Parliament’s rehab drags on

By Alex Stevenson

Efforts to rebuild parliament’s reputation are taking another step forward today, despite both Houses being overshadowed by ongoing fallout from the expenses scandal.

Ahead of Sir Christopher Kelly’s publication of his review of MPs’ expenses next week the immediate focus is on the upper House.

Recommendations for reform of the House of Lords’ code of conduct were not be permitted to vote” target=”_blank”>published this lunchtime by Lord Eames.

His Leader’s group on the code of conduct is seeking a ban on peers acting as parliamentary consultants.

Lords will be asked to sign an undertaking to abide by the code of conduct at the beginning of every parliament. An independent commissioner for standards will be appointed to investigate allegations of misconduct.

It follows reports that expenses in the upper House are to be significantly restricted. Peers are currently able to claim a flat rate of £174 for accommodation, which will be reportedly cut to around £140.

In the Commons MPs and their wives are still restless after it emerged the Kelly review could end the practice of spouses being employed.

MPs will not be permitted to vote on expenses reforms, leader of the House Harriet Harman said, leaving MPs without the opportunity to vote down Sir Christopher’s proposals.

Privately members of the lower House are expressing deep frustrations with the drawn-out nature of the scandal. One senior member of the shadow Cabinet told the “farcial” expenses issue had become a “witchhunt… of McCarthyist proportions”.

A reminder of why observers believe their frustrations cannot be dampened came this morning, when former minister Tony McNulty was ordered to apologise to MPs for expenses claims.

The Harrow East MP claimed his second home allowance for a property which was lived in by his parents.

The Commons’ standards and privileges committee ordered him to repay £13,837 and said he had effectively subsidised his parents’ living costs “from public funds”.