Principles 'should replace MPs' expenses rules'

Tight expenses rules for MPs should be abandoned in favour of a set of "principles" and scrutiny by voters, the watchdog in charge of the regime suggested today.





The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) said a looser system where politicians took responsibility for justifying their spending to the public would be "simpler" and provide "value for money".



The prospect of a gradual shift could help soothe MPs who are furious over the bureaucracy and costcutting imposed in the wake of the expenses scandal that rocked Westminster.



Last month David Cameron condemned the rules as "anti-family" and warned that they had to change, while backbenchers have been openly calling for the watchdog's chairman Sir Ian Kennedy to quit.



However, there is bound to be concern at the idea of easing restrictions, with research suggesting that only a third of the public trust MPs to file legitimate claims.



A public consultation published by Ipsa floated a number of improvements to the existing scheme, including allowing scores of outer London MPs to claim for running second homes again.



The document suggested funding more travel for MPs' families and increasing the £130-a-night limit on hotels.



But it also raised the prospect that a less rigid system could be introduced in the longer term, with MPs "justifying their own decisions".



Instead of detailed rules, there would be "an expenses scheme based more on a set of principles which do not attempt to cover every eventuality".



"It will need a decision that a system that is easy to understand is preferable to a larger rule book which seeks certainty but necessarily falls short of delivering it," the consultation said.



"It will also require an agreement by MPs that they will take greater responsibility for their claims within the general framework of principles and the agreed budgets.



"If this were to happen, Ipsa would be able to be less demanding. The taxpayer would still be able to obtain assurance that public money was being properly disbursed, since the majority of claims would continue to be published and after-the event auditing would remain.



"Transparency and accountability would be as strong as now."



In his foreword to the document, Sir Ian highlighted the "ever-increasing demand for detailed advice and interpretation of detailed rules and guidance".



"The cost to the taxpayer is considerable," he wrote. "We are clear that the model of how we do business must evolve."



Backbenchers renewed their attack on the watchdog as the six-week consultation was launched this morning. Liberal Democrat Bob Russell told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the organisation was the worst he had dealt with in 40 years in public life, while Tory Roger Gale said the chairman should consider resigning.



But Sir Ian dismissed the idea of quitting, suggesting politicians were just having trouble accepting the "new world".



"Ipsa is doing the job Parliament asked it to do," he said. "We are here for the long haul. There's not an immediate quick fix that's possible."



Under the rules in force before the general election, only 25 MPs with constituencies in "inner" London were not entitled to claim for a second home.



But Ipsa increased that figure to 128 after deciding that politicians did not need extra accommodation if their seat was within 20 miles of parliament, or they could reach it within an hour on the train.



The consultation questioned whether that was "unfair" to the MPs who can no longer claim, pointing out that the Commons often sits until late at night.



MPs are permitted to spend £130 a night staying in London hotels, and £105 elsewhere in the country. Ipsa revealed that the average overnight claim in London was £111.51, but there was also "anecdotal evidence" of difficulties booking hotels for less than £130 at short notice.



Taxi fares can only be reimbursed if they are "absolutely necessary", but some MPs have complained that the definition is arbitrary.



"An alternative approach would be to relax the rules on taxis and rely on MPs to make the judgment about what is reasonable, bearing in mind the current financial climate and the fact that claims for the use of taxis will be published."



Under the existing scheme, MPs can claim for children aged 5-17 to travel between homes. But if the politician's spouse or partner accompanies the youngster, they have to pay their own way.



"Some MPs have argued that this might force children to travel on their own; others argue that it discourages MPs' families from being together and is therefore detrimental to family life," the consultation said.



The watchdog also disclosed that it had complained to the Commons authorities over a new flat-rate charge of £15 for eating in the Members Dining Room. A £10 option has since been agreed, but even that was "still likely to exceed the price of the same meal if bought by a non-MP".



A poll commissioned by Ipsa to accompany the consultation demonstrated the lasting damage from the expenses scandal.



Less than a third of the public trust MPs to claim only for legitimate expenses, according to the poll by YouGov. A further 35% said they had some trust, but not very much.



Leader of the House of Commons Sir George Young said he welcomed the "wide-ranging review".



"The expenses system is there to give MPs the support they need to carry out their jobs, and Ipsa should look again at areas where the current scheme is not adequately doing that," he said. "We support the principles of independent and transparent regulation of MPs' expenses."

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit