Just days after Sir Ian Kennedy was handed the task of devising an expenses system that would put an end to duck houses, moat clearances and publicly funded trips to Ikea, it appeared his conclusions would not draw the line under the scandal that party leaders had hoped for.
Rumours immediately surfaced that Sir Ian, the new chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) felt no need to endorse the radical reforms devised by Sir Christopher Kelly, Westminster's standards watchdog. Not only did he doubt the legality of stopping MPs from profiting from the sale of their publicly funded second homes, he was also unconvinced they should be banned from employing family members.
The fierce reaction Sir Ian experienced in public forums soon convinced him allowing MPs to profit from the sale of their second homes was a non-starter. But while he was not afraid to take on the MPs over that issue, he seems to be slightly more cowed by their other halves. Ipsa's decision to allow the employment of one family member came after a cross-party campaign led by Suzy Gale, the wife of the Tory MP Roger Gale. Sir Ian and the Ipsa board were persuaded that family members often provided the best value for money. What will anger voters more is the suspicion that Sir Ian valued the views of MPs above that of the public – he said he considered the "quality" not just the "quantity" of opinions received.
His concession risks overshadowing what is, taken as a whole, a tougher regime than many MPs had feared, with the total amount they can claim drastically cut.
However, one glaring problem remains. While elected politicians will be subjected to an independent, rigorous and transparent expenses system, their unelected counterparts down the hall in the Lords will be under far less scrutiny. Privately, Sir Ian would like to see peers come under the control of Ipsa. After all, its name refers to all of Parliament, not just the Commons. So to any peers who have been perusing a catalogue of the latest duck-related real estate: you have been warned.Reuse content