MPs pile on expenses criticism

By staff

Backbenchers have launched a concerted attack on parliament’s expenses watchdog as anger at the new allowances system boiled over.

A Westminster Hall debate called by senior Labour MP David Winnick resulted in a packed-out chamber as MPs from all parties queued to condemn the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

Its administration of the new expenses system has led to frustration over a wide range of issues, from the £110,000 staffing budget to the complicated online forms required to process each claim.

“It’s indefensible that Ipsa should have set up a system that is so pitiful and so complex,” Mr Winnick said.

Labour’s Helen Goodman accused the watchdog of being “above the law” because of the removal of travel allowance for spouses once MPs’ children reached the age of six.

Conservative grandee Sir John Stanley claimed Ipsa was violating parliamentary privilege through removing MPs’ freedom from obstruction in a “wholly unprecedented situation”.

Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell agreed, before criticising the “luxury” of Ipsa’s headquarters when “the work they do they could easily do from an industrial estate in Romford”.

Ipsa’s chairman Sir Ian Kennedy told the Times newspaper he was prepared to make concessions, but remained defiant in response to MPs’ disquiet.

“I have been surprised at the level of noise and, to a degree the level of hostility – in some bordering on rudeness – from a small minority of MPs,” he said.