British House of Commons' Speaker addresses Parliament ahead of vote of no confidence

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Monday, May 18, 2009

The Right Honourable Michael Martin MP, the Speaker of the British House of Commons, faces a vote of no confidence this week. This motion will be launched by Tory Douglas Carswell MP. Martin addressed the House of Commons at 15:30 BST (14:30 UTC).

The Right Honourable Michael Martin MP in 2008
Image: SouthbankSteve.

Speaker Martin has faced much controversy over his handling of a recent scandal involving the expenses of Members of Parliament (MPs). Martin defended the House of Commons' authorities that requested a police investigation with regard to this leak, causing anger amongst many MPs.

In his statement, the Speaker apologised to the public saying that "we have let you down". He also personally apologised: "I am profoundly sorry". He acknowledged that "each and every member, including myself, must work hard to regain your trust".

Sir Christopher Kelly will release a report in Autumn about expenses, and the Speaker said that the House should take steps until then and MPs should not file further expense claims. Some MPs urged an interim report to be published before this. The Speaker urged leaders of all Parliamentary parties, including the Prime Minister, to meet with the Speaker and House of Commons Commission within 48 hours to discuss expenses.

After the speech, various MPs asked the Speaker questions. Carswell asked "when will members be able to choose a new leader?" and David Winnick MP asked for information about when the Speaker will retire. Bob Spink, the Independent MP for Castle Point, said that his constituents did not want the Speaker to be a "scapegoat". Labour MP for Middlesbrough, Sir Stuart Bell, said "the majority of the House will support this statement you made today" and noted "never in history has there been such an attack on Speaker".

In the UK, attacking the Speaker defies a long-standing tradition; the last Speaker to be forced from office was Sir John Trevor in 1695 for accepting a bribe.

Even before the speech, MPs from all major parties have supported this motion; Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has urged the speaker to resign. On his blog, Carswell claimed that he 'continue[s] to pick up support for the motion'.

Martin's friend, the Labour Lord Foulkes, has suggested Martin is a victim of snobbery, as the Speaker is "someone from a working class background in Glasgow".

In the past, Martin has been involved in several past scandals, including that he made excessive claims for the use of taxis, and for over £1,600,000 spent on the Speaker's residence.

Sources

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