The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) has admitted that it has sought to withhold information from the public for fear of embarrassing MPs. The Daily Telegraph used the legal system to force IPSA to release the information in a move which is expected to undermine trust in the organisation which was set up to open up the expenses system.
IPSA deliberately withheld the information that hundreds of MPs have had credit cards suspended, including members of the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet.
Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary, has been criticised by the Commons Standards watchdog after another breach of the House’s rules. Johnson was also previously warned by the committee for failing to disclose earnings he had made outside of the Commons.
The report said about Johnson’s breach:
“We conclude with concern that these two investigations by the Commissioner in rapid succession demonstrate a pattern of behaviour by Mr Johnson. While there is no suggestion that he has at any time tried deliberately to conceal the extent of his interests, this latest breach reinforces the view which we expressed in our previous Report, that he has displayed “an over-casual attitude towards obeying the rules of the House”, in conjunction with “a lack of effective organisation within [his] office”. We find it particularly regrettable that Mr Johnson gave an assurance to the Commissioner that his registration of financial interests was up to date, and within a very short period it proved not to be.”
Simon Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale who was suspended by Labour for inappropriate texts which he sent to a 17-year old girl, has been forced to repay wrongly claimed expenses.
Danczuk claimed for a £96.50 car parking charge whilst he was actually on holiday in Spain. IPSA, who monitor the expenses of MPs, ordered the money to be returned to the tax-payer. Danczuk has returned the money but rejecting the criticism, saying he could have manipulated the situation to still allow him to claim the expense:
“The alternative to leaving my car parked in Manchester for that week would have been to travel by train from London in order to move that vehicle. By doing so, I could have legitimately claimed up to £187.80 for the train journey. This represents a significantly greater expense to the taxpayer than £96.50 worth of parking”.
The MP has also been forced to return over £11,000 which he wrongly claimed to help support his children in London. An investigation by IPSA found that his claims weren’t valid but Danczuk blamed the “the vague wording of the rules”.
A statement by IPSA said:
“The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the MP obtained an increase to his accommodation expenditure budget by claiming dependant uplifts for his two oldest children for a period of over three years, when, at no point were either of the children routinely resident”.
Colin Gray, the Mayor of Ross-on-Wye Town Council, was caught on camera threatening to charge the cost of a parking penalty charge to the tax-payers of the town. Gray was filmed as part of the Parking Wars documentary shown on ITV.
A freedom of information request has been submitted asking whether the Mayor attempted to claim back the cost of the penalty charge from the tax-payer. Questions have also been asked as to the use of a secretary he referred to in the programme who he mentioned would intervene in the matter.
Ross-on-Wye Town Council issued a statement saying that the Mayor made no request for the penalty charge to be paid from expenses. Gray was elected unanimously to serve as the town’s Mayor for the second time in June 2015.
Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, has returned money claimed for a Remembrance Day wreath after the expenses were questioned by the media.
Champion broke IPSA rules on claiming for the wreath which isn’t allowable under Parliamentary expenses. Champion has said that following the media reports she will be returning the £17 expenses claim next week.
In an interview with The Sun the Tax-Payer’s Alliance said:
“Trying to put the bill on somebody else to honour our servicemen and women is downright low.”
Champion has not made a statement or apology on her Twitter account or on her web-site relating to the claim.