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 additionsince
it is a matter for the House itselfthe 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.
30 January 2001