What powers does IPSA have?
IPSA is responsible for setting, administering and regulating MPs’ pay and business costs.
Our role is to ensure MPs have the resources they need to support and represent their constituents while also providing assurance to the public that their money is being well spent.
We have several powers that help us fulfil our responsibilities. These include those given to us by the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 as well as measures we put in place to ensure we can regulate effectively.
Parliamentary Standards Act 2009
The Act provides us with a variety of powers and responsibilities.
We can use these powers to ensure MPs comply with the rules of the Scheme of MPs’ Staffing and Business Costs (the Scheme).
Section 9 specifies the powers the Compliance Officer for IPSA has to investigate payments made to MPs if there is reason to believe the payment should not have been allowed. It states MPs must provide the Compliance Officer with any information reasonably requested within a period the Compliance Officer reasonably requires.
Section 10 states that providing false or misleading information for allowances claims is a criminal offence, the penalty for being found guilty of which is up to one year’s imprisonment, a fine or both.
Schedule 4 gives the Compliance Officer for IPSA the power to issue fines of up to £1,000 if an MP has failed to comply with a request for information or a repayment direction.
Deciding MPs salaries
We determine each MPs’ annual salary. This is based on an assessment of wages across the public sector. We also carry out a mandatory review of MPs’ pay in the first year of each new parliament as well as periodic reviews and consultations.
Although we make the final decision on MPs’ pay, we also consult various bodies beforehand. These include the Minister for the Civil Service, the Treasury and the Review Body on Senior Salaries. We also consult MPs, the public and anyone else we feel will be affected by our decision.
We set policies that indicate what can be considered legitimate business costs for MPs. These policies are published in the Scheme and in additional guidance for MPs on our website.
The environment in which MPs work is constantly changing, so we review our policies regularly to support them as best we can.
Our dedicated Policy team reviews and adapts our regulations to provide appropriate levels of funding to help MPs to do their job. A new Scheme is published every year, with additional addendums included when necessary.
We decide the budget allocation for each MP. MPs have:
an annual Office Costs budget to help them with their constituency work
an Accommodation budget to enable them to work in both Westminster and their constituency
a Travel budget for when they are travelling on parliamentary business, and
a Staffing budget for employing staff such as caseworkers and parliamentary assistants
Office Costs, Accommodation and Staffing are all capped, so we determine how much money is available depending on the circumstances and the needs of each MP. For example, MPs in the London area will incur greater Office and Accommodation costs than those outside London, so their Office and Accommodation budgets are bigger.
We also make allowances for MPs who have caring responsibilities so they can secure accommodation that is appropriate for their family.
Validating MPs claims
We review MPs business costs and determine which claims are legitimate.
For claims that are accepted, we decide the proportion of them that can be paid.
MPs business costs are reviewed by our Validation team and are rejected if they are incorrect or not allowable under the Scheme. If any claims are paid that are later found to be invalid, we ensure they are repaid to us.
This can be done by a one-off payment from the MP, offsetting their subsequent claims, or salary deductions agreed by the MP. In extreme cases, if an MP has incurred a large debt, we will also suspend their IPSA payment card until it is repaid.
Should there be any disagreement regarding our decision from an MP or member of the public, an independent Compliance Officer will review our decisions.
Powers we have and powers we don’t have
Although we have several tools to help MPs comply with the rules, we rarely need to use them. Compliance with the Scheme is very high and we work with MPs and their staff to make sure they understand our rules and processes.
Despite the use of the word “Standards” in our name we are primarily focused on MPs use of their staffing and business costs.
Our remit is to ensure MPs are resourced sufficiently to undertake their parliamentary duties, and that the resources we provide are used in compliance with our rules.