Select Committee on Procedure Minutes of Evidence

Answers to Supplementary Written Questions from the Committee to complement Oral Evidence on Procedure Committee Inquiry into Election of a Speaker (23 January 2001)

  1.  The Parliamentary Liberal Democrat Party is firmly committed to a change, and would prefer a secret ballot under the Alternative Vote System.

  2.  There was only limited informal involvement of the parties on this occasion, and anything more would be both undesirable and counter-productive.

  3.  There are now three main parties in the House of Commons and the old duopoly has been broken: although the Speaker should be the best person for the job irrespective of party, some circulation is clearly desirable.

  4.  To your figures should be added all the Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament who authorised me to give evidence in support of a secret ballot and AV.

  5.  (a)  The only argument for an open ballot would seem to be convention;

    (b)  a run-off inevitably weakens the position of the eventual winner since it will maximise the opposition or emphasise abstentions (eg note how many MPs did not vote for Speaker Martin in the final confirmatory division);

    (c)  first past the Post is notorious for electing those only supported by a minority of the electorate. Only AV produces a clear-cut verdict, with all degrees of support being taken into account.

  6.  Yes: this would be beneficial, allowing members more time to weigh up competing merits of candidates.

  7.  Yes: . . . if only to ensure that Speaker Martin's position is enhanced by the improved procedure.

  8.  No: an AV ballot would soon confirm that a well-respected Speaker enjoyed the confidence of the House.

  9.  Yes and yes.

  10.  Agreed . . . and in addition—since it is a matter for the House itself—the debate must take place in the Chamber.

  11.  Yes: the apparent subservience to the House of Lords is an obvious anachronism. The House should simply inform the Sovereign of its choice.

  12.  The current number is patently inadequate to occupy the chair in the Chamber at all sitting times, provide for sittings in Westminster Hall and undertake all the other duties now made necessary by procedural changes. It is most unsatisfactory that some members of the Chairman's Panel are given the nominal title of "Deputy Speaker" in Westminster Hall while still not subject to the non-partisan constraints that the main three holders of the post accept.

Paul Tyler

30 January 2001

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