4 Nov 2009

Will MPs now conspire to dilute the Kelly proposals?

There will be some weeping over the Corn Flakes at some Northern Ireland breakfast tables this morning. Sir Christopher Kelly has ordained that holding a job in the Northern Ireland Assembly and in Westminster is not acceptable.

That was one of the surprises (there aren’t many after all the leaks!) in his report. Northern Ireland parties are very skilled at getting special favours from UK governments, so this may not come into law by 2011 – we shall see.

More broadly, on the changes to all MPs’ allowances and whether he was confident they would be implemented, Sir Christopher just told me at his press conference that “you never get a complete assurance” from party leaders on things like this.

Some MPs have raised the prospect of using the period of consultation that the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has to hold under law as a moment to intervene and dilute these proposals.

Kelly warned them that would be “an error” and dangerous. Kelly reserved particular scorn for Harriet Harman, who used a weekend interview to associate herself with MPs who employ relations and don’t want to sack them (as the report suggests).

He said she’d been supportive of the idea of stopping relations being employed when she gave evidence to the committee.

In general, he seems extremely jaded about the party hierarchies who he blames for leaking what he feels was a garbled version of his report after he briefed them last week.

IPSA acting chief executive Andrew McDonald is, I hear, thinking now of a shorter consultation period than originally planned to enforce these plans – six weeks, not three months.

He is confident he can – even though the body is not fully staffed – get new rules in place for a date known in the jargon as “P+1”, the first day of a new parliament after a general election.

Like the new chairman selected yesterday, Sir Ian Kennedy, he expects to use his judgement not simply “input” the Kelly recommendations. But that doesn’t mean the IPSA is likely to do what some MPs are hoping for and seriously alter the Kelly plan.

– UPDATED: New post on the Kelly review

– Related: MPs forced to bare all for voters

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