Michael Martin (politician)

Michael Martin (politician)

Infobox Speaker

honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable
name = Michael Martin MP

caption =
office = Speaker of the House of Commons
term_start = 23 October 2000
term_end =
monarch = Elizabeth II
predecessor = Betty Boothroyd
successor =
constituency_MP2 = Glasgow North East
Glasgow Springburn (1979-2005)
parliament2 =
majority2 = 10,134 (35.7%)
term_start2 = 3 May 1979
term_end2 =
predecessor2 = Richard Buchanan
successor2 = Incumbent
birth_date = Birth date and age|1945|07|3|df=yes
birth_place = Glasgow, Scotland
death_date =
death_place =
nationality = Scottish
spouse = Mary Martin
party = Officially None (Labour)
relations =
children =
residence =
alma_mater =
occupation =
profession =
religion = Roman Catholic

website =
footnotes =

Michael John Martin MP (born 3 July 1945) is the current Speaker of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom.

Early life

Martin was born in Glasgow, United Kingdom, in 1945, the son of a merchant seaman and a school cleaner. He attended St Patrick's Boys' School in Anderston, before 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 AUEW shop steward from 1970 to 1974.

In 1973, Martin was elected as a councillor on Glasgow Corporation — a position he retained until he was elected 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, and was associated with the right wing of the party. He was a supporter of Roy Hattersley and Denis Healey, 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, and also sat on the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen. In 1997 he was appointed as First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Deputy Speaker). Martin was elected Speaker on 23 October 2000, succeeding Betty Boothroyd.

He has been an active Speaker; he has on occasion, during Prime Minister's Questions, stopped the Prime Minister from criticising the policies of the opposition. Martin's Glaswegian accent led to his being pejoritively nicknamed "Gorbals Mick" by Quentin Letts, after a well-known working-class district of Glasgow; however, the nickname is inaccurate, as Martin is from the Anderston and Springburn areas of Glasgow and has never lived in the Gorbals.

In the 2005 general election, he stood in the new constituency of Glasgow North East. There is an imperfectly observed convention 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, have never observed this pact.

On 26 February 2006 it was announced that Martin had received treatment at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary for a heart condition and would be absent from his duties for some weeks. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4752898.stm] 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.

His son, Paul Martin, has been the Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Glasgow Springburn constituency since 1999.



Martin's initial appointment as Speaker caused controversy as his election broke a recent trend whereby the post alternated between the two main political parties - presently the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. Martin's immediate predecessor was Betty Boothroyd, a Labour MP, which raised arguments that the new Speaker should have come from the Conservative bench. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/986496.stm] However, the long-standing convention is that the Speaker is elected from the benches of whichever party is in government at the time of transitionFact|date=September 2008 - a convention which had, by coincidence, led to alternate Labour and Conservative Speakers being elected between 1965 and 1992. It was actually Betty Boothroyd's election as Speaker in 1992 (while the Conservatives were in office) which broke this convention, and the election of Martin merely restored the original tradition by selecting the Speaker from the government benches. If a party alternation had been followed the Conservative MP for North-West Hampshire Sir George Young would probably have become Speaker in 2000.

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, also a former Labour heavyweight, had been held across the political spectrum, although he does often reprimand Labour MPs as well. [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] [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/27/newsid_2502000/2502597.stm]


On 11 October 2007 Martin was criticised for spending more than £20,000 of taxpayers' money on lawyers to challenge negative press stories. Media lawyers Carter-Ruck was employed to represent him following articles querying his conduct. Martin was also criticised for the exemption of his wife, Mary, from security checks in the Palace of Westminster, where they live, and for trying to block the publication of details of MPs' £5m-a-year travel expenses under the Freedom of Information Act. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7039994.stm]

More controversy followed in February 2008, when press sources reported that Martin used air miles accumulated on official business to fly his children and their families to London in business class. According to guidelines issued by the Members Estimate Committee, which Martin chairs, such air miles should be used by him to offset his own official travel costs.

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 though 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 catering for such receptions is the responsibility of the parliamentary caterers. [Nicholas Watt, [http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/feb/25/michaelmartin.whitehall "Pressure mounts on Speaker amid complaints over his expenses"] , "The Guardian", 25 February 2008.]

Two Sunday newspapers have carried stories that Martin claimed £17,166 last year towards the cost of his Bishopbriggs constituency home, on which he no longer pays a mortgage. The claim was made from the "additional costs allowance", which is to help MPs who live away from London.Fact|date=March 2008

On 29 March 2008 the "Daily Telegraph" revealed that refurbishment of Michael Martin's home has cost the taxpayer £1.7m. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=A1YourView&xml=/news/2008/03/29/nmps129.xml Latest news, breaking news, current news, UK news, world news, celebrity news, politics news - Telegraph ] ]


External links

* [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/person/0,9290,-3400,00.html Guardian Unlimited Politics - Ask Aristotle: Michael Martin MP]
* [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/michael_martin/glasgow_north_east TheyWorkForYou.com - Michael Martin MP]
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/11/05/nspeak05.xml Conservative MPs accuse Speaker of bias and threaten to walk out]
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/feb/25/michaelmartin.whitehall?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront Pressure mounts on Speaker amid complaints over his expenses]

-! colspan="3" style="background: #ccffcc;" | Order of precedence in Northern Ireland

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