Leeds MP calls for extra expenses overhaul

Senior Leeds MP Hilary Benn has demanded a major overhaul of Westminster's expenses regime, warning that strict new rules are having an impact on the family lives of MPs.

The Leeds Central MP criticised the "complexity" of the newly reformed allowances system and branded the rules "utterly inconsistent".

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He said some MPs are still owed money by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) – the body which oversees their expenses – and others have even become overdrawn.

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He said: "Every one of us dislikes intensely the fact that the money is forced to go through our personal bank accounts.

"It should not, and that is another reason why the system has to

change."

Mr Benn, Labour's shadow leader of the Commons, was speaking during a five hour Commons debate about MPs' expenses.

The packed session culminated with the unanimous passing of a motion demanding that IPSA introduce a "simpler" system, or face action.

IPSA has replaced the discredited Commons Fees Office, which failed to prevent the widespread abuse of Parliamentary allowances.

Much of its new system is based on the results of a seven-month inquiry into expenses last year.

But the strict procedures have been the focus of many complaints from MPs since they were set up in May.

Raising the impact of the rules on "family life", Mr Benn said: "The fundamental truth is that MPs have to live and work in two separate places, and we should not make it difficult for MPs, their partners or

their children to do so."

He criticised IPSA for restricting the amount of "extended travel" MPs can claim for outside of their own constituencies, describing it as "incredibly important" that MPs be allowed to travel more widely

around the country.

"I am confident that we can get change, but it needs to be the right change and it needs to happen soon," he added.

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