Key reforms designed to clean up the MPs' expenses system may now be thrown out. All three major party leaders have thrown their support behind the myriad of reforms recommended by Sir Christopher Kelly's inquiry this week, and Sir Christopher said his measures should be implemented in full by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).
But a source close to Ipsa said it was "merely his assumption that that would be the case". Instead, the authority is also planning another major review before implementing a new system. The Kelly inquiry would be no more than "one of the bases for the conversation". Sources added that the recommendations would not simply be "rubber-stamped". One added: "The recommendations are recommendations. There is no sense in which [Kelly] or anyone else would presume that anyone is under any obligation to implement them." It will give disgruntled MPs hope that they will be able to overturn some of the most unpopular of the 60 reforms recommended by Sir Christopher's report.
In particular, there are early worries over his recommendations concerning the ban on the employment of spouses by MPs, as well as measures designed to stop MPs profiting from selling homes they were helped to buy with public funds. In both areas, there are concerns that the measures recommended by the inquiry may not be legally watertight and could lead to successful challenges in the courts. "There are some things that are in need of further consideration," a source said. "The wagons are circling on certain aspects."
Figures close to Ipsa believe Downing St has given the new body wiggle room to design its own reforms. "The report was accepted by Gordon Brown, but went on to say that it was now up to Ipsa to implement the new system." A new inquiry is planned, which is expected to include public meetings, social media sites such as Facebook, and even radio phone-ins, in order to have a "wider conversation" with the public over a new expenses system.
Sir John Baker, a former head of the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) hit out at the "cowardice and hypocrisy" shown by some MPs who chose to abuse their parliamentary allowances rather than vote for a pay increase. He said a higher income was needed to attract the best people t o Westminster. "That, too, is going to require the right rate for the job, and today that will not be far short of £100,000," he said yesterday. "That means paying the right price, not settling for shoddy goods in the bargain-basement."
And one MP, Julie Kirkbride, the Tory member for Bromsgrove, who had said she would be standing down after revelations about her expenses told a special meeting of her constituency association yesterday that she wanted to reverse her resignation and seek to represent the seat at the next election.Reuse content