‘Get a grip’, Cameron tells expenses watchdog

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron was warmly welcomed by MPs as he told the Commons’ expenses watchdog to “get a grip”.

The prime minister was responded to a question from Conservative backbencher David TC Davies, who attacked the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) for being poorly run.

MPs responded by giving him one of the biggest cheers of this lunchtime’s prime minister’s questions and Mr Cameron acknowledged it had been “a popular and well-placed question”.

He responded by saying parliament had wanted a straightforward system of expenses regulation to help recover trust in the country’s political system.

“What we don’t need is an overly bureaucratic system,” he added.

“All those in Ipsa need to get a grip of what they’re arguing and a get a grip very fast.”

The prime minister’s words are likely to be interpreted by Ipsa as a stinging rebuke and will be welcomed by the majority of MPs.

Many openly spoke out against the new expenses regime in a recent adjournment debate. Several others have privately admitted they are deeply uncomfortable with the current arrangements but fear the negative political consequences if they express their discontent publicly.

The overall impact of the scandal remains one of deep unease at the apparently weak link between MPs and their electorates.

Professor Ted Cantle, who wrote the government report on the 2001 Oldham race riots, said the gulf between MPs and voters was comparable to that existing between white and non-white communities in Oldham nine years ago.

Comment: What expenses and race riots have in common

Writing in a piece published on politics.co.uk, Prof Cantle warned that their “contempt for the public” could only be resolved through dramatic changes including strict limits on the length of tenure.

“The reputation of our parliamentarians is at an all-time low,” he wrote.

“This sense of ‘otherness’ is dangerous in any political system and needs to be addressed with urgent and radical change.”