John Penrose MP...

Being Speaker of the House of Commons is a very odd job. First there's the clothes. For some reason you're required to wear 18th century

Being Speaker of the House of Commons is a very odd job. First there's the clothes. For some reason you're required to wear 18th century clothing, including frock coat and tights, so you clearly need a sense of humour. Next, you're expected to enforce good behaviour from 650 Members of Parliament who, as everyone who's seen Prime Minister's Questions on TV knows, often act like schoolchildren.And on top of all that, you're in charge of everything that goes on in Parliament. State visits; security from terrorists; the food in the cafeterias; the amendments that are selected for debate; the order that MPs are allowed to speak. All of it needs your approval at some stage. But it isn't all bad. There's some impressive perks. There's a beautiful apartment right under Big Ben where you can entertain visiting dignitaries in style. You're almost guaranteed a peerage when you retire. And you can dock the pay of any MP, including the Prime Minister, if they misbehave. Ultimately, the Speaker has to make sure Parliament can be the voice of the voters holding the Government to account. That's why I was particularly impressed by a decision he made last week.Two weeks ago the Commons approved a private member's bill which will stop MPs' salaries and expenses being published for the voters to see. In an age when politicians command less trust and respect than ever before, and people feel increasingly disconnected from Parliament, that's a huge mistake. It makes MPs seem furtive and makes voters fear there's something to hide. But the Speaker came riding to the rescue. He's announced that he intends to publish MPs' expenses, no matter what the new law says. It's an excellent decision, and it may yet save some MPs from the consequences of a bad law.


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