James Forsyth

No one knows what happens if retiring MPs refuse to make their repayments

No one knows what happens if retiring MPs refuse to make their repayments
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The MPs who are most likely to defy Legg are those who are standing down. They have little to lose in saying that they won’t abide by the retrospectively imposed caps on various things. The question of whether they could be compelled to pay this money back looks like it could turn into a major row. In an interview with Andrew Neil to be broadcast tomorrow Harriet Harman seems to have no concrete idea of how this process might actually work:

Andrew Neil:  What would happen to an MP of any party, what would happen to an MP who decides that he or she is standing down at the next election and refuses to pay up?

HH:  Well, I think that we haven’t got to that situation.  I think that...

AN:  What would happen?

HH:  Well, we, we, we, you know, I think that that’s an entirely hypothetical situation but I mean...

AN:  It could happen - many people are not standing again, many people have had requests from Legg to pay back.  What happens if they don’t pay back the money?

HH:  Well, I think they will pay back, they will pay back.

AN:  Even if they’re standing down?

HH:  Well, the House of Common’s authorities, the Members’ Estimates Committee, will have the responsibility at that point to ensure that money which the Members’ Estimates Committee feels needs to be recouped on the back of the Legg investigation is recouped.  I mean, that’s what the situation will be.

I suspect that we will see fireworks on this before the end of this Parliament. If the Commons tried to dock any unpaid Legg money from their goodbye package, then this could all end up in court.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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