UK Politics

MPs' expenses: Receipts will not be published

Receipt
Image caption Receipts backing up expenses claims will not be published online

The expenses watchdog has said it will not include receipts submitted by MPs when it starts publishing their claims next month.

Publishing receipts was recommended by the committee which reviewed MPs' expenses following last year's scandal.

But Ipsa, which is running the scheme, says there are so many it would cost more than £1m a year.

It will publish a breakdown of each claim, including the date, amount and a basic description from next month.

Before the expenses scandal, the Commons used to publish total amounts claimed by MPs under each allowance annually.

From 2 December the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) will publish individual claims by MPs, detailing the amount and date for each separate claim and a basic description of what it was for.

The first batch of expenses to be published will be those claimed from 7 May to 31 August. Ipsa says it will then publish claims every two months.

'Huge amount'

However it will not be publishing receipts - something that was done last year to comply with a High Court ruling, following a lengthy battle between Commons authorities, journalists and a freedom of information campaigner.

In his seven-month review of the MPs' expenses scheme, standards watchdog Sir Christopher Kelly recommended that the expenses regulator "should continue to publish, at least quarterly, each individual claim for reimbursement made by MPs with accompanying receipts or documentary evidence".

But Ipsa said the cost of preparing tens of thousands of receipts for publication - including removing sensitive details like credit card numbers - would be too costly.

A spokesman said: "The data we will be publishing will give the public sight of what MPs are spending the money on. We are talking about a huge amount of receipts here, tens of thousands and to go through the process of scanning those in, redacting them, preparing those for publication - we are talking about in excess of £1m a year."

He said a decision had been reached that was "not an appropriate use of funds, particularly when there is a way of providing confidence to the public of what expenses have been occurred".

The Commons lost a lengthy court battle to stop more details of expenses claims being published and was forced to compile details of all claims, including hundreds of thousands of receipts dating back several years.

The leaking of the receipts to the Daily Telegraph kick started a series of revelations about claims made by MPs, mostly under the controversial second homes allowance.

On Wednesday a bid to allow details of MPs who have repaid expenses after admitting mistakes to be more widely publicised, was delayed in the Commons.

MPs judged to have made "less serious" expenses mistakes have been allowed simply to apologise and repay the money, rather than face a full-blown standards investigation and published report, under the so-called "rectification" procedure.

In January Standards Commissioner John Lyon requested permission to publish the details on his website and Commons leader Sir George Young has urged MPs to support his proposal.

But a motion to allow it was delayed on Wednesday when Labour MP Ian Lavery cried "object". Mr Lavery also objected to another motion aimed at giving Mr Lyon the power to initiate investigations into whether an MP had breached the code of conduct. Currently he has to wait for a formal complaint.

The objections mean both motions will have to come back to the Commons at a later date.

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