By Ned Simons - 22nd November 2010
Details of MPs' expense claims will be published online next month, on the same day as a Commons debate on the workings of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).
In a statement on Thursday, Ipsa announced it would launch a new website – parliamentary-standards.org.uk – which will include details of 22,000 claims made by 576 MPs who submitted claims during the relevant period.
For each claim, Ipsa will publish the MP's name, constituency, the budget the claim is made from, the type of expense (such as travel) and a description of the claim.
But the body faces criticism for its decision not to publish individual receipts amid fears public will not be able to see what specific items were purchased, merely just what "type" of expense they are.
Ipsa has argued that the cost of preparing tens of thousands of receipts for publication would be more than £1m a year and "would not provide value for taxpayers' money".
However Ipsa is subject to the Freedom of Information Act and may have to publish details of the receipts if a request is made.
The new website will launch at 10am on Thursday December 2, the same day that MPs are set to debate the workings of Ipsa in the Commons chamber.
The decision to hold a debate came after Conservative MPs Adam Afriyie and Nadine Dorries successfully lobbied the new backbench business committee to grant a debate on the issue - both MPs are highly critical of the regime.
Ipsa revealed the date of the website's launch last Thursday, the same day that Sir George Young, the leader of the House of Commons, confirmed the day of the debate.
A spokesman for Ipsa told ePolitix.com that the timing of the website's launch was not deliberately timed to coincide with the debate, where MPs are expected to attack the body.
"We've been saying for a long time we are going to publish before Christmas, we were looking at when we could best do that when this website was going to be ready, and we're ready to go that week," the spokesman said.
The initial details will cover claims made and reimbursed between May 7 and August 31 and includes the 576 MPs whose claims were processed in that period.
The website will be updated every two months and Ipsa will also be publishing data on MPs' office rental and staffing costs once a year.
An example of how the new searchable database works can be viewed here.
Details of expense claims will be published after a "final determination" has been made as to whether they are legitimate or not. The public will be able to see claims that have been approved, not approved or approved in part.