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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 March 2008, 16:42 GMT
MPs face tougher receipts rules
Palace of Westminster
MPs only have to show receipts for expenses worth more than 250
The amount of expenses MPs can claim without a receipt is to be cut from 250 to 25 from 1 April.

The Commons Members Estimates Committee ruled out demanding proof over smaller claims, as MPs often use cash on items "for which receipts are not given".

It also said the amount of petty cash MPs can use for office expenses would be reduced from 250 to 50 per month.

The committee promised the new limits would be "underpinned by a more robust regime for audit".

Figures

The review, set up and chaired by Commons Speaker Michael Martin, said it had considered three figures when reducing the limit on expenses without a receipt: 100, 50 and 25.

In its interim report, it said: "We have heard from Members from all sides of the House that they already submit receipts with their claims.

We have considered whether the threshold should be zero but ruled it out for practical reasons
Commons Members Estimate Committee

"Members have also spoken of their experience in previous jobs outside the House which suggest that in other occupations all receipts would be submitted with claims or certainly for all claims over 25."

It said a "zero" threshold was ruled out for practical reasons as MPs often incurred "small costs" paid in cash for which receipts were not given while working between Westminster and their constituencies.

And the committee said, as some MPs already submitted receipts for items under 250, the new checks should be "feasible" although a "modest increase" in administrative staff may be necessary.

Spot checks

The committee also said it was "determined to establish audit controls which command public confidence".

Some MPs had suggested a system of random spot-checks "for checking the money has been spent on the purpose intended", it added.

I think in this day and age, it's just not really a sensible situation for MPs to be buying television sets and washing machines with taxpayers' expenses
Nick Harvey MP

Proposals for increased checks are due to be published by the end of March, following discussions with the National Audit Office, accountancy firms, HM Revenue & Customs and the Audit Commission.

The new rules on receipts do not cover the 400 a month MPs can claim without receipts, for food bought while away from their main home using their Additional Costs Allowance (ACA).

That is expected to be dealt with when the committee publishes its full report on reforming expenses this summer.

Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey, who is on both the Members Estimates Committee and the Standards and Privileges Committee which is holding its own inquiry into MPs' expenses, said the ACA should be scrapped and MPs should be paid more instead.

He told the BBC: "I think in this day and age, it's just not really a sensible situation for MPs to be buying television sets and washing machines with taxpayers' expenses.

"It really does look very anachronistic in 2008 and I think we've got to accept that that system belongs to a bygone era."

And the shadow Commons leader Theresa May, said the interim report was a sign that the Commons was making changes. She told the BBC: ''We recognise the degree of disquiet externally on this issue and are willing to take moves.''

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "The prime minister welcomes any steps towards greater transparency in MPs' expenses."



SEE ALSO
Speaker speeds up expenses review
26 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
'Lax' MP expenses rules condemned
26 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
'John Lewis' list kept from MPs
08 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Expenses details 'intrude' on MPs
07 Feb 08 |  UK Politics

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