Questions put to witnesses on 23 January
1. What do you consider to be the strengths
and weaknesses of the existing method of electing a Speaker? Do
you personally wish to see a change to the system, and if so what
system would you prefer? Does your party have a collective view
2. To what extent were the political parties
involved in the recent election for Speaker, or in previous elections?
Did the "usual channels" carry out soundings within
the parties and if so how? Should there be formal involvement
by the parties, or by the "usual channels"? Would you
agree that the "mood of the House" has changed in recent
years, and that backbenchers are less willing to entrust decisions
of this kind to the party machines than used to be the case?
3. What is your view on the question of
whether the Speakership should alternate between the main two
4. You have been supplied with a statistical
breakdown of responses to the questionnaire that the Chairman
sent to Members of the House. This shows an overwhelming majority
of respondents in favour of changing to a ballot-based system,
with a smaller majority in favour of that ballot being secret.
However, the 130 Members who replied amount to just under a quarter
of the House. In your view are the views expressed in these replies
broadly representative of Members' views across the House, and
in your party?
5. There appears to be widespread support
in the House for a change to a ballot-based system, but rather
less agreement as to whether that ballot should be secret or open.
What are the arguments for and against each option? Which option
do you think would command greater support?
What are your views on whether there
should be a run-off after the initial ballot, and, if so, whether
this itself should be by ballot or should be held according to
the existing rules by division in the Chamber, following speeches?
The Electoral Reform Society has
submitted evidence commenting on the various options for conducting
a ballot. They reject the option of First Past the Post, and support
either the Alternative Vote system or the Exhaustive Ballot system.
Do you agree?
6. If a ballot-based system is adopted,
how great an interval should there be between nomination of candidates
and the election itself? Do you accept that this interval will
inevitably led to a day or more's delay in the House proceeding
with its business, eg at the start of a Parliament or after the
death of a sitting Speaker?
7. Do you believe a new procedure for electing
the Speaker should be put in place before the next General Election?
8. Where there is a sitting Speaker at the
start of Parliament, would it be sensible for the House to decide
first on a motion that he or she do take the Chair, and for a
ballot to follow only if that motion is defeated?
9. The House would wish any change to the
method of electing a Speaker to safeguard the principle of the
complete political impartiality of the Chair, and to ensure that
the successful candidate has the widest possible basis of support
in the House. Is there a case for requiring candidates to have
the support of a minimum number of Members to be eligible to enter
the contest? Or to require that proposers and seconders should
be from different parties?
10. Is there a case for written manifestos
or hustings? Is there not a danger that this will encourage candidates
to make promises and set out policies on matters which are not
for the Speaker, as the impartial servant of the House, to decide?
11. Do you wish to see any changes to the
ceremonial surrounding the election of a Speaker?
12. Do you have any views on how Deputy
Speakers should be appointed?