Former RAF officer to oversee MPs' expenses complaints

Image caption, Some MPs have complained that the new expenses system is not working

A former RAF officer is to set up the office to oversee complaints about breaches of MPs' expenses rules.

Alan Lockwood, who stood as a Tory candidate against Tony Blair in the 2005 election, is the compliance officer for the new expenses body.

He will look at complaints against MPs, and MPs' complaints about the way the new body has dealt with their claims.

On Thursday, Commons leader Sir George Young said he was "seriously concerned" about complaints it was not working.

Labour MP Dennis Skinner told him the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) had sent him an email, meant for another MP, with personal details on it.

His Labour colleague Kevan Jones said new MPs had been left "in debt to several thousand pounds" because the online claims system did not work.

The new compliance officer is a temporary appointment as a full recruitment process has yet to take place.

'Rather fraught'

His powers - including fining MPs or getting them to repay money judged to have been paid in error -are also still subject to consultation.

Mr Lockwood - who was also British forces spokesman during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 - is independent of Ipsa, although he will be based in the same building, and will also oversee its work.

Labour MP Tom Harris suggested on his blog that with relations between Ipsa and MPs being "rather fraught", Mr Lockwood's military background might stand him in good stead.

Ipsa said the cost of the new office - including the compliance officer and staff salaries and IT systems - would amount to about £300,000. Ipsa's own start-up costs amount to £6.6m.

No details have been released about Mr Lockwood's salary.

In a statement, Ipsa said: "The new rules are a radical change to what went before and we have always said that the implementation of these rules represents a big challenge for all involved.

"Ipsa is not aware of any instances where MPs' details have been compromised.

"The fundamental basis of the new rules are fair, workable and transparent. Through working with the MPs we can ensure that public confidence, in the way MPs claim and are paid expenses, is restored."

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