Ipsa, never popular with MPs anyway, has done itself a disservice with its pursuit of Conservative MP Stewart Jackson over its demand that he hand over £54,000 to the expenses watchdog to reflect the increased value of his property that he had claimed mortgage interest support for. On Friday, Jackson, who had refused to pay, revealed that Ipsa had dropped the case after an independent valuer said there had been no rise in his property’s value. Jackson said:
‘The application of commonsense and some compromise on Ipsa’s part may have resolved the dispute much more expeditiously and without the cost to the taxpayer of more than £25,000 in legal fees, including retaining the services of a QC and junior counsel from Matrix Chambers in drawing up and advising on the High Court papers. This, in my opinion, was legal overkill. It was unnecessary and, as events have proven, totally unjustified.’
Ipsa argues that Jackson only claimed that the valuations of his property were fundamentally flawed when the regulator demanded he pay £54,000, with a spokesman saying:
‘If Mr Jackson had submitted accurate valuations in the first instance, or produced suitable evidence in the months of discussion about this, we would not have had to escalate this issue or seek legal support to try and conclude the matter.’
But in standing up to Ipsa, Jackson has made himself quite a hero among MPs who are fed up with the expenses regime that they had hoped would bring more light to their remuneration packages but has instead brought more heat. One MP remarked to me this morning that ‘someone had to stand up to them, and no-one else was brave enough to do it’. Don’t forget that it is already sufficiently unpopular that those MPs who help colleagues with their regular expenses struggles are able to assemble supporters for leadership bids, no matter how improbable. This costly pursuit of a backbench MP doesn’t help the watchdog’s cause a great deal.