Calls mount for early UK election after new expense abuse revelations

Mon, May 11, 2009, 01:00

BRITISH MPs were braced for a fourth wave of damaging expenses revelations last night amid warnings that parliament might have to be dissolved to rescue its reputation.

With a growing number of senior politicians mired in controversy, a former Commons deputy speaker urged Gordon Brown to save the “foundations of democracy” by holding an early general election.

The call came as parliamentary authorities mounted a desperate rearguard action to shore up trust in the allowances regime. An independent audit unit is to be created – at a cost of £600,000 a year – to monitor claims.

Meanwhile, some “clean” MPs started venting their anger at colleagues for bringing the scandal upon them. Liberal Democrats frontbencher Lynne Featherstone said she was “ashamed of my brethren”, insisting they were getting “due punishment”.

“You can or should be able, whatever your circumstances, to judge right from wrong,” she told Sky News.

Labour backbencher Kate Hoey laid into millionaire tourism minister Barbara Follett for spending £25,000 on security patrols outside her Soho home.

“I would need to have someone really convince me that an MP can claim that amount of money for personal security, when I know that in my constituency I have women who walk home late at night who would love to have somebody paying for them to have personal security,” she told BBC Radio 5 Live.

The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph’sdisclosures from more than a million leaked claims receipts over the past few days have indicated a bewildering array of tactics apparently employed by MPs to maximise their expenses. All those named in connection with alleged abuses stressed they had not broken any rules.

Speaking to reporters outside her house in Salford this morning amid reports HMRC was reviewing MPs’ capital gains tax claims, communities secretary Hazel Blears admitted the public “hated” what had been happening.

“I have complied with the rules of the House, the rules of the inland revenue and that’s the situation as it is,” she said.