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By Baroness Fox
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Speaker's Conference Decline Reform Of MP Employee Arrangements Despite Abuse Of Power Warning

Houses of Parliament (Alamy)

3 min read

The Speaker’s Conference, chaired by Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle, has recommended that staff should continue to be employed by MPs, rather than an independent body, despite warnings that those working in Parliament “will not have adequate protections from abuses of power”.

The committee was tasked with looking into the “employment arrangements for Members’ staff” in the House of Commons following a series of misconduct claims.  

Their report published on Thursday the committee - comprised of Hoyle plus 15 MPs from across the Commons - pointed to the nature of MPs work and “personal loyalty” as reasons why they thought MPs should continue to be the direct employer of their staff.

“We are not persuaded that the problems we have identified and the issues and challenges which have been explored by the Conference will be adequately addressed by a change in the employer,” the report said. 

“The nature of the work of an MP, and the close working arrangements and personal loyalty between Members and their staff mean that Members should continue to be the employers of their staff.”

The committee was established in June 2022 with the aim of ensuring "a more inclusive and respectful working environment" in Westminster. 

Jenny Symmons, chair of GMB branch for members' staff welcomed some of the reports suggestions, including the expansion of an HR team and changes to the way staff salaries are reported, but said that “serious issues remain present for our members that are not solved by recommendations in the report".  

She added: “Until we bring our structures of employment into line with other workplaces, MPs' staff will not have adequate protection from the abuses of power that are far too prevalent.  

“GMB’s campaign for major reforms that create standardised, secure employment for MPs' staff continues." 

In their written evidence to the Speaker’s Conference last October, the GMB members’ staff branch said that a “new model” was needed to “protect” workers “from a minority of bad employers and abusive bosses”. 

“MPs were never meant to be office managers and accountants,” they said. 

“Their role is to represent their constituents; a model for employing staff should also have that at its heart.” 

Among the other recommendations in the report was that IPSA, the parliamentary spending watchdog, should make changes to the way that staff salaries are reported. 

Staff should be recognised for “their value as professionals, rather than describing them as a cost or expense,” the committee said. 

They added: “The public perception that staff salaries and office costs are personal expenses of Members demeans the role played by Members’ staff.” 

The recommendation was welcomed by former Cabinet minister and Conservative MP Simon Clarke, who called the current system a “needlessly damaging presentational own goal.”

Symmons added that the GMB were "grateful to see our concerns about staff salaries being declared as ‘expenses’ or ‘business costs’ be acknowledged."

“Publication of spending costs and the potential backlash is a common factor in MPs paying their staff less than is fair," she added. 

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