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IDS in 'debt' row with watchdog

Published 01/07/2015

Ian Duncan Smith was among more a dozen MPs subject to action by the Commons watchdog after failing to show spending was valid
Ian Duncan Smith was among more a dozen MPs subject to action by the Commons watchdog after failing to show spending was valid

Iain Duncan Smith is embroiled in a bitter row with the Commons expenses watchdog after it said his official credit card had been suspended over a £1,000 debt.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) said the Work and Pensions Secretary was among more than a dozen MPs they had taken the action against this year, after they failed to show spending had been valid.

The details were disclosed in response to a freedom of information request by the Press Association.

But they sparked a furious spat, with the politician accusing Ipsa of making a mistake and the watchdog standing by its assertion.

Ipsa issues MPs with credit cards for to pay for a variety of items such as travel, accommodation and stationery.

The politicians then have to prove the spending was genuine by the end of the month, or they build up debts to the watchdog.

The FOI response said that since the beginning of this year the cards of 19 MPs had been temporarily suspended because they have not settled outstanding sums.

The debts are then recouped by not paying out valid claims filed by the politicians.

Ipsa said Mr Duncan Smith's card was blocked when he owed £1,057.28. He does not currently have any debt.

Others listed as having their cards suspended included his Labour opposite number Rachel Reeves, who owed £4,033.63 at the time.

Shadow business minister Toby Perkins was subject to action when he owed £693.30, according to the watchdog.

Health minister Ben Gummer is said to have had his card stopped with £1,290.07 outstanding, defence minister Mark Lancaster had a £600 tab, and former universities minister David Willetts owed £1,172.05.

Disgraced former Labour MP Eric Joyce, who assaulted a fellow MP in a Commons bar, had his card blocked when he owed £12,919.61, and later had his salary docked.

Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes had a stop placed on his card when he owed £826.56.

Labour MP Paul Farrelly was listed as having his card suspended when he owed £213. Mr Farrelly said he believed Ipsa had made a mistake, and suggested there was an incident where a card had been deactivated in error. "I have not been the subject of any action by Ipsa to recover any monies owed, nor has my charge card been suspended because of this," he said.

All have since cleared their debts.

Ipsa also released information about 25 MPs who had sums outstanding as of this week.

DUP MP Ian Paisley owed £13,833.38 on June 29, the watchdog said. He previously had his card blocked when his tab hit £6,195.94.

Lib Dems Stephen Gilbert and Mike Crockart had their cards stopped when they owed £2,925.76, and £720.64 respectively. Mr Gilbert owed £13.50 this week and Mr Crockart £90, the FOI response stated.

An Ipsa spokesman stressed that the debts from June 29 were a "snapshot" and in many cases could merely be awaiting evidence from MPs that they were valid claims.

"An MP may owe an amount to Ipsa for many different reasons, and the fact that an amount is owed does not, in itself, indicate any misuse of the MPs' Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses," the spokesman said.

"As part of our credit management programme, MPs are sent financial statements detailing their monthly position with Ipsa. Where MPs have amounts owed to Ipsa, action is taken to recover these amounts."

A spokeswoman for Mr Duncan Smith insisted Ipsa had confirmed to them that they had made a mistake. "Iain has not had his card suspended. Ipsa have confirmed twice in writing that this issue was an error on their part," the spokeswoman said.

"To be clear, no money is owed"

However, Ipsa suggested Mr Duncan Smith might be referring to a separate incident.

"The information released was accurate," a spokesman said.

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