Government demands fast overhaul of MP expenses

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THE Government has demanded an overhaul of the parliamentary expenses regime within two months as MPs who have had claims rejected were named for the first time.

Commons leader Sir George Young said the new system policed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) was “impeding” MPs doing their jobs and “failing in many respects”.

His intervention – with a demand of improvements by April 1 – came as the latest set of MPs’ expenses were released, including details of claims which rejected by Ipsa over the past six months.

Nearly 250 claims have been turned down either in full or in part, including submissions from several Yorkshire MPs. Some were stopped because of a lack of evidence, some were later paid, but some were deemed to be outside the rules, and there was anger from those MPs who said they had done nothing wrong.

Ipsa said that Halifax’s Linda Riordan had parts of five claims totalling more than £420 held back owing to insufficient evidence, while claims by Beverley and Holderness’s Graham Stuart for constituency phone services and York Central’s Hugh Bayley for newspapers were deemed not to be claimable.

Alec Shelbrooke, MP for Elmet and Rothwell, had £58 knocked off a £302 claim for office rent, while Wakefield’s Mary Creagh fell foul for submitting a duplicate claim.

At the other end of the scale officials took 4p off a claim by Huddersfield’s Barry Sheerman for constituency office hire, and reduced Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher’s claim for a hotel room by from £88.88 to £88.

Sir George’s criticism of the regime – introduced in the wake of the expenses scandal – represents frustration from MPs that some have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket because of delays paying claims while stringent rules make it difficult to maintain a family life. He also condemned the release of the names of those who had claims turned down.

Downing Street also criticised the system but was rebuked by Ipsa for saying the authority’s running costs were £6m a year.

Details released yesterday showed that £3.6m was paid out in legitimate claims in September and October, while £15,352.49 was turned down.

Ipsa chairman Sir Ian Kennedy insisted that reform of the expenses system was in “the interests of MPs” and said they were “missing a trick if they don’t celebrate what is going on”.