Michael Martin – 2009 Statement on MP Expenses

Below is the text of the statement made by Michael Martin, the then Speaker of the House of Commons, in the House of Commons on 19 May 2009.

I should like to make a statement, for the second time today.

This afternoon I convened a meeting of party leaders—both major and minor parties—and members of the House of Commons Commission to make decisions on the operation of parliamentary allowances pending the recommendations of Sir Christopher Kelly’s Committee on Standards in Public Life. The Chairman of the Committee on Members’ Allowances was also present to advise us.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life will come forward with long-term reforms to the current allowances system. All parties are now committed to implementing its recommendations as a whole, subject to the formal agreement of this House, provided that these reforms meet the tests of increased transparency and accountability and reduced cost for the taxpayer. We have today agreed a robust set of interim measures which will take effect at once and do not pre-empt any more substantial changes to be put forward by the Kelly committee.

Second homes: there will be no more claims for such items as furniture, household goods, capital improvements, gardening, cleaning and stamp duty. The following only should be claimable: rent, including ground rent; hotel accommodation; overnight subsistence; mortgage interest; council tax; service charges; utility bills, including gas, water, electricity, oil, telephone calls and line rental; and insurance—buildings and contents.

Designation of second homes: no changes to be made to designation of second homes in the years 2009-10, with a transparent appeal procedure for exceptional cases.

Capital gains tax: Members selling any property must be completely open with the tax authorities about whether they have claimed additional costs allowance on that property as a second home and are liable for capital gains tax. Members should make a declaration in respect of any property on which they claim for expenditure that it is not—and will never be—their main residence for capital gains tax purposes. Whether such a declaration has been made will be made public.

Couples: Members who are married or living together as partners must nominate the same main home, and will be limited to claiming a maximum of one person’s accommodation allowance between them.

Mortgages: all those Members claiming reimbursement must confirm that the mortgage continues, that the payments are for interest only, and the amount claimed is accurate. Mortgage interest claims will be capped at £1,250 per month. In the view of the meeting—and subject to the recommendations of the Kelly committee—this maximum figure should be reduced in the longer term. The same cap will apply to rent and hotel accommodation. Some of these measures I am announcing will require a resolution by the House in the near future; others will be put into effect by administrative action.

Staffing: we confirmed the enforcement of deposit of staff contracts and the registration of any relatives employed.

While the Kelly committee recommendations are awaited, there will be no specific changes to other allowances. The Department of Resources is instructed to tighten the administration of all claims and apply a clear test of “reasonableness”. If there is any doubt about the eligibility of a claim, it will be refused and there will be no appeal. In future, all authorised payments will be published online at transaction level on a quarterly basis by the Department of Resources.

All past claims under the former additional costs allowance over the past four years will be examined. This will be carried out by a team with external management; the external manager will be appointed after consultation with the Comptroller and Auditor General. All necessary resources will be made available. The team will look at claims in relation to the rules which existed at that time, and will take account of any issues which arise from that examination which cause them to question the original judgment.

The meeting also received a paper from the Prime Minister, which was endorsed by the other party leaders, calling for a fundamental reform of allowances—moving from self-regulation to regulation by an independent body. The Government will consult widely on this proposal. Further to this, the Leader of the House will be making a statement tomorrow, which will allow the House a full opportunity to ask questions, and Members to air their views on the decisions we have made and the proposals for the future.

Michael Martin – 2009 Resignation as Speaker

Below is the text of the resignation statement made by the then Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, on Tuesday 19th May 2009.

Since I came to this House 30 years ago, I have always felt that the House is at its best when it is united. In order that unity can be maintained, I have decided that I will relinquish the office of Speaker on Sunday 21 June. This will allow the House to proceed to elect a new Speaker on Monday 22 June. That is all I have to say on this matter.

Michael Martin – 1979 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Michael Martin in the House of Commons on 17th May 1979.

It is a privilege to represent the Glasgow, Springburn constituency. I have lived in the constituency for more than 13 years, and before that I resided in the neighbouring constituency. Therefore, I know of the good work that my predecessor, Dick Buchanan, has done for the area. I was pleased to learn that he was held in high regard in the House. He had many fine qualities. I was always impressed by his willingness to give service to the community. As a young man he was a shop steward in the local railway workshop, and he fought for, and succeeded in getting, better conditions for his workmates. When he was city treasurer in the old Glasgow corporation he was responsible for many projects which are still of benefit to the people of Glasgow. I am sure that the House will join me in wishing him well in his retirement.

At one time Springburn had a thriving railway industry which produced steam locomotives. In fact, Springburn made more than half the number of steam locomotives produced in the world. Many of them are still in use in Africa, India and South America. The industry not only employed thousands of skilled and semi-skilled workers but provided work for the smaller firms in the area. I am convinced that had the private railway companies ploughed their profits back into the industry Springburn would not have the unemployment problem that it has today. I hope the Government recognise the need to strengthen the Scottish Development Agency so that it can bring new industry to Glasgow and to places such as Springburn. My constituency needs industrial revitalisation to prevent its becoming an industrial graveyard.

The constituency has various types of housing. In the Dennistoun district there is a mixture of private and local authority tenements. In Petershill we have the highest multi-storey dwellings in Europe—33 storeys high. In Germiston, Balornock and Barmulloch we have mainly council housing stock. The Cow-lairs area consists of private tenements, where many of the tenants are suffering from landlords and property owners who have neglected their properties and refused to carry out repairs for more than half a century.

Recently an organisation known as Norman Properties operated in the area. Its activities were questionable, to say the least. Young couples, desperate for a house of their own, had to pay as much as £1,000, only to find that they had no legal rights when the local authority introduced compulsory purchase schemes. The good people of Cowlairs deserve better, but the private sector has failed them miserably.

The only hope for the people in this area is for council house building to be speeded up and for encouragement to be given to community-based housing associations, which have an expertise in the modernisation of older tenemental properties. I hope that the Government do not intend to make cuts in the Housing 496 Corporation’s budget, because it does an excellent job in building up such organisations.

Reference is made in the Queen’s Speech to the sale of council housing. It worries me considerably that the Government may feel that they are giving some sort of freedom to the sitting tenant. Have they considered what it will mean to the types of tenants whom I have just described? The sale of council housing will mean that the good-quality housing stock will go to the highest bidder and not to those in need. Have the Government considered the consequences of selling houses in a city such as Glasgow, which consists largely of tenemental properties? Who will ensure that the owner-occupier maintains his share of the council tenement? Who will ensure that the owner-occupier looks after the communal facilities, such as the back greens and the drying areas, or even the paths leading up to the tenements? Who will make sure that these communal facilities are looked after? I foresee many practical difficulties in the proposal to sell council housing.

I should like to bring to the attention of the House the fact that less than a year ago every party on Glasgow district council called upon the Government to make Glasgow a special case. Glasgow has many problems, and it needs a massive injection of capital to revitalise the city and attract new industry. I hope that the new Government will give Glasgow such consideration.