Speaker calls for transparency on MPs allowances

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The Speaker of the House of Commons has urged MPs from all sides to move quickly to reform of the allowances system.

A meeting of the Members’ Estimates Committee is to consider new rules, including a ban on employing relatives with public funds.

Speaker Michael Martin, a member of the committee, made a statement to MPs this afernoon.

“We must take fully into account the public interest in transparency,” he said.

“The subject of Members’ allowances is something the House itself must determine.

“But it is clear the committee must find an effective and acceptable solution as quickly as is practicable.”

His comments come after more revelations of creative use of expenses by MPs.

Sir Nicholas Winterton and his wife Ann, both MPs for Cheshire constituencies, used parliamentary expenses to claim £21,600 in rent per year for their London flat, despite the fact that they had already paid off the mortgage.

Altogether they have received £165,826 in this way.

They claim to have done nothing wrong, having transferred the flat into a trust.

“As a result of the advice given to us, we paid off the mortgage on the flat with the proceeds of a small legacy and an insurance policy which had just matured,” they said in a statement.

“We no longer own the flat and in order to meet the objectives and terms of the trust, we are obliged to pay the full market rent which is recommended by an independent valuer/estate agent,” they said.

Sir Nicholas, MP for Macclesfield, is a trenchant opponent of gay equality.

Since 1997 he has voted in favour of retaining Section 28 and against the equalisation of the age of consent, civil partnerships and gay adoption.

In 1998 he said in the House of Commons:

“Am I not correct in saying that a homosexual act is unnatural, and that if the Lord Almighty had meant men to commit sodomy with other men, their bodies would have been built differently?”

Ann, the MP for neighbouring Congleton, was sacked from the Tory frontbench in 2002 for telling a racist joke.

In 2004 she was temporarily suspended from the party for racist comments about the death of illegal Chinese immigrant workers who were drowned picking cockles in Morecambe Bay.

Last week it was revealed that another Tory MP, Derek Conway, had paid two of his sons from public money for “work” as a researcher.

Mr Conway has announced he is stepping down from Parliament at the next election after being censured by the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee for paying his son Frederick £50,000.

No evidence of any work done was discovered. At the time his son was a fulltime undergraduate student at Newcastle University.

Mr Conway is the MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup in outer London.

David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative party, decided to remove the whip from Mr Conway on Tuesday, effectively isolating him in Parliament.

He has been suspended from the House of Commons and ordered to repay more than £13,000.

Since the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee decision it has emerged that Mr Conway’s elder son Henry had received similar payments during his time at university, totalling £32,000.

Yesterday it emerged that Labour minister Phil Hope had paid his son and daughter for working in his Corby constituency office while they were undergraduates.

177 other MPs, among them 95 Labour MPs, two members of the Cabinet, and 75 Tories, employ members of their family using tax payers money.

Mr Cameron said today:

“Rules on their own are never enough; the whole point of transparency and accountability is that everyone should be comfortable defending the arrangements that they put in place.”