Wales politics

Parliament still to recover from expenses scandal, says ex-MP

Jenny Willott
Image caption Jenny Willott lost her Cardiff Central seat in 2015

Seven years on from the expenses scandal, a former Welsh Lib Dem MP has said it will take "a lot longer" for the Houses of Parliament's reputation to recover.

Jenny Willott, a board member for parliamentary regulator IPSA, said the situation was "frustrating" for MPs who did nothing wrong or joined later.

But she said there had since been "real change" and current MPs "behave quite differently".

IPSA monitors MPs' pay and expenses.

The expenses scandal was sparked in 2009 after the Daily Telegraph obtained details of what MPs had been claiming.

As a result, many MPs stood down and some repaid claims. It also prompted the establishment of the IPSA.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme, the former Cardiff Central MP who lost her seat last year, said: "I think it is so much better now that the MPs that got caught doing things wrong... are pretty much all gone now.

"They either stood down at the time, stood down at the election a year later, or plenty of them lost their seats - a good example of democracy in action."

Image copyright Christine Matthews
Image caption "It will take a lot longer for parliament's reputation to recover" says Jenny Willott

Ms Willott said there had been a "real change" in the House of Commons, with MPs currently in parliament having "different experiences, different expectations, and behave quite differently".

"But I think it will take a lot longer for parliament's reputation to recover," she said.

"And I think that is very frustrating for those MPs who did not do anything wrong or who joined parliament after the expenses scandal," she added.

The former UK government minister under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition said IPSA "has a really important role in making sure that the general public can have confidence that the system is clean and people aren't getting away with fiddling their expenses".

'Vulnerability'

Ms Willott also spoke about security in the wake of the death of Labour Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, saying IPSA had a role in ensuring MPs and their staff felt safe.

She said: "I think one of the most upsetting elements of the Jo Cox tragedy was that she was doing her job. She was doing her surgery, which all MPs do every week, and it could have happened to anybody.

"That vulnerability and that feeling that everyone is potentially at risk, it has been amplified as a result of that."

She added IPSA could, working with authorities at the House of Commons, "make sure all MPs and their staff feel safe and have appropriate security measures in place to make sure they are working in a safe environment without, sort of, hiding away behind screens so they are not accessible to the public".

"There's a very careful balance to be had there," she said.

  • Listen to Sunday Supplement on BBC Radio Wales at 08:00 BST, Sunday, 14 August, or online.

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