Now it seems that Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Chichester is asking the same questions. The following is taken from this Thursday's Hansard written answers:
The following is taken from this Tuesday's (18/12/07) Hansard written answers:
Mr. Maude: To ask the Leader of the House what plans she has to bring forward proposals to increase the Communications Allowance; and what increase she intends to propose.
Helen Goodman: In accordance with the resolution of the House of 28 March, the Communications Allowance is increased on 1 April each year by the percentage increase in the retail price index as at 31 December the preceding year.
The Communications Allowance provides funds to allow a Member of Parliament, to communicate proactively with their constituents and inform them about an MPs Parliamentary duties. MPs may claim up to £10,000 per year from this allowance.
The Communications Allowance may be used to meet expenses for:
• Regular reports and constituency
• Questionnaires and surveys
• Contact cards
• Distribution costs including direct
mailing and postage
• Some capital purchases
Now, I find this a little difficult to understand. Why is the Communications Allowance increased in line with the RPI (Retail Price Index) and not the CPI (Consumer Price Index)? The basic difference between the RPI and the CPI is that the CPI does not take into account housing costs and in particular owner occupiers’ costs such as mortgage interest payments. So what do mortgage interest payments have to do with the price of stationery?
If the CPI is good enough for calculating public sector pay increases (particularly the Police), then why isn't it good enough to calculate the Communications Allowance? Could it be that if the allowance is calculated using the CPI, then it will only increase to £10,210 - whereas if it is calculated using the RPI, the allowance will increase to £10,430?
Maybe I'm wrong, but this looks like "one rule for us, and another rule for the little people."
Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Leader of the House pursuant to the answer of 18 December 2007, Official Report, on the communications allowance, why the allowance is being increased by the retail prices index rather than the consumer prices index.
Helen Goodman: The communications allowance is uprated annually from 1 April in line with the RPI for the preceding December. This is in accordance with the MEC report on the allowance (HC 319, 2006-07) which was approved by the House on 28 March 2007. This is the same as the uprating procedures for IEP and ACA.
Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Leader of the House pursuant to the answer of 18 December 2007, Official Report, column 1225W, on the communications allowance, what representations she has received supporting an increase in the communications allowance by more than the rate of inflation; and what assessment she has made of such representations.
Helen Goodman: I have received no such representations. The communications allowance is uprated each year in line with the retail prices index. This follows the recommendations of the report of the Members Estimate Committee (HC 182, 2006-07) which was approved by the House on 28 March 2007.
Helen seems keen to point out that the communication allowance is increased in line with the RPI because it was approved by the House. This still does not tell us why the RPI is used instead of the CPI. We know it was bloody-well approved, but what we want to know is: why is the CPI good enough for public sector pay increases, but not good enough for MPs allowances?