MPS would be given a one-off payment of up to £5,000 to maintain their second homes this summer as part of Gordon Brown's controversial overhaul of their expenses system.
The Prime Minister is desperately looking for ways of averting a Commons defeat this week over his plans to introduce a flat-rate daily payment of about £150 to MPs for attending the Commons. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, yesterday claimed the "clocking-in" proposal – designed to replace the discredited second homes allowance – was "dead", while a Cabinet Minister privately conceded that Mr Brown's proposals in their present form would be rejected in Thursday's vote.
One of the biggest complaints among MPs is that under the new system they would receive no cash towards their mortgage interest or rent payments during the 11-week summer recess because the Commons is not sitting. Harriet Harman, the Leader of the Commons, has told mutinous MPs that the proposals include "transitional arrangements" to help them meet their bills over the summer. She mentioned no figures, but ministers are understood to be considering sanctioning a payment of between £2,000 and £5,000. It could be a one-off payment if a new expenses regime is introduced in 2010.
The Government insisted yesterday it would press ahead with a vote on the "clocking-in" plan, arguing that reform of the expenses system has to begin immediately in an attempt to restore public confidence in MPs.
But it is now looking for a compromise formula. It is considering combining a daily allowance payment with a requirement that Mps submit receipts detailing their mortgage or rent commitments. Alternatively they could face more detailed attendance checks to ensure they do not – in a phrase popular among MPs – simply sign on and sod off".
Ms Harman said yesterday: "No solution is going to be perfect. But we have got to address the problem because the public are entitled to expect there is a clear system and it is not abused."
Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, refused to back the "clocking-in" proposal.