Gordon Brown is to scrap second home allowances for MPs in a series of drastic reforms following the controversy over Jacqui Smith’s expenses claims.
The Prime Minister attempted to end the row over the home secretary’s accommodation by ending traditional perks enjoyed by MPs.
He pre-empted a summit with other party leaders, and an independent inquiry, by calling for a vote as early as next week.
But Mr Brown was criticised by politicians’ watchdog Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, who warned that the issue of MPs’ allowances cannot be resolved by a “quick fix”.
Sir Christopher confirmed that his committee’s comprehensive review of the expenses system – due to be launched dtomorrow and to report towards the end of this year – will go ahead as planned.
Details of Mr Brown’s announcement were seen prematurely thanks to communities secretary Hazel Blears, who had them on show as she entered Number Ten – the third such recent incident of secret documents being seen by photographers in Downing Street.
Under Mr Brown’s proposals, MPs will receive a flat, daily allowance for attending Parliament or taking part in government business, instead of funding for a second home.
There were also new plans to crack down on moonlighting MPs. In future, every MP who earns money outside their work in Parliament will have to reveal exactly how much they get, and where it came from. Ms Smith (Lab Redditch) came in for heavy criticism after it emerged that she had claimed more than £116,000 over six years in allowances for her family home in Redditch, Worcestershire, which she shared with her husband and two children, after declaring it as her second home.
She had told Commons authorities that her main residence was a house she shared with her sister in London. Ms Smith said this accurately reflected where she spent her time, but critics said she should only be entitled to claim for the rent she paid to her sister.
It then emerged that Ms Smith had inadvertently claimed for the cost of pornographic films watched by her husband as part of a premium television package.
She also claimed for furniture and even an 80p bathplug.
A number of other MPs have also been involved in controversies.
The Government’s reforms include an overhaul of Commons employment practices, after Conservative MP Derek Conway employed his two sons as researchers.
Mr Brown said: “The issue of expenses is casting a cloud over the whole of Parliament. So Members of Parliament need to have the humility to recognise that the country has lost confidence in the current system.”
Mr Brown’s aim appeared to be to draw a line under the ongoing sleaze row which has tainted Westminster.
But under his proposals, MPs could actually end up claiming more than they do at the moment. Members of the House of Lords whose main homes are outside London can currently claim up to £174 for staying overnight when attending Parliament.
If the same system was put in place for MPs, they could claim £24,882 if they attended all 143 days the Commons is sitting this year – more than the £24,006 maximum payable to MPs under the existing second home allowance.
The Prime Minister will meet Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to discuss the proposals tonight.