British House Speaker resigns amid scandal

May 19, 2009 at 12:12 PM

LONDON, May 19 (UPI) -- British House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin announced Tuesday he was resigning in the face of a scandal over expense claims made by members of Parliament.

Martin, a Labor Party MP who was heavily criticized by all three major British parties for failing to deal effectively with the expenses scandal, told Parliament he would step down from the Speaker's post next month, The New York Times reported.

"In order that unity can be maintained, I have decided that I will relinquish the office of speaker on Sunday, June 21," he said in a statement that offered no further details on his decision.

With the move, Martin, a former sheetmetal worker from Glasgow, Scotland, becomes the first House of Commons speaker to resign in more than 300 years. His resignation marks the highest-level casualty in the scandal, in which MPs where shown to have accepted taxpayer reimbursement for such dubious claims as maintenance of their country estates.

Martin's authority to maintain decorum in the House was severely challenged Monday as heckling MPs ignored his calls to order and demanded his resignation.

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