Michael Martin, Baron Martin of Springburn: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 The Lord Martin of Springburn 

In office
23 October 2000 – 21 June 2009
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Betty Boothroyd
Succeeded by John Bercow

Member of Parliament
for Glasgow North East
Glasgow Springburn (1979-2005)
In office
3 May 1979 – 22 June 2009
Preceded by Richard Buchanan
Succeeded by Willie Bain
Majority 10,134 (35.7%)

Born 3 July 1945 (1945-07-03) (age 64)
Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party None
Other political
Labour (c1966–2000)
Spouse(s) Mary Martin
Religion Roman Catholic

Michael John Martin, Baron Martin of Springburn, PC (born 3 July 1945) is a British politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Glasgow North East, initially for the Labour Party, from 1979 and was the Speaker of the House of Commons from 2000, until his resignation from both posts in 2009.

On his election to the post of Speaker in 2000 he was the first Roman Catholic to serve in the role since the Reformation.[1] He resigned from the position on 21 June 2009 as a result of diminishing parliamentary and public confidence owing to his role in the parliamentary expenses scandal, being the first Speaker to be forced out of office by a motion of no confidence since Sir John Trevor in 1695.[2][3] He also stood down as an MP on the following day.[4]


Early life

Martin was born in Glasgow in 1945, the son of a merchant seaman and a school cleaner. He attended St Patrick's Boys' School in Anderston, leaving at the age of 15 to become an apprentice sheet-metal worker. He became involved in the Sheet Metal Workers trade union and joined the Labour Party when he was 21. He later worked in the Rolls-Royce plant at Hillington, and was an Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union shop steward from 1970 to 1974.

In 1973, Martin was elected as a Labour councillor on Glasgow Corporation, a position he held until his election to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. He also served as a trade union organiser with the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) between 1976 and 1979. He was elected as Member of Parliament for Glasgow Springburn in the 1979 general election. Martin is associated with the right wing of the Labour Party, and is a teetotaller and a social conservative on matters such as abortion and homosexuality.[1] He was a supporter of Roy Hattersley and Denis Healey, with whom he served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary from 1980 until 1983. He served as Chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee from 1987 to 1997.


Martin sat on the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen before being appointed as First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (one of three Deputy Speakers) in 1997. Martin was elected Speaker on 23 October 2000, succeeding Betty Boothroyd to become the first Roman Catholic to serve in the role since the Reformation.[1] In accordance with a long-standing convention, Martin resigned from the Labour Party and is considered an independent. Martin's Glaswegian accent led to his being nicknamed "Gorbals Mick" by Quentin Letts, after the working-class district of Glasgow, although in actuality Michael Martin was born on the other side of the river from the Gorbals and represents a constituency several miles away.

In the 2005 general election, he stood in the new constituency of Glasgow North East, where three quarters of children living in the constituency are classed as being in poverty.[5] There is an imperfectly observed practice that the UK main national parties (Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) do not stand candidates against a Speaker who is seeking re-election, although other parties, including the Scottish National Party, never observe it.

Shortly after the 2005 election, when Liberal Democrat MP Patsy Calton entered the Commons for the last time to affirm her allegiance from a wheelchair and sign register, Martin broke with tradition and left the Speaker's Chair to shake her hand and kiss her on the cheek, saying "welcome home Patsy." Calton, who had just been re-elected, had terminal breast cancer and died three days later.[6]

On 26 February 2006 it was announced that Martin had undergone angioplasty at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary for blocked coronary arteries and would be absent from his duties for some weeks.[7] He returned to the Chair on 18 April.

In an interview on the BBC's Politics Show on 11 February 2007, he said that his proudest achievement as Speaker, in the traditions of his working-class origins, was to establish an apprenticeship scheme for local young people to become craftsmen (upholsters, restorers, electricians, etc.) who maintain the fabric of the Houses of Parliament.



Martin's initial appointment as Speaker caused controversy as his election broke a recent pattern in the House that the post of Speaker alternated between the two main political parties (the Conservative Party and the Labour Party). As Martin's immediate predecessor Betty Boothroyd had been a Labour MP, it was argued that the new Speaker should have come from the Conservative benches.[8] However, contrary to popular belief, there is no tradition of party alternation in the Speakership. In fact, from the Act of Union in 1801 until 1992, every Speaker elected came from the benches of whichever party was in government at the time of transition (see List of Speakers of the British House of Commons) - a convention which had, by coincidence, led to alternation between Labour and Conservative Speakers being elected between 1965 (Horace King, the first Speaker elected from the Labour Party) and 1983 (Bernard Weatherill). It was actually Betty Boothroyd's election as Speaker in 1992 (while the Conservatives were in office) that broke this convention, and the election of Martin merely reverted to previous tradition by selecting the Speaker from the government benches.

Fourteen MPs put their names forward as potential successors to Betty Boothroyd as Speaker. Many observers had considered the Conservative MP Sir George Young to be the favourite as he had support from both the Conservative and Labour leadership, who viewed it as the Conservatives' 'turn' to have a Speaker elected from their benches. However, many backbench MPs, particularly those from the Labour Party (who held a large majority in the House at the time), viewed Young as someone who had too recently been a member of his party's front bench team and who was, therefore, not sufficiently in touch with ordinary MPs. (Young had stepped down from the Shadow Cabinet just before the election for a new Speaker and had been a member of the Cabinet in the Conservative government during the previous parliament.) In the end, Young's candidacy was rejected by the House and Martin was elected as Speaker.

Accusations of bias

On 1 November 2006, during Prime Minister's Questions, Martin, in his role as Speaker, caused uproar in the House of Commons by striking down a question from David Cameron, leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in which he challenged Tony Blair over the future leadership of the Labour Party. Martin stated that the purpose of Prime Minister's Questions was for the House to question the Prime Minister on the actions of the government. This caused such dissent amongst MPs that Martin threatened to suspend the session. Cameron then re-worded the question so he asked about Tony Blair's future as Prime Minister rather than leader of the Labour Party, which Martin accepted. Conservative MPs have threatened to walk out if a similar event occurs in the future. Conservative politicians and commentators have sometimes accused Martin of bias towards the Labour government in stark contrast to the wide respect in which the previous Speaker, a former Labour heavyweight, had been held across the political spectrum, although he does often reprimand Labour MPs as well.[9][10]

Personal expenses

In 2007 Martin used public money to employ lawyers in challenging negative press stories; media law firm Carter-Ruck was engaged for three months at a cost of more than £20,000. The use of public money was criticised by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker as a "very expensive" way to issue press releases; and by the Taxpayers' Alliance.[11] Martin was also criticised at the same time for trying to block the publication of details of MPs' £5m-a-year travel expenses under the Freedom of Information Act.[11]

On 24 February 2008, John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, was asked by the TaxPayers' Alliance to investigate whether Martin had abused parliamentary expenses and allowances. Lyon is obliged to examine all such complaints although the Commissioner could rule that the complaint is unfounded. This followed a week in which Martin's spokesman, the veteran Whitehall communications chief Mike Granatt, resigned after admitting that he had unwittingly misled the Mail on Sunday over more than £4,000 in taxi expenses incurred by the Speaker's wife, Mary Martin. Granatt blamed unnamed officials, but not the Speaker, for falsely informing him that the expenses were legitimate because Martin's wife had been accompanied by an official on shopping trips to buy food for receptions. It turned out that she had in fact been accompanied by her housekeeper, and that catering for such receptions is the responsibility of the parliamentary caterers.[12]

On 29 March 2008, The Daily Telegraph revealed that refurbishment of Michael Martin's official residence, Speaker's House, has cost the taxpayer £1.7m over 7 years. The house is located inside the Palace of Westminster.[13]

In December 2008, during a week described by the Telegraph as an "another bad one for Parliament's reputation", Martin won the right to a taxpayer-funded, index-linked pension worth close to £1.4 million consisting of half his MP's salary and half his Speaker's salary, inflation-adjusted until his death.[14]

On 19 April 2009, an editorial in The Observer newspaper renewed calls for his retirement as Speaker, arguing "the Speaker and Mrs Martin have been plundering the public purse for an almost grotesque array of personal perks and foreign junkets".[15]

On 14 May 2009, The Daily Telegraph reported that Martin had claimed £1,400 for using chauffeur-driven cars that included visits to Celtic Park, home of Celtic Football Club, and his local Job Centre.[16]

Arrest of Damian Green

Following the highly controversial arrest of Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green, much anger was directed towards Speaker Michael Martin and the House of Commons authorities for allowing police into the Palace of Westminster to search Mr Green's Commons office without a search warrant. Asked if Mr Martin had approved the move, a spokeswoman issued a terse statement, saying simply that: "There is a process to be followed and that was followed."[17]

However, the Home Office confirmed that the police would have required permission from House authorities to carry out a search on the Commons premises. Conservative backbencher Douglas Carswell said that if it were confirmed that Mr Martin had authorised the raid, which some say breached Parliamentary privilege, he would be demanding his resignation. "The purpose of the Commons Speaker is to preside over an institution that holds government to account – not to give the green light to police raids against legitimate opposition," he wrote on his blog.[18]

Handling of MPs' expenses issue

On 12 May 2009 it was reported[19] that Michael Martin was under pressure to resign. Conservative MP Douglas Carswell put down a motion expressing no confidence in Michael Martin as Speaker.[20]

On 17 May 2009, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said that Michael Martin should stand down, saying he had become an obstacle to much-needed reform of Parliament.[21]

On 18 May 2009, Martin made a statement to the House of Commons, apologising for his part in the expenses issue, but recognising all members of the House were responsible. He also sought to resolve the wider issues by convening a meeting involving him, the leaders of all parties represented in the House and members of the House of Commons Commission, so that the Leader of the House of Commons could bring early proposals before the House, before any further recommendations from the Committee on Standards in Public Life. However, in a succession of points of order following the statement he refused to answer questions relating to his future as Speaker. He also said that, according to the rules of the House, even if the proposed motion of no confidence appeared in the House of Commons Order Paper, a debate on it could not take place unless the government made time for it, or the opposition devoted one of its days to the motion. Martin was attacked by a succession of MPs from all parties, several of whom called for his immediate resignation.

Declaration of British Council expenses

In 2009 Michael Martin was involved in a row over expenses incurred by MPs on taxpayer-funded British Council trips. In 2008 Conservative MP Mark Lancaster flew business class to Bangkok with the British Council for a two-day conference, at a cost of £5,018. Labour MP Sally Keeble flew out economy class and returned business class at a cost of £2,452. MPs must normally declare any hospitality they receive from outside organisations, and the British Council does not appear on a list of bodies whose gifts are exempt from the requirement. Mr Martin signed a special certificate preventing the release of information about these trips, citing "Parliamentary privilege". This was condemned by MPs from all parties as well as civil liberty advocates.[22]


In a statement made on 19 May 2009, Martin announced he would resign from his position as Speaker of the House of Commons effective 21 June 2009.[2] The last Speaker forced from office by a vote of no confidence was John Trevor in 1695[3].

Since I came to this House 30 years ago, I have always felt that the House is at its best when it is united. In order that unity can be maintained, I have decided that I will relinquish the office of Speaker on Sunday 21 June. This will allow the House to proceed to elect a new Speaker on Monday 22 June. That is all I have to say on this matter.
Michael Martin[23][24]

He was made the Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead to be able to stand down as an MP on the same date,[4][note 1] forcing a by-election in his constituency of Glasgow North East.[25]

Speakers are normally elevated to the House of Lords when they retire, and the Government has said it considered this a "formality".[26] However, given that Martin was forced to resign following widespread criticism of his behaviour, many people felt a peerage would be inappropriate and that elevating him to the Lords would be a reward for failure. A vetting panel for the House of Lords pointed out to the Prime Minister that nominees had to "enhance rather than diminish" the standing of the house, which some Labour MPs interpreted as a slur against Martin. Sixteen MPs signed a Commons motion requesting that the peer responsible, Lord Jay, withdraw his comment.[27] In accordance with tradition, as soon as Martin's successor as Speaker was installed, the first motion passed by the House of Commons was a resolution directing that a humble Address be presented to The Queen, asking Her to grant "some signal mark of [Her] Royal Favour" upon Martin. The "signal mark of Royal Favour", is, per tradition, the grant of a peerage.

Life Peerage

Michael Martin was made a life peer on 25 August 2009, by the name, style and title of Baron Martin of Springburn, of Port Dundas in the City of Glasgow.[28] He formally took his seat in the Lords on 13 October 2009[29].

See also


  1. ^ Members of Parliament are not at liberty to resign their seats because they are given a trust to represent their constituencies; however, taking an "office of profit under the Crown" such as the stewardship of the Manor of Northstead disqualifies an individual from sitting in the House of Commons, and as such is often used by MPs to effectively resign their seats.


  1. ^ a b c "Profile: Michael Martin". BBC News Online. 2009-05-17. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7261396.stm. Retrieved 2009-05-19.  
  2. ^ a b "Speaker announces he is to quit". BBC News Online. 2009-05-19. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8057203.stm.  
  3. ^ a b "A note on the Speakership". Hansard Society. 2009-10-21. http://lordsoftheblog.net/2009/05/19/a-note-on-the-speakership/.  
  4. ^ a b "Manor of Northstead - HM Treasury". HM Treasury. 2009-05-22. http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/press_59_09.htm.  
  5. ^ "Shocking toll of child poverty in Glasgow", The Glaswegian, October 2 2008[1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ "Speaker Martin has heart surgery". BBC News Online. 2006-02-26. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4752898.stm.  
  8. ^ "The new Speaker: Michael Martin". BBC News Online. 2000-10-23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/986496.stm.  
  9. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/nolavconsole/ukfs_news/hi/bb_rm_fs.stm?news=1&nbram=1&nbwm=1&bbram=1&bbwm=1&nol_storyid=6106686
  10. ^ "1992: Betty Boothroyd is new Speaker". BBC News Online. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/27/newsid_2502000/2502597.stm.  
  11. ^ a b "Speaker's legal costs criticised". BBC News. 11 October 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7039994.stm. Retrieved 2009-05-16.  
  12. ^ Watt, Nicholas (25 February 2008). "Pressure mounts on Speaker amid complaints over his expenses". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/feb/25/michaelmartin.whitehall.  
  13. ^ Rachel Sylvester and Robert Winnett. "Michael Martin's home gets £1.7m makeover". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=A1YourView&xml=/news/2008/03/29/nmps129.xml. Retrieved 2009-05-16.  
  14. ^ "Michael Martin: Speaker who turns a deaf ear", The Daily Telegraph, 13 December 2008[3]
  15. ^ Mulholland, John (19 April 2009). "Editorial". The Observer. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/19/gordon-brown-damian-macbride-draper.  
  16. ^ Hope, Christopher (2009-05-14). "Michael Martin: Speaker spent £1,400 on chauffeurs to his local job centre and Celtic Park"". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5298316/Michael-Martin-Speaker-spent-1400-on-chauffeurs-to-his-local-job-centre-and-Celtic-Park.html. Retrieved 2009-05-15.  
  17. ^ "PM had 'no knowledge' of arrest". BBC News Online. 29 November 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7756013.stm.  
  18. ^ Carswell, Douglas (2008-11-28). "Douglas Carswell Blog - Speaker Martin sanctioned raid on opposition's office". http://www.talkcarswell.com/show.aspx?id=270.  
  19. ^ "Speaker faces anger over expenses". BBC News Online. 2009-05-12. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8045092.stm.  
  20. ^ House of Commons Order Paper - Tuesday, 19 May 2009 - Future Business Part C: Remaining Orders and Notices Motion #38
  21. ^ "Nick Clegg calls for Speaker to resign over expenses storm". The Guardian. 2009-05-17. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/17/nick-clegg-speaker-michael-martin.  
  22. ^ Hastings, Chris (2009-02-07). "Speaker Michael Martin in secrecy row over British Council trips". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/4550620/Speaker-Michael-Martin-in-secrecy-row-over-British-Council-trips.html. Retrieved 2009-05-25.  
  23. ^ "House of Commons Hansard debates for 19 May 2009 (pt 0001)". Hansard. 2009-05-19. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090519/debtext/90519-0001.htm#09051970000004. Retrieved 2009-05-20.  
  24. ^ "Speaker's Statement: 19 May 2009". Theyworkforyou.com mysociety.org. 2009-05-19. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2009-05-19a.1323.0. Retrieved 2009-05-20.  
  25. ^ "Commons Speaker Michael Martin Resigns". Sky News. 2009-05-19. http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Politics/Michael-Martin-Speaker-Of-The-House-Of-Commons-Resigns-Over-MPs-Expenses/Article/200905315284430.  
  26. ^ Gordon Rayner and Rosa Prince (20 May 2009). "Michael Martin faces backlash over possible peerage". http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5357435/Michael-Martin-faces-backlash-over-possible-peerage.html.  
  27. ^ "Labour MPs attack Martin 'slur'". BBC News. 2009-07-03. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8132369.stm. Retrieved 2009-07-03.  
  28. ^ "Crown Office announcement". London Gazette. 2009-08-28. http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/59170/pages/page.htm. Retrieved 2009-08-28.  
  29. ^ http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23756083-ex-commons-speaker-michael-martin-takes-lords-seat.do

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Richard Buchanan
Member of Parliament for Glasgow Springburn
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Glasgow North East
Succeeded by
Willie Bain
Preceded by
Betty Boothroyd
Speaker of the House of Commons
2000 – 2009
Succeeded by
John Bercow


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