Following the Telegraph's exposure of the full extent of MPs' use of their taxpayer-funded allowances, the House of Commons is set to announce a new system of vetting and verification.
A new auditing body, independent of the House of Commons staff who currently check MPs' claims, will be announced on Monday by the House of Commons Commission.
But it is the Times that points out that this is, in fact, a smokescreen to stop future scrutiny of the claims.
A Labour plot to suppress the future release of MPs’ expenses has been uncovered by The Times.
As the frenzy over MPs’ claims continues into a fourth day, senior figures from all parties will meet this morning to discuss how to salvage Parliament’s battered reputation. Plans to bring in a private-sector company to run the expenses department has raised fears, however, that the move is being used as a smokescreen to suppress future embarrassing revelations.
Senior Labour figures say that the future privatisation of the Fees Office to process claims would exempt receipts from publication under Freedom of Information rules.
The unit, expected to cost £600,000 a year, is being seen as a desperate rearguard action to protect Parliament’s reputation.
Sir Stuart Bell, the Labour member of the House of Commons Commission, said that the unit would at first be staffed by outsiders and eventually offered to tender for companies such as Capita or Cap Gemini. “It will be staffed by skilled people from outside Parliament and once the unit is established [plans] are already under way that it should be given over to the private sector,” he said.
Sir Stuart said yesterday that receipts would not be released for public inspection if they were processed by a private company. “Receipts would be available under FOI in the unit [when it is part of the Commons] but when they go to an outside unit they would not.”
Even now—when the full extent of their mendacity is laid bare, as they have been shown to be faithless and dishonest—they just cannot stop themselves, can they?
Even now, their first instinct is not to behave better, but to hide the evidence of their wrong-doing from those who are forced to pay the bill.