Labour to axe MPs over abuse of expenses

Labour MPs found guilty of abusing the expenses system will be barred from standing as party candidates under measures agreed yesterday.

A new disciplinary panel, made up of senior party members, has been given the power to punish MPs who misused their expenses. An independent audit of the expenses of all Labour MPs from the past four years is also to be completed. The measures were agreed at a meeting of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC), addressed by Gordon Brown.

Elliot Morley and David Chaytor, the MPs being investigated for claiming expenses on mortgages they were no longer paying, are facing the prospect of deselection after their cases became the first to be referred to the disciplinary panel. It will meet for the first time over the next few days.

Speculation that the Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, would be dumped from the Cabinet in a summer reshuffle increased after Mr Brown criticised her use of the system to avoid paying capital gains tax.

The Prime Minister also hinted last night that Margaret Moran, the MP for Luton South, could face deselection for what he described as her "totally unacceptable" use of expenses. Ms Moran has agreed to pay back £22,500 she had claimed on a property in Southampton, 100 miles from her constituency.

Shahid Malik, the former Justice minister, could also face further disciplinary action. He stepped down from the Government after allegations that he breached the ministerial code by accepting a reduced rent deal on a home in his Dewsbury constituency.

Mr Brown was under pressure to begin the crackdown after the Tory leader, David Cameron, announced his MPs would face the sack unless they paid back controversial claims. "I have asked for systematic independent scrutiny of every expenses claim made in the past four years – with the power to decide what should be paid back," Mr Brown said after the meeting. "Wherever immediate disciplinary action is required, we will take it."

Grassroots party members had been furious at expenses scandals and demanded powers to deselect local candidates. In an email sent to party members yesterday, Mr Brown sought to appease them. "I know that people are angry," he said. "I want to apologise to you on behalf of all politicians for this."

In a joint statement, Cath Speight, chair of the Labour Party's NEC, and Ray Collins, its general secretary, said the party had "unanimously endorsed a tough new disciplinary process".