Denise Robertson: IPSA is a stupid way to deal with MPs' expenses scandal

The IPSA is a stupid way to deal with the aftermath of MPs’ expenses scandal

Education Secretary Michael Gove
Education Secretary Michael Gove

Michael Gove was right about one thing. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority,  set up in the wake of an expenses scandal that left the nation reeling, is a stupid organisation.

Of course, the excesses of some MPs were unforgivable and to see some of them now posing as gurus on political programmes makes me heave, but most of them do their best for us.

IPSA is proposing to slap a salary increase on MPs, which they are queuing up to reject, but they are still being depicted in some quarters as money-grubbing.

When it was suggested to the head of IPSA that he should listen to protests, he said he would certainly listen. Whether or not he would pay attention was another matter.

So, we once had MPs who were a law unto themselves, now we have an organisation that considers itself God.

We ask MPs to leave their homes for the major part of the week and live between two locations while trying to maintain a family life. The IPSA rule which allows MPs to claim rent only up to the value of a one-bedroom flat rules out family visits. I think that’s disgraceful.

For me, one of the most distressing things to emerge from the expenses scandal was the punishment of one MP because his teenage daughter had lived with him in his second home. Where else should a teenage daughter be but under her father’s roof?

Of course, they mustn’t milk the system but, in return, we must play fair with them. The furore over the expenses scandal forced Parliament to divorce itself from decisions on MPs remuneration. That is why IPSA is today inviolable.

Who can make it do anything while the man at its head avows he will do what he pleases, even if that means forcing through an unwanted pay rise? Somehow a way has to be found to bring IPSA to heel so a new, and more sensible, set of rules can be instituted.

:: Something magic happens when people of goodwill get together. Call it the Big Society, if you will, but it wasn’t invented by David Cameron. It has always existed.

The latest example is a state of the art Hydrotherapy Pool built by supporters of the  Multiple Sclerosis Research and Relief Fund, which has centres in the North East of England.

There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis. Treatment concentrates on a return to function after an attack, the prevention of new attacks and the  prevention of disability. The pool is costing £500,000 and that sum has been raised in a comparatively short time by a tiny band of determined volunteers and staff.

They began with a gala dinner and went on to sponsored walking, cycling and running challenges. The local bank pitched in and individuals and groups held coffee mornings, washed cars, made cakes and all manner of other amazing activities. The fundraising will go on to secure maintenance and development costs.

The pool will include a floor which raises up to entry level, doing away with the need for hoists, an underwater treadmill, resistance jet technology, and computer and camera systems. It will be the only such facility free to people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis; only Chelsea, Manchester United and St George’s Park FC Centre have one like it.

The fundraisers want as many people as possible to know about their achievement so more pools can be built around the country. As in the case of sports injury rehabilitation, the new pool will allow people with MS to focus on gait re-education to strengthen muscles, ease pain and relax spasm.

People who have not stood or walked for years can do so supported by water. It is also hoped to offer services to children and  families.

If you want to know more or you’d like to help, visit the MSRRF website.

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