Decisions 1 July 2009

Wednesday 1 July 2009 at 9.00 am in Speaker's House

Present:

The Speaker, in the Chair
Sir Stuart Bell
Mr Alan Duncan
Nick Harvey
Leader of the House

1. FOI PUBLICATION ON ALLOWANCES (MEC)

The Committee agreed that the highest priority should be the publication of information on allowances for 2009/10 on the Scottish Parliament model, including a searchable database of transaction-level information and the opportunity to call up more detailed information on individual transactions. Information on allowances for 2008/09 would be provided in due course on the same basis.

The Committee revised the editing instructions previously used for receipts and claims, as follows:

  • Manuscript comments by staff on claims requested should no longer be blanked out unless there are specific reasons elsewhere in the editing instructions relating to an individual case;
  • Letters to and from the Department of Resources should be considered on a case by case basis, with letters not being disclosed if their purpose was only to request advice;
  • Names and addresses of suppliers and contractors should be withheld only in accordance with the decision of the Information Tribunal in February 2008, i.e. if the supplier or contractor had regular access to Members' homes;
  • As regards locations of Members' homes, the information published on ACA/PAAE payments should indicate whether payments related to the Member's London home or a home in or within 20 miles of the constituency;
  • Unsuccessful or adjusted claims should be disclosed;
  • The presumption in the editing instructions that anything other than six basic categories of information should be blanked out should be removed.

The Committee agreed to place in the Library in response to a Parliamentary Question the two versions of the editing instructions used for the 2004/05-2007/08 material. It took note of paper MEC 09/033 on a recent Decision Notice from the Information Commissioner.

2. REASSESSMENT OF PAST ACA CLAIMS (MEC)

The Committee agreed terms of reference for the review headed by Sir Thomas Legg of ACA claims from 2004/05 to 2007/08, as follows:

'To conduct an independent review of all claims made by Members of Parliament (except those who have since died) for the Additional Costs Allowance during the financial years 2004-05 to 2007-08;

To examine all payments made on such claims, against the rules and standards in force at the time, and identify any which should not have been made, and any claims which otherwise call for comment;

To allow Members who received such payments or made such claims a fair opportunity to make representations about them;

Subject to any such representations, to recommend where necessary any repayments which Members should make and otherwise to comment as seems appropriate; and

To report as soon as possible to the Members Estimates Committee.'

3. WHITE BOOK (MEC)

The Committee agreed that a new White Book on pay and allowances for Members who leave the House at a general election should not be published before the Committee on Standards in Public Life has reported.

4. IMPLEMENTATION OF RECENT DECISIONS ON ALLOWANCES (MEC)

The Committee agreed that Members claiming PAAE should be asked to take the actions requested following its decisions of 20 May relating to Capital Gains Tax, rental agreements and information on mortgages by 31 July, and that PAAE payments to Members who have not taken the actions requested should cease at the end of August.

5. NEXT MEETING

The next meeting of the Commission/MEC will take place at 5 pm on Monday 20 July 2009 in Speaker's House.