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U.K. lawmakers urge Commons speaker to quit

A group of British lawmakers has urged the speaker of the House of Commons to resign amid a spreading scandal over the use of taxpayers' money by some lawmakers.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A group of British lawmakers urged the speaker of the House of Commons on Monday to quit over his handling of legislators' excessive expenses claims, hoping to oust a speaker for the first time in more than 300 years.

The 15 legislators called on Michael Martin to step down as a scandal over the use of taxpayers' money by some lawmakers continued to spread.

Newly disclosed expense claims show that some lawmakers used public money to pay off mortgages, repair tennis courts or buy luxury furniture.

Labour Party lawmaker Shahid Malik quit Friday as justice minister over his claims for rent, and an aide to opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron stepped down last week because of his expenses bills.

The Times of London newspaper reported Monday that major donors to the governing Labour Party have threatened to stop giving to protest the scandal, possibly reducing the amount the party can spend heading into a likely 2010 national election.

Court battle to keep claims secret
Martin, a Labour lawmaker, has been speaker since 2000. He has been criticized for his handling of the expenses system and for his attempts to block publication of the claims.

He led a four-year court battle to exclude the claims from Britain's freedom of information law, but was overruled in 2008 by the High Court.

Conservative lawmaker Douglas Carswell said Monday he had introduced a motion, also signed by 14 other lawmakers, calling on Martin to resign. Carswell said the motion could trigger a formal House of Commons debate on Martin's future.

The motion was signed by lawmakers from Britain's three major political parties.

"Let's just get this straight, this is not about scapegoating the speaker," Labour lawmaker Kate Hoey, who signed the motion, told BBC radio. "This is about how we move now to ensure the public have a chance of getting back some of the trust in Parliament and its politicians."

She said the vast majority of Britain's 646 lawmakers had opposed Martin's attempt to exempt their expenses from freedom of information laws.

More on: House of Commons