A former sleaze watchdog’s claims that cabinet minister Jack Straw blocked an inquiry into MPs’ expenses two years ago amid concerns over a Labour backbench backlash have been denied by the Justice Secretary.
Sir Alistair Graham said Gordon Brown and the head of the civil service had agreed his proposal for a root-and-branch review of the system, when he was chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL).
“My understanding — I can’t prove it because I subsequently left — is that the person who stopped that inquiry from going ahead was Jack Straw,” he told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show.
“He was Leader of the House of Commons at the time, I think he was genuinely concerned about a sort of febrile atmosphere on the Labour back benches, and the last thing that they wanted was a review of MPs’ expenses.”
But a spokesman for Mr Straw dismissed the claims.
“It is nonsense to suggest that plans for an inquiry into MPs’ expenses were blocked. The Government has no power to do so. The CSPL is an independent body. It can hold inquiries on any subject it chooses,” he said.
The issue is now being examined by the committee, which agreed to bring forward its inquiry amid the mounting scandal over claims.