Pressure grows on Martin to get tough over expenses

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Indy Politics

Pressure is mounting on the Speaker, Michael Martin, to take a tougher line on MPs' expenses amid fears that the review he ordered following the Derek Conway affair will not produce radical reforms.

Mr Martin has been criticised for choosing a team of MPs seen as "establishment figures" to conduct the review. They include David Maclean, a former Tory chief whip, who tried to bring in a Bill to exempt MPs from freedom of information laws.

The Liberal Democrats will next week call for the group to take evidence from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the anti-sleaze body. Nick Clegg, the party's leader, believes this would give the Commons' own review expert advice and, crucially, an independent element.

The committee is considering whether to launch its own inquiry into MPs' allowances but is expected to wait until the Speaker's review has been completed. There is concern that it may drag on to the autumn. MPs are wary of criticising the Speaker but some are now expressing fears that he is "part of the problem, not the solution" at a time when most accept they need to be more open about their expenses to head off further criticism.

The Speaker has attracted publicity over his own expenses, including £4,000 in taxi bills for his wife Mary and £50,000 for his air travel. He has also thwarted demands for full disclosure of MPs' expenses.

There is gossip at Westminster that Mr Martin, 62, may come under pressure to say he will stand down at the next election. But a co-ordinated move against him looks unlikely: the convention is that the Speaker can carry on as long as he or she wishes.

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