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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Speaker's legal costs criticised
Michael Martiin
Mr Martin's critics say he should pay the legal bills himself
Commons Speaker Michael Martin has been criticised for spending more than £20,000 of taxpayers' money on lawyers to challenge negative press stories.

Libel firm Carter-Ruck was employed to represent him following articles querying his conduct.

The total bill came to £21,516 for services during June, July and August.

Lib Dem MP Norman Baker said this was "alarming". A spokesman for Mr Martin said the money would come from public funds but made no further comment.

Mr Baker, MP for Lewes, said: "Of course it's right that there should be legal advice available to all members of the House of Commons.

"But in this case it appears the very expensive Carter-Ruck has effectively been used to issue press releases and that those instructing them have been content to sign blank cheques irrespective of the cost to the taxpayer."

'Hiring flunkies'

Taxpayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliott said Mr Martin was showing "the airs and graces of the ancient regime".

He added: "By using our money to hire the best media law firm in the land to defend himself against his critics and to soothe his thin skin, he is showing contempt towards taxpayers.

"If he wants to hire flunkies, he should pay for them himself and not expect us to pick up the tab."

Mr Martin has been criticised for his rulings and the exemption of his wife, Mary, from security checks in the Palace of Westminster, where they live.

He was also attacked for trying to block details of MPs' £5m-a-year travel expenses being published under the Freedom of Information Act.

Impartiality 'questioned'

Nick Harvey, the MPs' representative on the House of Commons Commission, disclosed the bills for Carter-Ruck's services over the summer.

"During July and August, the House administration endorsed the Speaker's use of the firm Carter-Ruck to counteract a series of articles that were published in the media which questioned the impartiality of the Speaker in his official role," he said in a Commons written statement.

"The cost of this advice was £18,696.06."

It emerged later that the total bill for Carter-Ruck's services included a further £2,820 for work conducted in June.

A spokesman for Mr Martin confirmed that the money would come from public funds but declined to make any further comment.

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