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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power