Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 17:13 UK

'Lump sum expenses plan' for MPs

MPs at prime minister's questions
MPs could award themselves 23,000 a year for second home expenses

MPs could seek to avoid future expenses criticism by awarding themselves an automatic lump sum of 23,000 a year for second homes, it has emerged.

A Commons Members Estimate Committee review of MPs' expenses, led by Speaker Michael Martin, is looking at the plan.

It would avoid the need for MPs to submit claims backed by receipts. But Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said: "It's an outrageous idea."

A spokesman for the committee said it was too early to specify its findings.

Window cleaning

There was embarrassment for some MPs when receipts and invoices submitted in support of their claims for the Additional Costs Allowance were released last week after the High Court ruled they could not be exempted from Freedom of Information Act requirements.

The review continues to be work in progress and there is still a lot of work to be done before its contents are known
Members' Estimates Committee spokeswoman

Although the claims did not breach parliamentary rules, eyebrows were raised at the sums claimed by former minister Margaret Beckett for her garden and by Stevenage MP Barbara Follett for window cleaning.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was shown to have paid a water bill late and John Prescott to have spent taxpayers' money on a mock Tudor gable for his Hull home.

Mr Baker, MP for Lewes and Lib Dem transport spokesman, said expenses should be limited to those "incurred for their [MPs'] parliamentary duties - no more, no less".

He told the BBC News Channel the Commons authorities should not "allow people to carry on buying hanging baskets and getting moss removed from their castles", adding: "A lot of it is ridiculous."

Following the High Court ruling, all MPs' Additional Cost Allowance claims are to be released later in the year.


The process could involve publication of more than a million pages of documentation, detailing how much public money is spent on mortgage payments, utility bills, kitchen appliances and home renovations for MPs, who need to run second homes away from their constituencies.

If a lump sum payment was made to each MP, the need for these documents to be produced would disappear and there could be a considerable cash boost for those members who spend less than the 23,000 permitted.

The Members Estimate Committee's report on the reform of Westminster's system of allowances is to be presented to Parliament next month.

The committee's spokeswoman said: "The review continues to be work in progress and there is still a lot of work to be done before its contents are known."

The review was launched after a row over Tory MP Derek Conway, who paid his son from the public purse for apparently little work.

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