Reimbursement of Members’ Expenses Scheme

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 10th November 2015.

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Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

On behalf of the corporate body, I shall move a motion to amend the reimbursement of members’ expenses scheme—specifically to make changes to the staff costs provision and office leasing arrangements. We are making the amendments now in order that changes can be fully effective from the start of session 5, to enable new and returning members to set up offices and employ their staff.

Earlier today, all members received a letter from you, Presiding Officer, on behalf of the corporate body, explaining the detail of the changes that are proposed. The first change relates to the level of staff cost provision, which has been largely unchanged since 2010. The corporate body believes that the provision is already under significant pressure, which will only increase with the additional powers that the Scottish Parliament will assume during the course of the next session.

A strong Parliament depends on having members who are equipped to fulfil their role, so we believe that the recommended change will help to ensure that MSPs will be properly supported to represent their constituents and hold the Government of the day to account. If agreed, therefore, from the start of session 5, the staff cost provision limit will be increased to £85,000 a year. That will enable MSPs to employ up to the equivalent of three full-time staff in a flexible way to suit individual office needs.

The corporate body recognised the wishes of members of all parties to build on current good practice to continue as living-wage employers and to put our staff arrangements on a more robust, professional and transparent footing. For that reason, the SPCB is also recommending the introduction of standard terms and conditions for members’ staff, together with consistent job roles and pay scales.

The second element of the motion will end the ability of members to lease offices from or to political parties. That will create a clear divide between parliamentary and political activities, and will counter any potential perception that public funds are being used to support party-political organisations.

The changes have the support of all party leaders at Holyrood, and I hope that the corporate body can count on the support of all members in the chamber this afternoon to support the motion. On behalf of the corporate body, I will move motion S4M-14776.

I move,

That the Parliament, by virtue of sections 81(2) and (5)(b) and 83(5) of the Scotland Act 1998 agrees, with effect from 6 May 2016, to:

(1) add after paragraph (a)(vi) of the Resolution of the Parliament of 12 June 2008 as last amended on 17 March 2015 (the Resolution) agreeing to the Reimbursement of Members’ Expenses Scheme annexed as Annex 1 to the Resolution (the Scheme):

“(vii) determines that in relation to those members who on 10 November 2015 were leasing, sub-leasing or sub-letting their local parliamentary office premises from or to a party political organisation in accordance with paragraphs 4.2.11 and 4.2.12 of the Scheme as they stood on that date, those paragraphs 4.2.11 and 4.2.12 will continue to apply until 5 May 2017 and paragraph 4.2.12 of the Scheme as substituted with effect from 6 May 2016 and the modification of paragraph 4.2.10 (made by resolution dated 10 November 2015) shall take effect on 6 May 2017”;

(2) amend the Scheme by:

(a) deleting from paragraph 1.6.1 the words “Subject to paragraph 1.6.2, a” and substituting “A”;

(b) deleting paragraph 1.6.2;

(c) deleting from paragraph 3.1.1 the words “and any such staff may be permanent or temporary”;

(d) substituting the following paragraph for paragraph 3.1.7:

“3.1.7 A member may only submit a claim under this section in respect of staff who are engaged in accordance with such policies and under such terms and conditions as are approved by the SPCB from time to time.”;

(e) deleting from the beginning of paragraph 4.2.10 “A” and substituting “Subject to paragraph 4.2.12, a”;

(f) deleting paragraph 4.2.11;

(g) renumbering paragraph 4.2.13 as paragraph 4.2.11;

(h) substituting the following paragraph for paragraph 4.2.12:

“4.2.12 A member is not entitled to reimbursement of costs in respect of a local parliamentary office which is:

(a) leased from a party political organisation; or

(b) sub-leased from or sub-let to a party political organisation.”;

(i) amending the annual limit on entitlement to reimbursement of staff salary costs under paragraph 3.2.1 in the column headed “LIMIT” of the Schedule of Rates in Annex 2 to the Resolution to “£85,000”.