I have been hearing increasingly lurid stories about the incompetence and insensitivity of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority in the way in which they “administer” MPs’ expenses.

However, I have now heard from two sources a story so outlandish that I felt I should investigate further.

IPSA Bulletin No6 explains helpfully:

“We have received a number of queries about maternity pay and other similar costs, therefore we wish to make it clear that IPSA will pay any necessary expenditure on maternity, paternity or adoptive leave for MPs’ staff. We will also pay for the cost of cover to replace the staff member on leave, provided the cover meets the normal Scheme rules. This is paid from the contingency fund – not because we are exercising discretion on whether to make these payments, but so that these payments do not impact on your capped staffing budget.”

The issue is what constitutes “necessary” expenditure.

This is “helpfully” clarified in the Expenses Rules, specifically rule 12.14 on contingency payments.  This requires that IPSA will only provide such payments for luxuries like maternity cover if they (IPSA) are satisfied that the MP could not:

“reasonably have been expected to take any action to avoid the circumstances which gave rise to the expenditure or liability”.

MPs are being faced with a form which in essence asks them to clarify what steps they took to prevent a staff member’s pregnancy.

Will relationship counselling be sufficient?  Or should the counselling extend to contraceptive advice?  Or even the provision of condoms for the MPs’ staff?

No wonder that so many staff who work for MPs are enraged and affronted.

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