Select Committee on House Fifth Report


FIFTH REPORT



4 November 2003


FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: MEMBERS' EXPENSES

  The House agreed on 14 January to the recommendation of the House Committee that information relating to Members' Expenses claims should be published, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, with effect from the autumn of 2004[1]The Committee at the same time undertook to return to the House following its detailed consideration of the categories of expenses to be disclosed and the form in which the information should be published. This report fulfils that undertaking.

Background

  The House has agreed that the information to be disclosed:

    —  should be published annually;

    —  should be broken down by the main categories of expenses available: travelling expenses, day subsistence, night subsistence, office costs, and the pre-paid envelope scheme;

    —  should include an indication of the location of each Member's main residence.

  The House also agreed that the information initially to be disclosed should include that relating to the three financial years 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04. The House of Commons has come to a similar decision.

  In addition, the House agreed that information should be published about the expenses incurred by Members travelling on Select Committee business (these expenses being met by the House administration rather than being claimed by Members under the Members' Reimbursement Allowance Scheme) or as part of an official parliamentary delegation (the expenses of which are met initially by the House of Commons' Overseas Office). It also agreed that details held by the House of claims for Financial Assistance for Opposition Parties ("Cranborne money") should be published.

  There are two separate classes of information involved. The first is the claims for expenses of individual Members. The second is the publication of information about the costs of committees, delegations and opposition parties. They are dealt with separately here.

Members' expenses

  The Committee makes the following detailed recommendations about the information to be published:

    a.

    Following the Lord Chairman's undertaking made in the House on 14 January, there should be an opportunity for Members to give an indication of the location of their main residence if they so wish. The indication should be expressed by reference to county or equivalent region.

    b.

    The number of days each Member attended the House or a committee of the House should be published along with the data on expenses claims.

    c.

    All claims for the Office Costs allowance should be aggregated and a single figure published of the total sums claimed under this head.

    d.

    Information about reimbursement of Members' travel costs should be given on a single aggregated basis encompassing all the three schemes: travel from the principal place of residence to Westminster; UK travel on parliamentary business; and EU travel on parliamentary business.

    e.

    Information about claims for travelling expenses by spouses of Members or Officeholders should not be published.

    f.

    Information about additional expenses incurred by disabled Members in attending the House and reimbursed on account of their disability should not be published.

    g.

    A simple indication should be given whether or not a Member is provided by the House with IT equipment on loan. This should be accompanied by a general description of the support available.

    h.

    The information to be published should include that relating to Members of the House who have died, retired or otherwise left the House during the year in question.

  A table indicating the form in which the information would be published if the Committee's recommendations are adopted is in Appendix 1 to this Report.

Other Expenses

Committee visits and delegation expenses

  The House of Commons has for some time published separate sessional breakdowns of the costs of committees, including costs relating to committee visits. Details of such costs have been collated in the Lords with effect from 1 April 2003, and we recommend that the total costs of each committee visit, together with details of its duration, purpose, and the numbers of Members and staff attending, should henceforth be published annually in respect of each financial year.

  No details have previously been published of the costs of parliamentary delegations to international Parliamentary assemblies. The relevant delegations are those to the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe, the Western European Union, NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The House of Commons has now begun to publish the total expenditure incurred by each delegation, at six-monthly intervals, and has offered to include Lords Members of such delegations within that publication. The Committee recommends the adoption of this arrangement.

Financial Assistance to Opposition Parties ("Cranborne Money")

  The total sums available from the House to the Opposition Parties and to the Convenor of the Cross Bench Peers in carrying out their parliamentary duties are published in the Annual Report. The Committee recommends that the House should publish for each party the aggregated figure of claims actually paid (see Appendix 2).

Information about the data to be published

  Early in 2004 the Accountant's Office will begin to send to Members information relating to their own claims over the years 2001-02 and 2002-03. Members will have the opportunity to correct any errors in the data.

  Information relating to the current year will be sent to Members as soon as practicable after the year end. As Members have three months in which to submit claims, the deadline for submitting 2003-04 claims will be 30 June 2004. Given the tight timescale to ensure publication of the figures in the autumn Members will be given a maximum of one month in which to correct any errors, from the date on which the data were sent to them by the Accountant's Office.


1   See First Report for 2002-03 of the House Committee (HL Paper 19), HL Deb, 14 January 2003, cols 136-141. Back


 
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