Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

MPs Tied Up in Red Tape; New Expenses System Leaves Them Baffled

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

MPs Tied Up in Red Tape; New Expenses System Leaves Them Baffled

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NORTH MPs yesterday attacked their overhauled expenses system as a "nightmare", with one saying he could not afford to pay his credit card bill because of the shake-up.

The Independent Parliamentary StandS ards Authority (Ipsa) came under fire for its handling of new tougher expenses rules. The authority was set up in the wake of the expenses crisis a year ago with MPs in the last Parliament backing the new system without a vote.

But Ipsa was yesterday branded a "nightmare" during a Parliamentary debate as it moved to calm anger among MPs by promising more face-to-face meetings.

MPs claimed it was too bureaucratic, forcing them to spend hours trying to navigate the system rather than fighting for constituents. One suggested MPs should get a credit card to avoid paying money up front for job expenses.

Labour's David Winnick, who represents Walsall North, has been leading campaigners for greater transparency in the expenses system. But he said it was "very difficult indeed to get any sense out of Ipsa".

With dozens of MPs crowding into the debate in Westminster Hall yesterday, Mr Winnick said: "It is indefensible Ipsa should have set up a system which is so difficult and so complex, and, particularly for new members, has made life a nightmare."

Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Sedgefield, won an ironic round of applause from MPs as he revealed he succeeded in logging onto the online expenses system.

But he added: "The expenses that appeared on the screen were those of another MP."

Ipsa told him it was a "glitch" but Mr Wilson said: "In my view that is not a computer glitch, that is a gross intrusion into another member's privacy." The Labour MP said he had no complaints about allowances for rents but called for more flexibility on allowances for office costs.

He warned his office rent cost pounds 13,000 a year, but the Ipsa approved budget only allowed pounds 10,000 after splitting the old office allowance in half. Breaking the contract would cost pounds 30,000, according to Mr Wilson.

Speaking during the debate, Gateshead MP Ian Mearns warned the rules did not take account of the need to set up an office in his newly-created constituency. …

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