Clegg – urgent leaders meeting needed NOW to overhaul MPs’ expenses

by Stephen Tall on March 30, 2009

As the furore over MPs’ expenses grows, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has written to Gordon Brown and David Cameron proposing they meet as soon as possible to work through how to reform, and restore trust in, the political system. Here’s the full text of Nick’s letter:

I am writing to you to propose that our parties work together to agree an urgent overhaul of MPs’ expenses. The recent scandals make it clear we cannot continue with the current system any longer.

The upcoming inquiry by the Committee on Standards in Public Life will not report this side of a general election. This is far too long to wait. We owe it to the citizens of this country to ensure a fair deal for taxpayers before then.

The move to a principles-based expenses system is welcome but I believe several further reforms are needed to rebuild public confidence. Two in particular would be achievable immediately. First, in the name of transparency, every penny of public money claimed by MPs should only be reimbursed on production of a receipt: taxpayers have the right to know how their money is being spent. Second, the present rules on second homes are incomprehensible to millions of people who have to commute each day: no London MP should be able to claim for a second home.

I know that, by tradition and convention, these matters are dealt with by the House independently of party leaders. I believe passionately in the rights of the Commons, but our fellow citizens’ faith in politics is more important still. For the sake of restoring trust, we need to show political leadership, and act as party leaders to clean up the expenses regime once and for all. This is not a matter for party political point scoring: we must act together or all politicians will find themselves condemned by public opinion.

I therefore propose that we meet at your earliest convenience to agree a way forward. I have laid out my proposals, but I would of course welcome your ideas of other ways in which we can improve the system. I look forward to hearing from you.