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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
tech
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
News
video
Life and Style
food + drink
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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: Management Accountant - North West London, £35-40k

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant (ACCA / CIMA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Team

£11 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A 10 year old girl who has profound an...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Manager ...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore