Page last updated at 20:19 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 21:19 UK

Q&A: New Speaker elected

All you need to know about House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin's decision to stand down and the election of his successor John Bercow:

What's the latest development?

Conservative John Bercow has been elected to be the new Speaker of the House of Commons.

Who's he?

The 46-year-old Buckingham MP was a right-wing Conservative in his youth but has shifted so far to the left in recent years that there were persistent rumours he was about to defect to Labour. Indeed it was generally thought he'd gain more Labour than Conservative backing in the Speaker contest. He was the self proclaimed moderniser amongst the leading contenders to be Speaker. He said the next Speaker must be a "robust advocate of democratic politics" and that he would get out into the country to promote and explain "in a non-partisan" the role of Parliament and the work MPs do, as well as listening to the public's concerns. Profile: John Bercow

How was Mr Bercow chosen?

Candidates needed the backing of 12 MPs including three from other parties. Ten achieved that and made their pitch in the Commons which was then followed by a series of secret ballots. Mr Bercow won - by getting more than 50% of the vote - in the third round of voting when it was a straight contest between him and Sir George Young. Speaker: Runners and riders

What does the Commons Speaker do?

The Speaker of the House of Commons chairs debates in the Commons chamber. As well as keeping order, he chooses which MPs to call to speak, has a say over whether or not a government minister has to make a statement about an issue and decides whether or not particular amendments are to be debated.

Is that all?

No. That is the best-known part of the role which can be traced back to Sir Thomas Hungerford's appointment in 1377, but it is much more constitutionally important than that. The Speaker represents the Commons to the monarchy, Lords and others - he defends the independence of the House of Commons. The Speaker is also responsible for the running of Parliament - and importantly in the current row, the running of the Fees Office which looked after MP expenses and allowances.

Who was Speaker?

The 63-year-old Labour MP for Glasgow North East, Michael Martin, was Speaker of the House of Commons from 23 October, 2000 until Sunday. The teetotal, married father-of-two worked for Rolls-Royce before becoming a trade union organiser and has been an MP since 1979. Profile: Michael Martin

What was the row about?

As Speaker, Mr Martin was seen as the voice of the House of Commons, but some MPs felt he did not express sufficient remorse to the public over the damaging revelations about MPs' expenses claims - which were based on leaked receipts. In a statement to MPs after the first weekend of expenses revelations he said he recognised there was "great public concern" but went on to attack MPs who opposed the decision to ask police to investigate the leak. One of those attacked, Labour's Kate Hoey told the BBC the Speaker had to be "above it all and showing leadership". Lib Dem Norman Baker said rather than responding to public concerns, he "appeared to be defending vested interests". However Gordon Brown defended him, saying he "does a good job".

Were there public calls for him to quit?

Yes. By convention, MPs do not criticise the Speaker publicly, let alone seek to remove him from office. But the scandal surrounding MPs' expenses, and that statement from the Speaker, changed all that. In an unprecedented move, Tory MP Douglas Carswell tabled a motion of no confidence in the Speaker which was signed by 23 MPs. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg added to that pressure by calling for him to go.

How did Speaker Martin react to calls to quit?

The Speaker faced MPs and adopted a completely different tone to the previous week. He said he was "profoundly sorry" for the "terrible damage" which had been done to the reputation of the House of Commons by the expenses revelations. He said all MPs must share responsibility for that and said he was going to meet all party leaders within 48 hours to discuss measures to be put in place to change the expenses system.

Did he win over MPs?

No. In unprecedented scenes a succession of MPs openly challenged the Speaker in the Commons, urging him to step down. The Liberal Democrats, many Conservative and at least some Labour MPs want the no confidence motion to be debated. It became increasingly hard to see how he could survive a debate about his own role, as the Speaker is seen as needing to be politically impartial and to enjoy the confidence of the Commons.

Was this unusual?

There is no modern day precedent for a Speaker being voted out of office. In the old days (before 1560) seven were beheaded and one murdered. The most recent case of a Speaker being forced out was in 1695 when Sir John Trevor was expelled from the Commons after being found guilty of accepting a bribe. In modern times it is seen as a job for life, with the Speaker able to stay until death or retirement. The previous three Speakers were in place for seven, nine and eight years respectively.

What support did Mr Martin have?

There were still senior Labour figures backing Mr Martin before his announcement, including Sir Stuart Bell who said he had been "much maligned" and had a difficult job, but the number of backers appears to have declined rapidly during the expenses row. Mr Brown, pointedly, did not repeat his previous backing. Instead the prime minister said it must be a matter for the Commons rather than government.

Hadn't Mr Martin been criticised over expenses before?

Yes. Mr Martin headed up a five-month internal inquiry into the expenses system in 2008, following the furore over Derek Conway's payments to his son. Some questioned the decision to allow MPs to investigate their own expenses - Standards watchdog Sir Christopher Kelly said he was "baffled" by it. There was also criticism it was too slow. And he has been accused of trying to block expenses details from being released - notably by fighting a ruling that they be published under the Freedom of Information Act. He had argued that it would jeopardise MPs' security if addresses were published. MPs later voted to exempt their own addresses from publication and voted against Mr Martin's inquiry's proposal to shake-up the expenses rules.

What about his own expenses?

It emerged in February 2008 that some black cab trips made by Mr Martin's wife to buy food were claimed on expenses. There were also complaints that he claimed for a home he owns outright in Scotland, and that he used air miles earned on official business to buy first-class tickets for some relatives to fly to London over the New Year. Parliament's standards chief John Lyon later ruled Mr Martin's wife was within her rights to claim back £4,139 spent on the taxis. He said the claims were "not excessive". While all claims had been declared and did not break the rules Mr Martin faced criticism as he was in charge of setting those rules.

What other challenges had Mr Martin faced?

Controversy has surrounded Mr Martin from the time he succeeded Betty Boothroyd as Speaker. Traditional alternation of the role meant the Conservatives believed one of their MPs should have become Speaker, but Mr Martin was elected from a field of 12. He has since had his impartiality in the role questioned and came under fire last year after it emerged the police had searched the Parliament offices of Tory MP Damian Green without a search warrant in a leak inquiry.



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