Notwithstanding his best efforts to emulate the KGB in preventing State Secrets from emerging into the public domain, there has been a steady drip-drip of information about his own penchant for wetting his beak with taxpayer’s money. We have already noted his wife’s fondness for taking flights at the public expense and we have also had intelligence concerning her love of taking taxis for which you pay so that she can do the shopping. I should be so lucky.
Now comes evidence of the Speaker’s support for that most Tory of notions, the family. Last Xmas he helped himself to a nice chunk of the Airmiles he has clocked up on the public purse and applied them to flying his family down from Scotland for a trip to London, all business class, mind you.
Ministers are specifically banned from using Airmiles earned whilst they are travelling on public business and those accrued are supposed to be used only for saving public money on future flights. MPs are not so banned but the advice of the Commons Estimates Committee is that Airmiles should only be used for future flights. Mr. Speaker Martin chairs this committee.
In this way a benefit of some £2550 which might otherwise have been used to defray the cost to the public purse of future flights taken by Mr. Speaker on official business has ended up in the hands of his family.
No wonder Mr. Speaker Martin has been so assiduous in the defence of MPs privacy over their expenses in the past year. This first became evident during the passage of David Maclean’s Freedom of Information (
Suppression Amendment) Bill in May 2007 when it was widely rumoured that the bill was only able to get enough time for its passage through the Commons (it was a private member’s bill so had to depend on official sympathy for such time) because Mr. Speaker Martin had gone out of his way to help. There were suggestions then that he was keen to do so because the spotlight had fallen so cruelly on Labour members in particular who were being fingered for various shenanigans over such things as the housing allowance.
Now we know that it was his own penchant for burying his snout into the public trough that lay behind his efforts which have included mounting a rearguard action before the Information Commissioner to prevent any detailed breakdown of MPs expenses being made public and his support for Maclean’s bill. It has recently further manifested itself in his choice of Maclean and a group of other of chumocrats to run an enquiry into the whole business of MPs expenses, something which was intended to bury the whole business and which was the Parliamentary equivalent of appointing Ronnie Biggs and Buster Edwards to the High Court Bench.
The problem for Mr. Speaker Martin is that, quite apart from his problems over a fondness for helping himself to our money, he is an appalling Speaker, certainly the worst in my lifetime. He has already exhibited the unpleasant characteristics of bigotry, class-warfare and bullying in his dealings with his staff but it is his unashamed partiality to Labour which has really done for him.
Thus the whispering against him has steadily grown to the point that it has become a veritable chorus. Now therefore a campaign to pension him off at the next election is well under way with the man in the white suit, Martin Bell, lately the sleazebusting MP for Tatton, mounting a campaign to find a candidate to stand as an independent against the Speaker at the next election.
It is to be hoped that Mr. Speaker takes the hint and decides to take the pension and run without that being necessary. It has taken several hundred years for us to arrive at a situation where we could have a Speaker such as Bernard Weatherill or George Thomas, both of whose impartiality and desire to protect the interests of backbenchers was palpable, as the norm. Now much of the respect for the Office of Speaker has been diminished by the present incumbent who spends much of time going out of his way to be utterly partial and is an enemy of the Taxpayer’s right to know how public money is being spent.
Bringing MPs to heel over their expenses is but the first step on a long road to restoring Parliament to its proper place in the life of our nation. Where better place to start than with the public face of Parliament itself, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Porker himself?