Crippled Parliamentary Standards Bill becomes Law

Gordon Brown’s face-saving measure to persuade the public that something has been done about the expenses scandal yesterday passed into law.  The shoddy bill, which the Lords criticized as one "drawn up in secrecy" – and for which the government didn’t even consult John Lyon, the Commissioner for Standards – had most of its teeth removed before it was allowed through and paves the way for yet another quango and commissioner to be appointed in the autumn. The all-MP Speaker’s Committee will, when it next meets, begin implementing plans to appoint the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) and another Commissioner (who, the Act stipulates, will be somehow "attached" to IPSA).

As I blogged last week, the bill did not impress Sir Christopher, chair of the committee investigating the expenses system, and he was clear on the last day of hearings that his committee will not hesitate to recommend its complete dismantling and rewriting, if necessary.

Meanwhile, the Times seems curiously insistent that, at this point, the public just don’t care what the government does about expenses. Perhaps the Times writers were going by attendance at the CPSL hearings, which, I can attest, have been sparse recently. But it’s not overly surprising that working members of the public are unable to ditch their jobs and come to public hearings on a twice-weekly basis. One might expect journalists, on the other hand, to take more of an interest – perhaps it is just the press, then, and not the public, whose attention span has been exhausted?

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