MPs criticise expenses watchdog


Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have all criticised the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

Senior MPs have criticised Parliament’s expenses watchdog as it launched a public consultation to help determine what should be valid claims.

Conservative Roger Gale said Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) chairman Sir Ian Kennedy should consider resigning and Liberal Democrat Bob Russell said that the organisation was the worst he had dealt with in 40 years in public life.

Sir Ian insisted his organisation was set “for the long haul” and said the question of resigning had never occurred to him. He said some MPs were finding it difficult to adjust to independent regulation of their financial affairs.

Mr Gale, MP for North Thanet, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we have put in place does not work and those responsible have got to be replaced. I’m saying both the chairman of Ipsa and the interim chief executive are going to have to consider their positions.”

Colchester MP Mr Russell told the programme: “I think, in its present form, it (Ipsa) should be scrapped because it’s not fit for purpose. It’s the worst organisation I have had to deal with in 40 years in public life.”

Senior Labour backbencher David Winnick added: “The patience of Members of Parliament has reached such a state that inevitably there will be changes.”

But Sir Ian insisted his organisation would not consider fundamental changes: “Absolutely not. Ipsa is doing the job Parliament asked it to do. We are here for the long haul. There’s not an immediate quick fix that’s possible.”

Asked on Today if he was going to quit, Sir Ian said: “The question has never occurred to me until you asked it. Some MPs find it difficult to come to terms with the notion of independent regulation – that’s the process of getting used to a new world.”

Complaints about the bureaucracy of the new rules on expenses have been voiced by MPs from all parties, including Tory backbenchers who raised the issue with premier David Cameron at a meeting of the 1922 Committee last month. Gripes reportedly included MPs not being able to use expenses to transport their children to and from their constituency.

The PM told them he “recognised that (Ipsa) has caused a lot of pain and difficulty”, and criticised the new arrangements. “It is anti-family and it is not acceptable,” he said. Mr Cameron warned that Ipsa must improve by April or he would force changes.

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