Brown sets out political reform

LONDON: Britain’s prime minister, facing a national uproar over lawmakers claiming lavish expenses, promised today to pursue constitutional reforms including a proposal to take away legislators’ power to decide their own pay.

Gordon Brown said he was shocked by the recent revelations that scores of legislators from all three main political parties had filed claims for a range of expenses from tax advice to swimming pools. He said the government was considering reforms that would mean lawmakers no longer set the rules about their salaries and expenses. “There will be no more of the gentleman’s club,” Brown said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. “Self regulation, closed society. That was a 19th century idea.” He said he would back a bill to reform Britain’s constitution, and wanted to overhaul the House of Lords — Britain’s unelected upper chamber — and set

up external supervision of Parliament.

“It is no longer left to MPs to make their own decision,” he said. Brown also said an independent panel would scrutinise all lawmakers’ expense claims for the last four years.

The scandal has rocked all three parties, and at least 12 lawmakers have said they would stand down in next year’s elections. But the Labour Party’s popularity has plummeted the furthest, as Britain’s recession continues to bite and newspapers continue to publish details of lawmakers expenses. The Sunday Telegraph reported that a Labour lawmaker had tried unsuccessfully to claim a 5 pound ($8) church donation.

A poll shows Britain’s governing Labour Party is least popular of the three parties for the first time in 22 years, just days before European parliamentary elections.

The ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph indicates 22 per cent of voters would support Labour in a general election, while 40 per cent would vote for the Conservative Party and 25 per cent for the Liberal Democrats. The poll surveyed 1,013 adults in late May. No margin of error was given. Labour was last in third place in polls in 1987 during a Conservative government.

The three parties are expected to dominate the British vote for EU legislative elections on Thursday, but smaller parties including the Green Party, the British National Party and the UK Independence Party are also vying for European Parliament seats.