The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has talked of what he called his “duty to campaign” for the rights of gays and lesbians abroad.

In a New Year message to the recently launched 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” his commitment to equality.

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 equality.

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

In his message he referred to the recent speech by Hillary Clinton to the UN in Geneva, in which she spoke of the “human reality” of homosexuality in every culture.

He said: “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.”

The UN’s historic June resolution and its Human Rights Council’s first ever report of rights abuses against LGBT people around the world and recommendations all countries should adopt to protect their citizens were the top international news stories of 2011 in PinkNews.co.uk’s recent list.

The Speaker promised to continue to highlight “all the challenges still to be faced” by the international gay, bisexual and transgender community around the world.