MPs who fail to declare their outside interests should be treated like criminals amid mounting concerns that Parliament will face another "public confidence sapping scandal", three members of the standards committee have warned.
The "lay members" - ordinary citizens who sit on the Committee on Standards - have called for Westminster to follow the example of the Welsh Assembly by making the failure to declare shares or business interests a criminal offence.
The report also warned that there is "still significant room for improvement in both the awareness and observation of standards issues in the House" as it concluded that Westminster lags behind other public bodies, making another scandal likely.
Part of the problem is that MPs do not want to join the committee which scrutinises their behaviour because they fear their colleagues will think badly of them and they believe membership is not good for their career progression, the report said.
The wide-ranging reflections of the three former members also called on authorities in Parliament to clamp down on the way MPs use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram because the rules have not kept up with social media and internet use.
Calling on Parliament to make it a criminal offence for MPs not to declare outside interests the three members, Sharon Darcy, Peter Jinman and Walter Rader, said: "We consider that this would send a clear signal to the public that the House takes breaches of the Code of Conduct seriously.
"Although we appreciate that this raises significant constitutional questions, we do consider that exploring creative ways of addressing this issue would be of value.
"Again, if the House of Commons is to be seen as ‘unique’ in this respect, there needs to be a clear and transparent explanation of why this is the case."
The also said the "fragmented" responsibility for standards in Parliament and a "lack of willingness" by MPs to get involved, coupled with a "low appetite for change", are creating significant problems.
In a stark revelation the committee claimed that MPs often do not want to join the committee, which polices the way MPs behave in their roles, because they do not want to be seen to be judging their colleagues.
It added that "membership of the Committee is unlikely to be a route to advancement in the House or party" because of the reaction from other MPs.
MPs and the committee itself have previously been criticised for failing to uphold the standards expected of public servants.
The committee recently ruled that its chair, Kevin Barron, had breached the rules which he is meant to police by accepting payment by way of a charity donation for an event hosted in Parliament.
However he was not dismissed or disciplined as the breach was "minor" and "inadvertent", MPs ruled. The decision prompted Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, to warn members should be "whiter than white".
The expenses scandal, revealed by The Telegraph in 2009, prompted wide ranging changes to the way members of Parliament claim for hotels, meals and accommodation but the committee warns there is much more to do to protect confidence in British politics.
The report states: "Rather than ‘leading’ on standards issues, Parliament is ‘following.’
"Without ‘keeping in step’ with wider changes, and addressing the barriers to change ...Parliament is likely to be inadequately prepared for future controversy. Further action is needed to avoid another public confidence sapping scandal."
It also warned that there are currently seven bodies responsible for ensuring that MPs do not break the rules and this has the effect of "diluting responsibility, making it difficult to identify leadership in what is already a complex area".
The lay members said that more should be done to look at how some MPs have the time to take on second jobs, while others report working over 60 hours a week.
They state: "Individual MPs are clearly heavily time constrained. However, together with the press and public, we would note, and have heard testimony, that there are MPs who consider that they do have the time to also undertake additional employment outside of the House.
"We consider that this does raise questions, for the public and others, around prioritisation of the role and work of MPs, the organisation of the Parliamentary week and length of the sessions / terms."
Current members of the committee include MPs from across the House and lay members.