MPs retreat on payments shake-up

The House of Commons yesterday backed down from calling for Parliament's independent expenses watchdog to be broken up despite continuing anger over the administration of the system.

In an angry debate, MPs on both side of the House attacked the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which pays their expenses, for being over-bureaucratic and expensive to the taxpayer.

But instead of provoking a head-on confrontation, the Commons decided that Ipsa should consider the proposals of a cross-party committee which recommended it could be stripped of some of its functions as part of its annual review.

The committee's chairman, Adam Afriyie, did not force MPs to vote on whether to accept all the report's recommendations, which include setting up an assessment of whether flat-rate supplements should be used instead of current transport and accommodation allowances.

Mr Afriyie claimed the current regime was a "burden on Members in terms of the time it takes to navigate the expenses system".

Andrew Tyrie, who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, said many MPs found Ipsa an obstacle to fulfilling their duties, adding: "The legislation needs to be changed." The report urges legislation to force Ipsa to change unless it acts by April.

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