A new appointment

A specialist adviserNot only do I serve on two committees in the Lords, I now have an appointment in the Commons!  I gave evidence to the Public Administration Committee in the House of Commons at the end of last year as part of its inquiry into Smaller Government: What Do Ministers Do?  The committee is now in the process of working on a draft report.  It is keen to draw on my advice in completing the exercise.  However, under parliamentary rules, the only people entitled to see a committee’s draft report are members of the committee and the committee’s specialist advisers.  As a result, I have just been appointed a specialist adviser to the committee.   It is a very short-term appointment.  And unpaid. 

It is a job I am having to juggle with all the marking….

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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22 Responses to A new appointment

  1. Carl.H says:

    Whilst you’re over there can you please teach MPs’ that they need a correct receipt to recoup their expenses. I don’t know how this seem’s to be passing them by. How they would cope in systems they produce for others I’ve no idea. To complain the way they seem to be doing about IPSA is ludicrous.

    People are needlessly having their disability allowance stopped until it has been re-assessed. Often other benfits are stopped until re-assessed and I fully expect changes to the benefit system to create major problems for the poor threatening the roof above their heads.

    If these MPs’ are unable to understand fully the rules that allow them to recoup expenses why are they creating legislation ?

    248 claims were rejected by IPSA in most cases because of “insufficient evidence”.
    It revealed that it had paid out £3.64m in legitimate claims to 622 MPs over the two month period.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12354911

    6 weeks is a common period for poor people to wait for a Council to sort out Housing Benefit. Disability Allowance once withdrawn, which it can be without good evidence, can take months and medicals.

    MPs’ stop whinging.

    • djb13 says:

      Two wrongs don’t make a right. It’s true that both the benefits system, and IPSA should be faster.

      IPSA don’t just mess up MPs who are, all things considered, not going to go hungry if they don’t get a train ticket sorted. MPs pre-emptively don’t do things because they know IPSA might be difficult (surguries, etc.), and can’t see their families. However, it really hits interns hard. Interns are unpaid, and get only expenses to go by on. This system already prejudices itself in favour of the middle-classes enough, but with IPSA interns can’t even be sure they’re going to get their travel and food paid for. These are often people on the literal breadline, trying to get into Parliament.

    • djb13 says:

      Oh also, that 248 rejected claims thing is misleading. 248 were rejected outright, far more were delayed for months.

      • Carl.H says:

        But were they delayed by IPSA or MPs’ failures in supplying the necessary paperwork/evidence ?

        The system is only just finding it’s feet, similar to tax credits it had it’s initial problems but failures now seem to be MPs’ not following correct procedures.

        At a current salary of £65,738 I doubt MPs’ would have a problem in bridging loans until matters are settled.

        I have always stated interns should be on the at least minimum wage, this is an entirely different problem to that of MPs’ who are the ones in the media complaining. IPSA are aware of the problem and should immediately act.

        http://www.ipsa-home.org.uk/docs/Anonymous3-amendments.pdf

      • djb13 says:

        The system that IPSA impose is so restrictive that it’s far too easy to make mistakes.

        The issue with many benefits reforms, and IPSA, is that they were set up after months/years of media demonisation of a class of people, and therefore created to be punitive.

        True, I suppose MPs could make bridging loans to interns. But it’s yet another expense MPs are being expected to meet out of pocket.

        The arguments over paying interns minimum wage is complex, but right now, interns are not paid, so they are suffering because of a system set up to punish all MPs for the crimes of less than fifty of their number.

      • Carl.H says:

        If you look at the intern agreement link below it states catagorically expenses for travel & food for interns are the MP’s responsibility.

        I believe I just read in the IPSA guide booklet to MP’s that this agreement is compulsory.

  2. Carl.H says:

    From the IPSA Model Volunteer Intern Agreement your expenses and travel are payable by the MP you are working for food and travel. Other expenses are payable through IPSA.

    http://www.docstoc.com/docs/69235332/IPSA-MODEL-VOLUNTEER-INTERN-AGREEMENT

  3. Carl.H says:

    “IPSA’s position
    2.18 The responses to this question are clear that interns and volunteers play a valuable role in Parliament. IPSA understands there is a beneficial relationship between interns and volunteers and MPs. Interns and volunteers develop skills and experience in the political arena, and MPs receive assistance in their Parliamentary functions. For this reason, IPSA will allow MPs to claim incidental expenses for interns or volunteers if they meet certain conditions, as stated in the Scheme at paragraphs 8.2 (f) and 8.7. These conditions are that MPs must have a signed agreement with any interns or volunteers, and this agreement must be submitted to IPSA before any claims can be made. IPSA will not be approving each agreement. IPSA has published a model agreement for MPs to use, which is available on our website. Once this agreement has been submitted, MPs may submit claims for incidental expenses, which are limited to reasonable travel, food, and non-alcoholic beverages. Claims will be charged to MPs’ Staffing Expenditure budget.”

    http://www.ipsa-home.org.uk/docs/Scheme%20Amendments%20-%20consultation%20response.pdf

    Hope this helps out your friends situation.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Carl.H: Not sure there is much I can add. I am fairly familiar with all this as I was involved in the consultation leading up to the IPSA rules on internship payments.

      • Carl.H says:

        Your input, or some of it, is the the above document section 2.11

        I’m a little concerned these young people appear to be being misled in this way and apparently suffering. Is there not an office like that of student representation that interns can turn to ?

        There must be some office that can be formed where an experienced intern or other can guide and officiate for these young people.

      • Lord Norton says:

        Carl.H: There is in the form of one of the unions, though one has to distinguish between interns where the direct contractual relationship is between the MP and the intern (who are often prepared to work for nothing) and those interns who are studying in Westminster as part of a designated university course and who remain in receipt of student loans and maintenance grants. I should add that the position when IPSA first got under way was that they were not prepared to support any payments to interns. The new rules actually constitute a step forward.

  4. Carl.H says:

    If we look at the list of evidential requirements by IPSA:
    http://www.ipsa-home.org.uk/evidence_all.html

    We can see from this that the £65,000 salary is well supplemented by the expenses allowed. Many of the allowed expenses would not be allowed in ordinary circumstances to a self employed person. Indeed many items on the list appear to become personal property after the termination of their part in Parliament, phones, TVs, Computers etc.

    The position of MP appears to me to still be a lucrative one and the complete package does not suggest anyone should be struggling on it.

    From the above conversation with djb13 it appears that MPs’ are failing to get to grip with the rules of IPSA which in comparison to systems by which normal people live is relatively easy.

    I cannot at present see any reason for MPs’ to argue that the system is unfair, there may have been circumstances where errors have occured but that is on par with every system.

    There appears no reason for MPs’ to suggest this system is unfair, it is a lucrative package that goes beyond the bounds of what is accepted in normal working fields of expenses.

  5. ladytizzy says:

    Interns have no special status in employment law; they are either on work experience or apprenticeships, or are volunteers, workers, or employees. As an employer not on the charity gravy train, I’d rather like to know how to get around minimum wage/apprenticeship legislation.

    As for MPs and problems with IPSA should I be querying their ability to keep themselves, body and soul, on £65K before refund on expenses, or simply their ability?

    • Lord Norton says:

      ladytizzy: In Edmund v Lawson QC [2000] the distinction was drawn between those who took up an internship or period of
      training where such training was necessary as part of their professional
      training and where the contract was with a third party and those who
      were employed directly by the person for whom they were undertaking
      work. It was held that the national minimum wage legislation did not
      apply to the former.

      • ladytizzy says:

        Lord Norton, having read your response to IPSA’s Consultation on MP’s expenses I can see where you are coming from and, yes, students on a sandwich course are not entitled to minimum wages; they remain students throughout their placement. However, not all interns are students in the accepted sense.
        http://www.ipsa-home.org.uk/docs/Professor%20The%20Lord%20Norton%20of%20Louth-amendments.pdf

        My knowledge of what an MP’s intern actually does is virtually nil but I did check out the w4mp site to see what was being advertised. The first link (below) looks reasonable – all the right words in the right order – but the second looks for all the world like an ad for an unpaid worker:

        http://www.w4mp.org/html/personnel/jobs/disp_job.asp?ref=28337

        http://www.w4mp.org/html/personnel/jobs/disp_job.asp?ref=28323

        As the site says:
        …interns are unlikely to be considered as’ workers’ under the Act and therefore unlikely to be eligible for National Minimum Wage. However, each MP/researcher/intern relationship is undertaken on different terms, and frequently changes, so you need to be sure that you are not breaking the law at any time.
        http://www.w4mp.org/html/library/guides/0812_nmw_and_volunteers.asp

        Withe reference to the case you cite, the penultimate sentence made clear that the Law Lords felt the issue needed clarification from Parliament:

        We were not addressed on the potentially far-reaching questions of policy which arise, and which are better considered elsewhere.
        http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2000/69.html

        Have their concerns been addressed?

      • Lord Norton says:

        ladytizzy: Indeed. The term ‘intern’ is arguably misleading as it encompasses a range of possibilities. It may be more fruitful to refer to student placements, paid assistants, and volunteers. Volunteers should arguably be restricted to a very limited time period. The problem you identify has not yet been addressed and there is a problem of enforcing an equitable paid regime, not least given the willingness of those seeking internships to work for little or nothing given the long-term potential rewards.

      • ladytizzy says:

        Forgive me for my cynicism but a lack of clarity in matters of employment law is not the first choice of defence in a tribunal from either side.

        The Edmund v Lawson case appears to be concerned with the uniqueness of pupillage at the Inns of Court, especially in that it is a requirement. There does not seem to be a requirement of an internship for any position within Parliament, in the sense that there is no clear path to a specific career. If so, advertisements for ‘interns’ might well be considered misleading, regardless of intent.

        The cascade effect continues with whether the intern should be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance and associated benefits, and monitoring for equality. Above, djb13 refers to the prejudice in favour of the middle-class (Labour seemed to miss that in its round-up) and I would be extremely surprised if more than 10% of interns were in the 40+ age bracket.

        One other point: should a student be expected to pay any fees whilst on placement?

      • Lord Norton says:

        ladytizzy: The positions are comparable if an internship is a necessary condition of completing a formal qualification and where necessarily the contractual relationship remains with the body conferring the qualification. Such internships are clearly distinguishable from those which are advertised and the contractual relationship is with the MP who has advertised the vacancy. The ‘internships’ are of two distinct types and different conditions should thus apply in terms of remuneration. A student should remain eligible to pay fees where the placement is an integral part of a degree structure and where they continue to receive turorials and support and complete a diet of academic study and assessment.

      • ladytizzy says:

        Thank you for your time on this – I think we are in agreement on the main points.

        Funnily enough, last night I read a piece in the current issue of Private Eye reporting on the fashion industry after a particularly peeved ‘intern’ spilled the beans. It echoed the growing disgruntlement where there is no clear path or qualification at the end of a placement, or where the training or experience has little direct relevance to the supposed career.

    • Carl.H says:

      The minimum you can get an apprentice for, unless you’re Lord Sugar, is £2.50 per hour in the first year.

      “A new National Minimum Wage of £2.50 per hour for apprentices was introduced on 1 October 2010.

      The wage applies to:

      •all apprentices aged under 19
      •apprentices aged 19 or over in the first year of their Apprenticeship
      If you’re already doing an Apprenticeship with an employer, you should continue to get a weekly wage of at least £95. If you work in agriculture, the minimum wage may be different.”

      http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/14To19/OptionsAt16/DG_4001327

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