MPs banned from claiming expenses

The changes could end the gradual loss of trust in MPs finances
The changes could end the gradual loss of trust in MPs finances

MPs should be banned from claiming some expenses with taxpayers' money, a Commons report suggests.

The report, by the Commons' members estimates committee, suggests various options for auditing, inspecting and controlling MPs' expenses.

It is headed by speaker Michael Martin, who is himself embroiled in controversy over his finances.

MPs will vote on the options next week but it's finding have already been dubbed insufficient by taxpayers' groups.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said the system would still operate behind closed doors.

"It is all very well saying that MPs won't be allowed to claim for top of the range kitchens and expensive TVs, but without full transparency this will undoubtedly creep back in," he said.

Suggestions for replacing expenses with a salary have been rejected, as have calls for MPs to be paid a daily attendance allowance for their trips to the House of Commons.

In effect, the exiting system would continue but auditing would be tightened up. External auditors would be brought into parliament to check each member every four or five years with the National Audit Office doing occasional spot checks.

MPs would have to deposit staff contracts and job descriptions with the Department of Resources.

But the big news would be the ban on claiming expenses, the same expenses which saw Tony Blair spend over £6,000 on a kitchen in the same month as he sent troops to war in Iraq. Other MPs were revealed to have paid for their Sky TV subscription using taxpayers' money.

"We recommend that, with immediate effect, members should no longer be able to claim reimbursement for furniture and household goods or for capital improvements," the report says.

"The conclusions and recommendations of this review do not make life easy for individual members but we believe they will play a key role in strengthening and upholding the democratic institution in which we are proud to work as well as building the trust and confidence of the people we are elected to represent," it continues.

Expenses, however small, will now have to be backed up by a receipt - the previous threshold being £25. However, this only relates to additional costs/second homes allowance.

"To stamp out any abuses and to dispel any suspicions of dubious behaviour, we need to see details for travel, office and communications expenses as well, not just the second home allowance," Mr Elliot said.

"Token transparency is not enough."

The review of MPs' allowances followed from the controversy over Tory MP Derek Conway, who paid his son to do parliamentary work out of taxpayers' money despite him being rarely seen in the office.

But the review itself has come under sustained criticism, with calls for it to be run by an independent body and allegations about Mr Martin's extensive use of expenses.


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