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Speaker John Bercow: I feel a duty to campaign for LGBT rights abroad

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has said he feels a duty to campaign for the rights of gay and lesbian people abroad.

In a New Year message to the Kaleidoscope Trust, Mr Bercow said his new coat of arms, which was unveiled in November and included the rainbow flag and the motto All Are Equal, 'underlined my commitment to this cause'.

The Speaker said he had campaigned for LGBT rights in the UK as a backbencher and was proud that the House of Commons had enshrined the right to equality. But he said that in many countries overseas equality 'remains but a distant goal'.

Mr Bercow, who is President of the Kaleidoscope Trust, said that despite some positive steps in the right direction, in some parts of the world 2011 had the seen the situation for LGBT people deteriorate significantly.

'In places there have been arrests and convictions for being gay, with prison sentences of many years being meted out for these so called "crimes". In other parts the clock has actually been turned back and homosexuality has been made a criminal offence for the first time. Most appalling of all there have even been reports of executions of men accused of homosexual offences,' he said 

The Speaker promised to continue to highlight the international issues faced by LGBT people and wished the Kaleidoscope Trust every success in 2012.