Whatever is left of Gordon Brown’s attempt to reform MPs’ expenses is about to be dealt a heavy blow.
The powerful standards and privileges committee, which represents four parties, will table an amendment on Thursday calling on Gordon Brown to allow an independent review of expenses to conclude before passing reforms.
An intervention from as important a committee as this (it basically looks at complaints over breaches of rules) is almost certain to win wide support in the Commons. It is highly likely that Gordon Brown will be forced to withdraw the face saving compromise he cooked up last night. The great and the good of the Commons have spoken. It will be a humiliating decision, but the prime minister has little other choice.
The committee’s decision was unanimous (the Labour MPs on the Chris Mullin, Andrew Whitehead, Kevin Baron and Paddy Tipping). The amendment calls for Sir Christopher Kelly to complete his review of members allowances “without being pre-empted by decisions of the House of Commons”.
“The members of the committee are unanimously of the view that only changes arising from an independent, external review of the system of members allowances will command public support.”
The vote is going ahead, according to Downing Street.
It also looks like the Tory frontbench will be backing part of the Brown reform package, while attempting to amend the suggestion that allowances should be linked to attendance. Sir George Young’s amendment will not win their support, presumably because they would not want to be delaying reforms in order to wait for Sir Christopher Kelly’s conclusions.
The masses of disgruntled backbenchers may swing behing Sir George’s amendment, but it’s unclear whether this will be enough to block the Brown reforms.