You're blameless, Labour tells MPs as poll shows damage done

Party sends email to members exonerating them in expenses scandal

Labour MPs have been told by their own party officials that they have done nothing wrong over expenses despite the growing controversy surrounding their claims.

A remarkable email, sent to Labour members by the Parliamentary Labour Party's office and leaked to The Independent, says: "It would be easy for the public to gain the impression from this [media] coverage that MPs are generally claiming excessively or outside the rules laid down by Parliament, which is not the case."

The briefing paper, from the PLP's resource centre, insisted that the expenses claims disclosed in recent days enjoyed "the full approval of the parliamentary authorities". Although ministers have refused to say sorry for the way MPs have exploited the system to the full, they began to adopt a more contrite tone yesterday. They admitted that Parliament had been damaged by the flood of disclosures and suggested that reforms to the expenses regime could be endorsed by a panel of the public or "citizens' jury".

Today MPs will launch a drive to restore public confidence in the system. The Commons will agree to call in outside accountants to vet every single expenses claim by MPs in future. The new audit unit will be independent of the Fees Office, which approves payments and has been criticised for failing to challenge MPs' claims. It will cost about £600,000 a year to run.

Sir Stuart Bell, a member of the House of Commons Commission, which oversees expenses, said yesterday that MPs had "lost the confidence of the public and we need to get that back". He added: "I would hope that once this body is created and is up and running it will then be hived off to the private sector, to another firm, so there is an entire arm's length between MPs and those who are dispersing amounts under allowances."

But some MPs expressed fears that privatising the operation might prevent future claims being published. Tony Wright, Labour chairman of the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, said: "If this is another ruse to exempt MPs from the scrutiny of freedom of information, it is as unbelievable as it is unacceptable."

The commission will also consider a plan to bring forward to next week the publication of details of payments made to all 646 MPs over four years.

An edited version had been due to be issued in July, before the uncensored 700,000 pages of claims were obtained by The Daily Telegraph.

Lord Naseby, who was deputy Commons Speaker from 1992-97, called for Parliament to be dissolved so that a "fresh start" could be made after a general election. The Tory peer said: "The great British public has lost confidence and I think that it is extremely serious. And if it is that serious, then there is only one way of dealing with it and that is to dissolve Parliament."

There seems little prospect of that happening. Opinion polls published yesterday suggest that Labour and Gordon Brown are paying the price for the expenses scandal. A BPIX survey for the The Mail On Sunday showed Labour on 23 per cent, its lowest rating since opinion polls began in the 1940s. It put the Tories on 45 per cent and Liberal Democrats on 17 per cent. A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times put the Tories on 43 per cent, Labour on 27 per cent (down seven points from last month) and the Liberal Democrats on 18 per cent. Seven out of 10 people believe Mr Brown is doing a bad job as Prime Minister and six out of 10 say he has "completely lost authority".

The grim findings for Labour increase the chances of a meltdown for the party at next month's European and local elections. Some Labour MPs fear the party will come third, which could trigger new moves to force Mr Brown to stand down before the general election. There was just one crumb of comfort for Mr Brown when The Telegraph admitted he had not broken the rules by claiming for cleaning services for his Westminster flat in a shared arrangement with his brother, Andrew. The paper said: "There has never been any suggestion of impropriety on the part of the Prime Minister or his brother."

Europe's example: What politicians earn

France

Salary: €62,160 (£55,236) annually, before income tax, for National Assembly members.
*Monthly allowance of €5,790 (£5,182) for travel, lodging and entertainment.
*Low-interest housing loans available, up to a maximum of €67,534 (£60,450) .
*Deputies receive free first-class rail travel around the country and up to 40 return flights between Paris and their constituencies.

Germany

Salary: €88,068 (£78,258) a year for German MPs.
*Monthly allowance of €3,782 (£3,360) is intended to cover lodging, entertainment and a railcard.
*Yearly allowance of €13,660 (£12,138) for the running costs of parliamentary and constituency offices, including staff salaries.

Italy

Salary: €65,839 (£58,506) annually for MEPs after tax.
*There is a second-home payment of €48,037 (£42,432).
*Annual office allowance (including for staff salaries) of €53,378 (£47,432).
*Subsidised health care.
*Free flight and train tickets to and from Rome. Car travel can also be claimed.

Sweden

Salary: €62,998 (£55,981) a year, before tax, for Swedish MPs.
*Travel and home office costs are covered by parliament.
*Ministers who live outside of Stockholm are provided with second homes rent-free.
*MPs who choose to live in their own flat receive a reimbursement of €639 (£572) , but can't claim for any improvements to that accommodation.
*Election campaign costs for existing members of parliament are tax- deductible.

United States

Salary: Senators and members of the House of Representatives receive $174,000 (£115,382) a year.
* Cost-of-living allowance is included as part of an annual pay rise
*In 2008 the maximum allowance for a member of Congress was $1,637m (£1,085m).
*For senators it ranged between $2,757m and $4,416m (£2.93m).

Kunal Dutta

Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

EYFS Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education require an ex...

Year 3 Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 primary supply teacher ne...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...

Regional ESF Contract Manager

£32500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Birmingham: European Social Fund...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home