Monday 29 January 2007 at 5.00 pm in Speaker's House
The Speaker, in the Chair
Sir Stuart Bell
Leader of the House
Mr David Maclean
Mrs Theresa May
1. SENIOR SALARIES REVIEW BODY
The Committee took note of the statistical information requested by the SSRB and provided by the Department of Finance and Administration.
2. COMMUNICATIONS ALLOWANCE
The Committee considered the new Section of the Green Book, subject to further drafting changes, and the proposed claim forms. It was agreed that the Clerk of the House should determine and approve an adequate number of staff to operate the allowance effectively.
It was agreed that a new Communications Allowance should be linked to the Speaker's decision to limit annual spending on franked stationery to £7,000 from 1 April 2007. Officials were instructed to operate a system (similar to that used on Members' allowances) to alert Members whose ordering of stationery risked taking them over the limit. Staff should refuse to issue stationery in excess of the limit.
It was agreed that there should be a separate, comprehensive, booklet covering the communications allowance (including the proposed sections for the Green Book) and the use of franked stationery. The new system would also be communicated to Members through party whips and the all-party whip. Seminars would be arranged for Members' staff.
It was agreed that the Committee would produce a report recommending the new arrangements to the House; and that this report would be agreed by the end of February in time for a debate in the House before the end of March.
3. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
The Committee decided that the publication scheme for information on Members' allowances operated over the past three years would continue notwithstanding any change in the law which might result from passage of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, which had received a second reading on 19 January and was committed to a public bill committee.
4. EUROPEAN TRAVEL ALLOWANCE
The Committee agreed that the European travel scheme be extended to include all countries belonging to the Council of Europe; and that this should apply to all Members; and that the number of visits per year should remain at three.
5. CHILDCARE COSTS
The Committee agreed that Members should be put on the same basis as Members' staff and staff of the House and that a single childcare voucher scheme should be developed. A further paper would be considered at the next meeting.
6. FUTURE MEETINGS
The Committee agreed that, after its next meeting on 12 March, meetings would be held on Mondays 30 April, 21 May, 18 June and 16 July.