British parliament in disarray over expenses scandal

May 12th, 2009 - 6:56 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 12 (IANS) The British parliament was looking frayed at the edges after backbenchers Tuesday called for the Speaker to step down after five days of damaging revelations about MPs’ allowances.
Backbenchers drafted a motion calling for the Speaker to quit after he made a startling intervention Monday, rebuking senior former ministers who defended the Daily Telegraph, the newspaper that has been publishing daily reports about outrageous financial claims made by MPs.

Meanwhile, a former deputy speaker called for parliament to be dissolved.

British MPs have been found to be claiming all kinds of ‘allowances’, including for mortgages of second homes, maintaining housekeepers, cleaning swimming pools, buying chandeliers and - in one case - putting up his entire family in a hotel.

The disclosures have caused outrage across Britain, but Speaker Michael Martin Monday cut short and remonstrated with several MPs who called for greater public scrutiny and accountability of MPs’ allowances.

An angry Martin confronted former Labour minister Kate Hoey during a debate in the House of Commons Monday after she questioned the need for a police investigation into media leaks about MPs’ allowances.

“I just say to you it’s easy to say to the press, ‘This should not happen’,” the Speaker told a shocked Hoey.

“It’s a wee bit more difficult when you just don’t have to give quotes to the press and do nothing else. Some of us in this House have other responsibilities.”

Martin had said the leaks had been referred to police but Hoey described the move as an “awful waste of money” and praised The Daily Telegraph for handling sensitive information “very responsibly”.

The Speaker also cut short Patricia Hewitt, a former Cabinet minister, when she demanded greater public scrutiny of MPs’ salaries and allowances.

Douglas Carswell, the opposition Conservative MP behind the campaign to force Martin’s resignation, said he was confident of securing cross-party support.

“This is a man who is out of his depth who is acting bizarrely to justified criticism,” Carswell told BBC Radio.

“People across the country are turning to despair and giving up on the Westminster process,” he added.

There have been calls to dissolve parliament and call elections over the damaging revelations.

Lord Naseby, deputy Speaker between 1992 and 1997, said: “It brings the whole status of Parliament right down into the pits.

“I think frankly, if this runs and runs, then Parliament should be dissolved. The great British public has lost confidence and I think that it is extremely serious,” he added.

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