Brown hits back at sleaze allegations

The prime minister today confirmed the government’s appointment of a new anti-sleaze watchdog, as he was challenged over his pledge to restore trust in politics.

Sir Christopher Kelly has been named the new chair of the committee on standards in public life, seven months after the post became vacant.

Rita Donaghy has been acting as interim chair since October but David Cameron criticised the government for the time taken to make “one of the most important decisions in politics”.

In a typically combative prime minister’s questions sessions, the Tory leader attempted to deepen the “sleaze” tarnish surrounding the government.

Mr Brown denied claims the internal investigation into the anonymous donations from David Abrahams to the Labour party had been sidelined.

Instead he explained Lord Whitty, the former general-secretary of the Labour party conducting the review, would now interview people at the discretion of the Metropolitan police, with a Scotland Yard inquiry into the unlawful donations now underway.

Mr Brown was flanked by Harriet Harman, who has resisted calls for her resignation over the row, and Douglas Alexander, sister of the similarly embattled Scottish Labour leader, as the Labour leadership spent a second week defending itself against allegations of wrongdoing.

The prime minister challenged the Conservatives to return to the table on party funding talks.

In a novel redefinition of prime minister’s questions Mr Brown said: “Does he support changes we are recommending in electoral law in relation to party funding – will he support a national and local limit on party expenditure?”

He was silenced by the speaker who said the leader of the opposition does not have to answer questions.

Both the main political parties blame the other for blocking reforms on party funding.

With the government announcing its new prison strategy today, Mr Cameron accused Mr Brown of being “the chancellor that forgot to build prisons”, resulting in the current prison overcrowing crisis.

The Tory leader told MPs: “He wants us all to think, like the man in the canoe, he hasn’t been around for the past five years.”

Mr Cameron also attempted to attack Mr Brown over his alleged indifference towards the armed forces, repeating calls for a full-time secretary of defence.

Mr Brown insisted Des Browne was a dedicated, hard-working and conscientious defence secretary, adding the Tories had proposed a part-time head of the MoD in their 2001 manifesto.