Select Committee on Procedure Minutes of Evidence





  1.  There is modern precedent for establishing statutory changes to the roles and responsibilities of the Speaker.

  2.  The role of the Speaker has historically been defined by the character of the incumbent, the mood and political will of Parliament and, equally importantly, the wider political climate.

The need for Change?

  3.  In Britain today the Legislature is increasingly subservient to the legislative intentions of the Executive.

  4.  Wider reform of the role of Speaker is almost certainly necessary.

End Game: A Modern Speaker

  5.  The object of any reforms should be to ensure that the Speaker is best able to fulfil those responsibilities vital to a healthy, vibrant and relevant Parliament.

  6.  Reforms should seek to promote the Speaker as a clear and authoritative voice in the Commons' dealings, as part of the legislature, with the Executive.

Managing Reform

  7.  The Modernisation Committee should adopt reform of the role of the Speaker as an investigation of the highest priority.

  8.  The Select Committee on Procedure should be invited to undertake a joint investigation with the Modernisation Committee of the single issue of the election of the Speaker, the conclusions of that investigation to pay careful attention to the wider issues relating to the Speaker's role and responsibilities.


Election of Speaker

  9.  As the most recent and controversial manifestation of the weaknesses of Parliament's procedures, the manner in which the Speaker is elected is an urgent matter for inquiry. It is no reflection on the calibre of the successful candidate to report widespread anxiety about the election process.

  10.  The clear recommendation of the Liberal Democrats is that the Speaker should be elected by the process of Alternative Vote.

  11.  It would be pertinent, as part of any inquiry into the role of the Speaker, to review the constitutional, legislative and symbolic implications of alternative arrangements that make clear that the Speaker is elected, and appointed, by the House of Commons to be its voice in its dealings with the Executive.

Representing the Interests of Members of Parliament—(Government Business)

  12.  Much of the recent concern over the influence of the Executive on the Legislature is related to the ability of the Government to set the timetable for its own Business.

  13.  A Business Committee chaired by the Speaker, consisting of the Leader of the House and his or her Shadows from the two largest opposition parties, as well as other non-payroll MPs, and tasked with timetabling the Government's legislative programme, would establish a considerable limit on the power of the Executive to dictate the Business of the House.

Representing the Interests of Members of Parliament—(Modernisation)

  14.  The Speaker should have a clearly defined role in reviewing the practices of the House and recommending reform to both the Procedure and Modernisation Committees.

  15.  It should be possible for the Speaker to constitute, from time to time, an elected Advisory Committee of MPs to review the effectiveness of reforms.

Representing the Interests of Members of Parliament (Administration of the House)

  16.  The Chair of the House of Commons Commission should be elected directly by the Commons, on a free vote, with the Speaker assuming an advisory role.


  17.  Renewing the role of the Speaker in the manner outlined above way is fundamentally consistent with the Liberal Democrat analysis that there is a need for a greater separation of powers within the British Constitution.

  18.  A Speaker with renewed and obvious authority might serve to embolden backbench members of the majority party to support, on occasion, the interest of the Commons against the interest of the Executive.

  19.  To give the Legislature the capability of confronting the Executive when serious differences of interest or opinion arise can only help make the House of Commons more relevant to those it is elected to serve: the public.

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Prepared 15 February 2001