February 5, 2008 / 9:12 AM / 13 years ago

Tories take action to counter whiff of sleaze

LONDON (Reuters) - Conservative leader David Cameron ordered his front bench on Tuesday to disclose details of how they spend their allowances and which relatives they employ, in a bid to dispel an air of sleaze surrounding parliament.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses the annual Labour Party conference in Bournemouth September 24, 2007. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

The move comes after Cameron ousted Tory MP Derek Conway from the parliamentary party last week following the disclosure he used taxpayers’ money to pay a son for work he apparently never did.

Cameron said he hoped other Tories would follow the lead on expenses that will be set by the 96 members of his front bench.

The Tory front bench in July will have to publish details of expenses incurred between April and June and expenses will then be published annually in July, Cameron said.

“The public do have a greater right to know about the use of expenses and allowances,” he told a news conference. “Every member of parliament has to ask themselves: is this something I am happy to defend to my constituents, to the press?”

Cameron will ask his front bench team to complete a form that explains how they spend their allowances, including how much they pay family members, within a salary band, and how much they claim for housing and utilities on second homes.

Cameron said the measures would be in addition to any other changes announced by the House of Commons after the speaker ordered a root and branch review of MPs’ expenses and donations. The review is expected to report in the Autumn.

Gordon Brown’s spokesman said on Tuesday the prime minister supports the review and believes it is the right way forward: “He believes that there must be greater transparency all round in future, including in relation to MPs’ expenses.”

Cameron’s move comes as an opinion poll found that the allegation of sleaze is linked more closely to Brown and Labour than the Conservatives, despite the political storm stirred up by the Conway affair.

The Populus poll showed the opposition had strengthened its lead over the government — with the Tories popularity rising three points to 40 percent, while Labour was down two points to 31 percent.

It found that in the public’s mind Labour was more closely linked with sleaze allegations than the Tories, although it did find that sleaze was linked to both parties.

In another setback for Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling, the poll also found Cameron and his shadow chancellor George Osborne had stronger ratings for economic competence.

Reporting by Katherine Baldwin and Andrew Hough; Editing by Stephen Addison

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