There was some surprise in the Tory ranks after Gordon Brown pledged in PMQs that – as part of MP expenses reform – there would be changes to “grace and favour homes”. This was a reference to his proposal that ministers with free London homes would no longer get the second home allowance.
Eagle-eyed Tory MPs spotted the fact that today’s order sheet had no reference to grace and favour homes. It turns out that this is because the ban can be easily introduced through changes to the ministerial code of conduct.
But this probably won’t apply to one political grandee who lives for free on the grounds of Parliament. That’s right. Michael Martin, the speaker, is likely to be excluded – because he is not a minister.
The Lib Dems tried to put forward an amendment today which would have embraced all “honourable members” – presumably including the speaker. The clause, from David Heath, proposed that “no hon member occupying accomodation provided at public expense shall be deemed to have a need to incur additional costs in order to undertake their parliamentary duties“. The speaker has rejected the amendment.
The government has crumbled in the face of the most important amendment – from Sir George Young – which will defer reform until the summer; after Sir Christopher Kelly’s committee has reported. The prime minister may have only narrowly averted a second defeat in two days. Here is the story.
This appears to be an embarrassing retreat, given that earlier in the week officials were describing the amendment’s authors “the forces of reaction”.
Novelist Iain Pears has some thoughts here on how to align MPs pay with performance.