BARRY Sheerman has called on MPs to form their own trade union to fight for “fairer” expenses.
The veteran backbencher yesterday offered to help set up a new professional association to represent the interests of Members of Parliament.
The Huddersfield Labour MP is unhappy with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) – which was set up following the 2009 expenses scandal.
Mr Sheerman told the Examiner yesterday: “What people like me want is a system which is transparent and fair and open but which allows MPs to do their job for their constituents and their country.
“But Ipsa has got all sorts of rules. There are certain things which they refuse to deal with over the phone.
“There’s no sensible relationship with MPs, you can’t go and say ‘there’s this problem, let’s get it sorted out’.
“It’s a bureaucratic nightmare. The expenses system has become so complex and complicated that Gill O’Sullivan in my Huddersfield office spends most of Wednesday dealing with Ipsa.”
Mr Sheerman thinks MPs should form a trade union to fight for a simpler expenses system.
“There isn’t any forum where we can share common problems and challenges,” he said.
“I think a parliamentary association would do that in an effective and civilised way.”
Mr Sheerman believes an MPs’ trade union could also help the House of Commons become more relevant to voters.
He said: “There’s a role for a parliamentary association to bring ideas forward to make the Palace of Westminster more welcoming, to bring about a gentle modernisation.”
Mr Sheerman thinks backbench MPs do not have anyone to speak up for them.
“We have to rely on the whips, who are the last people you would trust to represent your interests,” he said.
“They are always looking for party advantage and discipline – not MPs’ welfare. Whips have their role but I think we need a parliamentary association. We don’t have a voice.”
Mr Sheerman added that he would be happy to help set up the trade union.
“I would put my name forward to be a member of a small committee to organise it,” he said.
Mr Sheerman first suggested setting up the MPs’ trade union during a debate on Ipsa in the House of Commons on Thursday.
“The idea got a warm reception from other MPs,” he said.
The debate was called following a report into the running of Ipsa by the Members’ Expenses Committee.
Chairman Adam Afriyie told the House of Commons that many MPs were too scared to claim all the money to which they were entitled.
The Conservative MP for Windsor said that 93% of MPs “are subsidising their work to some degree – some, about one in 10, to the tune of over £10,000 a year.
“One of the main reasons cited, by 83% of MPs, is that they are trying to protect their reputation.”