Page last updated at 12:53 GMT, Sunday, 1 November 2009

Don't axe MP spouses, says Harman

Harriet Harman on why MPs' spouses should not be sacked

MPs should not be forced to sack any relatives they employ as a result of an expenses review due this week, Commons leader Harriet Harman has said.

Sir Christopher Kelly's review of pay and perks is widely expected to recommend an end to MPs using their allowances to employ relatives.

Ms Harman told the BBC something could be done for the future but it would not be fair to axe existing family staff.

"They can't simply say 'you've all got to be made redundant'," Ms Harman said.

Ms Harman will make a statement to MPs on Wednesday setting out Sir Christopher's wide ranging proposals to replace the existing expenses and allowances system for MPs.

She confirmed this would give MPs a chance to give their views on the proposals, although there would not be a vote held on them.

Instead the proposals would go to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority - which was set up at the height of the expenses scandal.

Could be rejected

The authority will then decide whether or not to accept Sir Christopher's recommendations.

Ms Harman said the authority had been created to ensure that MPs no longer took the decisions about their own pay and allowances.

She signalled that the authority could reject Sir Christopher's proposals, which have already provoked an angry response from some MPs.

"It's entirely a matter for them (the authority). But they will, I'm sure, want to draw on his important work. But it's a matter for them to decide, not for Sir Christopher Kelly and not for us either as MPs," Ms Harman said.

Sir Christopher's report is expected to suggest MPs be banned from claiming for mortgage interest on expenses and will instead be expected to rent a second home if they require one.

He will also recommend that MPs within "reasonable commuting distance" of Westminster will no longer be able to claim the cost of having a second home at all.

Ms Harman said the authority would have to ensure MPs "can both be in their constituency as well as in Westminster. No one wants to get back to a situation where MPs were sent to Westminster and then they said to their constituents 'see you again in five years'".

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