Select Committee on Procedure Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 160 - 163)



  160. Not only that but the taking of the candidate to the Chair, the way then that the successful applicant accepts nomination as Speaker elect and then proceeding from there to report it to Her Majesty via the House of Lords.
  (Mrs Beckett) I think perhaps we should seriously consider abandoning the fiction that the Speaker is utterly unwilling to become Speaker. I know it was not a fiction in the past and I understand fully the wish to evoke our history and to say this is where we came from, this is how much things have changed. Whether we should continue ... It is perhaps one of those things like wearing a top hat to raise a point of order that the House might like to reconsider.

  161. Do you have any views on the way the Deputy Speakers are appointed? Would you wish to see those changed?
  (Mrs Beckett) You remind me of a point I made a little while ago about process and outcome. I am conscious that there are Members who feel that because the process of election must always be right, therefore the Deputy Speakers should be elected. I am rather inclined to the view that there is also something to be said for the procedure that we have now. Going back actually to the point I made some moments ago, which is first of all if the Deputy Speaker were to be elected you might actually get some more genuine reluctance given the hours and workload of the Deputy Speakers, but also, you are opening up a completely different area and you are also having—

  162. I am trying to carry forward the debate in which you talked about the "usual channels" not being involved.
  (Mrs Beckett) The other thing you would get if you moved away from a system of an election is that you might lose the capacity to bring forward people of whom again others have not thought. For example, if I may be perfectly frank, when Michael Martin became a Deputy Speaker I had not had much contact with him in his role as Chair of the Administration Committee. I was surprised to find him being put forward as a Deputy Speaker. Whether at that stage the House would have chosen him in the way the House then overwhelmingly chose him as Speaker, I am really not sure. A little room for manoeuvre in these things can often be valuable and I am also very mindful of the fact that it does give us the opportunity to maintain some party balance. It would be most unfortunate, if as a result of having an electoral process, we ended up with a group of Speaker and Deputy Speakers who were predominantly of one party. There are issues such as whether or not we try to maintain some kind of gender balance, things of that kind. I am inclined to the view that if we are going to propose change, particulary major change, let us do one thing at a time.

  163. You have been extremely agreeable and courteous in the responses which you have made to the questions. On behalf of the Procedure Committee may I thank you very much for the evidence which you have given today. I will, as I have in the case of other witnesses, let you have a full list of all the questions which if we had had time we would have put to you. If you wish to build on any of the answers you have given, we should be very happy to hear from you. I hope that is acceptable.
  (Mrs Beckett) That is fine; thank you very much.

  Chairman: Thank you again very much indeed for coming to give evidence to us this afternoon.

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