Speaker makes “profound” apology for expenses row

May 18, 2009 at 4:05 pm Leave a comment

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The Speaker of the House of Commons has apologised for the ongoing row over MPs’ expenses.

In a statement to MPs this afternoon Michael Martin said he will convene a meeting of all party leaders to discuss the issue and asked MPs not to make any more claims for expenses until a consenus is reached.

In historic scenes, he was asked to stand down by a Tory MP, while a veteran Labour member suggested he announced a date for his retirement.

MPs traditionally do not criticise the Speaker in public.

Mr Speaker said:

“We all know that it is the traditions of this House that the Speaker speaks to the whole House, but in doing so please allow me say to the men and women of the UK that we have let you down very badly indeed.

“We must all accept blame and to the extent that I have contributed to the situation I am profoundly sorry.

“Now each and every member including myself must work hard to regain your trust as a matter of urgency and within 48 hours I am calling the Prime Minister and party leaders, including the minority parties, to meet with me and other members of the House of Commons Commission.

“Also present will be the right honorable member for Islwyn (Doug Touhig).

“The leaders of all parties have made announcements on what should be done.

“Some of the proposals are very similar to those put to the House on 3 July last year by the Members Estimates Committee, which I chair and copies of which are lodged in the vote office.

“I want discussion to centre on the additional costs allowance and all those matters as have caused the greatest controversy and most anger with the public.

“I include in that early publication of the additional costs allowance, office costs and travel material.

“While we await the work of Committee on Standards in Public Life, we must search for agreement so that the Leader of the House can bring forward resolutions to give an opportunity for the House to deal with the immediate situation.

“In the meantime I urge all hononable members not to submit claims for approval.

“Last week I had a most productive meeting with Sir Christopher Kelly, who explained to me his hope to bring reasoned proposals in the autumn.

“While we await the outcome of his work it is imperative that we continue to improve our accounts and practice in the interim and get in place measures that work and are seen to be working.

“And I say again, we all bear a heavy responsibility for the terrible damage to the reputation of this House and we must do everything we possibly can to regain the trust and confidence of the people.”

MPs then raised a series of Points of Order.

Labour MP Gordon Prentice wanted to know if the motion of no confidence that has been tabled will be discussed. The Speaker said it was not a “substantive” motion and that the business of the House is a matter for the government.

Douglas Carswell, the Labour MP who tabled the motion, demanded it be discussed.

“When will Members be allowed to choose a new speaker with the moral authority to clean up Westminster and the legitimacy to lift this House out of the mire?” he asked.

Labour MP David Winnick asked the Speaker if he would give “some indication” of when he might stand down.

“Your early retirement, Sir, would help the reputation of the House,” he said.

Richard Shepherd, a veteran Tory MP, said Mr Speaker should stand down.

Conservative leader David Cameron has called for parliament to be dissolved and an immediate general election should be called.

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