Just appeared on the Number 10 website: Gordon Brown announces proposals for a radical overhaul of MPs' expenses.
I'm particularly pleased by the plan to make all staff employees of the House of Commons, which is something I've been arguing for for a long time. Not sure how the attendance allowance thing would work out - I've voted against such measures in the past as if someone has a modest flat in central London it's going to cost them the same regardless of whether they're there three nights a week or five. There's one particular MP I know who has a marginal seat, a very long journey to the constituency and a young family there; he would lose out under these proposals because he tries to spend as much time in his constituency as possible, whereas someone who only occasionally visits their constituency might gain. And the bit about second jobs will really put the cat amongst the pigeons for the Tories! Will Gordon be able to achieve a cross-party consensus on this before next week? I suspect not.
"Going round the country I have been struck by the comments that are made by young people when I meet them about the jobs they want to do when they grow up. I meet large numbers of people who want to be doctors and nurses, many who want to be teachers and firemen and ambulancemen and many who want to be in the caring services. And when I ask them why they want to do what they plan to do, they say because they want to make a difference.
But these days I rarely meet anyone who wants to be a Member of Parliament when they grow up and that is a shame, because I think MPs can make an enormous difference to people they represent - whether its voting for laws that improve the whole of the country in or whether it is fighting the cause of a single constituent who needs your help. And we need future generations of committed young people to come into politics.
Now the vast majority of MPs I know do an excellent job. They are in public service not for what they can get, but for what they can give.
Yet the issue of expenses is casting a cloud over the whole of Parliament. So MPs need to have the humility to recognise that the country has lost confidence in the current system. To restore our faith in Parliament, and the good that it can do on the public’s behalf, we must commit to tightening up the system of allowances urgently.
Every MP I know wants to live by the rules, but for too long some of these rules have been insufficiently clear. So we need to make the rules clearer, and we also need to save money.
So I am announcing today urgent proposals to make our system of MPs’ allowances and expenses simpler and less generous.
Sir Christopher Kelly and the Committee on Standards in Public Life are continuing to carry out an independent review into the system so we can make permanent changes.
But I believe we have to act urgently with interim proposals to restore people’s confidence that MPs are there to serve the public and not serve themselves.
And I want a vote to take place to overhaul the current system as early as next week. A detailed written statement setting out our will be made by Harriet Harman but its main points are:
- the additional costs allowance - or second homes allowance - should be abolished and replaced by a flat rate daily allowance. This will reflect the fact that MPs do incur extra costs from working in two different places but it should be based on attendance in the House of Commons.
- those ministers who live in official residences would not be entitled to this allowance. Nor would MPs within travelling distance of Westminster - they would receive a London supplement similar to London weighting of salaries.
- the Committee on Standards in Public Life is examining the rules governing employment of spouses or other relatives. But in the interim, staff appointed by MPs should, without exception, become direct employees of the House of Commons, which will now be centrally responsible for their employment terms and conditions, contracts, and the payment of their salaries within the statutory limit allowed - and will have the right to make an audit and independent assessment of such contracts.
- while the committee on standards in public life looks into the issue more fully, we will ensure there is greater transparency on second jobs held by MPs. Where members of parliament have a second source of income from second jobs, every payment should be declared with a full description of what it is for and who paid it. There shall also be a full declaration of the hours worked for the payment received.
I want to discuss these interim proposals with the other party leaders and hope we can reach consensus. We will ask the House of Commons to approve them next week. With these changes I hope that the work of MPs can become recognised again for what it should be – a service to the public."