Suffolk MP wants to be Speaker

A SUFFOLK MP has thrown his hat into the ring in the contest to succeed Michael Martin as Speaker of the House of Commons.

Graham Dines

A SUFFOLK MP has thrown his hat into the ring in the contest to succeed Michael Martin as Speaker of the House of Commons.

Sir Michael Lord says he has the “strength, experience and enthusiasm” to embrace much needed change in the Commons and promises he would dedicate the coming years to make the House “once again the respected and vital centre of our national life”.

Sir Michael, who celebrated his 70th birthday last year, was MP for Suffolk Central between 1983 and 1997, since when he has represented Suffolk Central & Ipswich North.

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During the past 12 years, he has served as one of the deputy Speakers and tried unsuccessfully for the top job when Betty Boothroyd stepped down in 2000.

Speaker Martin is resigning this weekend following months of criticism of his role in trying to keep secret MPs' expenses and challenging in courts a Freedom of Information request to make the details public.

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Sir Michael, who lives at Mellis near Eye, says strength will be needed “to stand up to the government when it seeks to bypass the House of Commons” and “to protect the interests of backbenchers whose contributions at the moment are too often neglected''.

In a CV which he has circulated, Sir Michael said: “As someone who in my youth played rugby against the South African Springboks, I am used to coping with the roughest of confrontations and able to insist on fairness being done in the toughest of circumstances.”

It is his proposed tough stand against the executive which will win Sir Michael the support of backbench MPs. “Governments must no longer be allowed to make major Statements in schools, hospitals or TV studios before making them to the House. Even under existing rules there are ways the Speaker could deal with this.”

He wants a Speaker's Conference to be convened to examine the hours and days that the House sits,

how to remove government control from much of the business of the House, while still allowing it to get its business through. pre-legislative scrutiny on all bills, and the freedom for Select Committees to elect members and chairmen and most importantly to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath.

He adds: “Were I to be elected, I would serve the remainder of this parliament and if re-elected most of the next before allowing the election of a new Speaker who by that time would be known to all the Members of that new parliament.

“We must now leave the vexed question of our allowances and salaries in the hands of others, put the difficulties behind us and get on with serving our constituents and the country as they expect and we long to do.”

Other MPs who are planning to contest the vacancy are Labour's Frank Field and Margaret Beckett, and Tories John Bercow, Ann Widdecombe, and Sir George Young.”

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