MPs set for showdown over anonymity plans for expenses probes

Posted On: 
19th July 2018

MPs will lock horns today over whether those accused of fiddling their parliamentary expenses should remain anonymous.

The new rules were drawn up by a cross-party group led by Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom
PA Images

Under new proposals in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal at Westminster, MPs accused of any offence would not be named by the parliamentary watchdog.

But a powerful committee of MPs has said the move would mark a "radical departure" from transparency and will try to block it today, according to the Daily Telegraph.

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The new rules were drawn up by a cross-party group led by Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom to overhaul the system for reporting bullying and sexual harassment at parliament.

It is argued that the decision to prevent the Commissioner for Standards revealing all ongoing investigations is a bid to encourage harassment victims who want to remain anonymous to come forward.

But the Committee on Standards is set to table an amendment to the rules - due to be voted on today - to ensure expenses and other conflict of interest cases are exempt.

It said: “Any decision to step back from this will be perceived as conducting investigations in secret and a radical departure from a commitment to openness and transparency."

Chair of the Committee Sir Kevin Barron told the Telegraph: "It would be a huge step backwards in terms of transparency to block the publication of all disciplinary cases, including cases outside of the new code for things, such as incorrect use of stationery or abuse of their expenses."

And Labour MP John Mann told the paper: "The danger is that the power is shifting significantly back towards the MPs, regardless of the allegations - and much of this centres precisely about imbalance in power relations."

But a source close to the steering group told the paper: "Under the existing system victims can be easily identified, so to change Westminster's culture we need to improve the way the Parliamentary Commissioner of Standards publishes details of her investigations.

"Under the steering group’s proposals, which aim to provide consistency across all types of investigations, the PCS will still have the option of publishing details of cases at the end of the process.

"It is now for the House to decide if they wish to adopt these proposals, which are much fairer."