MPs' expenses records 'destroyed'
MPs accused of abusing their parliamentary expenses under the old, unreformed system may escape investigation after Commons officials destroyed records relating to their claims, it has been reported.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Commons Speaker John Bercow has been accused of presiding over a new cover-up following the destruction of paperwork relating to claims made before 2010 when a new system was introduced in the wake of the expenses scandal.
The move came to light after members of the public wrote to the parliamentary standards watchdog Kathryn Hudson asking her to investigate claims made by their MP dating back to 2004.
It means "cold case" investigations - like that which led to the resignation of Culture Secretary Maria Miller after she was found to have wrongly claimed tens of thousands of pounds in mortgage payments between 2005 and 2009 - may be far more difficult in future.
The Telegraph said Ms Hudson was contacted by three Tory activists in the Isle of Wight, asking her to investigate claims made by their local Conservative MP Andrew Turner between 2004 and 2010.
Mr Turner told the paper his claims had been audited and found to be in compliance with the rules at the time.
But in a letter to one of the complainants, David Pugh, seen by the Telegraph, Ms Hudson wrote: "All records relating to expenses claims before 2010 have now been destroyed. No unredacted information is now available here nor any notes of conversations or advice given to Mr Turner which might establish the facts."
She added that half the period covered by their complaint fell outside the seven-year limit for investigation.
A Commons spokesman told the Telegraph that under the House's authorised records disposal practice (ARDP), records of MPs' expenses claims were destroyed after three years in order to to comply with data protection laws.
"The retention period for general financial data, of which Members' expenses is a sub-set, is three years after the current financial year finishes. The long-standing policy on retention of MPs' expenses records was originally agreed by the Members Estimate Committee (MEC)," the spokesman said.
"In accordance with the ARDP, the disposal of records relating to Members' expenses claims pre-2010 was carried out on a routine basis at various times each year up to 2014, four years after the House of Commons' oversight of the MPs' expenses arrangements finished."
Labour MP John Mann, expressed concern about the move and said he would be tabling a question asking Mr Bercow to explain what had happened.
"It sounds like MPs trying to protect MPs again. It will make the public very suspicious of what the motive is. The old gentlemen's club is resurrecting itself," he said.