MPs' salaries may rise by £24,000

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Indy Politics

MPs will vote this summer on whether all or part of their £24,000-a-year "second homes" allowance should be added to their £61,820 annual salary.

In return for the one-off boost to their salaries, MPs may agree to their expenses being audited by outsiders for the first time in an attempt to reassure the public they are not abusing the system.

MPs have launched a root and branch review of their expenses following the scandal in which the Tory MP Derek Conway paid his two sons as researchers while they were at university. The initial thoughts of the Members Estimates Committee, chaired by the Speaker Michael Martin, emerged in a progress report yesterday.

Many MPs – and Labour ministers – believe that adding the additional costs allowance (ACA) to salaries would provoke a public backlash, with MPs being accused of awarding themselves a 30 per cent plus pay rise. But others are arguing that it would be better to take a "one-off hit" over an unpopular wage hike to limit future controversies over the ACA.

The other main option to be presented to the Commons in July will be to keep the "second homes" allowance but add safeguards against abuse. The £400-a-month MPs can claim for food is likely to be cut. They could also be paid a daily allowance for living away from home of at least £125 instead of claiming help towards their mortgage, rent, furnishings and food – coupled with an annual "health check" in which officials would check their bills.

But committee members revealed they would reject the idea of buying a block of flats near Westminster for MPs to stay in while the House is sitting – nicknamed the "Colditz" option.

*Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, has ruled that details of MPs' spending on constituency newsletters should be released in a test case involving Welsh MPs.