Page last updated at 18:02 GMT, Thursday, 2 December 2010

MPs deliver ultimatum on 'unfair' expenses system

MPs have delivered an ultimatum to the Commons expenses watchdog, calling on it to reform the current "complicated and unfair" expenses system by April 2011.

On 2 December 2010, Tory MP Adam Afriyie led a debate on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), arguing that it disadvantages less well-off MPs and allows the wealthiest MPs to be "treated as saints".

He said a new system could "significantly" reduce the administrative costs of the present regime, urging MPs to back his motion, which warns Ipsa that if it does not meet MPs' demands, they will seek to amend the legislation necessary to make the changes themselves.

Mr Afriyie said Ipsa had been created too hastily in the aftermath of the expenses scandal, telling MPs: "What the system seems almost designed to create is a Parliament for those who are wealthy.

"If a member does not have sufficient resources to subsidise themselves in their role, they are then ensnared in a vice-like grip which is designed to bring them into disrepute with every single receipt that's produced for every single personal item.

"Whereas of course wealthier members, or those of independent means, can quite simply not claim."

He added: "We have to ask ourselves - is this the kind of system that the public really wants for their Parliament, where the wealthy swan through and buy their way up the system and have no trouble at all and are treated as saints when they're nothing of the sort?"

Labour's John Mann warned against Mr Afriyie's proposal, saying it would break the link of independence that had deliberately been put in place after the expenses scandal.

He argued that while the new system was more time-consuming than the old regime, it was improving "month on month" and the suggestion that it was so onerous as to stop MPs from being able to do their jobs properly was "frankly absurd".

"It is the case that there are legitimate criticisms, both on bureaucracy and on expense, but it is not the case that we should be reversing the principles of a decision made very, very recently indeed," Mr Mann said.

"And if we do, I warn the House, then the wrath of our constituents on us rightfully will be there. Because what we are saying is the bad old days weren't that bad, we will set what we want to fit us."

But at the end of the debate, MPs accepted the motion without a vote.

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