Speaker of Commons blocks release of MPs expenses details

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  By a Newsnet reporter

The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has written to the expenses regulator expressing “security concerns” and warning him not to release documents which identify the landlords of MPs who claim rent expenses. 

The information had been due to be published today (Thursday), and would have revealed how many Members of Parliament are exploiting a loophole which allows MPs to circumvent some of the restrictions on accommodation expenses which were introduced following the expenses scandal in 2009.

In a letter to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Mr Bercow wrote:  “The processing of the data … could involve causing unwarranted damage and distress … I should be grateful if you and your colleagues would reconsider such a plan.”

The new expenses regulations adopted by the House of Commons in 2010, after the expenses scandal which saw a number of MPs imprisoned for fraud, ban MPs from renting accommodation from “connected parties” such as family members or business partners.  The restriction was introduced to prevent MPs from claiming the market rent on expenses while actually paying their landlord far less.  

Initially MPs were also barred from renting from other MPs, however this rule was later loosened following demands from MPs.  According to the Daily Telegraph, officials within the regulator’s office have confirmed that “several MPs” are making use of the loophole.

Concerns have been raised that this provision permits MPs to build up property portfolios at the taxpayers’ expense.

In a statement IPSA said:

“There is no authority we have to impose restrictions on MPs and their properties, what they choose to do with them.

“Who they chose to rent them out to, we have no authority to say you can’t do that. If an MP chose to rent out their property to an MP, there is nothing in these rules.”