Government plans ‘unravelling’ over expenses, says Cameron

Author: By Gavin Cordon, Press Association

The apparent concession came after the architect of the reform plan, Sir
Christopher Kelly, said he was “disappointed” that there was no mention of
it in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.

His comments appeared to catch the Government by surprise, and No 10 last
night rushed out a statement insisting that it would bring forward
additional legislation if necessary.

Mr Cameron, who challenged Gordon Brown in the Commons over the omission from
the Queen’s Speech, said that it was a victory for opposition pressure.

“I think that the Queen’s Speech is today unravelling because the Government
is now saying, apparently, that they will now bring forward these laws,” he
told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme .

“If that happens that will be a major victory for common sense, for the
Conservative party, and for the British public who want to see this sorted
out.

“Either the Government is incompetent and hadn’t realised that Kelly’s report
requires these laws to be passed or they are frightened of their own
backbenchers, or perhaps they don’t think that cleaning up the House of
Commons is as important as they said it was.”

However, the Leader of the Commons, Harriet Harman, insisted that ministers
still believed that Sir Christopher’s remaining recommendations could be
implemented by the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).

“There is no question of us regarding this as just something that can be swept
back under the carpet. I think that nobody is in any doubt of the anger and
concern there has been and remains amongst members of the public,” she told
the Today programme.

“They want it to be sorted out, we have set in process all the actions that
need to be taken to sort it out so that we don’t set our own allowance
system, we don’t administer it and if there have been any overpayments they
are all paid back.

“That can all be done before the general election.”

She said that plans in the legislation to hand over responsibility for the
MPs’ Code of Conduct and the Register of Members’ Interests to Ipsa – which
Sir Christopher opposed – would not now be implemented.

“I will need to reassure Sir Christopher Kelly that the things that he wants
done will be done. Those legal changes that he doesn’t agree with can simply
be dealt with by not bringing them into effect,” he said.

Ms Harman said that she had been “surprised” at the way Mr Cameron had made
such a “big issue” of the matter in his response to the Queen’s Speech.

“He knows as well anybody that we have said that we accept the Kelly
recommendations and we are putting them over the Independent Parliamentary
Standards Authority. So I think as far as he is concerned it is a
smokescreen,” she said.

The Conservative leader – who was given an advance copy of the Queen’s Speech
the previous evening – denied any collusion with Sir Christopher in his
attack on the Government.

“My decision to put it front and centre in my speech was my own decision
because it wasn’t in the Queen’s Speech,” he said. “My job as Leader of the
Opposition is to point out what is missing and to get something done about
it.”

He acknowledged, however, that Conservative Party officials may have been in
contact with Sir Christopher’s office during the course of yesterday.

“It is quite possible that someone would, out of politeness, ring up and say
what did he think about the fact that his own proposals weren’t mentioned in
the Queen’s Speech,” he said.

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