Unfortunately, there seems to be misleading information about this in the media to imply that MPs are getting an extra £10,000 in pay due to coronavirus. This is completely untrue, damaging and the record needs to be set straight.
What has happened is that IPSA (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – set up after the expenses scandal with no control or oversight by MPs) decided on 19 March to extend the budget for MPs office costs by £10,000 for the whole year ahead.
This is, in short, a contingency fund to help cover any additional costs that may arise from that work, such as having to purchase equipment for staff for them to work from home.
This is not money that would go into an MPs pocket, or their staff. If used, this additional budget would go on things like computer equipment to facilitate home working. Any claim on the budget would have to come with receipts and IPSA would be well within their right to turn a claim down if they thought it was unnecessary, unreasonable or inappropriate. All expense claims by MPs are published, so that the public can see what their money is being spent on.
It should be borne in mind that the past few weeks have seen a huge increase in people contacting their MPs for help and advice, especially key workers, struggling businesses and those stuck overseas trying to get home, whilst MPs have also had to manage the disruption of changing the way we do our work.
In my case, coronavirus has completely changed the way my office is run. Both of my offices in Keighley and Westminster are currently closed with my team of staff now working from home. They are working using either existing IT (a couple of desktops have been moved to people’s homes) or using their own personal IT equipment. In some cases I have had to make purchases such as phones so that my staff are not giving out their personal number or having to use their house line. The same will be true for most MPs.
The money can also be used to provide local Covid-19 information to the public via things like paid for media advertising and/or leaflets. So far I have been able to do this at no cost but I am currently looking at this.
It is disappointing that some Media have chosen to misrepresent this in a way that has left many with the entirely false impression that MPs have given themselves a pay increase whilst so many are suffering, when this could not be further from the truth.