David Blackburn

Harman’s statement to the Commons

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12:35: Harman says that the people need to have trust in confidence in those who are supposed to represent the public interest. The Kelly Report is another step to secure this. 

12:37: Harman suggests that Parliament has pre-empted the Kelly report on the cessation of 2nd homes allowances, pay increases, gardening etc. This is all true, but it looks slightly haughty and like being wise after the event.

12:40: Praise of the Kelly report's acknowledgement that MPs need to be within striking distance of Westminster whilst retaining the constiuency link. The emphasis on family is also praised. She urges that all to accept the recommendations in full.

IPSA, is backed by Harman and those who will sit on. IPSA is the authority that must consult MPs to decide on the future of the allowance system, that was why it was set up in the first place. This is how Harman justifies the absence of a free vote. The interim arrangements will remain in place until such time as IPSA has made its decision

12:44: Here is Sir George Young. He agrees and endorses the report in full. But:

1). IPSA has the final say, this will delay implementation, which is urgently required, because IPSA is not yet constituted. Young wants implementation to be complete by February. Harman doesn't think that legislation is required, IPSA should get on with its work.

2). Young declares his interest in employing a family member, for the good of his family. Harman sympathises and says it's an issue for IPSA, which must respect and reflect employment law.

3). There are legitimate concerns about new housing allowances, especially for those who are expected to commute from their constituency. There must be clear appraisals of the rental market to ensure that taxpayer gets value for money. Also, is there any indication that this package will reduce the cost of politics? Harman doesn't really have answer besides leave it to IPSA. Young's last point is particularly interesting, especially in that rents and hotel bills may well be more pricey than mortgage interest.

Everyone is very contrite now, I should point out, lots of references to "this annus horribilis" and much grovelling and that Parliament must get back to debating serious issues.

12:55: The Lib Dem's David Heath - praises the package not a menu of options and calls for full adoption of these reforms. Also, he asks for the opportunity, not for a vote, not to amend, but to debate the issue. Harman uses the IPSA Clause - parliament has ceded its right to debate these issues to that body.

13:00: She also says that she would consider handing over pay to IPSA. 

13:02: The Northern Irish question needs answering - what about the pay and allowances of Sinn Fein members who do not take their seats for instance, Harman says there will be no discussion of these issues.

13:05: Patrick Cormack and Peter Winterbottom (at 13:12) want a "take note debate" to explain these issues, clearly backbench Conservative movement for this. Harman understands concerns, but makes it clear that the proper course of action is to write to IPSA. I can see her reasoning - that no one wants to drag these issues out once more - but I think there should be a debate if only to clarify the issues.

13:07: Peter Bone, ever the wag, asks if Kelly is condoning wife-swapping. Harman stumbles to her usual ISPA fallback, but to be fair she is doing quite well, just momentarily thrown by the wife-swap comment.

13:08: Excellent point made here about the next parliament being one of double standards. This refers to the 2nd home allowance and mortgage interest allowance. These are to be abolsihed by IPSA when it convenes, but those MPs holding mortgages currently and who secure re-election will retain them into the next parliament. This is a very reasonable objection, but I can't see any other option as we're so near to an election.