Select Committee on Procedure Second Report


The Procedure Committee has agreed to the following Report:


1. In February 2001 the Procedure Committee in the last Parliament reported to the House on the procedure for the election of a Speaker.[1] Our predecessors concluded that "the election of a Speaker is one of the most important decisions taken by the House".[2] They indicated that, had time allowed, they would have gone on to inquire into the appointment of Deputy Speakers, and they expressed the wish that a successor committee should do so.

2. While the holder of the Speakership is the subject of much media attention, the same is not true of his or her three deputies: the Chairman of Ways and Means, and First and Second Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means.[3] Notwithstanding this, the deputies play a crucial role in the chairing of public and private business in the House and in Committee. Their positions are salaried.[4] Their powers when in the Chair are extensive, though not as extensive as those of the Speaker, and their authority must be unimpeachable if the House is to function properly. The job of Deputy Speaker requires many of the qualities needed by the Speaker. The Deputies perform an immensely valuable role in the life of the House, very often without the acknowledgement which is their due.

3. The appointment of deputies is nevertheless subject to very little scrutiny. They are appointed on a Government motion which by custom is made without notice. Such motions may be opposed, and are debateable, but no motion has been opposed in the recent past.[5]

4. As a follow-up to our predecessors' inquiry into the election of a Speaker, we thought it appropriate to review how the present system of appointment of Deputy Speakers functions; whether it functions well; and whether it meets the present needs of the House. In reporting the results of this review we wish to stress that we have the greatest respect for the way in which the present Deputy Speakers, and indeed their predecessors, discharge, and have discharged, their duties to the House.

5. During this inquiry we have held informal discussions with Mr Speaker (Rt Hon Michael Martin MP), the Chairman of Ways and Means (Rt Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst MP), the Leader of the House (Rt Hon Robin Cook MP), the Shadow Leader of the House (Rt Hon Eric Forth MP), and the Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House and Chief Whip (Mr Paul Tyler MP and Mr Andrew Stunell MP). We have received memoranda from the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Clerk of the House. We also wrote to all the party leaders at Westminster giving them the opportunity, if they wished, to make comments on the present system.[6] We are very grateful to all who have assisted us in the inquiry.

1   Second Report from the Procedure Committee, Session 2000-01, Election of a Speaker, HC 40. Back

2   Ibid., para. 87. Back

3   The Chairman of Ways and Means, the First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means and the Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. This Report will not deal with the appointment of additional Deputy Speakers to chair business in Westminster Hall. Back

4   The salary of the Chairman of Ways and Means is equivalent to that of a Minister of State (£87 178, as of July 2001); the salaries of the two Deputy Chairmen are slightly less (£82 895 each). Parliamentary Pay and Allowances: Current Rates, Research Paper 01/87, House of Commons Library, November 2001. Back

5   The last occasion on which opposition to a motion was expressed was on the day of State Opening in Session 1968-69: HC Deb, 30 October 1968, vol. 772, cols. 4-6. Back

6   The one written response received is printed at Appendix 3 (letter from the Chief Whip, Ulster Unionist Party); Ev 7. Back

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Prepared 22 April 2002