MPs repaying public funds

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IT IS no doubt tempting for MPs to believe that the public anger over their expenses claims has long since abated and that, since the Leveson Inquiry, it is journalists that are now rivalling bankers as the voters’ number one hate figures.

Indeed, this is the only explanation for the way in which so many MPs have treated the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) with cavalier disregard and even downright hostility since the independent regulator was set up nearly three years ago to bring transparency to the expenses system and place it under proper scrutiny.

So entrenched had the old, cosy system of claiming expenses become that the fundamental changes introduced by Ipsa were always going to encounter opposition. Nevertheless, the sustained attacks on its integrity indicated that far too many MPs were still unable to accept that there was anything wrong with their nakedly greedy – and, in some cases, criminal – conduct.

One of the most egregious practices revealed by the scandal was the so-called flipping of first and second homes in a way that would maximise taxpayer support for mortgage payments. It is therefore gratifying that 70 MPs have now agreed to repay almost £500,000 in profits made from taxpayer-funded homes.

The glaring exception to this is Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson, who is 
 now being sued by Ipsa 
for refusing to pay back £54,000 in capital-gains profits made on his second home.

It may have been too much to hope that MPs grown fat on the old system would adjust quickly to the new diet they are now being force-fed. But what many of them apparently fail to realise is that it will take the public even longer to accept that change is indeed occurring and that, slowly but surely, integrity is returning to public life.

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