Saturday, June 27, 2009

House of Lords - financial provision for members

As preparation for the SSRB (senior salaries review body) report on financial arrangements (salary? allowances? expenses?) for members of the House of Lords, we're being asked our views. So I'd like to know yours.

It seems to me that:

Membership of the Lords should not be restricted to the independently wealthy - so peers should receive a (taxable) salary for attending.

Memebership should be possible for peers living a long way from London - so (vouchered) travel expenses should be allowed

Similarly some allowance must be made for overnight accommodation. I am puzzled as to the best way to do this. How do we deal with peers who attend so often that they want to have a permanent place in London?

Then there's the costs of doing the job - how much support should we receive? At present backbenchers get a computer, a desk, a telephone and free postage, plus a per-day allowance for other expenses. I'd like us to be able to afford proper research and secretarial support: perhaps by participating in a pool of people organised by the House. We'd do a better job, but we'd cost more, and so any increase should be couterbalanced by reducing our numbers.

Whatever the outcome I expect it to hasten Lords reform - why should anyone be appointed to a salary for life? But after waiting for ten years for someone to do all the reforms in one go, I'd rather get started, and deal with the financial side, than wait: the rest will follow.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lord Lucas,

I've been thinking about your questions about the Lords (who are in my opinion at the moment bastions of freedom and sense).

I agree that people should receive a stipend for their work in the House of Lords so as not to restrict membership to the wealthy.

Should the Lords have the equivalent of a company car? I agree that travel vouchers are a good idea.

If someone wants to suggest colonising a block of flats for members of the House of Lords to stay in when they are going about their duties. That might be a solution or B & Bs?

Perhaps the Lords should be able to have the equivalent of backbenchers' necessities too.

Naturally, I am going to suggest that you call on a pool of highly-talented home educators who would be happy to research and act as secretarial support. It could be seen as positive action for the disadvantaged!

There is no reason, in my view, for everything to centre on London and the South East. By being located in other parts of the country, people are disadvantaged.

I also think that with this brave new world of Skype, good deals on broadband and telephones as well as twenty-four hour coverage of the debates on restricted t.v. there is no reason why the Lords should have to travel repeatedly to London.

Oh, perhaps individual members could 'hot desk' when others are not in post (which would save on equipment). It might be helpful to analyse if and when the Lords are present and use the information to predict how much support will be needed.


12:41 pm  
Anonymous David Hough said...

The solution to the accommodation issue might be to operate it on the same basis as the shared-ownership schemes. If a peer (or indeed, an MP) wishes to have a second home in London, the government is entitled to a proportion of the increase in equity of the property over the duration of the arrangement. that way, if a peer pays for it all then the capital gain (subject to the inevitable tax rules) is theirs to keep, but if they claim an allowance towards it, a suitable formula should determine how much equity they get back when it is sold. This should work both ways, if the value goes down then the taxpayer eats some of the loss in proportion to the relative contribution.

Alternatively, as I see has been suggested, a suitable block of furnished apartments available either for longer-term residence or bookable for short-term stays as if they were self-catering hotel rooms.

10:45 pm  
Blogger Working Dad said...

I believe that members of both the commons and the lords should be provided with the same system of salaries and expenses. Members of both houses are working for the country and should be paid / reimbursed in a similar fashion.

The expenses issue need not be complex, members should be reimbursed any reasonable expenses they have incurred in the carrying out of their duties. If the details (including full, unredacted, receipts) of all expenses claimed, together with the justification for incurring that cost, were to be made publicly viewable both online and by visiting the house, with members being obliged to answer any reasonable queries, then I believe the system could become pretty much self regulating as the public would soon pick up on and query any suspicious claims.

I like the idea of a pool of researchers / secretarial support and believe that each member should have their own office facilities within the house (desk / computer / phone / filing etc).

As for accommodation, I would suggest a capped limit for overnight stays where necessary (again - fully detailed receipts and justification to be made public), should somebody attend so regularly that it would be cheaper to provide a permanent place then they could put forward a business case which if approved would entail the house providing an apartment (of reasonable though not excessive standard) which would remain the property of the house and not belong to the member.

Presumably, a number of apartments would be required, could these not be pooled with those for the commons and provided within one building which could have secure communications links with IT systems in both houses and comprehensive security provision.

Should any members want anything over and above the basics provided by the house then they could feel free - at their own expense.

12:56 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lord Lucas,

I am a little alarmed at the information that is leaking through various sources that EO is setting up to become a new council to judge home educators.

I hope that EO and others involved will recall that they are NOT representative of most home educators, but that 90% of home educators represent themselves. It is most unfair that a few members of EO should be favoured in this way.


1:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lord Lucas,

I am not keen on a Home Education council because it is likely just to be a quango to rubber stamp any random ideas of the Secretary of State to beat us parents about the head with. Additionally, if there is a council then the Secretary of State could say he 'consulted' with home educators and ignore what non-council members say. The Secretary of State would appoint whoever he liked to be a member of this council. I sincerely doubt it would be someone like me, but it might be someone like Mr. Badman who, although he has never home educated anyone and has 'studied' it for a few months, is apparently an expert on it. Mr. Badman is also Head of Becta which is a government arm pushing for all children to have ICT at home as well as school. I think these things should be choices that children make, not that the government forces upon them.

This council could be a counterproductive development for the home educating community.

Thanks for listening to home educators.


7:35 pm  
Anonymous Happy said...

I applaud any steps which will repair the damaged bond of trust between the people and the House. It is fair and reasonable - and right - that Members be paid. The nervousness of the public stems from the concept of "open ended" expenses - so perhaps for researchers etc an agreed cap could be set, based on existing Civil Service grades and terms? Without more trust the public will become more alienated from the House - not desirable on many levels.

1:53 pm  

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