Fine errant MPs, says watchdog

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MPS SHOULD be fined for breaching the rules governing their conduct and outside interests, Parliament's standards watchdog proposed yesterday.

Elizabeth Filkin suggested stiffer penalties for errant MPs could increase the public's confidence in the self-regulatory system under which MPs police themselves. She said it might be a "good idea" if the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee had a wider range of penalties, including fines.

Ms Filkin said on BBC Radio 4 that the public should not underestimate the "humiliation" for an MP who had to make an apology in the Commons chamber for misconduct. "There may be occasions when members of the public feel that the punishment is too light," she said. "But they do not see how searing it is for an MP to give an apology to the House."

Ms Filkin, who succeeded Sir Gordon Downey as Parliamentary Standards Commissioner earlier this year, hinted she might request the right to recommend punishments for MPs. Under the present system, she investigates complaints but penalties are a matter for MPs on the Privileges Committee.

Last night senior MPs said they already lost wages if they were suspended for breaching Commons rules. Two Labour MPs, Ernie Ross and Don Touhig, will not be paid for their 10-day suspension for giving the Government advance copies of select committee reports.