Page last updated at 15:35 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

At-a-glance: Expenses proposals

Sir Christopher Kelly has announced details of his committee's proposals for a radical reform of MPs' expenses. Here are his main recommendations:

HOUSING
  • MPs will not be able to claim for mortgage interest payments on second homes. They will only be able to claim for rent or hotel stays. Existing mortgage arrangements to be valid for lifetime of next Parliament. (This change was expected after recent leaks)
  • New independent parliamentary regulator to review appropriate limit for monthly rental claims every year as well as other costs. (Figure likely to be controversial)
  • Endorse ban on MPs claiming for gardening and cleaning costs. Second home claims to be limited to basic claims such as utility, telephone and council tax bills. (Already agreed by Parliament)
  • The practice of "flipping" will be banned. Any MP making a capital gain on the sale of a subsidised home will have to pay that amount back (Widely expected)

KELLY REPORT

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  • Commercial agency to oversee the accommodation needs of new MPs in London, sourcing and handling payments on suitable properties. To be extended to existing MPs if successful (Not mentioned before)
  • Designation of main and second homes to be governed by an objective test and "robustly" enforced by regulator.
  • Married or co-habiting MPs who share a second home as partners should be entitled to claim one individual allowance plus an additional one-third.
  • MPs within "reasonable commuting distance" of London will not be able to claim the new second homes allowance. He expected that to cover about 66 MPs, 12 more than at present (Partly expected - leaks had suggested a cut-off point of 60 minutes' travel time from Westminster)
  • Those constituencies included in this category are: Reigate, Slough, Runnymede and Weighbridge, St Albans, Welwyn and Hatfield, Epping Forest, Sevenoaks, Maidenhead, Broxbourne, Mole Valley, Windsor and Dartford
  • London weighting allowance for MPs in the capital to be reduced from 2010-2011 in line with official recommendations.

STAFF
  • A ban on MPs employing wives, children and other family members on their payroll. Change to be phased in over five years (Expected - though the phasing in of it may lessen opposition)
  • MPs to continue to be able to recruit their own staff but this must be done on basis of merit and open selection.
  • Code of conduct for MPs' staff to set out appropriate restrictions on party political activities.

TRAVEL
  • MPs should meet the cost of their daily commutes themselves. Those outside reasonable commuting distances should be reimbursed both their costs and those of family members.
  • Travel costs should only be paid for journeys undertaken in the course of parliamentary duties.
  • MPs working late in the Commons who do not have second homes to be reimbursed for transport home or overnight stays in London. (A move widely urged by MPs)

RETIREMENT
  • Generous resettlement grants for MPs retiring or standing down voluntarily, of up to £65,000, will be stopped from the general election after next. They will receive eight weeks' pay instead. (Expected)
  • MPs defeated at an election or deselected beforehand will still get a pay-off of one month's salary for every year served as an MP, up to a maximum of nine months' salary.
  • Parliament should use its existing power to withhold the resettlement pay-off from any MP who has seriously abused the expenses system

OTHER ALLOWANCES/DECLARATIONS
  • £10,000 a year communications allowance to be abolished. (A fairly new allowance but it has faced some criticism recently)
  • Overnight £25 subsistence allowance to be paid for hotel stays only and upon supply of receipts. (Widely supported)
  • MPs to be allowed to undertake some paid work outside the Commons "within reasonable limits". (Likely to be popular with MPs who opposed a second jobs ban)
  • Candidates to become MPs must declare all their external financial interests and second jobs they want to keep. (This had not been mentioned in leaks)
  • All expenses must be accompanied by receipts or relevant documentary evidence. (Already backed by MPs)
  • No MP should be allowed to sit both at Westminster and in a devolved Parliament from 2011 onwards. (Not mentioned before)
  • Office equipment to be regarded as public not individual property.
  • MPs will not be allowed to claim for help with filling out tax returns. (Many MPs claimed for this in the past)

ENFORCEMENT/SANCTIONS
  • New parliamentary regulator to have powers to demand information from MPs about expenses and seek repayment. It will also have the power to fine MPs. (Already approved by Parliament but extent of powers remain an issue)
  • The regulator should oversee MPs' pay and pensions but not the disclosure of their financial interests and related code of conduct which should be left the House of Commons authorities.
  • An independent panel should advise MPs on appointments to the new regulator.
  • The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner should be able to begin an investigation of an MP without waiting for a formal complaint.
  • Formal whistleblowing procedures should be introduced to allow Commons staff to report, in confidence, possible improprieties in relation to expenses matters.


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