SWEEPING changes to parliamentary expenses have been condemned by Colne Valley MP Kali Mountford.
Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, yesterday published the findings of a review of the expenses system following widespread criticism of alleged abuses earlier this year.
But Ms Mountford – who is fighting a request to pay back some of the expenses she claimed – says the move will leave MPs worse off.
Among the proposed changes are bans on MPs claiming for mortgages and employing relatives to work for them.
MPs living near London would no longer be allowed to claim for second homes and resettlement grants for MPs voluntarily stepping down would be stopped.
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said he had concerns the proposals might put people off becoming MPs, but said the recommendations should be accepted.
But Colne Valley MP Kali Mountford, who will step down at the next General Election, launched a scathing attack on the review.
If accepted by the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), the recommendations would not be enforced until the parliament after next, in five years’ time.
But Ms Mountford said: “There was a time when I was so depressed about leaving Parliament that I would never have thought I would feel glad about it, but there have been moments lately when I have thought there are some positives and today is one of those.
“Although I’m not personally affected, I think it will affect politics as a whole and people choosing it as a career.
“For those MPs who will still be here in five years time this will hang over them like the sword of Damocles.
“There hasn’t been a commensurate review of salaries so people will be on the same salaries but with increased expenses.
“The recommendations will either die a death before they are brought in or, if they are enforced, the next Parliament will see how unenforceable they are.”
Ms Mountford, who employs husband Ian Leedham as her office manager, was especially critical of the recommendation to ban MPs from employing relatives.
She said: “This is an issue about fairness. Kelly’s premise seems to be that because not everyone does it, it’s not necessary.
“But there’s a justice issue. It doesn’t matter how many people are affected, the people who are have employment rights. You can’t just say to people: ‘Too bad, you’re going to lose your job in five years’ time.’
“Kelly accepts that they work very hard and they add something of extra value to the system. If that’s the case, they should be treated properly.”
She added: “Politician baiting has become a national sport and it’s sad. I hope it ends because in truth most MPs are doing a really hard job and so do the people who work for them.”
Mr Sheerman said the report reflected the views of an “elderly male” and said he was worried the reforms might alienate prospective MPs.
“Over the last 20 years, we have started to broaden the range of people coming into Parliament,” he said.
“I worry this rather elderly male chairing the committee was probably a bit out of touch. If you make it difficult for people with families and more modest incomes to come into Parliament we will be the poorer and I don’t want to see a return to 19th century politics.”
But he added that MPs should take the changes on the chin.
“By and large I think it gives us the chance to draw a line under this issue,” he said.
THE SPOUSE’S VIEW: Ian Leedham on ban family members from working for MPs
“THERE are about 16 husbands and 140 wives working for MPs and the general opinion is that there’s a special partnership.
“The work is being done by two people and, as a husband or wife, you understand exactly what an MP wants, what they believe in and what their views are likely to be on an issue.
“You are in a prime position to do that. The hours that you work, the late nights, you do because you are in that relationship.
“It’s beyond belief that some people should lose their jobs in five years’ time. There will be all sorts of legal cases.”