Standards committee passes judgement on Ipsa

Ipsa has come under fire for its new expenses regime
Ipsa has come under fire for its new expenses regime

By Hannah Brenton

The new regime governing MPs' expenses is hindering their ability to do the job, the committee on standards in public life has found.

Despite being "one of the most important steps" to restoring public confidence in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) needs to do more to ensure the new regime doesn't stop MPs from doing their jobs, the standards committe concluded.

"There is a risk that in pursuit of the public confidence objective insufficient attention may be paid to another important point - that the purpose and principal function of the expenses scheme is to support members of parliament effectively in carrying out their important and difficult jobs," Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the standards committee, found.

The comments come just days after Sir George Young, leader of the House, delivered a stern rebuke to Ipsa.

The comments were the first concrete sign that the government had grown as exasperated with the new expenses system as backbench MPs.

Sir Christopher said Ipsa should be more considerate of MPs with young families and a commercial agency should be hired to help MPs find housing.

"It would be a tragedy if the implementation of an expenses scheme were to have the effect of inadvertently and unnecessarily limiting access to the role of MP for those with young families, caring responsibilities or other challenging personal circumstances," said Sir Christoper.

Sir Christopher warned Ipsa to stop MPs hiring family members. He argued new MPs should be prevented from giving family members a job and the practice should be phased out over a parliament for those already working in Westminster.

"We continue to be concerned about the potential for abuse - perceived or otherwise - which this creates," the chairman said.

Ipsa is now in control of MPs' expenses, but it has come under a barrage of criticism from MPs since it was first introduced. MPs have complained of inconsistencies when claiming expenses and Sir Christopher admitted the authority needed to straighten out these discrepancies.

The problems MPs face under the new regime are still unlikely to solicit much public sympathy. Ex-Labour MP Jim Devine was found guilty of expenses fraud yesterday, becoming the fourth politician to be convicted.


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