It’s not only MPs who are arguing over Commons expenses
There are two very different reports inside the volume published by Parliament today. Sir Thomas Legg, who led the audit, kicks off at the front of the document saying why he’s been right to tackle expenses the way he has.
At the back, the former Appeal Court Judge Sir Paul Kennedy says that one of Sir Thomas’ approaches was “damaging, unfair and wrong.” (p. 174). On retrospective limits on gardening and cleaning, Sir Paul says Sir Thomas was wrong to imply “impropriety” on the part of those who “overclaimed” when no claim limit existed.
Some of the appeal letters at the back of the Legg Report also reveal a serious clash of views between the former civil servant and the former judge. In a letter to Peter Lilley, who got his £41,057.36 knocked down to a big fat zero on appeal, Sir Paul Kennedy writes: “I am at a loss to understand why the Review (i.e. Sir Thomas Legg) should state that what you did was not permitted under the ACA, nor do I understand the reference…” to a relaxation in the rules that only came in later.
On similar but not identical grounds, Sir Paul knocks down the Legg demand for £17,894.24 from Liberal Democrat frontbencher Jeremy Browne as “not … fair or equitable” and based on “a narrow view.”
Elsewhere in the report you discover the ex-MPs who left Parliament in 2005 who have so far not paid back Legg’s demand. Former Defence Minister Ivor Caplin who stood down in 2005 is asked for nearly £18,000 and the report says Legg received “no reply” from Mr Caplin.
We just contacted him by mobile phone and he said he “hasn’t received any letters at all.” John Lyons who left Parliament in 2005 is also recorded as not having replied to Legg’s letters.Diana Organ – another departee from 2005 – is asked for nearly £16,000.
Even when Parliament votes in sanctions to sequester unpaid demands from salaries, at the end of February, it won’t be able to reach out and get back money from former MPs. It has no such power and can’t vote to grant itself that power.