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New speaker not capable of reform'

PUBLISHED: 17:38 24 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:40 12 August 2010

The new Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow is pictured in his office at the House of Commons, in Westminster, central London, on June 23, 2009. Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged a

The new Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow is pictured in his office at the House of Commons, in Westminster, central London, on June 23, 2009. Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged a "new chapter" Tuesday after lawmakers replaced their scandal-tainted speaker, but the choice sparked fresh splits among MPs reeling from a damaging expenses row. Struggling to draw a line under weeks of political turmoil, members of parliament (MPs) elected John Bercow in a secret ballot on Monday night, to succeed Michael Martin, the first speaker to be forced out in over 300 years. AFP PHOTO/Stefan Rousseau/WPA POOL (Photo credit should read STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images)

2009 AFP

TWO MPs claim the new Speaker of the House of Commons is not capable of reforming the expenses debacle hanging over members. Derek Conway, MP for Bexley and Sidcup, said the only way that trust could be earned through radical reform of expenses is throug

TWO MPs claim the new Speaker of the House of Commons is not capable of reforming the expenses debacle hanging over members.

Derek Conway, MP for Bexley and Sidcup, said the only way that trust could be earned through radical reform of expenses is through a forthcoming Bill, not through John Bercow, the new Speaker.

Jacqui Lait, Conservative MP for Beckenham, said Bercow's appointment ended any hope of gaining the "trust of the British public" on expenses reform through a united Commons.

Like many MPs across all parties, both have bought high value items on expenses, including a £573 flat screen for Mr Conway and a £95 waste paper bin for Mrs Lait.

Mr Conway said: "The new Speaker will not, indeed cannot, radically reform MPs expenses.

"Only the House can do that and a Bill to make this happen is before the Parliament in coming weeks.

"But I think people should stop sniping at him and give him a fair chance to show what he can do.

"Despite some snobby reaction, Bercow is a decent and able man and will prove to be a very effective Speaker."

There have been calls to reform the role of the speaker into a protector of the public interest instead of the interests of MPs.

Conservative Bercow, described as a 'social liberal' has shifted politically from the far right to align more with New Labour. His winning vote tally in the third ballot was 322 against 271 for fellow Tory, Sir George Young.

Jacqui Lait voted for Sir George, saying he would have made an "excellent" Speaker.

Mrs Lait said: "We can't get through the reforms that are necessary for winning back the trust of the British public.

"A speaker was needed who is capable of working with both sides of the house to ensure changes can be agreed, someone who could unite the house and John Bercow clearly does not do that.

"Parliament needs to assert its authority over an executive that holds the power in government and this appointment will not achieve that."

Mr Bercow has pledged a radical overhaul of expenses, more power to backbench MPs and greater financial scrutiny.

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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