Betty Boothroyd delivers her parting shot

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Betty Boothroyd, the Speaker of the House of Commons, bade farewell to Parliament yesterday with a stern warning that government "spinning" was promoting public cynicism about politics.

Betty Boothroyd, the Speaker of the House of Commons, bade farewell to Parliament yesterday with a stern warning that government "spinning" was promoting public cynicism about politics.

Miss Boothroyd, the first woman Speaker in the 600 years that the post has existed, broke with tradition again by using her valedictory statement to launch a veiled attack on ministers who announced policy in the press rather than in the Commons.

Addressing a packed chamber, she told MPs of all parties to stand up for the "primacy of Parliament" and remember that their core task was to hold the executive to account. Miss Boothroyd, 70, also fired a parting shot at those who want to modernise the hours of the Commons, claiming that the need for scrutiny should override the personal "convenience" of its members.

In an emotional speech, the nation's best-loved former Tiller Girl triggered laughter and cries of "shame!" as she announced that "my dancing days are over". However, Miss Boothroyd, who will formally step down in October after eight years in the job, warned that there was much public disillusionment about the political process.

"The level of cynicism about Parliament and the accompanying alienation of many of the young from the democratic process is troubling," she said. "Those who advise ministers should never overlook the primacy of Parliament. This is the chief forum of the nation, today, tomorrow, and I hope for ever."

The Speaker also chastised MPs for occasional "long-windedness" and declared that effective scrutiny of legislation was an area "ripe for improvement". But Miss Boothroyd ended her remarks on a lighter note with the phrase most commonly associated with her, announcing "time's up", as ministers and backbenchers clapped, cheered and waved their order papers.

Michael Martin, Labour MP for Glasgow Springburn and Deputy Speaker, was installed by bookmakers last night as the2-1 favourite to succeed Miss Boothroyd. William Hill's other odds were: Sir George Young 11-4; John McWilliam 7-2; Sir Alan Haselhurst 7-2; Gwyneth Dunwoody 8-1; Menzies Campbell 4-1; Sir Patrick Cormack12-1; Michael Lord 20-1; Nicholas Winterton 25-1; Richard Shepherd 25-1; Mo Mowlam 50-1

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