Under-fire Speaker 'Gorbals Mick' hires top libel firm at public expense
The Speaker of the House of Commons has spent thousands of pounds of public money employing a law firm to defend him from criticism.
Michael Martin, a working-class Glaswegian who earns £136,677 a year for presiding over parliamentary debates, recruited the services of libel lawyers Carter-Ruck after a series of negative stories about him in the press.
One was the revelation that his wife Mary has been granted immunity from the stringent security checks that non-MPs have to go through before entering Parliament.
And earlier this year, in the row over public access to the details of MPs' travel expenses, he was accused of trying to silence opposition to plans to exempt parliament from freedom of information rules.
After requests under those same laws, it has now emerged that the Speaker, nicknamed Gorbals Mick, has spent nearly £3,000 of taxpayers' funds on "legal advice" from Carter-Ruck.
Reporters trying to contact him have been referred to the legal firm, whose clients have included ex-world boxing champion Frank Bruno and former Big Brother contestant Jade Goody.
His use of public funds came under scathing attack last night. Blair Gibbs, spokesman for the TaxPayers' Alliance, said it was ironic that the Speaker had been forced to disclose the cost of his legal representation under FOI laws.
"Michael Martin has been against the public using the Freedom of Information Act to find out how politicians are spending our money.
"He may not have broken the rules, but if the current system allows the Speaker to hire a posh media law firm to spin for him, all at taxpayers' expense, then it is yet another reason why the expensive system of parliamentary allowances has to be radically reformed.
"We need much greater transparency and fewer allowances. We pay the Speaker a big enough salary already. If he wants to hire media lawyers he can do so at his own expense."