Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

MPs' expenses probe is ruled out

MPs in the Commons
MPs backed moves for greater auditing of expenses

Parliament's standards watchdog has decided against launching an inquiry into MPs' allowances.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life reached the decision after meeting Commons leader Harriet Harman.

It was felt that new arrangements for auditing MPs' expenses were in themselves "a significant step forward", the BBC was told.

Plans to exempt MPs' expenses details from freedom of information requests were shelved last month.

Broken down

This followed the refusal by opposition parties to back ministers.

Ms Harman said at the time that all expenses information requested in the past four years would be published in full, at a cost of about 2m, but did not make clear when this would happen.

MPs also approved proposals to give the National Audit Office powers to scrutinise expenses, while claims would be broken down into 26 categories rather than the current nine.

The committee, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly, heard in private from Ms Harman on Wednesday.

The BBC understands that members felt the moves to increase auditing meant a full inquiry into expenses was not needed.

MPs' allowances became the subject of controversy when it emerged last year that Conservative Derek Conway had paid his sons to act as researchers while both were students.

The Commons standards and privileges committee found he had overpaid them and ordered him to repay some of the money.

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