Commons Speaker John Bercow leads tributes to Lord Martin of Springburn

30 April 2018

Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, paid tribute to his predecessor, Lord Martin of Springburn. MPs also paid tribute to the former Commons Speaker on Tuesday 1 May 2018.

“I have the sad duty to inform the House of the death of Lord Martin of Springburn, Speaker of the House of Commons from 2000 to 2009.

I wish, on behalf of all Members, to pay tribute to his memory - and in doing so I send my deepest sympathy to his wife, Mary, to his daughter Mary, son Paul, and his grandchildren.

A Glaswegian former sheet metal worker, Michael was the son of a merchant seaman and a school cleaner, who was born in a tenement in the nearby Anderston area, on the north bank of the River Clyde, in 1945.

He was both passionate about and intensely proud of his roots and the way he had overcome a difficult start in life to rise to one of the highest ceremonial offices in the land.

After leaving school at 15, he began his political journey as a shop steward at Rolls Royce Aero-Engineers.

In the 1970s, he became an organiser with the National Union of Public Employees - and after a period as a Labour councillor, became MP for Glasgow Springburn in 1979.

As a new Member, Michael immersed himself in Commons life, spending over a decade as member of the Speaker’s Panel of Chairmen. He also became chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee before devolution.

After serving as Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd’s Deputy from 1997, he was elected by MPs to succeed her in 2000 – the first Roman Catholic to serve in the role since the Reformation.

He never forgot where he came from and in his coat of arms he included a 12-inch steel rule, which signified his time as a sheet metal worker, and a chanter, from a set of bagpipes– of which he was a keen and accomplished player.

Indeed, he staged the first Burns Night supper in the Palace of Westminster.

As Mr Speaker, he quickly set about making his mark on the role, by holding an unprecedented press conference, which provoked his critics that he had broken the convention of keeping his distance from the media.

He also dispensed with the traditional tights worn by his predecessors, in favour of dark flannel trousers - and continued the precedent set by Lady Boothroyd, by doing away with the traditional wig.

But despite the many improvements he sought to make in the Commons, to increase its diversity and the establishment of an apprenticeship scheme, it was the MPs’ expenses scandal that led to his resignation from office in May 2009.

But today, we remember Michael as our colleague, and to many, a friend.  

He was well known for his care and concern for Members, their staff and the staff of the House.

He was a good campaigner and very protective of backbenchers. He also had a great sense of humour.

On a personal level, he was always very kind to me. I still remember the lovely letter of congratulations he sent to me after my election as Speaker.

So once again, I extend my heartfelt sympathy to his family.”

Speaker's comments on Monday 30 April 2018

Image: PRU

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