Gentlemen's club has come to end, says Brown
Wednesday 20 May 2009
Gordon Brown launched another bid to draw a line under the MPs' expenses scandal today, saying: "The gentlemen's club has come to an end."
The Prime Minister admitted he was "appalled" by the scandal but insisted he was unaware of what had been happening.
Mr Brown claimed he had been tougher than other party leaders on the issue, suspending two MPs from the Parliamentary Labour Party and asking Justice Minister Shahid Malik to step down from his job pending an inquiry.
And he did not rule out taking further action against Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, who avoided paying £13,000 in capital gains tax.
Mr Brown was speaking on GMTV ahead of the unveiling of further measures today, designed to restore public trust in politics.
The Government is setting out plans for independent regulators to take control of parliamentary pay and allowances.
The move - part of a major tightening of rules at Westminster which will also see a ban on servicing massive mortgages with taxpayers' money, as well as all claims being published online quarterly - follows the dramatic resignation of Commons Speaker Michael Martin yesterday.
Mr Brown said: "We will have a clean-up, we will have discipline, we will have a new system that takes it out of MPs' hands altogether."
He said that no longer would MPs be able to decide on their pay and how to discipline those who break the rules.
"It has got to be an external body that does it.
"There are many cases where people will be suspended and people will have to stand down and not be candidates at the next election."
Mr Brown said: "It is a problem of Parliament - all parties must take responsibility. I take responsibility. On this programme, I apologise to the people of this country for what happened.
"I am angry and I am appalled. If my father, my parents, thought that these things were going on in the House of Commons, they would be utterly appalled."
Mr Brown said Ms Blears' actions were "unacceptable".
"Hazel didn't break any rule or law. But what she did was unacceptable. She came to me, we talked about it and she paid back the money."
He admitted that it was "difficult" that a member of his Cabinet had been caught up in the scandal.
Pressed on the issue of whether Ms Blears should be sacked, Mr Brown said: "I have already suspended - I am the only party leader to have done so - I have suspended two Members of Parliament from the Parliamentary Labour Party, I have told a minister to step down because of difficulties and irregularities that have got to be investigated in his affairs.
"I am the only party leader in these last few weeks to have actually suspended and asked people to step down.
"If it became necessary to do so for other people, I will not resile from doing so. We will take all the action that is necessary."
Mr Brown said: "I don't think you can satisfy the public now unless people know that someone independent has gone through it all and said 'look this is OK, this is not OK'."
He added that expenses were submitted by the individual to the House of Common Fees Office and did not come to the Government.
He said: "Now we have found out things we never knew about before. We have got to take action.
"The gentlemen's club has come to an end yesterday, we have got to have a decent system that respects the wishes of the public for the future."
Mr Brown was asked about MPs who pay their mortgage off but continue to claim expenses for mortgage interest.
Asked if this was a police matter, Mr Brown said: "It could be. If there is anybody who has been claiming money that they should not have received, that money will have to be repaid back, disciplinary procedures will be taken where necessary.
"As I have said before, nobody will be standing for the Labour Party at the next election if they have defied the rules of the House of Commons."
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