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.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Home Education and Welfare - preparation for a meeting with officials

We had a short discussion on Home Education and the welfare system in the committee stage of the Welfare bill on Monday. – then look at amendments 74 and 75

My view of the situation is that we cannot hope for any substantial allowances to be made at this time, but that we can try to build on my promised meeting with officials to get some small improvements.

What improvements can you suggest? My thoughts include:

Making it totally clear in guidance that sending a child back to school is not ever an acceptable outcome if against the child’s wishes

Giving guidance on how to conduct interviews when the child is present

Better arrangements for offering homeworking opportunities

Better arrangements for offering help with starting your own business

Offering training as a childminder where this may be an appropriate option

A better understanding on what constitutes acceptable childcare

And – though with no great hope of success – another crack at allowing postal signing on