Select Committee on Procedure Second Report


(a)Some, though not all, of the criticisms of the present system of electing a Speaker are justified. We believe it is right to make a change, and to put before the House proposals for an alternative system. We also wish to put on record, however, our belief that the outcome of the election on 23 October 2000 would have been the same regardless of the particular electoral system employed. (paragraph 3)
(b)In the choice of Speaker, the outcome matters more than the details of the process. Our recommendations will be judged not merely by whether they enable the will of the House to be more effectively ascertained, but also by whether they assist the House to choose persons who will uphold the high traditions of the Speakership; in particular the paramount tradition of complete and transparent political impartiality. Our proposals are designed to achieve both of these ends. (paragraph 4)
(c)No special veneration is due to the existing rules [the '1972 system'] on grounds of antiquity or tradition. (paragraph 44)
(d)Not all the criticisms made of the existing system are justified. In particular, we do not consider that the length of time taken to elect a Speaker ought to be an over-riding factor. (paragraph 44)
(e)The 1972 system is based on the assumption that the Government of the day and the 'usual channels' will operate behind the scenes in order to present the House with a single candidate, or at most a choice between two or three. Since at least 1983 it has become clear that this assumption is no longer correct. (paragraph 44)
(f)Where there are more than two candidates, the 1972 system is fundamentally flawed. The order in which candidates are called may indeed help to determine the outcome. (paragraph 44)
(g)We recommend that the 1972 system for electing the Speaker be replaced by a ballot-based system. (paragraph 44)
(h)We propose no change to the existing arrangements as to who should be the presiding Member during the election of Speaker. (paragraph 46)
(i)The Clerk of the House should supervise the conduct of the ballot, and should be responsible for the detailed administrative arrangements. The Clerk should act under the authority of the presiding Member. (paragraph 47)
(j)There should be a minimum threshold of eligibility to enter the contest. Each candidate's nomination should receive the support of 12 other Members, of whom at least three should not be members of his or her party. (paragraph 48)
(k)We see no formal role within the new procedure for manifestoes or hustings, but equally we do not recommend that they be formally prohibited. (paragraph 52)
(l)We emphasise that we would deprecate unduly strident campaigning, and that campaigning involving the expenditure of money would be wholly inappropriate. (paragraph 53)
(m)At a suitable interval after nominations have closed, each candidate should have the opportunity to address the House in support of his or her candidature. (paragraph 54)
(n)We recommend that the ballot be secret. (paragraph 60)
(o)[However,] the question of whether the ballot be secret or open should be the subject of a specific and separate decision by the House. (paragraph 61)
(p)The benefits brought by the Exhaustive Ballot are sufficiently great as to outweigh the inconvenience in terms of time brought by the need to have multiple ballots. We therefore prefer the Exhaustive Ballot to AV and recommend that it be the system adopted. In order to reduce the overall time taken, however, we also recommend that, as in Canada, candidates polling less than 5% of the total votes cast should be eliminated after the first ballot. (paragraph 69)
(q)We reject the idea of a run-off. (paragraph 70)
(r)Following the announcement of the result of the ballot, a motion should be made, that the winner of the ballot do take the Chair of this House as Speaker, and the presiding Member should put the question on this forthwith. The standing order should provide that this motion is unamendable. (paragraph 71)
(s)It should be possible to carry out the whole electoral process, from nomination to final election, in the course of a single sitting day. (paragraph 72)
(t)We recommend that the following timetable should apply [set out in paragraph 73].
(u)The presiding Member should have power to authorise variations in the timing if it appears that practical considerations render this necessary. (paragraph 74)
(v)There should be no automatic ballot at the start of a Parliament in the circumstances where a sitting Speaker seeking re-election to the Chair has been returned to the House. Instead a single unamendable motion should be moved, and the question put by the presiding Member, that that person do take the Chair of this House as Speaker. (paragraph 76)
(w)It should be a matter for each Speaker-Elect and their supporters as to whether they wish to continue to observe the tradition [of being 'dragged to the Chair']. (paragraph 78)
(x)We strongly urge the Government to accept the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and to bring forward a Parliamentary Privileges Bill early in the next Parliament. When such a statute is enacted, our successors in the next Parliament will be able to take a view on whether the current ceremonial following the election of a Speaker should be retained. (paragraph 84)
(y)We make a further recommendation, which does not require any enactment. This is that consideration should be given by the relevant authorities to altering the wording of the ceremony [of granting 'royal approbation'], to reflect the reality that the Commons make a free and unfettered choice of their own Speaker, not subject to approval by the head of state. (paragraph 85)
(z)The election of a Speaker is one of the most important decisions taken by the House. It has become clear that the system of election introduced in 1972 is no longer satisfactory as a means of making this decision. Our proposed alternative system is a fairer and simpler mechanism for enabling the will of the House to be expressed. We believe that, using this system, the House will continue to elect Speakers who will maintain the high traditions of their office, in particular those of complete political impartiality and devotion to the service of the House. (paragraph 87)

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