POLITICS
11/10/2011 19:20 BST | Updated 11/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Expenses Regime 'Damaging MPs Mental Health'

The parliamentary expenses system is affecting the mental health of MPs, the House of Commons doctor has said.

Dr Ira Madan, the occupational therapist who works in Parliament, said 62 MPs had told her difficulties with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) were adversely affecting their mental health.

"I ask on job satisfaction and control over work load, because those are known to be risk factors for poor mental well being," she said. "Ipsa has come up as an issue on job satisfaction".

"The difficulties that member are experiencing with Ipsa are contributing to poor mental well being."

Dr Madan was appearing before the Commons committee on members’ expenses, which was set up to examine the operations of Ipsa, created in the wake of the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal.

Ipsa has enjoyed a rocky relationship with MPs since it took over the operations of parliamentary expenses in May 2010.

Some MPs believe the system it operates is overly bureaucratic and damages their ability to do their job. While Ipsa has in the past accused MPs of bullying its staff.

Dr Madan said MPs were particularly concerned at the "fairly vitriolic" way their expenses were reported by local papers.

And she told the committee that the rule book overseen by Ipsa also appeared to make it hard for MPs to see their families during the week when they were in London and away from their family homes.

"MPs have a very tough job not always appreciated by press and public…having family support and social support is a very strong factor in protecting mental well being," she said.

She added: "That’s a well known fact in all professions."

Dr Madan said MPs were also worn down by the number of jokes made at their expense by members of the public in their constituencies.

"It might be funny for the first one or two times, but then it gets up their noses," she said.

The committee is chaired by Conservative MP Adam Afriyie, who has been highly critical of Ipsa. He has previously asked Ipsa whether it has made an assessment of the impact its regime has on MPs mental health.

In July Andrew McDonald, the chief executive of Ipsa, told Afriyie: "We have not received evidence or representations that there is a need for such an assessment".