members chose not to re-apply.”

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn