Brexit Secretary and NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay puts parliamentary credit card suspension on two occasions down to an 'oversight'
PUBLISHED: 12:36 09 May 2019
NE Cambs MP and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay has twice had his parliamentary credit card suspended for breaking the rules on expenses.
He joins an illustrious list of 377 MPs of all parties who have been 'outed' by the Daily Telegraph who fought and won a battle to secure the information from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).
Mr Barclay described it as an "oversight" and said the list provided by IPSA put him at number 228 and confirms what he describes as "administrative reconciliation errors".
He said: "I have on two occasions had my IPSA payment card suspended, for a matter of days, when the reconciliation of that card has been late."
Mr Barclay said it was "factually incorrect" to say - and has been reported - that cards are suspended when MPs break the rules on expenses spending, for example failing to repay debt and making incorrect spends on the card which does not comply with the rules.
The MP said: it was also "factually incorrect" to say that suspensions are the heaviest measure IPSA has and are only done after repeated formal warnings.
"IPSA suspends a payment card in the majority of cases to encourage timely reconciliation and is an administrative function," he said.
"If breaking the rules or making incorrect spends on a card is suspected, the matter is forwarded to the compliance officer or the police."
He said that IPSA's rules state that the reasons for the "temporary restriction of payment cards" can occur when reconciliation of the payment card has not been completed in full by the stated deadline.
"Access to the card is temporarily limited while reconciliation is completed and all costs have been correctly accounted for," said Mr Barclay, quoting IPSA guidelines.
"The MP is required to make a repayment to IPSA but has missed the deadline to repay. The card is suspended while the amount is recovered."
In his statement Mr Barclay says that according to his records, 377 current and former MPs have had access to their payment cards temporarily suspended since the 2015 General Election.
"On June 2, 2015 and September 28, 2017 my payment reconciliation was late; an oversight in a busy office with new staff.
"The email from IPSA prompted my staff to complete the reconciliation immediately."
Mr Barclay said the amounts in question were for a BT bill in 2015 for £88.80 and a web hosting payment of £9.59 in 2017.
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He also questioned references to him being "one of the most senior MPs on the list."
He added: "I thought I would check, as I most certainly wasn't a senior MP in 2015! "Referring to IPSA's list, my name appears at number 228 of the 377 and confirms my two administrative reconciliation errors."
He added: "I do appreciate your contacting me to explain this matter as I feel very strongly about the protection of the public purse from misuse. "
One MP, Chloe Smith the member for Norwich North, has had her parliamentary credit card suspended 14 times in the space of three years for breaking the rules on expenses.
The names of offending MPs showed the cards of all the MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson, which had been suspended.
IPSA tried to prevent the disclosure, saying it would have a "chilling effect" on its relations with MPs.
But a High Court judge reversed the decision and said the risk of "embarrassing" MPs was not enough to keep the information a secret.
A statement issued by the office of Ms Smith, who is on maternity leave, said: "All of these instances are down to either the historic paper-based receipt system that IPSA formerly ran, which caused delays, or by IPSA making overpayments incorrectly to suppliers.
Her spokesman said this was a case of bad administration, rather than anything more sinister.
On one occasion Ms Smith's card was suspended for a rental payment which had to be repaid.
Her spokesman said this was due to an extra payment erroneously being made to the landlord of her old constituency office when her team moved premises.
But that had since been rectified and repaid.
He said: "We are not claiming anything we should not have been claiming."
Ruth Evans, IPSA chair, said: "Ten years ago, the difficulties of having politicians self-regulate their pay and expenses became all too clear. It led to the establishment of IPSA.
"Since then, IPSA has established a clear set of rules for MPs to follow and enforced them fairly."