MPS’ EXPENSES TAKE TWO

MPs’ Expenses Take Two
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MPS’ EXPENSES TAKE TWO



Written by Siobhan Morrin
23 Tuesday 23rd November 2010

With MPs’ expense claims due to be published online for the first time, the scandal threatens to reignite over publication of claims by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).
 
Two years after the revelations on MPs’ spending, the committee set up to regulate the system no longer plans to publish receipts, instead simply categorising claims under headings like ‘travel’. The IPSA claims that highlighting and scanning the receipts for publication would cost £1 million, which it sees as inappropriate in the current climate.
 
The news has been greeted with dismay, and with good reason. Classifying expenses rather than displaying individual receipts runs the risk of allowing abuse back into the system. If MPs know that the public cannot see exactly what they are claiming for, there is no pressure to conform, and the ease of making extravagant purchases remains. Just look at the attitudes held by some MPs when the scandal first came to light, as well as the responses here at Don’t Panic.
 
The news is all the more disappointing given that the IPSA was created in the aftermath of the scandal, designed to introduce transparency and make MPs accountable for their actions. The IPSA risks being made a mockery, particularly given their previous statements of purpose and their current website homepage.
 
“The IPSA’s rules… are a break from what went before and are fair, workable and transparent. IPSA will publish on its website every claim made by every MP.”
 
After nearly two years, it appears this will now be made a mockery of by the IPSA’s own actions, and expense claims will yet again be less than transparent to the public.
 
IPSA has this week come under pressure from the Speaker of the House of Commons to cut costs, some of which have arisen as a result of becoming an independent body with offices outside Westminster. This has conveniently coincided with the anger over the limited publication, and could act as a justification of the IPSA’s actions.
 
Unlock Democracy, the political reform group, expressed their outrage at the withholding of receipts. The say the classifcation system, “brings us back to square one… [and] represents business as usual.” They have launched a campaign to change the plans, publishing a letter they hope people will send to the head of IPSA, Sir Ian Kennedy.
 
It is clear that the current plans will not satisfy the public demand for accountability, and could risk IPSA’s reputation as an independent body. When the claims are published on December 2 there will now certainly be a great deal of scrutiny, receipts or not.
 
For the original Don’t Panic reaction to the scandal see our videos: http://bit.ly/hExyON and http://bit.ly/hTLpz4
 
To read more about the Unlock Democracy campaign see here.

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