Written evidence submitted by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority
(PVX 06)

IPSA is fully committed to supporting equality and diversity within Parliament through the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses[1] (the Scheme).  One of the Scheme’s fundamental principles is IPSA’s commitment to diversity stating that “IPSA will take account of MPs’ diverse working arrangements so that they are not disadvantaged or advantaged financially because of the scheme”. This principle is in addition to our responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010.


When the Good Parliament Report was published in 2016, it made a number of recommendations that included reference to the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses.  The report suggested that the rules should include sufficient provision for family accommodation and familial travel between Westminster and the constituency.  In response to the recommendations to the Good Parliament Report, we introduced a number of changes to improve financial support for MPs with dependants as part of our comprehensive review of the Scheme in 2016/17.

The changes to the Scheme increased the financial support provided for MPs and their families providing unrestricted travel for MPs’ partners or spouses between London and their dependants.  IPSA increased the financial uplift that MPs can claim to supplement their accommodation budget for dependants in any rented property by more than double, with the uplift rising from £2,425 to £5,435 per dependant per year (up to a maximum of three dependants).  MPs who claim hotels instead of rented accommodation can claim for a further £175 per night for hotel accommodation if they are accompanied by their dependants.   The changes were very well received by many MPs with caring responsibilities, particularly those whose constituencies are far from Westminster.

We also conducted an Equality Impact Assessment[2] to consider any likely or actual impacts of these changes and, as part of the assessment, we asked consultation respondents for their views. We concluded that overall, the Scheme does not have a direct adverse impact related to the protected characteristics of MPs, their staff and their families.  In several areas and in particular in relation to the changes set out above, there is a likely to be a positive impact in relation for MPs with families, in relation to marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy, maternity, and sex. 

The Gender Sensitive Audit was published in 2018 and made a number of recommendations to increase the representation of women in both Houses of Parliament.  In its response, the Commission recommended that there should be no reduction in an MP’s staffing budget from IPSA while MPs are taking leave from the House when they have a proxy vote.   As this recommendation reflected the Scheme rules, no further changes were needed.

Proxy voting pilot

IPSA pays all MPs a full monthly salary regardless of whether they are on leave or not.  MPs and their staff can continue to make claims for eligible costs under the Scheme and there is no reduction to any of their budgets.  In addition to their usual budgets, MPs can make a contingency application for additional staffing cover in their office whilst they are taking leave.  This is not contingent on an MP utilising the proxy vote.  

In 2019, we made the process of applying for contingency funding in relation to parental leave easier for MPs. We have provided a senior, single point of contact for MPs who may wish to discuss their proposed arrangements in confidence.  And we pre-approve applications for staff cover during their period of leave, subject only to MPs providing information about the length of time of the cover and the required salary and job description for the member of staff.    The funding for staffing cover will continue to come from IPSA’s contingency fund while the House runs its proxy voting pilot. MPs will continue to receive their full salary during any period of parental leave.

We are committed to working with the House to provide appropriate financial support to MPs on parental leave, in line with any measures that the House puts in place after the conclusion of the proxy voting pilot.  And we are committed to ensuring that any procedures are easy to follow for expectant parents.  We consider that a single point of contact who could advise expectant parents on both House and IPSA procedures would be a helpful simplification of the current process.  

We are supportive of all new parents’ right to take time off work, but we do not believe it is for IPSA to determine the arrangements within the House of Commons for MPs to take parental leave, or how their parliamentary functions are discharged during that time; this is a matter for MPs themselves and for Parliament.  At the conclusion of the proxy voting pilot, and depending on the conclusions of the House on its future, IPSA will consult if any further changes are needed, such as creating a new budget to fund cover for MPs’ parental leave.

We are happy to provide further evidence in writing or in person if this would be helpful to the Committee.

March 2020


[1] See The Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses (HC2028) http://www.theipsa.org.uk/media/185336/hc-2028-ipsa-2019-20_web_accessible.pdf

[2] http://www.theipsa.org.uk/media/1606/2017-03-16-ipsa-review-of-scheme-of-mps-business-costs-web.pdf