MPs prepare to debate their expenses system

The debate on a call to change the MPs expenses system should start at around 12.30 today - with opponents determined to force a vote. (see earlier post).

The report from Conservative Adam Afriyie's Committee on Members' Expenses is self-consciously moderate and amounts to an humble address to IPSA, (the MPs expenses watchdog) politely suggesting a few modest changes to its operations - if a cost benefit analysis by a third party suggests the changes would save money for the taxpayer.

The motion today, merely approving the recommendations of the report, avoids any suggestion of an actual instruction to IPSA. And there's an amendment down from a collection of backbench heavyweights including Procedure Committee Chair Greg Knight, and the Lib Dem power couple Duncan Hames and Jo Swinson, toning things down still further, and referring the report to IPSA "to be considered as part of its Annual Review."

Labour MP and scourge of expenses abusers, John Mann, is promising to force a vote if no-one else does. And he regards the whole exercise as a waste of taxpayers' money. Others are not so sure. Former Conservative MP Paul Goodman writes on Conservative Home that there is a danger that only the rich will be able to afford to be MPs, with the less well off not daring to claim legitimate expenses., and eventually drifting out of Parliament.

Perhaps, but as I wrote the other day - however much they dislike their expenses system (and, believe me, many MPs hate it - the report quotes a survey suggesting 81 per cent of MPs disagree with the suggestion that IPSA does a good job supporting their work, 93 per cent say they have been deterred from making legitimate claims) they don't dare do anything about it. Especially when the reputation of the Commons seems to be recovering a bit.

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