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UK Speaker Martin resigns over expenses scandal

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  • NEW: British PM announces recommendations for reforming system
  • Martin is the first Speaker forced out of office since 1695
  • MPs had demanded he fall on his sword as part of changes to system
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Michael Martin, the speaker of Britain's House of Commons, said Tuesday he would resign in the face of widespread public anger over expense claims by lawmakers.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is coming under increasing pressure to deal with the crisis.

Michael Martin, the House of Commons Speaker, has tendered his resignation.

Martin, whose statement lasted barely a minute, said he would step down June 21.

He is the first speaker to be forced out of office since 1695.

Martin said he was stepping down in order to promote "unity" in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown later Tuesday announced recommendations for comprehensive reforms to the expenses system to put an end to the "abuses and misjudgments of the past." Video Watch how the rules have led to abuse »

He proposed a review of expense claims of the past few years by an independent panel, and the introduction of an outside agency to regulate expense reimbursements, which Parliament currently does itself.

Parliament at "Westminster cannot operate like some gentlemen's club," he said. "There has got to be transparency. There has got to be a proper audit." Video Watch more of Brown's speech »

The reforms are currently only proposals. It is not clear if they will be implemented.

Brown also paid tribute to Martin and added that he had chaired a meeting of party leaders Tuesday afternoon to discuss an overhaul of the expenses system.

The speaker traditionally chairs debates and ensures protocol is followed. But part of the reason MPs are now focusing their anger on Martin is that his office also handles expense claims. Video Watch more on Martin's resignation »

Critics say he allowed claims to run amok and failed to recognize the depth of public disgust at the amounts being claimed -- into the tens of thousands of dollars for some lawmakers.

Martin was savaged by MPs on Monday after he addressed parliament, with one lawmaker after another demanding to know when he would resign.

Politicians across the political spectrum have been under fire after weeks of front-page headlines revealing their expense claims. What do you think about the expense scandal?

They included requests for reimbursements for mortgages that had been paid off, members of the same family claiming the same expenses and reimbursement for lavish home furnishings.

The justice minister, Shahid Malik, resigned from the Cabinet over his claims, which he insisted were within the allowable limits. The governing Labour Party also cut ties with MP Elliot Morley, a former Cabinet minister, over his expense claims. Video Watch London cabbies speak out against lawmakers »

The expenses scandal came to light in a series of recent front-page reports in The Daily Telegraph newspaper. The expense claims were to be made public in the summer, but the Telegraph obtained them early.

Many lawmakers put in the spotlight by the newspaper insist they broke no rules.

London's Metropolitan Police announced shortly before Martin's resignation that they would not investigate the leaking of the expense reports to the press.

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"The leak of documents is not something that the (Metropolitan Police) would condone," they said in a statement, but felt it was unlikely they would obtain the evidence they need to launch a successful prosecution.

The police had not yet decided whether to investigate whether politicians broke the law in their expense claims, the statement added.

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