Ipsa: Adam Afriyie set to head review of MP expenses

It looks as if MPs have started the process of bringing their expenses watchdog, Ipsa, to heel - after a bout of brinkmanship between its critics and the Government whips, last night. They have been debating a motion to revive the moribund Select Committee on Members' Allowances to conduct a review of the expenses system.

The motion is the product of the Conservative backbencher Adam Afriyie, who has waged a long campaign, chronicled in this blog, to reform the workings of Ipsa, which remains loathed and abominated by most MPs.

The brinkmanship revolved around a somewhat tougher motion proposed by Mr Afriyie, which was due to be debated in one of today's Backbench Business Committee slots. The Government was proposing to whip against that motion - and was faced with the prospect of a substantial and embarrassing rebellion by its troops and - I hear - the resignation from the government of two parliamentary private secretaries, ministerial bag-carriers.

The deal which averted all that was struck last night. Now Mr Afriyie will be teleported into the chair of the Allowances Committee, with a mandate to make recommendations about the value for money provided by the Ipsa system, the accountability issues around it, how fair it is for less well off members and those with families, and its effect on public confidence in Parliament.

The end game will come when the committee reports. If the government does not provide Commons time for the report and recommendations to be debated, then you can bet that the Backbench Business Committee will be asked to do so - after all, their mandate includes holding debates on select committee reports and their recommendations.

On the day Lib Dem high flyer David Laws was clobbered over his expenses, no MP should be in any doubt about the lingering toxicity of this issue for parliamentarians.

The point is that the House of Commons has found a mechanism to try and apply some control to the workings of Ipsa. Which raises the question: just how independent will this independent watchdog be, if it does succeed?