New expenses regime 'impeding' MPs

The new parliamentary expenses regime is "impeding" MPs in doing their jobs and must be reformed within the next two months, the Leader of the House of Commons said today.

In a highly critical statement, Sir George Young said the system set up by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) was "failing in many respects" to support the Commons.



Certain "highly unsatisfactory" aspects of the reformed expenses are "at best distracting, and at worst impeding" the work of MPs.



The new system is deterring people from less affluent backgrounds from becoming MPs and putting "undue pressure" on the family lives of existing parliamentarians, he said.



In a submission to the annual review of the new scheme, Sir George called for improvements to be agreed, if not introduced, by April 1.



His intervention came as Ipsa was publishing the latest tranche of MPs' claims today.



Ipsa has incurred the wrath of hundreds of MPs since being set up to administer their expenses in the aftermath of the 2009 scandal.



Sir George said: "I believe that the current expenses scheme, as designed, implemented and administered by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, is failing in many respects adequately to support MPs to undertake their responsibilities.



"There are some highly unsatisfactory features of the scheme that are at best distracting, and at worst impeding, MPs from doing their jobs.



"In addition, some aspects of the new regime are in danger of deterring people from less affluent backgrounds from becoming - and in some cases remaining - Members of Parliament and are also placing undue pressure on some MPs' family lives.



"This is unsustainable and it would be unacceptable to the House, if Parliament is to perform the task the country expects.



"I continue to support the principles of independent regulation and transparency.



"However, it would be unacceptable for any external body to prejudice the service that constituents should, as a matter of course, expect from their Member of Parliament."



Sir George said the Commons expected Ipsa to recognise the need for "substantial change", including a "simpler and, in the long run, more cost-effective system that properly supports all MPs as they go about their duties".



He added that it was "essential" for Ipsa to ensure "the key elements of the new scheme are established, if not actually operational, by 1 April 2011".



Sir George also appeared to take issue with Ipsa's publication of rejected expenses claims, which it is doing for the first time today.



"MPs must not be deterred from applying for expenses because they fear reputational damage as a result of failed claims made in good faith, nor from seeking advice for fear that the fact that they have done so may be disclosed and used against them," he said.





MPs had 154 claims for expenses rejected by Ipsa between September 15 and the end of October, it was disclosed today. They were collectively worth £15,352.49.



Another £3,641,081.09 was paid out in legitimate claims to 622 MPs in September and October.







The rejected claims ranged from one for just 30p for stationery to others worth hundreds of pounds.



Tory Defence Minister Peter Luff had a £286.50 telephone bill knocked back because he did not provide adequate documentation. He had another two claims, together worth £195, for administration costs rejected because Ipsa deemed them "not claimable".



Labour backbencher Paul Flynn had a £762 claim for service charges thrown out because of insufficient evidence.





Tory MP for Broadland Keith Simpson had a £1,230.23 claim for advertising disallowed. Ipsa said he provided insufficient evidence for the claim.



Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman had a £75 claim for venue hire thrown out because of insufficient evidence.



Graeme Morrice, Labour MP for Livingston, had 24 separate claims for car travel within his constituency rejected by Ipsa. Each was for £1.60.







Downing Street said David Cameron believed that Ipsa was not working properly and the problems needed to be dealt with.



"You cannot have a system that costs £6 million a year to administer the expenses of 650 people," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.



"Ipsa was set up quite rapidly following the expenses scandal. Clearly there are problems with the way it is working.



"The Prime Minister's view is that we have got to deal with this."









Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg submitted claims totalling £14,451.33 for the period from May to October.



They included mortgage interest costs of £842.47 a month and regular council tax bills of £180.



The rent on his constituency office in Sheffield Hallam cost the taxpayer £725 a month and he spent £2,369 on "parliamentary support".



The Prime Minister spent £2,581.13 during the same period, the majority of which went on research by the Parliamentary Resources Unit (PRU).



Chancellor George Osborne claimed £582.62 between May and July, all for travel and administration costs.



All of Mr Cameron's and Mr Osborne's claims were previously published in Ipsa's December release.





Former prime minister Gordon Brown claimed £8,264.33 up to September.



More than £5,000 of that was spent on running his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency office, although it also included more than £2,000 of previously published travel costs.



Ipsa hit back at Downing Street on the issue of running costs.



"Saying Ipsa costs £6 million a year to administer 650 MPs' expenses it not accurate," it said in a statement.



"Ipsa's costs in its first year were £6 million, but this includes a number of costs associated with setting up an organisation, eg, IT, temporary staff and recruiting staff.



"Ipsa administers thousands of expense claims a week. We also have responsibilities to pay all MPs and all members of their staff - up to 3,000 people.



"Furthermore, Parliament has charged Ipsa with the duty of being an independent regulator - this means setting and governing the system and providing training to hundreds of MPs and thousands of their staff, not simply administering expenses.



"We have already made a public commitment that we will cost less next year."



Tory MP Penny Mordaunt backed Sir George's criticisms, saying that the current system "discriminates against anyone who has come from any ordinary background".



She said that MPs needed £20,000 to £30,000 in the bank to cover their expenses while their claims were dealt with, and she warned that some would not be able to afford to see out the parliament.



"It means that MPs from, actually, not even modest backgrounds, but who have been earning even something like £50,000 before they came into the House of Commons will be very hard-pushed to continue under this regime," she told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.



"It is proving extremely difficult. Most of my colleagues are consistently £10,000 to £15,000 out of pocket. Over the Christmas period I had £22. That's it. That was the absolute limit.



"If you are spending out £5,000 every month, and our net salary is about £3,500 - if you are spending that amount of money and then not being reimbursed for office expenses and so on for months, then that soon adds up."

Suggested Topics
News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree - £18k Starting Salary

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London