LONDON - Prime Minister Gordon Brown will unveil plans on Wednesday to clean up parliament, whose authority has been damaged by an expenses scandal, and try to regain the initiative after attempts to oust him.
Brown, who has for now stamped out calls in his Labour Party to quit after disastrous European elections and several ministerial resignations, wants to restore public trust in parliament where the scandal has scarred all political parties.
What we have to do now is to take action in order to modernise parliament to make it more transparent and make it more accountable, Brown's spokesman told reporters on Tuesday.
His desire for greater transparency may be questioned after media reports that he has refused to approve the release of a report of an investigation into whether a minister broke the rules over expenses.
The Daily Telegraph said in an early edition on its Wednesday publication that Brown's office would not publish the full report of an inquiry into the affairs of Shahid Malik as it contained details of his personal affairs.
Malik stepped down as junior justice minister in May, pending the inquiry into allegations that he paid below-market rent for a house.
The inquiry cleared Malik of any wrongdoing and on Tuesday he was reappointed as a minister in the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Brown's new proposals seem aimed at defusing calls by Scottish and Welsh nationalists for an early national election as the only way to clean up parliament after the scandal over politicians' expense claims.
A motion calling for the dissolution of parliament, tabled by the two nationalist parties, will be debated by legislators on Wednesday. Brown's Labour Party should be able to muster its 63-seat majority to defeat the motion.
Brown is expected to reopen the debate on electoral reform, look at ways to make the Lords more representative and seek to legislate for an independent regulator of parliament.
Media reports said Brown would include proposals on reforming Britain's first-past-the-post voting system with an alternative vote method, enabling people to list their preferred candidates in order instead of voting for just one.
This would be put to voters in a referendum before it was implemented.
It will take some time to come to any conclusion about how best to change Britain's political system -- especially given a wide range of views in parliament -- but Brown is keen to see some results before the next election, due by June 2010.
Labour fared poorly in last week's European elections. With its worst performance in a national vote since 1910, it slipped into third place behind the Conservatives and the anti-European Union UK Independence Party.
Polls point to a big Conservative win in the next election and Brown needs to win back support within his party as well as among voters by showing he has the policies to shape Britain's future after 12 years of Labour rule.
He is also banking on a turnaround in the economy to improve his and Labour's fortunes.
Disclosures about taxpayer-funded expenses claims by MPs -- ranging from porn films to moat cleaning and mortgages that had already been paid off -- have forced policymakers to put reform at the top of the agenda.
The scandal has been blamed for a low turnout in the European elections and for progress made last week by marginal parties including the far-right British National Party, which won its first seats in the European parliament.
In vowing to push on with his premiership, Brown said he would throw all his efforts into cleaning up parliament as well as fixing Britain's recession-hit economy.
The priority issue where we do need to move quickly is action to clean up parliament and introducing the independent regulator of parliament, ending the days of self-regulation of parliament, the spokesman said.
(Additional reporting by Rosalba O'Brien, Frank Prenesti and Adrian Croft. Editing by Mark Trevelyan)