More MPs set to stand down at next general election

Author: By Andrew Grice, Political Editor

Senior figures in all political parties warned that the new expenses regime
announced on Wednesday will provide a ?perverse incentive? for MPs to ?take
the money and run?, as one put it. Whips believe another 50 could decide to
quit, on top of the 114 who have already announced that they will leave
Parliament.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly,
said the pay-offs of up to a year?s salary should be cut to two months?
wages if MPs retire rather than are made ?redundant? by losing their seats
at an election. That would reduce the ?golden goodbye? of a long-serving MP
from £64,766 to £10,794, on current salary levels.

Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon, said: ?People who may want to retire at
the following election will leave with virtually nothing. Some people may
consider thinking: ?Well, might as well go now and take what is available?.?

One former minister said: ?It?s a crazy idea. Kelly should either have kept
the full payments or ended them at the next election. A lot of people are
now going to stand down five years earlier than they planned.?

Although the Kelly review has been endorsed by all the party leaders, there is
growing criticism by MPs. Labour’s Austin Mitchell said it could mean MPs
were not paid enough to do the job and may “castrate” Parliament. He said
it was “unrealistic and unfair” for party leaders to tell MPs to “accept it
and shut up”.

“It is in the interests of mandarins and ministers and leaders to have a weak
Parliament with members who aren’t well-paid enough to do their job,” he
said.

“In pursuing that, they are actually neutralising Parliament, castrating us in
a sense.”

Helen Goodman, a Work and Pensions Minister, said: “With Kelly, we seem to
have been looking at the expenses first and the consequences for who can and
cannot afford to be a parliamentarian fall out of that. That seems to me to
be completely the wrong order. I am not convinced that this is good for
members with small children and families.”

A group of MPs? wives plan to go to the High Court in an attempt to block the
Kelly committee?s plan to ban them from working for their husbands. They
have received legal advice that they could succeed in a judicial review on
the grounds that a ban would breach the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act.

Alan Duncan, the Tory frontbench spokesman on prisons, was cleared by the
Commons standards watchdog yesterday of wrongly claiming tens of thousands
of pounds in mortgage interest payments on his second home.

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