Government plans 'unravelling' over expenses, says Cameron

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Tory leader David Cameron today claimed the Government's legislative programme was "unravelling" after ministers were forced to concede they could introduce laws to complete the clean-up of MPs' expenses.

The apparent concession came after the architect of the reform plan, Sir Christopher Kelly, said he was "disappointed" that there was no mention of it in yesterday's Queen's Speech.

His comments appeared to catch the Government by surprise, and No 10 last night rushed out a statement insisting that it would bring forward additional legislation if necessary.

Mr Cameron, who challenged Gordon Brown in the Commons over the omission from the Queen's Speech, said that it was a victory for opposition pressure.

"I think that the Queen's Speech is today unravelling because the Government is now saying, apparently, that they will now bring forward these laws," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme .

"If that happens that will be a major victory for common sense, for the Conservative party, and for the British public who want to see this sorted out.

"Either the Government is incompetent and hadn't realised that Kelly's report requires these laws to be passed or they are frightened of their own backbenchers, or perhaps they don't think that cleaning up the House of Commons is as important as they said it was."

However, the Leader of the Commons, Harriet Harman, insisted that ministers still believed that Sir Christopher's remaining recommendations could be implemented by the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).

"There is no question of us regarding this as just something that can be swept back under the carpet. I think that nobody is in any doubt of the anger and concern there has been and remains amongst members of the public," she told the Today programme.

"They want it to be sorted out, we have set in process all the actions that need to be taken to sort it out so that we don't set our own allowance system, we don't administer it and if there have been any overpayments they are all paid back.

"That can all be done before the general election."

She said that plans in the legislation to hand over responsibility for the MPs' Code of Conduct and the Register of Members' Interests to Ipsa - which Sir Christopher opposed - would not now be implemented.

"I will need to reassure Sir Christopher Kelly that the things that he wants done will be done. Those legal changes that he doesn't agree with can simply be dealt with by not bringing them into effect," he said.

Ms Harman said that she had been "surprised" at the way Mr Cameron had made such a "big issue" of the matter in his response to the Queen's Speech.

"He knows as well anybody that we have said that we accept the Kelly recommendations and we are putting them over the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. So I think as far as he is concerned it is a smokescreen," she said.

The Conservative leader - who was given an advance copy of the Queen's Speech the previous evening - denied any collusion with Sir Christopher in his attack on the Government.

"My decision to put it front and centre in my speech was my own decision because it wasn't in the Queen's Speech," he said. "My job as Leader of the Opposition is to point out what is missing and to get something done about it."

He acknowledged, however, that Conservative Party officials may have been in contact with Sir Christopher's office during the course of yesterday.

"It is quite possible that someone would, out of politeness, ring up and say what did he think about the fact that his own proposals weren't mentioned in the Queen's Speech," he said.

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