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House of Commons

Wednesday 13 June 2001

The House being met; and it being the first day of the meeting of this Parliament, pursuant to Proclamation, WILLIAM ROBERT McKAY, ESQUIRE, CB, Clerk of the House of Commons, ROGER BLAKEMORE SANDS, ESQUIRE, Clerk Assistant, and HELEN ELIZABETH IRWIN, Principal Clerk of the Table Office, attending in the House, and the other Clerks attending, according to their duty, SIR HAYDEN PHILLIPS, KCB, Clerk of the Crown in Chancery in Great Britain, delivered to the said WILLIAM ROBERT McKAY a book containing a list of the names of the Members returned to serve in this Parliament.

Several of the Members repaired to their seats.

MR. TAM DALYELL took the Chair, pursuant to Standing Order No. 1 (Election of the Speaker: Member presiding).

Message to attend the Lords Commissioners.

The House went; and a Commission having been read for opening and holding the Parliament, the Lords Commissioners directed the House to proceed to the Election of a Speaker, and to present the Speaker-Elect tomorrow, in the House of Peers, for the Royal Approbation.

And the House having returned:--

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Election of Speaker

2.49 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Under the provisions of Standing Order No. 1A, I am now required to ascertain whether Mr. Michael J. Martin is willing to be chosen as Speaker.

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn): I know how new Back Benchers feel. Father of the House, I submit myself to the will of the House, as is the ancient custom. In doing so, I wish to thank the electors of Glasgow, Springburn for electing me for the sixth successive term.

Campaigning as a Speaker seeking re-election is no easy matter. There is no party banner, so we had to find a trademark, and it was agreed that the friends ofMr. Speaker would put a photograph of me in my formal clothes on every leaflet that was issued. We thought that that was a good idea until one of the electors said to me, "I hope you don't mind me asking, Mr. Martin, but were you ever a minister in the High Carntyne Church of Scotland?" Our posters carried the same photograph, and one gentleman said to me, "I hope you get the job. It will give you something to do when you're down in London."

May I thank the three main political parties for supporting my campaign? I am very grateful to them indeed. I am very proud of the people of Glasgow, Springburn, and I hope that I will always be remembered as a constituency Member of Parliament more than anything else.

Under the new procedures of the House, I will take the opportunity now to express my personal gratitude to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire(Sir G. Young). He has been exceptionally kind to me from the day and hour when I became Speaker, and it is very much appreciated. May I also single out the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ann Keen)? I am glad to see her in the Chamber today. She has always been a great source of support.

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May I also, Father of the House, congratulate you on becoming Father of the House? You came to the House in 1962, and you have become a first-class parliamentarian, someone whom Back Benchers, particularly new Back Benchers, can look up to. You have always been renowned for using your skills to hold many Governments to account, and I am sure that that will not change. I hope that you make a full and speedy recovery.

The House owes a debt of gratitude to the Chairman of Ways and Means and to the First and Second Deputy Speakers. They all work very long, hard hours for the House.

I welcome all Members to the House, and I congratulate them on being elected. I welcome all the new Members, and I hope that they will have a very happy parliamentary career. There will be robust debate and differing points of view, but I can assure them that, before long, they will make friends in the House from parties other than their own. The best advice that I can give to new Members is: never hesitate to seek advice from the Speaker, from colleagues and, of course, from the staff of the House.

When speaking of the staff of the House, I would like to put on record my thanks to Mr. Bill McKay, the Clerk of the House, and Sir Nicolas Bevan, my secretary. Their assistance has been invaluable.

I said last October:

I still hold those views. I come to the Chamber every evening so that I can keep in touch with Members. A Speaker should always be approachable; that is why I have never refused a Back Bencher a meeting.

Life for a Speaker outside the Chamber can sometimes be isolated. I should like to thank my wife, Mary, who has ensured that I have a family life here in Speaker's House. I thank her because it would be very lonely indeed to come down to London alone every week, and I am aware that she has had to leave her family, her friends and our grandson.

It is a great honour to be elected Speaker. The House will decide the motion. I take nothing for granted. I can only assure each and every Member that I will always strive to be fair.

2.56 pm

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): I beg to move,

Mr. Dalyell, I begin by congratulating you on your accession as Father of the House. Given your commitment to the House and your knowledge of how to use it effectively, it gives all of us pleasure to see you supervising our proceedings today. I, too, wish you a full and speedy recovery. I also hope that you will continue to be as irreverent to those on your Front Bench as your predecessor as Father of the House was to mine. [Laughter.]

As we meet this afternoon, there are two important vacancies in our political institutions, and I am happy to make a nomination for one of them. In commending the

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right hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) as Speaker, I congratulate him on his re-election to Parliament. Although his election was contested, I suspect that he did not experience the aggravation that the rest of us suffered in getting here. I mention in passing that we in North-West Hampshire saw a new form of co-operation between the other two parties: the Labour party ran a low-key campaign to let the Liberal Democrats have a clear shot at me; and the Liberal Democrats ran a low-key campaign to give Labour a shot. [Laughter.] I am happy to say that my majority increased to more than 12,000.

There are two reasons why I move the motion, the first of which is continuity. I do not believe that our Speaker should be put into play at the beginning of every Parliament. I can do no better than quote the second report of the Select Committee on Procedure, published in February:

I agree with that sentiment, as did the House when it agreed to change our procedures. Although the Speaker should be validated, there should be a presumption against challenging the incumbent.

Continuity is not the only reason. If we were starting from scratch, I believe that the House would choose the right hon. Member for Springburn as its Speaker today. His long service in the House and deep roots in the Back Benches, his work on the Chairmen's Panel and domestic Committees, his experience as Deputy Speaker, his genial and approachable manner, underpinned by a deep affection and commitment to the House--all those qualities strike a chord with the House. That commitment was confirmed in his acceptance speech last October and reinforced in the statement that we have just heard, which was greatly welcomed.

All Speakers develop their own style, and we saw the right hon. Member for Springburn develop his in the previous Parliament: a more approachable, informal style of Speaker, mixing with Members in the Tea Room and elsewhere, no wig or silk stockings--rather like the Scandinavian approach to the monarchy, but so far without the bicycle.

A key role lies ahead for Mr. Speaker in this Parliament. There is a strong view that the House should reassert the accountability of the Executive to Parliament. A growing number of hon. Members want the House to be more relevant to the concerns of those whom we represent, more effective in what it does, and a better link between Government and governed. The right hon. Member for Springburn is well qualified to supervise and manage that debate during this Parliament. I believe that he is entitled to support from the whole House in that role.

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The House will understand why I was unable to propose the right hon. Member for Springburn last time, but I have no hesitation in proposing him today.

Question put and agreed to.


Whereupon Mr. Tam Dalyell left the Chair, andMr. Michael J. Martin was taken out of his place and conducted to the Chair by Sir George Young and Ann Keen. [Applause.]

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