Parliament’s Speaker’s Committee is introducing a bill suggesting that six weeks before an election, Parliament will cease reimbursing MPs for travel. Speaker Steingrímur J. Sigfússon is the bill’s proponent and told RÚV that the legislation would put MPs on equal footing with other candidates for a parliamentary election.
During the six-week period before elections, Parliament won’t reimburse MPs for travel, although they will continue to pay for travel categorised as a parliamentary business. Additionally, if Parliament is still in session, travel to and from parliament can qualify for reimbursement. Speaker of Alþingi Steingrímur J. Sigfússon states that the bill will ensure that once electoral campaigns get into full swing, MPs will travel at their own expense and will be on equal footing with other candidates. “We believe this is a matter of fairness. The bill is the final touch to the work we’ve been doing to increase access to information and tighten regulation,” Steingrímur stated. He added that in the past few months, they’ve gone over data such as travel occasions, and on which occasions it would be more economic for MPs to use rental cars instead of receiving reimbursements for driving their own cars. When asked if the same rules applied to Ministers, Steingrímur stated that the Government handled regulation for Ministers’ travel reimbursement but that the ministries had confirmed that they would be implementing the same restrictions on Ministers’ travel reimbursements.
Kjarninn reports that data shows Parliament’s expenses for travel reimbursement increased around the past three elections, indicating that parliament was partially funding MP electoral campaigns.
MP travel reimbursement has been heavily debated in the past few years, ever since 2018 when the Speaker of Alþingi revealed reimbursement amounts in an answer to a question by Pirate Party MP Björn Leví Gunnarsson. The numbers revealed that the top four MPs received just under half of the entire travel reimbursement budget. It was later revealed that Independence Party MP Ásmundur Friðriksson claimed to have driven 47,644 km for work in 2017 alone, for which he was reimbursed 4.6 million ISK. Since then, all information on MP reimbursement is published monthly.