The Westminster gentlemen's club is dead

Sweeping changes to the way Parliament is run, announced last night, spell the end of the Westminster club in which Members of Parliament regulate themselves.

The Speaker Michael Martin will not be the only victim of the avalanche triggered by the scandal over MPs' expenses. So will the old boys' network, rules and structures which have been exposed as totally inadequate in terms of meeting the standards expected in the 21st century.

The reforms were outlined by Gordon Brown at a Downing Street press conference after agreement in principle with other party leaders at a meeting chaired by Mr Martin.

Admitting that the current system was more reminiscent of the 19th century, the Prime Minister said: "Westminster cannot operate like some gentlemen's club where the members make up the rules and operate them among themselves. "I believe that the keystone of any reform must be to switch from self-regulation to independent external regulation," he said.

The change will excite constitutional experts and historians but for good reason. Independent regulation of MPs has never been contemplated because Parliament is the nation's sovereign body. It will have to formally surrender its own power to the proposed new Parliamentary Standards Regulator.

Legislation will be approved by this autumn to give the new body statutory force. The belated clean-up will abolish the Commons Fees Office, which has been revealed by the leaked details of MPs' expenses in the past two weeks as positively encouraging MPs to milk or even abuse the system.

It will end the Speaker's role as head of the administrative side of the Commons. His other two main functions, chairing the Commons proceedings and being Parliament's figurehead, will remain the same when Mr Martin's successor is chosen.

For years, there has been simmering criticism of a network of secretive committees, some chaired by the Speaker, with sketchy agendas and minutes. If all but a clique of senior MPs can't find out what goes on, there's little hope for the public.

The expenses controversy has shone an unflattering light on the dark corridors of power. "The old gentleman's club is dead," said Labour's Paul Flynn, one of 23 MPs to sign a motion of no confidence in Mr Martin.

Sir John Trevor: The one that went before

Sir John Trevor was dismissed as speaker in 1695 after being found guilty of "a high crime and misdemeanour". His offence merited the description. The City of London had asked Sir John if he would push through the Orphans' Bill on their behalf, and the speaker agreed to do it if they paid him 1,000 guineas. Sir John resisted calls for his defenestration before succumbing to the popular will. A powerful Protestant voice, he had spent much of his time in Parliament impeaching Catholic lords. When he died, aged 69, in 1717, his fellow Welshman Thomas Pennant described the epitaph in the Chapel of Clifford's Inn as "wise in its brevity". It read: "Sir J.T., M.R., 1717".

Amol Rajan

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film
films

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Cover Supervisors Urgently Required In Knowsley **

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album