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Senior Tory backbencher wants IPSA investigated by the Standards and Privileges Committee for breach of parliamentary privilege

By Jonathan Isaby

STANLEY JOHN Sir John Stanley, the Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling, believes that by the way it is handling expenses claims, IPSA is effectively stopping MPs from being able to discharge their duties and, as such, could be in breach of parliamentary privilege.

He has given notice that he wants the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee to investigate this charge and is seeking the backing of colleagues for a technical motion that would allow for this to happen when the Commons returns from the summer recess.

This afternoon Sir John wrote the following letter to parliamentary colleagues:

IPSA and the Privilege of Freedom from Obstruction

"In the Westminster Hall debate on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority initiated by David Winnick on June 16, I raised the issue as to whether IPSA may be in breach of the Parliamentary Privilege of freedom from "Obstructing Members of either House in the discharge of their duty" (Erskine May p.143).  I referred to the advice I had taken from the Clerk of the House as to the ambit of that privilege (Hansard 16 June 2010 Cols 143-145WH). I said that this key issue for MPs and their staff needed to be placed before the Standards and Privileges Committee at an early date.

"I shall therefore when the House returns on Monday September 6, in accordance with the required procedure, be submitting an application for a Precedence Motion to Mr Speaker. For newly elected MPs who may not be familiar with this procedure, it is only by making an application for a Precedence Motion to The Speaker that MPs can have a breach of Privilege complaint considered by the Standards and Privileges Committee.

"The establishment of IPSA has created an unprecedented constitutional situation. Never before in the history of Parliament has a statutory body outside Parliament had the capacity, however unintended, to cause "substantial interference" (Erskine May p.167) with MPs' performance of their parliamentary functions.

"It is clear that the boundary between the statutory authority of IPSA and the ambit of the Parliamentary Privilege of freedom from obstruction needs to be defined, and defined by the House itself. I request therefore that you consider supporting my application to Mr Speaker for a Precedence Motion."

He declares an interest as an MP who has experienced "substantial interference" in the performance of his parliamentary duties "as a result of the terms and methods of operation of the IPSA MPs' Expenses Scheme".


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