Obscure committee that wielded the axe

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Indy Politics

At Westminster MPs were speculating that the commission had decided to get rid of Ms Filkin because she had pursued her job description – to root out sleaze – too assiduously.

The committee of MPs that decided Elizabeth Filkin's fate is a powerful but obscure body that controls Parliamentary budgets of tens of millions of pounds. Unlike select committees, the House of Commons Commission does not meet in public and does not release its minutes. It is rarely in the spotlight and usually only to comment on parliamentary works, such as spending on new offices. Few outside Westminster even know its members – Archy Kirkwood, a Liberal Democrat MP; Eric Forth, shadow Leader of the Commons; and Robin Cook, Leader of the Commons.

But yesterday the commission was thrust centre-stage when its chairman, the Speaker, Michael Martin, was in effect accused of undermining Ms Filkin's office. Mr Martin was also accused, in a withering resignation letter, of refusing to meet the Standards Commissioner to discuss her concerns, including rumours of a whispering campaign against her, and her decision not to reapply.

One commission member fuelled rumours of a whispering campaign against Ms Filkin by telling journalists – off the record – that she was "off her head".

The commission seemed to panic yesterday after her damaging letter was released. At an emergency meeting, it decided the Speaker should call for Ms Filkin to present evidence of a whispering campaign.

One senior MP said this "will backfire. They just dug themselves into a huge hole by reacting in that way," he said.

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