Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

No MPs' vote on expenses reforms

The House of Commons chamber
Some MPs say they should have a say on the proposed reforms

MPs will not get a vote on wide ranging reforms to their expenses system being proposed next week, Commons leader Harriet Harman has said.

Some are angry about reports they will include a ban on MPs employing relatives and an end to claims towards mortgage payments.

It had been thought MPs might debate and vote on the proposals.

But Ms Harman said while MPs would be able to "put forward their views" there would be no big debate and no vote.

The report follows an inquiry by the independent committee for standards on public life - which began after the MPs' expenses scandal in May.

MPs' approval

It is due to be published on 4 November although the BBC has already learned some details which suggest it will recommend major cuts to various expenses and an end to the practice whereby nearly a third of MPs employ relatives.

Before the summer recess Justice Secretary Jack Straw told MPs the committee's recommendations would be "subject to approval by this House".

I don't think that extended debates, followed by a vote or not, really helps with this situation
Harriet Harman

And on Tuesday senior Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell told the BBC: "The House would want to look at these recommendations very carefully, they will want to debate them and have the opportunity, should they so wish, to amend them."

But asked about it in the Commons on Thursday, Ms Harman said future changes to the allowances system would be done by the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

"The House will have an opportunity to put forward views when I make what will be an oral statement next Wednesday," she told MPs.

"But there will not be a vote to decide on our allowances system because the House has already voted that that will no longer be a matter for us."

Shadow Commons leader Sir George Young asked her about the apparent contradiction between Mr Straw's comments and Gordon Brown's - who suggested on Wednesday there would be no vote.

Ms Harman said it was "not appropriate" for MPs to set their own allowances and people did not want it.

Lib Dem spokesman David Heath said MPs should have their say in a debate but accepted there should not be a vote.

But Ms Harman said MPs would be able to have their say following her statement next Wednesday, adding: "Do you actually think that it's right that this House should pick over the questions of our allowances when we've already decided to actually make that the responsibility of an independent agency?"

She added: "I don't think that extended debates, followed by a vote or not, really helps with this situation."

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