Page last updated at 14:14 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 15:14 UK

Back expenses changes, urges PM

MPs in the Commons
Rows over MPs expenses have been going on for more than a year

Gordon Brown has urged MPs to back his planned expenses reforms in Thursday's vote, despite having dropped the main proposal for a daily allowance.

He has faced calls to delay any changes until after an independent inquiry but says interim action must be taken now.

Tory MP Bill Cash jibed Mr Brown about his "comedy turn on YouTube" - a reference to the internet broadcast in which he outlined his original plan.

He told MPs he would keep using YouTube as an important information tool.

The Commons standards committee has urged any decisions to be delayed until after an inquiry by the independent committee on standards in public life has ended.

'Gravy train'

But a Downing St spokesman said any changes voted through would be "interim measures" while the review - which is expected to take months - was being carried out.

"In order to restore public confidence, it is important that, where we have agreement on measures that we can act on now, we do so," he said.

The government dropped the plan for a daily attendance allowance, days after it was announced by the prime minister on the Downing Street and YouTube websites, amid opposition from the Tories, Lib Dems and some Labour backbenchers.

If we can't get consensus on it we are not going to look very good
Kevin Barron
Labour MP

At prime minister's questions, Conservative backbencher Bill Cash stood up to ask: "Given your recent comedy turn on YouTube, when can we expect another performance?"

Mr Brown hit back: "YouTube is one of the most important mediums of communication that exists. Even if the Tories will not use YouTube, I will continue to do so."

Opposition parties had said the system, used in the European Parliament, amounted to a "cheque for turning up to work", as it would not require receipts, and would bring "the Brussels gravy train to Westminster".

But Mr Brown told MPs at question time: "In the last week we have made more progress than we have made for many years."

He outlined the issues that would be in the government's motion on Thursday, on demanding receipts for all claims and stopping MPs with constituencies near Parliament claiming for second homes.

Other proposals are for the House of Commons - rather than MPs - to be responsible for employing their staff.

And in a dig at the Conservatives, Mr Brown, referring to a proposal for MPs to declare more details of their earnings outside Parliament, added: "I know that there is a lot of sensitivity on the benches opposite as we talk about that."

"That is the way forward and I hope members will all support the proposals put by the government tomorrow," he said.

But the cross-party Standards and Privileges Committee of MPs has tabled its own motion, calling for any decision to be delayed until after the conclusion of the independent inquiry - expected to take months.

It is signed by all ten MPs on the committee - including five Labour members - who said only independent proposals would win public support.

One committee member, the Labour MP Kevin Barron, told the BBC: "These matters are House of Commons matters. I believe there is some merit in what Gordon Brown said last week but if we can't get consensus on it we are not going to look very good."

He added: "We genuinely believe it would be better to allow the committee on standards in public life to adjudicate and make decisions before decisions are taken by Parliament."

But the prime minister has said he wants interim reforms in place by July - the month that details of all MPs' claims under the second home allowance dating back to 2004 are due to be published, after the Commons lost a Freedom of Information fight.



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