Prime Minister drops planned per diem allowance for MPs
by Tony Grew
A plan to abolish second home allowances for MPs and replace them with a daily flat rate payment based on their attendance in the House of Commons has been abandoned.
Gordon Brown had announced his plans for a per diem payment and other changes in a message posted on YouTube last week.
The new system was to be voted on by MPs on Thursday as one of a range of measures to reform the expenses system, but it faced opposition from the Conservatives, Lib Dems and some Labour MPs.
The three party leaders met last week to discuss changes in the wake of revelations about claims for second homes.
Gordon Brown said in a letter to Sir Christopher Kelly, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life:
“The government remains determined to move to an allowance system that is fair, transparent and less costly than the current system.”
He said that a “consensus had not been reached” on the Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure for MPs (the “second homes allowance”).
“Therefore I would ask the Committee on Standards in Public Life to come forward with its proposals on this issue as soon as possible and preferably before the summer recess, taking into account MPs’ attendance at Westminster, the need for transparency and accountability and the desire to reduce the existing limits on the allowances which MPs may claim, producing overall cost savings.”
The Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, said the Prime Minister had performed “a u-turn, followed by a climbdown, and now descending into farce.”
“He is ducking the issue which people want dealt with, which is a cleaned up system of expenses so we stop the business of MPs claiming for televisions, patio heaters and the rest of it,” Mr Cameron added.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg criticised the change of policy.
“What we will be left with is the worst of all worlds: we’ll have a list of fairly non-contentious but fairly minor items to agree this week, whilst the real thing that has been the source of rightful public anger, namely the very lackadaisical way in which MPs are given money for their second homes, will be left intact.”
MPs will now vote on Thursday on the following changes:
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.
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.
MPs who have a second source of income from second jobs will declare every payment 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.