Speaker proposes 'serious change' to MPs' allowances

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Speaker Michael Martin today proposed "serious change" to the system of MPs' allowances amid mounting public fury over claims exposed on all sides of the House.

In a Commons statement, Mr Martin said there would be independent audit of MPs' claims in future.

"But working to the rules and the rules alone isn't what is expected of any honourable Member," he told them. "It is important that the spirit of what is right must be brought in now."

An "operational assurance unit" was being set up to the provide independent oversight of claims.

His statement came after rising public furore over the expenses scandal, for which the Prime Minister earlier offered a public apology on behalf of MPs and urged all parties to come together to "clean up" British politics.

In a brief statement, Mr Martin said the Clerk of the House had been advised that there was no basis for seeking an injunction over the revelations in the Daily Telegraph. But there was some basis for considering that a criminal offence may have been committed. He said the clerk had referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to look into.

The Speaker said he was writing to the publisher of the Telegraph raising possible security implications if MPs' "personal data", including bank account details, was disclosed to the public.

Earlier, Gordon Brown offered a public apology on behalf of MPs of all parties. The Prime Minister said that it was essential to rebuild public trust in politicians following damaging recent disclosures.

In a speech to the Royal College of Nursing annual conference in Harrogate, he said where "wrongs" had come to light they should be addressed immediately. I want to apologise on behalf of politicians on behalf of all parties for what has happened in the events of the last few days," he said.

Mr Brown's intervention came as the spotlight shifted to the Tories as The Daily Telegraph began publishing details of the expenses claims of members of David Cameron's Shadow Cabinet team.

The Conservative leader, who is also due to address the RCN later, said individual MPs needed to own up to mistakes they had made and to offer a "big acknowledgement" that they were sorry this had happened.

In his speech, Mr Brown said it was essential that MPs of all parties came together to "clean up" politics and reform the allowances system.

Mr Brown emphasised that restoring trust in politicians was essential if they were to build public support for investment in services like the National Health Service.

"That is why it is so important that together and collegiately we can make sure that the politics of this country is cleaned up," he said.