A senior ally of Jeremy Corbyn has called for a new flat-rate allowance for all MPs and the scrapping of the independent system set up in the wake of the expenses scandal.
Paul Flynn, the Shadow Leader of the Commons claimed his plans would spare MPs of the ‘unnecessary chore’ of submitting bureaucratic forms and could cut the amounts paid out.
And he has now hit out at critics of his proposals after some fellow Labour MPs said that the plans would just reward lazy Parliamentarians and were “detached from reality”.
In an email to fellow MPs, reproduced on his own blog page, Flynn said that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) should be axed.
IPSA ,which was set up in the wake of the expenses scandal, was a “bureaucratic ornament” and trying to reform its complex procedures and requirements would be like “polishing dung”.
The basic annual pay of an MP is £74,962, but many top that up with an average of £161,000 for spending on staff, travel and second homes.
Some £161m was paid out by the taxpayer on the system in 2014/15. Jeremy Corbyn, who does not claim for travel, has among the lowest claims of any MP.
Flynn said that the IPSA system had led to “hours of tedious frustrating trawling through a bureaucratic morass of rules that are complex and tedious” which “robs MPs and our staff of much of their most precious possession – time”.
“IPSA was misconceived in panic and fear,” he added. “All parties sought a lifeline to escape from the nightmare of the expenses scandal. IPSA was the wrong solution.”
“MPs would embrace a new system without claims or the expensive IPSA. It could be based on an allowance calculated on average expenses based on distance from Westminster and paid automatically.
“It would be acceptable even if it meant reduction in the amounts that MPs receive because of the liberation from the tentacles of tedious bureaucracy.
“MPs would gain time, Parliament’s reputation would be protected and IPSA’s annual running costs excess of £6million would disappear.”
Flynn, long a Parliamentary maverick, was appointed to Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Welsh Secretary and Shadow Commons Leader following the mass resignations by frontbenchers this summer.
A spokesman for the Labour party stressed that his expenses proposals were “not Labour policy”, while Flynn himself said that he was expressing his personal opinions.
Former Shadow Commons Leader Chris Bryant told the Telegraph: “Setting up a whole new system all over again and awarding ourselves a flat rate payment will not go down very well with our constituents.
“We’ve only just had a pay rise and I think to most ordinary voters this will look like another pay rise by any other name.”
The 2009 expenses scandal led to five Labour MPs being sent to prison, and several Tory MPs were embarrassed by revelations about claims for duck houses and moat clearance. Many MPs involved quit at the 2010 election.
After the Telegraph and Daily Mirror reported on his email, Flynn tweeted:
“Thanks to MPs who back the IPSA reform. Sad that some tweeters are so gullible they swallow Torygraph’s distortion”
Lib Dem MP Tom Brake was scathing in his response: “With this kind of cloudy thinking on political transparency we would call for Paul Flynn to resign from the Shadow Cabinet but that’s not as big a thing as it used to be.”
Early Twitter reaction from the public was mixed, to say the least.