Parties unveil plans to clean up politics following expenses scandal

Almost a year after Westminster was convulsed by the expenses crisis, the political parties are vying to take the toughest line on dealing with corrupt MPs.

Their rival visions for overhauling the political system in the face of widespread public disillusionment and hostility were thrust yesterday to the centre of the election campaign.

The Conservatives announced that their manifesto, to be published next Tuesday, would include a promise to give the public the right to "recall" MPs found guilty of fraud or misconduct and to slash the size of the Commons.

Gordon Brown set out detailed plans to change the electoral system, reform the House of Lords, lower the voting age to 16 and ban MPs working for lobbyists. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats responded by accusing the Tories and Labour of having only a skin-deep commitment to political reform.

The three main parties are now committed to introducing the power to "recall" errant MPs, forcing them to face their voters in a parliamentary by-election. They all also back tough curbs on lobbying by ex-ministers.

Under the Tory plans, the Committee on Standards and Privileges would gain the authority to recommend an MP is recalled. If 10 per cent of local voters signed a petition backing the move, a by-election would automatically be triggered.

Their manifesto will argue that the initiative would "end the concept of the 'safe seat' and make MPs directly answerable to their constituents over the whole of a Parliament".

It will also set out plans to ban former ministers from lobbying government for two years after leaving office.

Sir George Young, the shadow Leader of the Commons, said: "The last five years have been disastrous for Parliament and trust in politics has reached an all-time low. People want change and politicians must become more directly accountable for their actions."

In a speech in central London, the Prime Minister also backed the recall of MPs "where these members are guilty of gross misconduct and Parliament does not act".

Labour sources said the power would be triggered on the recommendation of the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, and would need to be approved by between 10 and 25 per cent of the MP's electorate.

As The Independent disclosed yesterday, Mr Brown announced Labour's manifesto would contain a commitment to fixed-term Parliaments, which would be expected to last four years.

He promised to hold a referendum by autumn 2011 on replacing the First-Past-The-Vote system for Westminster election with the Alternative Vote, under which electors rank candidates in order of preference.

On the same day, the country would also be asked to approve moves to turn the Lords into a second chamber elected by proportional representation. Labour will propose that the Lords becomes fully-elected over the course of three Parliaments, likely to take until about 2024.

Mr Brown also said Labour would stage a free vote on reducing the voting age to 16 – a move he personally supports – after school citizenship lessons had been improved.

He said the moves amounted to the "most comprehensive programme of constitutional reform in this country for a century", and insisted the Tories were hostile to fundamental change.

But Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, claimed that Labour and the Tories both supported the status quo and could not be trusted to take the radical action required to clean up politics.

"They have systematically at every turn blocked every single reform – they have blocked party funding reform, they have blocked reform on lobbying," he told the BBC. "Believing any promises from them on political reform is a bit like accepting a consumer service guarantee from Del Boy – don't believe it, they are trying to treat you like fools."

But the Lib Dems back the recall of MPs who fall foul of the IPSA, where the move is supported by five per cent of local voters.

Reforming Westminster: The key proposals

Labour

* Hold a referendum on introducing Alternative Vote system for Westminster elections.

* Turn the House of Lords into a fully-elected second chamber over course of three parliaments.

* Introduce fixed-term parliaments.

* Hold a free vote on reducing the voting age to 16.

* Give voters the power to "recall" corrupt MPs.

* Ban MPs from working for lobbying companies.

* Require all MPs taking an outside job to obtain approval.

Conservative

* Cut number of MPs from 650 to 585 and equalise the size of constituencies.

* Ban ex-ministers from lobbying government for two years.

* Dock the pensions of ex-ministers who break the rules.

* Reduce ministerial pay by 5 per cent and freeze it for the parliament's duration.

* "Recall" of MPs when supported by 10 per cent of voters.

* Public petitions with 100,000 signatories to be debated in the Commons.

Liberal Democrat

* Bring in a fully proportional voting system for Westminster.

* Reduce the size of the Commons by 150 MPs and cut the number of ministers to 73.

* Replace the Lords with a smaller elected second chamber.

* Cap individual donations to parties and reform union funding.

* "Recall" of MPs when supported by 5 per cent of voters.

* Forbid ministers and officials to meet MPs on issues where the MP is paid to lobby.

Highlights of the day

Escape of the day

Downing Street aides would have been defenestrated, office furniture thrown and the No 10 typing pool drowned in its own tears. But in a nugget of good fortune for Gordon Brown, the nation's press photographers, gathered at the Innocent smoothies headquarters to record the Prime Minister's visit, failed to spot that he had paused momentarily beneath a 15-ft sign reading, "You can't polish a turd".

Costume of the day

A points victory to Michael Fabricant, who stood up at this parliament's final PMQs wearing what seasoned observers believed to be a new hairpiece. Good to see people making the effort.

Heckle of the day

Ben Butterworth drew first blood for the public in this four-week slog, shouting questions at the PM about why his eldest son can't get into the school of his choice. Brown ignored him and drove off.

Good news of the day

The "vulture funds" bill has been selected for the end-of-government wash-up and should pass through parliament. It is intended to protect the world's poorest countries from "vulture" investment companies who buy defaulted Third World debt and sue for immediate repayment.

Quote of the day

"Do you [the Prime Minister] agree that we must work with Chancellor Merkel and other leaders and not get into bed and breakfast with extremist politicians with views on homosexuals, the Holocaust, the Waffen SS that are unacceptable in our democracy?" Denis MacShane, former Europe minister, at PMQs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future