Parliamentary watchdog tried to hush news that hundreds of MPs had credit cards suspended

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DWP chief Amber Rudd
DWP chief Amber Rudd

Ex-high court judge rules risk of ‘embarrassing’ MPs no reason to withhold information

They were revealed by a Freedom of Information request which the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority tried to block.

The Telegraph reported last night the watchdog feared the “chilling effect” it could have on its relationship with politicians and claimed it could reduce public confidence in the regulatory system.

But it was over-ruled by a former High Court judge who said the risk of “embarrassing” MPs was no reason to keep the information secret.

It mirrors the initial reluctance of parliamentary authorities to release information on MPs’ expenses 10 years ago, when the scandal was uncovered only when it was leaked to the same newspaper.

The release of the credit card data showed MPs are regularly having their credit cards suspended for failing to provide receipts in a timely fashion or claiming for disallowed items, with 377 MPs sanctioned since 2015.

Claire Perry, the energy and climate change minister who attends cabinet, admitted wrongly using her parliamentary credit card to pay for her Amazon Prime subscription.

Since the 2015 election, 377 MPs have all had their credit cards suspended, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act

Repeat offenders include Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, and nine MPs who have had their card suspended more than 10 times over the past three years. Damian Collins, the chair of the Commons media committee, and Chloe Smith, a Cabinet Office minister, have each both had their credit cards suspended 14 times.

Other cabinet ministers subject to suspensions include Stephen Barclay, Greg Clark, Chris Grayling, Robert Buckland, Rory Stewart, Jeremy Wright and David Mundell.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, Tom Watson, the deputy leader, and Boris Johnson, the Tory leadership contender, were also among those to have had their cards suspended.

A spokesman for Rudd said: “Some payment deadlines were missed by the member of staff responsible for these matters. These issues were subsequently resolved.”

Collins said one case was to do with removal costs being challenged and otherwise “it was simply a case of being late in getting the reconciliation of the card payments back to Ipsa”.

A Labour spokesman said: “Our MPs’ offices rectify all such administrative issues as soon as they are identified.”

 

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