First Catholic speaker since Reformation

 Parliament voted its first Catholic speaker of the House of Commons since the Reformation on Monday night. Glasgow MP Michael Martin is the 156th person to hold the office. Outlining his approach to the job, he said: "A speaker has a clear duty to every side of this House, especially to the backbenchers, the minority parties and the opposition parties. "The speaker's duty is to serve this House, not the executive power." He added: "That someone from the poverty of Glasgow can stand before you seeking the great office of speaker, my origin should be no reason for me being elected. Nor should my origin be a reason to debar me." Before his speech some fears had been raised by his opponents that the MP, who opposes abortion, may fail to modernise the House. Coming from the traditional right-wing of the party he was Denis Healey's private parliamentary secretary and a supporter of Roy Hattersley for Labour Party leader in the 1980s. Mr Martin is an experienced chairman of committees, who has been on the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen for 10 years and chaired the Scottish Grand Committee. Born in Glasgow, Mr Martin was one of five children, brought up by their mother. A former sheet metal worker, he lists among his interests hill walking, folk music, local history and playing the highland pipes. He is teetotal, married and has a son and a daughter.

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