Page last updated at 22:17 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 23:17 UK

MP expenses rule changes set out

House of Commons
MPs will face greater scrutiny of how they spend their expenses

MPs should not be able to use public money to buy new kitchens, televisions and other household goods for their second homes, says a Commons review.

There will also be tighter checks on how they spend their expenses, the Members Estimate Committee has said.

But they will still get 23,800 a year tax free for running their second home, 206 less than the current limit.

MPs will debate and vote next week on the proposals - part of efforts to boost public faith in MPs' expenses.

The proposals would spell the end of the so-called "John Lewis" list - used by Commons officials to determine whether an expenditure claim submitted by an MP is reasonable.

External audit

The Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) would be replaced by an overnight expenses allowance of 19,600 a year for accommodation.

They would also be given 30 a day subsistence allowance without receipts, up to a maximum of 4,600 every year.

Nick Robinson
This means MPs can claim just about as much as they do now but with much less embarrassment
Nick Robinson
BBC political editor

Together the two new allowances would mean MPs could claim a maximum of 23,800 a year - 206 less than the current limit for the ACA.

But Lib Dem committee member Nick Harvey said he expected average claims to fall sharply, and said rules on MPs who lived together and both claimed the allowance would be tightened.

MPs will also have to provide receipts for all other expenses from 1 April next year. At the moment they can claim for items up to 25 without receipts.

'Half-rate allowance'

The conclusions came in a long-awaited report from the Members Estimates Committee, which has been considering how to restore public trust in MPs' expenses following the Derek Conway case.

At least one in five MPs would face "spot checks" on their expenses claims to be carried out by the National Audit Office and a full external audit on all expenses once per Parliament.

The days of the gentlemen's club in the House of Commons are over
Sir Stuart Bell
Committee member

MPs representing outer London constituencies, who can currently claim the second homes allowance despite living relatively close to Westminster, could also be entitled to less - the report suggested "a phased introduction of a half-rate accommodation allowance".

But MPs representing inner London constituencies, who cannot claim the allowance but get about 2,900 in a taxable supplement, should get "7,500 a year instead to recognise "the extra costs of living and working in London, combined with the unsociable hours".

The committee said it wanted to introduce "a robust system of scrutiny for parliamentary allowances as a matter of urgency".

'Lump sums'

One of the committee members, the Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell, said the recommendations meant that an MP's signature would no longer be accepted as a guarantee that expenses were genuine.

"The days of the gentlemen's club in the House of Commons are over," he said.

But Freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke said she would welcome the recommendations, as long as the public could see the receipts.

"However, any attempt to inflate salaries or pay out lump sums must be seen as a cynical attempt by MPs to further avoid accounting directly to their constituents and as such they should be rejected," she said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman welcomed the report as a "move towards greater transparency" and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the recommendations would "tighten up a system in desperate need of improvement".

Shadow Commons leader Theresa May said there were "good elements" in the report saying: "This report delivers stronger audit measures, brings the receipt threshold down to zero and, crucially, brings in independent auditors."



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