Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 18:38 UK

MPs vote to review expenses rules

House of Commons
MPs have come in for criticism over second-home expenses

MPs have taken a step towards changing their controversial system of expenses.

They rejected a Conservative plan to abolish the so-called "John Lewis" list, where they can claim up to 24,000 a year to furnish second homes.

But they backed a government proposal to recommend limiting the maximum to be spent on furnishings to 2,400 a year.

Both plans would still allow MPs to claim up to 24,000 a year to cover second home expenses such as mortgages, rent and utility bills.

The 2,400 limit for furnishings should be enough to cover "reasonable costs", Commons leader Harriet Harman said.

Taxpayers are fundamentally unhappy with MPs spending our money on furniture
Matthew Elliott, TaxPayers' Alliance

The Tory plan was defeated by 295 votes to 238.

The government's - which was approved without a vote - calls for the National Audit Office to oversee the procedures for new internal checks on expenses claims, and to approve new rules governing the allowances.

This does not go as far as the reforms recommended earlier this year by the Commons Members' Estimate Committee, which had wanted the NAO itself to scrutinise claims.

'Crawling'

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "These proposals are a half-hearted attempt at solving the issue, and the public deserve better.

"Taxpayers are fundamentally unhappy with MPs spending our money on furniture and TVs, and whilst a 2,400 limit is an improvement, it is still 2,400 too much."

But, during the Commons debate, Conservative former minister Ann Widdecombe urged MPs to stop "crawling" for the media.

"Yes there have been abuses. Do you blame all GPs for Harold Shipman? Do we actually say that because a handful of teachers have been convicted of paedophilia that all teachers are bad?" she demanded.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has published a breakdown of expenses claims by all but seven of its MPs.

Leader David Cameron ordered the declarations by his frontbenchers following recent controversies over expenses claims.

Backbenchers were encouraged to disclose their claims but were not compelled.

All did, however, with the exceptions of Sir Nicholas and Ann Winterton, Christopher Chope, Sir Paul Beresford, Bill Cash, Anthony Steen and Sir John Stanley.

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