Select Committee on Procedure Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200 - 207)



Sir Paul Beresford

  200. Just on a slightly different tack, have you any views on the appointment of Deputy Speakers?
  (Lady Boothroyd) I do not think I have any strong views about it. I have on two occasions had to deal with the election of Deputy Speakers and I have been quite satisfied as to the way it has been done. On both occasions I let it be known that it would not please me and it would not be correct to put particular names before me because I might find them unacceptable, but it worked out very well. I have been tremendously satisfied with all my deputies—the ones I got in 1992 and the ones that came to me later. I was consulted at every stage and I am very happy with those that were put to me. Whether the House was happy with them or not I do not know—I assume they were—but we had a perfect team on all occasions.
  (Lord Weatherill) I think it works very well. I was Chairman of Ways and Means and Lady Boothroyd was one of my deputies at the time. The great advantage of a Speaker having been a Deputy Speaker or deputy Chairman of Ways and Means is that it is a very valuable apprenticeship, but it was said to me prior to my being chosen as Speaker that the House did not really want to perpetuate the system whereby the Speaker automatically came from the Ways and Means corridor, and there is also some merit in that. It is a very good apprenticeship, however, and I entirely agree with what Lady Boothroyd has said. I do have to say in my case, with Betty Boothroyd and Harold Walker, if I had studied the Labour Party for 1000 years I would not have known as much about it as those two; every Speaker relies very much on the guidance and wisdom of his deputies.

Mr Beith

  201. Bearing in mind what Lord Weatherill says about apprenticeship and what he said earlier about the potential advantages of having seen somebody in the Chair, although it is by no means conclusive and good Speakers have come who have not been in the Chair beforehand, can it be right for the usual channels to continue to control, subject to the Speaker's own view, the appointments of Deputy Speakers with a motion that goes down, sometimes even without notice—it being simply moved without being on the Order Paper following consultations in the usual channels—rather than any wider process, given that the usual channels no longer control the Speakership but do control the Deputyships?
  (Lord Weatherill) I suppose in fairness, if you are going to elect a Speaker, you should elect the Deputy Speakers but my view is the system has worked extremely well. Apart from one Deputy Speaker, the member for Dorking some years ago, who was displaced I do not know of any occasion where the Deputy Speakers have been questioned or queried. I think, therefore, since it does work well, I would be inclined to leave it alone.
  (Lady Boothroyd) I find the system works well. What I always liked and what I always took were Deputy Speakers who had been on the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen because that is the real apprenticeship. Those are the unsung people on no pay, working very long hours, doing splendid work in committees and I always insisted that the deputies should be drawn from that area.

  202. Is it undesirable that Deputy Speakers should be drawn from PPSs?
  (Sir Edward Heath) I misunderstood the earlier question about Deputy Speaker but, from this point of view, I would say that a good relationship between the Speaker and those who are responsible for the other occupants of the Chair are absolutely essential. It is the one element which can save trouble. I cannot think of anything worse than having one who is in conflict with the Speaker. It is unimaginable?


  203. So what you are saying, Sir Edward, is that you believe the current system works whereby the deputies, the Chairman of Ways and Means and the other Deputy Speakers who are appointed by the leaders of the major parties and the chief whips of the major parties, should continue?
  (Sir Edward Heath) Yes.

  204. Subject, of course, to consultation with the Speaker?
  (Lady Boothroyd) Of course. The Speaker must be comfortable working with these people.

  205. Is that what you are saying, Sir Edward?
  (Sir Edward Heath) Yes. There must be constant good consultation the whole time otherwise there is bound to be trouble and life on the floor of the House would become impossible.

  206. Can I say to our three witnesses, Lord Weatherill, Baroness Boothroyd—I find it difficult to mouth that—
  (Lady Boothroyd) I do too!

  207.—and Sir Edward Heath, that this has been, certainly for me and all my colleagues on the Committee, a most exciting and interesting session, and can I thank you for coming to give evidence to us, answering all our questions, and adding to the wealth of experience and knowledge that we have now in producing our report in due course. Thank you on behalf of the Committee very much indeed for coming before us this afternoon.
  (Sir Edward Heath) Thank you for what you are doing.

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