Essex MP joins attack on the media

COLCHESTER Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell has joined in a skirmish over subsidies for media facilities in the Palace of Westminster and says journalists should “apply to themselves the same standards that they would demand of others.

Graham Dines

COLCHESTER Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell has joined in a skirmish over subsidies for media facilities in the Palace of Westminster and says journalists should “apply to themselves the same standards that they would demand of others.”

The prickly war of words has been joined as MPs face calls for all their perks and expenses to be published.

In a House of Commons early day motion from Labour former minister Peter Kilfoyle (MP for Liverpool Walton), which has been signed by MPs of all major parties, notes “recent media commentary on the rolling programme of maintenance, involving the Speaker's rooms” and points out that £8.2million has been spent revamping the Press Gallery.

The motion adds: “This House also notes that the media pays nothing for the use of the premises, nor for London telephone calls, is bemused that 10 male members of the lobby have a car parking pass for the Palace of Westminster and is conscious of the annual subsidy to the Press Bar of £210,000.”

The motion has so far been signed by Tories Peter Bottomley (Worthing West), Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield), Liberal Dem Mr Russell and Labour's Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley).

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The parliamentary repose comes after the authority of the Speaker Michael Martin was undermined by a series of revelations over his use of public funds, including £700,000 spent improving his grace-and-favour residence in Westminster since 2001.

Speaker Martin is leading a review into the detail of how much of MPs expenses should be published, despite facing a sleaze probe into his own spending, including £4,000 for taxi bills for his wife to go shopping.

The full text of Mr Kilfoyle's motion says: “That this House notes recent media commentary on the rolling programme of maintenance involving the Speaker's rooms; notes that £8.2 million has been spent on the renovation of the Press Gallery; also notes that the media pays nothing for the use of the premises, nor for London telephone calls; is bemused that 10 male members of the lobby have a car parking pass for the Palace of Westminster; is conscious of the annual subsidy to the Press bar of £210,000; and therefore calls upon members of the Press gallery to apply to themselves the same standards that they would demand of others.”

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