The sensational revelation that Jacqui Smith's husband used taxpayers' cash to view a couple of soft porn videos is not, in itself, a hanging offence. The Home Secretary is facing far more serious allegations: that she spent £116,000 of her second home allowance to, among other things, pay the mortgage interest on her main family home in Redditch. She is now under investigation by the parliamentary standards commissioner. She may not have broken the rules, but it shows the rules are broken and in need of urgent reform.

What crazy system allows an MP to choose to declare to the parliamentary authorities a few rooms in her sister's home as her main residence – while the place where her husband lives (reduced to viewing porn videos through lack of her company, it would seem) and her children go to school is a "country cottage"?

But this weekend's disclosures look like being a torrid foretaste of a steamy summer of embarrassing revelations for MPs of all parties.

When parliament goes down for the Easter recess, I am told, every MP will receive on their computer the detailed receipts of three years of expenses claims. They were made between 2005 and 2008, at a time when the Commons fees office seemed to offer precious little proper support and light-touch auditing was the theme of the day. Once these details are published, many MPs are going to have very red faces – particularly over claims for bills and furniture for their second homes, which they probably thought would never see the light of day.

This is why backbench MPs on both the Labour and Conservative parties attempted to block the release of the information and persuaded Harriet Harman, leader of the House, on the very unwise course of getting an order through parliament banning its release. The fact that David Cameron, mindful of the bad publicity, decided at the last minute not to go along with the idea means the disclosures are now inevitable, probably on the last day of parliament in July.

Gordon Brown has tried to mitigate the inevitable bad publicity by agreeing to an inquiry by an independent anti-sleaze watchdog, the committee on standards in public life. But unfortunately for him Sir Christopher Kelly, its chairman, is a thorough sort of chap and wants a detailed inquiry into the expenses system. The government will probably not get its findings until next summer, well after all the damage has been done.

Meanwhile, it would not be exaggerating to say that the Commons are gripped with blind panic. Rumours circulate that the damaging information has already been leaked to the Sunday papers – and one of them is preparing for a field day of revelations that will end with the public turning on unpopular MPs. It could even cost a number of them their seats.

Whether we should sympathise with MPs is another matter. Frankly, a number know they have been on a gravy train for years. Now it has been truly tipped over. And not a moment too soon.

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