Page last updated at 20:47 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 21:47 UK

MPs 'not doing jobs', says Young

Sir George Young
Sir George is one of the bookmakers' favourites to succeed Michael Martin

MPs are not doing "what we are paid to do", one of the leading contenders for the role of Commons Speaker has said.

Writing in the Times, Sir George Young said the parliamentary week was "shoe-horned" into Tuesdays and Wednesdays - an "ineffective use" of members' time.

Though he has not formally declared his candidacy, his reform proposals will be seen as a manifesto for the job.

Fellow Tory John Bercow has said he is in the running for the post and Lib Dem Alan Beith says he is likely to run.

Labour MP Frank Field has said he will take soundings and Conservative Ann Widdecombe has said she would be prepared to do it on an interim basis.

'Into play'

In his article, Sir George calls for a shake-up of the Commons timetable.

"The parliamentary week is shoe-horned into Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when too many meetings are scheduled," he writes.

To remedy this, he suggests moving prime minister's questions from Wednesday to Thursday "to bring Thursdays more into play".

Our procedures are antiquated, our language arcane
Sir George Young

Other reforms he proposes include allowing select committee chairman to present reports in the chamber and take questions; clearer rules on removing the Speaker; better access for the public; and a new business committee of MPs to set the Commons agenda rather than "dancing to the government's tune".

Sir George, chairman of the Commons standards and privileges committee, says MPs have "no-one to blame but ourselves" for their present problems.

"Our procedures are antiquated, our language arcane and the Chamber has joined those of most other democracies as no longer being the cockpit of the nation," he adds.

But he calls for "justice" and a "fair and rational process" when punishing MPs found to have abused the expenses system.

Sir George is one of the bookmakers' favourites to succeed outgoing Speaker Michael Martin.

However, he has been the subject of a Daily Telegraph report which said he claimed £127,159 in second home expenses on his London flat between 2001 and 2008 and failed to claim a council tax discount to which he was entitled. Sir George says he was not aware of the discount.

So far, only Mr Beith and Mr Bercow are the only MPs to have formally declared an interest in taking on the post permanently.

They and Sir George have said they will attend a hustings for potential candidates organised by the Hansard Society along with Mr Field, Tory backbencher Sir Patrick Cormack, Deputy Speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst and former candidate for the post Richard Shepherd.

Other MPs tipped as potential contenders include ex-Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, Deputy Speaker Sylvia Heal, former Labour minister Chris Mullin and Public Administration Committee Chairman Tony Wright.

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