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Michael Martin, MP for Glasgow Springburn, in 2000.

Speaker Michael Martin Is Latest MP to Resign Over Expenses Row

May 19, 2009 06:00 PM
by Liz Colville
Martin is the first House of Commons speaker to resign in 300 years; nearly two dozen members from different parties had called on him to step down.

Several Members Criticized for Questionable Expenses

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Martin issued a brief statement saying he will leave his post as Speaker of the House of Commons. He faced criticism from numerous MPs who felt Martin did not show leadership after the expense uproar started earlier this month. Though Martin apologized in the House on Monday, his statement was interrupted by angry MPs calling for him to quit, the Telegraph reported.

"Since I came to this House 30 years ago, I have always felt that the House is at its best when it is united," Martin was quoted as saying today in the Telegraph, the newspaper that broke the story. "In order that unity can be maintained, I have decided that I will relinquish the office of Speaker on Sunday June 21."

MPs from "across the political spectrum" signed a petition calling for Martin's resignation, the Telegraph said, as the speaker has so far become the most high-profile victim of the controversy. Among his offending claims are his wife's £4,000 ($6,189) in cab trips made to buy groceries, according to Time.

MP Douglas Carswell tabled the motion for Martin's resignation, saying, "It gives me no pleasure to have done this at all, but it was necessary to do it. We need a new Speaker who understands that 'sovereignty of Parliament' is shorthand for 'sovereignty of the people,'" the newspaper reported.

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Background: How the expenses debacle unfolded in the press

The Telegraph's Ben Leapman was the first to reveal details about alleged expense abuses by dozens of Members of Parliament, including Martin, and since then publications including the BBC have extensively outlined which MPs are implicated and what their public responses to the accusations have been. Not every Member of Parliament has been accused of expense abuses.

The abuses stem from second home allowances that are permitted for members who represent constituencies outside of London. According to the BBC, several MPs are accused of “maximising their financial gain by regularly ‘flipping’ their designated second home," which has "allowed them to claim back the cost of renovating properties, which they have then sold off at a profit."

Some MPs also abused an “additional costs allowance” that until last year, allowed MPs to claim without receipts “any item under £250” ($383). Although these costs are meant to be for items like “mortgage interest payments on second homes and utility bills,” they have also been used for “furniture, electrical goods like televisions, refurbishments and food,” the BBC reported.

One MP, a Conservative named Douglas Hogg, used the allowance to clean the moat surrounding his country house, according to the Telegraph. Hogg has also announced his resignation, according to The Times.

Journalists Ben Leapman, Heather Brooke and others have been campaigning for several years to get members of parliament to recognize that “freedom of information really does apply to them,” the BBC reported, referring to the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, which fully came into effect in 2005. Many have seen the law as a green light to public access of information like the MPs' expense records.

Reference: Complete list of MPs' offenses

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