18 May 2009

British Speaker under pressure to quit over expenses

3:23 pm on 18 May 2009

The leader of one of Britain's main parties has called for the House of Commons' Speaker to step down in the wake of an expenses scandal that has shaken Parliament's reputation.

Newspaper revelations have led to MPs being suspended and having to step down from official positions over extravagant expenses claims.

Liberal Democrats' leader Nick Clegg said the Speaker, Michael Martin, must step down, to pave the way for radical reform of Westminster.

Mr Martin was due to make a statement to MPs on Monday, and a motion of no confidence against him is expected to be put forward in parliament the same day.

In 10 days of disclosures from leaked files, the Daily Telegraph newspaper has targeted all the main political parties, detailing expenses claims for moat cleaning, adult films and dog food.

The ruling Labour party has been hardest hit and polls point to a backlash at next month's European elections in favour of marginal parties such as the anti-European Union UK Independence Party, the Greens and even the far-right British National Party.

Labour has suspended two MPs and one of its junior ministers has stepped down pending an investigation into his finances.

Newspapers said Queen Elizabeth had expressed concern to Prime Minister Gordon Brown over the disclosures, which have angered Britons at a time of recession.