MPs will be forced to declare expenses

Members of Parliament will have to declare publicly how much they spend on expenses, under plans being drawn up by the House of Commons.

All 659 MPs will have to set out how much taxpayers' money is spent on travel, constituency staff and office costs in reforms designed to open their conduct to scrutiny.

The move follows a significant increase in the amount of money given to MPs to run their offices, which has pushed their average income to more than £150,000 a year. The Commons Commission, which is chaired by the Speaker, Michael Martin, has decided that MPs can no longer justify keeping their spending secret.

But some MPs are concerned that publication of how MPs spend their generous office costs will lead to a "feeding frenzy" and new allegations of "sleaze", especially if MPs hire wives or children as staff.

All MPs will have to declare their spending each year in a public register, similar to that listing their interests outside Parliament. A Whitehall source said: "We have to do this, we are agreed on that. The question now is exactly how and how much detail do we provide."

The move follows a series of scandals involving MPs' expenses, including one that led to the resignation of Henry McLeish as First Secretary in the Scottish Parliament.

MPs, who earn £55,000 a year, get a staff allowance of up to £72,000 a year; expenses of about £18,000 a year; £19,700 for accommodation in London, and a mileage allowance of 54p a mile. They also get free computers, postage and stationery.

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