Do MPs follow the rules on business costs?
Date published: February 1, 2021
Our data shows that MPs are overwhelmingly compliant with the rules.
We process between 150,000 and 190,000 claims from Members of Parliament each year to cover the costs of their staff, office, travel, accommodation, security and necessary adjustments for disabilities.
MPs are keen to follow the rules and we are committed to ensuring public money is well spent and well-regulated.
In the last financial year, 99.97% of claims were compliant with our rules, a record high since IPSA’s establishment. In most cases, claims that fall outside of the Scheme are due to administrative error or misunderstanding.
The 2009 expenses scandal
The expenses scandal in 2009 was a turning point in the regulation of MPs’ spending. The system in place at that time did not have the stringent rules or sufficient safeguards that we have today.
Claims were submitted, but not necessarily paid, for costs that were not directly related to an MP’s parliamentary duties. Claims were paid without supporting evidence and in a small number of cases, MPs were found guilty of fraud or false accounting.
We were created in the aftermath of the expenses scandal. We have been independently administering and regulating MPs’ business costs ever since and publish the data regularly, in line with our Publication Scheme.
Establishing a new system
When we were created, we were given three main responsibilities:
to regulate MPs’ staffing and business costs
to determine MPs’ pay and pension arrangements
to provide financial support to MPs in carrying out their parliamentary functions.
The first thing we did was to create a new set of rules for MP business costs. This would become the Scheme of MPs’ Staffing and Business Costs. We were given the independence and power to decide the rules for what MPs can and cannot claim.
The Scheme, now in its twelfth version, sets out the various budgets available to MPs, the costs we would reimburse, and what MPs need to do in order to claim for them, such as the requirement to provide supporting evidence.
Read more about what MPs spend public money on.
The Scheme is underpinned by fundamental principles which apply to MPs when they are making claims. MPs can only claim for costs that are parliamentary, must act with probity, must seek value for money in their claims, and are accountable for what they spend.
Whether claiming for the cost of a member of staff, constituency office rent or a train ticket, MPs must follow these four principles and the rules in the Scheme when they submit a claim.
Support and advice
Alongside setting the rules and regulating, we also carry out extensive work to support MPs in complying with the rules before they decide to submit a claim.
Dedicated teams of account managers speak with MPs and their staff to help them understand the rules. They answer phone and email queries daily, host a range of training sessions each month to further MPs’ knowledge of our rules, and meet in person to discuss their more complex issues.
Informing the public
It is our duty to operate transparently so you have the information you need to assure yourselves that MPs are following the rules, claiming responsibly, and if the system can be trusted.
We carry out several activities to ensure that claims are compliant with the rules and correctly evidenced.
This includes our validation processes, where we check claims individually either before or after payments. Validation ensures claims meet the Scheme rules and that business costs are accompanied by sufficient supporting evidence.
Our assurance work looks closely at specific areas of expenditure, such as MPs’ use of payment cards, to examine claiming patterns and identify risks and areas for improvement.
The results of all these activities are in our assurance reports and thematic reviews.
We publish data on MPs’ claims regularly.
Since 2015 we have also published an annual review of assurance that includes information about levels of compliance during the past financial year.
We have seen a positive trend in the data on MPs’ compliance with the rules.
Between April 2015 and March 2016, 99.4% of claims submitted were within our Scheme principles and rules. 2016-17 saw an improvement as 99.6% of claims were within the rules.
For 2017-18, a General Election year, we saw further improvements in compliance as 99.8% of claims were approved in line with our rules.
The following year saw another good year with compliance remaining the same, again with 99.8% of claims submitted falling within our rules in 2018-19.
In January we published our most recent Annual Review of Assurance for the 2019-20 financial year. We were pleased to show that 99.97% of claims were compliant with the Scheme, a record high since our inception.
We process many claims for the necessary costs associated with being an MP each year. We know most claims submitted are compliant with the rules, and incorrect claims are often due to human error or misunderstanding.
While we are satisfied with the current level of compliance, we continue to improve our processes and the service we provide to support MPs to manage their public finances.
We will be publishing our latest Corporate Plan shortly which, as well as setting out a new vision and direction for us, centres around providing excellent customer service to MPs. This will improve the support we already provide before claims are submitted and will aim to drive compliance even higher.