Monday, 20 August 2007

Michael Martin

While the Speaker of the House of Representatives is a partisan figure - belonging to and advocating the point of view of the majority party, the House of Commons Speaker is expected to be the servant of the House, particularly backbenchers - and shun their previous political party. In fact it is usual for a retired Speaker to be given a peerage - and in the House of Lords they sit as Cross-benchers. Michael Martin has been Speaker since 2000, and has indicated that he wishes to continue in the job after the next General Election. His election was controversial, because Conservatives claimed there was an informal rule that the two major parties took turns to provide the Speaker. Betty Boothroyd, his predecessor, had also been a Labour MP. (In fact the tradition was only of 30 years length).

Speaker Martin comes from Glasgow (b 3rd July 1945), the city he represents. [Currently Glasgow NE, before the last redistricting in Scotland it was a Glasgow seat known as Glasgow Springburn]. He was a sheet metal worker at Rolls Royce Aero Engines, who played an active role in his union. He entered Parliament in 1979. After serving on the Speaker's panel - chairing House of Commons committees, he became Deputy Speaker in 1997. Earlier he had served as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Denis Healey.

In his spare time Mr Martin's interests are hill walking, folk music, local history - and he plays the Highland pipes. His son (he also has a daughter) is the Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Glasgow Springburn constituency.

Michael Martin is the first Catholic to be the Speaker since the Reformation. The House of Commons elected its first Speaker in 1376 - and Mr Martin is the 156th person to hold that position. By virtue of his position he has a residence within the Palace of Westminster. Each day before the Commons starts business the Speaker's Procession makes its way from the Speaker's House - via Central Lobby - to the Chamber.

Further information about the Speaker can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/m02.pdf