Lawyer Will Head IPSA

(Telegraph) – THE LAWYER WHO CHAIRED THE INQUIRY into the deaths of child heart patients in Bristol is expected to become chairman of the new body created to oversee MPs’ allowances.

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy has not been offered the job; but his appointment was approved by the Speaker’s Committee, the group of senior MPs in charge of selecting the board of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) which will replace the fees office. That clears the way for his name to be put before MPs today.

Sir Ian is an academic lawyer who specialises in health ethics. He chaired the public inquiry into the deaths of several children during heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

He was chairman of the Health Commission until its abolition earlier this year.

The first task of the IPSA is to deal with the recommendations of Sir Christopher Kelly’s report into MPs’ expenses. The body will draw up and police the system of allowances.

Over the next five months, the chairman and his four-strong board will be responsible for drawing up a new scheme for MPs’ allowances, including determining what claims are allowed, how much is to be paid, and how payment will be administered.

They are obliged to ‘be informed’ by the recommendations of the Kelly review. While many MPs may seek to encourage them to drop some of his proposals, the board will be under pressure not to deviate too far from them.

As well as an allowances regime, IPSA will publish a code of conduct for MPs.

Insiders said IPSA was unlikely to be operating until after the general election, which must be held by June.

Once IPSA comes into force, the new chairman and his team will also take on responsibility for paying MPs’ salaries and allowances, maintaining the register of financial interests, and supporting the new Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations, who will be in charge of conducting inquiries into MPs suspected of breaking the new rules.

Downing Street sources suggested that the appointment of Sir Ian was likely to be ‘nodded through.’

If any MP does object, however, a vote will be held after the debate on Sir Christopher’s proposed reforms. A simple majority will be enough to confirm the nomination.

With representatives from all the main parties having approved the choice last night, it is highly unlikely that the nomination would be overturned by MPs.

The new chairman was recommended by a four-member panel headed by Felicity Huston, the Commissioner for Appointments for Northern Ireland, a tax consultant who also sits on the Lords Appointments Commission.

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Committee Appointing Parliamentary Standards Team Have Questionable Record

(Telegraph) – THE HEADS OF THE NEW INDEPENDENT PARLIAMENTARY STANDARDS AUTHORITY will have to be approved by a committee of MPs with a questionable record over expenses and improving the transparency of the system.

The special ‘Speaker’s Committee’ is headed by John Bercow. The new speaker employs his wife as a ‘research assistant’ and previously ‘flipped’ his designated second home for expenses purposes.

Other members of the committee include Sir Stuart Bell, who has already attacked Sir Christopher Kelly’s recommendations. The Labour MP also employs his wife.

Don Touhig, another Labour MP who employs his wife, is also on the committee despite successfully leading attempts to block reform of the MPs’ expenses system last year. He previously argued that employing independent auditors to scrutinise claims was a waste of money.

Sir George Young, the shadow leader of the House, is the Conservative representative. Sir George headed the Standards and Privileges Committee which oversaw MPs behaviour. It has been criticised for failing to clamp down on abuses of the system. He employs his daughter.

Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat representative, is the spokesman for the committee which established the previous discredited system of expenses.

The final member of the committee is Liz Blackman, a former Labour whip accused of going on last-minute shopping trips at the end of the financial year to use up her second-home allowance.

The Committee’s membership was announced on Wednesday evening in the House of Commons without public fanfare and with little opportunity for debate. Several MPs have complained over the composition of the group.

Bob Spink, our local MP, said: ‘How can the public have confidence in a so-called independent Committee that is made up of the usual suspects who have so patently failed to carry public confidence with them over the years?’

David Winnick, a Labour MP, said: ‘When it comes to the names, inevitably the question will arise: why these people? Who nominated them?

‘It is in no way to criticise those [MPs] when I say that I would be far happier if there was some sort of system whereby we could elect the Members involved, embracing, of course, the three political parties.’