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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 15:14 GMT
Speaker speeds up expenses review
Speaker Michael Martin
Mr Martin's report on expenses had been due in the autumn
A review of MPs' expenses led by Commons Speaker Michael Martin is to be completed by July - several months earlier than previously planned.

The Commons Members Estimate Committee said it would publish its findings before Parliament rises for the summer.

This comes a day after the review was accused of doing "damage" to the House of Commons' image by taking too long.

The committee also said the 250 limit for MPs submitting expenses claims without a receipt would be cut.

This will happen from the start of the next financial year in April, with the new maximum expected to be about 50.

The expenses inquiry's publication will now coincide with another on MPs' pay.

'Radical options'

Mr Martin set up the estimate committee's review following revelations that Tory MP Derek Conway had made payments worth 40,000 to his son for work as a parliamentary researcher while he was a student.

In its interim report, the committee said it would look at "radical options" for creating "a robust and transparent process for claiming allowances and auditing them".

SPEAKER'S DUTIES
Keep order during debates
Ensure House rules obeyed
Act impartially
Represents Commons
Chooses MPs to speak
Can suspend sittings
Protects interests of minorities

It added: "These will help identify a new system which is workable, in line with practice elsewhere and able to command public respect."

The report also said: "We will complete a report in time for debate in the House in July. All decisions will be made by the House itself."

It added: "We are conscious of the need to establish a structure which will endure and will rebuild confidence."

In the Commons on Monday, David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North, asked the Speaker: "Would it be possible for the review to have greater urgency and not wait until the autumn [for the findings]?"

He added that recent expenses stories such as those involving Mr Conway had done "damage to the reputation of the House".

Mr Martin replied that he would remain in charge of a review of MPs' allowances "until this House decides otherwise".

He insisted: "And that is a good thing for the reputation of this House."

Mr Winnick welcomed the change of schedule but said he "wished it was before what is now even being proposed".

Air miles

In the past two weeks Mr Martin, MP for Glasgow North East, has faced scrutiny over his own use of expenses and allowances.

These include flying members of his family using air miles gained from official trips.

A image of BBC political editor Nick Robinson
My blog post provoked 52 MPs to sign an Early Day Motion
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

The Sunday Times also reported that he had claimed 17,000 a year for his home in Scotland and 7,500 in costs for using that home as an office. These figures had been publicly declared already and there is no suggestion Mr Martin used his allowance incorrectly.

Mr Martin's spokesman, Mike Granatt, resigned last week after he wrongly rebutted some parts of a story that the Speaker's wife had claimed more than 4,000 in taxi expenses since May 2004.

Mr Granatt said Mr Martin had not been at fault over the misinformation, and instead blamed officials for not telling him the entire truth.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Mr Martin had been a "very, very good" Speaker.

Conservative leader David Cameron said "speculation" over his future was not helpful, adding that Parliament had to show more "transparency".

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said Mr Martin was "fully committed" to reforming expenses and allowances.

SEE ALSO
A guide to MPs' pay and expenses
26 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Speaker denies harming Parliament
25 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Profile: Michael Martin
24 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Speaker's aide quits over story
23 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Speaker's air miles in spotlight
19 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Q&A: Speaker under pressure
25 Feb 08 |  UK Politics

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