MPs on the Commons standards committee have criticised plans to change the way MPs are allowed to claim expenses for taxis, hotels and food.
Under plans set out by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), MPs who live near London would only be allowed to claim expenses for a taxi home if it is booked after 11pm. The rules would also prevent MPs from booking a hotel room until 1am.
In a report published on Monday, the standards committee said the rules were unreasonable and were not in line with other professions such as police officers, junior doctors or solicitors.
"We find it hard to believe that employers in other sectors would expect their employees to wait until 1 am before booking a hotel if it was necessary for them to work beyond the point at which it was possible or sensible to return home and to travel to work in time to start as normal in the morning," the report said.
"We are also concerned about the effects of such rules on Members’ ability to perform their duties effectively. We note that many committees begin work at 8:55 am, and Members are expected to attend regardless of the hour at which they ended their work the night before."
The MPs complained that Ipsa's definition of the "London area" extends far beyond the immediate vicinity of Westminster and includes semi-rural locations such as Hertfordshire and Surrey.
The report also notes that currently Members are able to claim £15 for a meal if the Commons sits after 7:30 pm. But while the MPs said they did not want to return to a system where politicians could make "blanket claims" for food each month, they said the system was "considerably less generous" than in other professions.
"Payments for food are commonly given to those who are working away from their normal workplace, whether or not they are required to work unsocial hours," the report said.
"We also note that when there is whipped business, Members must be within easy reach of the division lobbies. Once again, we consider there needs to be a stronger evidence base before it can be asserted that these are costs which other professionals would expect to meet for themselves, unless they had been dealt with through a salary supplement rather than expenses."
And the MPs argued that "since MPs’ work involves being informed and available at virtually any hour, we consider access to media and the internet when residing away from home is a legitimate business expense".
A consultation into MPs pay run by Ipsa has recently closed. The expenses body has recommended an 11% pay rise for MPs - much to the horror of party leaders who fear a public backlash. David Cameron is under pressure from backbenchers to allow them to take the money.
Conservative Charles Walker told The Observer on Sunday that the prime minister needed to respect Ipsa's decision. “They can either respect the independence of Ipsa or bring forward a motion to have it scrapped," he said."The attraction of the second option is that it would negate any pay rise for members of parliament. However, the obvious downside is that it would once again place the toxic issue of remuneration directly back into the lap of the House of Commons."
The prime minister's spokesman said Cameron wanted to see the "cost of politics go down" and pointed to a cut in ministerial salaries and an attempt to reduce the number of MPs as evidence. However No.10 refused to be drawn on a response to Ipsa's consultation until it reported back.