Friday 16 October 2009

The mechanics of Legg

It seems that Labour MPs’ support for John Bercow in the Speaker’s election is coming back to haunt them and their wallets.

For many of them, voting for Bercow was a sneaky political act designed to give a black eye to Tories who can’t stand the new Speaker.

But yesterday, to many MPs’ annoyance, Bercow said Sir Thomas Legg could set 'retrospective' limits on spending and that MPs should pay what he’s demanding.

What we’re seeing play out – with expenses, Bercow and Harriet Harman’s assault on the Legg review yesterday – is an extension of a spat that started in the Members Estimate Committee.

The committee is the body that decides matters relating to MPs’ pay and expenses and it set the remit of the Legg review.

It’s made up of six members including Harman and is chaired by Bercow.

When it came to setting Legg’s guidelines Lobbydog has heard that Harman was really pushing for a much more specific, tight remit – and had the support of other members of the committee.

But Bercow, who has the casting vote, decided the remit should be no tighter than the one that was eventually set.

The remit leaves a little wriggle room for Legg, for example, by saying claims should be reviewed against “rules and standards” rather than just “rules” in place at the time.

Accordingly while Bercow’s position is tied to implementation of the Legg review, Harman’s may be tied to batting it away.

With rumours of a plot to oust Brown brewing, it won't damage Harman’s chances to be seen as defender of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

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