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MS - Expenses Scandal Inquiry
Mr Speaker, I'm rising today to speak about a topic that has shamed this House and has sadly exposed many of our colleagues' improper behaviour regarding parliamentary expenses and has exposed critical failings in our expenses system. This is a failing that has touched all political parties and has shown that, while all of us go into politics and come to this place out of a sense of public duty, that sometimes we fall short and have been allowed to fall short by a system that is far too lax and far too indulgent, especially in times such as this, where we see many people finding themselves without work.

Mr Speaker, before I go into the scope of the inquiry that will be taking place, I wanted to expand on comments I've made myself outside of the House. I said that every MP who has made frivolous or inappropriate expenses claims should pay that money back, I stand by that, not as an act of grandstanding, but because it will be a first step towards rebuilding some of the trust that has been broken by these shameful events. When people lose trust in their elected representatives we see them turn to pied pipers and con artists, who shift the blame onto those who have done nothing wrong, if any member feels unable or unwilling at this point to sincerely look at their expenses and return money they've claimed frivolously, that I think speaks for itself. However, I know many members very well across party lines, I trust that we are all sensible enough to realise that money should be returned.

I would also add, Mr Speaker, that I would expect any and all members of the House to cooperate fully with the inquiry I'm about to announce and any police investigations into this matter. We must not close ranks, like an out of touch elite. The only right course of action is to be as transparent about this and as clear as possible. Any one who does not cooperate will be shaming, not just themselves, but this House and the proud institutions of our country, which have taken a reputational hiding in recent times.

Mr Speaker, the government would like to see a tightening of the expenses system, so that we never face this kind of scandal again, but we do not want to make the jobs of MPs harder in any way. It is my view and the view of the government that any new expenses system be subject to independent oversight, out of the hands of MPs so that we can be sure that there is no conflict of interest when expenses are reviewed. With that in mind we have decided to have an inquiry into the failings of the expenses system as it currently exists and what kind of reforms in terms of independent oversight, tightening of the system so that frivolous claims are no longer possible and what form sanctions should take if an MP claims inappropriate expenses.

Mr Speaker, the scope and objectives of the inquiry shall be as follows: to establish how such egregious and frivolous claims were allowed to be made in the first place and therefore recommend alterations to the system to prevent loopholes from being exploited, what form independent oversight of the expenses system should take and what powers they should be given in order to sanction inappropriate use of expenses, what would be regarded as required expenses needed for MPs to be able to do their duties as members of this house, to establish what form sanctions should take if an MP is found to abuse their expenses in the future including, whether being recalled is an appropriate sanction for that and establish guidelines for MP's staff hiring practices and expenditure.

Mr Speaker, the government will heed the findings of this inquiry and consider them very carefully. While we all have differing views on how the expenses system must change, I think many of us agree that in order for this sort of damaging and unseemly incident to never occur again we need to be in command of the exact facts of what went wrong and where and be decisive upon the conclusion of this inquiry. I understand that for many of us, our constituents will now be even more mistrustful of us and I hope the steps I outlined earlier will be undertaken by members across the House and that this inquiry, its findings and our subsequent action will be a series of step towards restoring some of that broken trust.
Labour MP for Nottingham South (2010-)
Shadow Secretary of State for Social Security, Housing, and Employment (2019-)
Campaigning Guru/Fundraising Extraordinaire/Maverick

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