25. Objection has occasionally been raised to the
appointment of Deputy Speakers on the grounds of the party affiliation
of the proposed appointee. In 1943, under the wartime coalition
Government, an independent Member objected to the appointment
of a Labour Deputy Chairman on the grounds of his party, and because
of an alleged lack of consultation.
In 1962, following the resignation of the Conservative Sir Gordon
Touche as Chairman of Ways and Means, it was proposed that the
then Deputy Chairman, Sir William Anstruther-Gray, a Conservative,
should be appointed Chairman and that Sir Robert Grimston, another
Conservative, should fill the vacancy in Speaker Hylton-Foster's
team. The motion was objected to, and a motion that Grimston's
name be left out was divided upon. Speaking in the debate, the
Labour Member Mr Sydney Silverman remarked:
"It is not unknown in our tradition for
at least one of the three officers who discharge the function
of the Chair to belong to an Opposition party. This has happened
frequently in the past, and it would not have been an inappropriate
thing to have happened on this occasion."
26. The addition of a third Deputy Speaker in 1971
had the happy consequence of evening out the party balance in
the Speaker's team. Since that innovation, the appointments have
been managed in order to provide that one Deputy Speaker is drawn
from the side of the House from which the Speaker has come, and
two are drawn from the opposing benches. Sir Alan Haselhurst pointed
out that in a House with a very small Government majority, or
in the case of a hung Parliament, the 'pairing' of the Speaker
and Deputy Speakers from the Government and Opposition benches
would be highly significant in terms of the overall arithmetic.
He also believed that the pairing arrangements made it easier
for Deputy Speakers to explain to their constituents their reasons
for not voting in the House.
27. Deputy Speakers have usually been drawn from
the ranks either of the Government party or the main Opposition
party, not from the smaller parties. There are post-war precedents
to the contrary: in 1965 Mr Roderic Bowen MP, a Liberal, was appointed
First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. Since the additional
post was created in 1971, however, there have been no Deputy Speakers
from the smaller parties. Of course, members of smaller parties
tend to have more party responsibilities and portfolios, which
acts as a disincentive to their seeking the Chair.
28. The overall balance between Government and Opposition
which has characterised the operation of the system since 1971
will not be automatically maintained. The House's future choice
of a Speaker, either at the start of a Parliament or during a
session, might result in an imbalance in the team. In the recent
past most Speakers elected during a Parliament have previously
been Deputy Speakers, so that any imbalance has been immediately
redressed by a counterbalancing appointment to fill the vacancy.
Nevertheless, it is entirely possible that the House might in
future choose a Speaker from one party at a time when two of the
three sitting Deputy Speakers were also members of that party.
In such circumstances it would be unfair to expect a sitting Deputy
Speaker to resign merely to re-balance the team.
29. Nonetheless, in general we think it is helpful
to the House for two members of the team comprising the Speaker
and Deputy Speakers to be drawn from the Government benches and
two from the Opposition. It reinforces the confidence which all
sides of the House have in the impartiality of the Chair. The
principle of balance between the Government and Opposition benches
in the Speaker's team is one which we strongly endorse.
30. The first woman to be appointed Deputy Speaker
was Miss Betty Harvie Anderson in 1970. Since then four women
have served as Deputy Speakers.
The most famous female occupant of the Chair was of course Miss
Betty (now Baroness) Boothroyd, who served as Second Deputy Chairman
from 1987 and then as Speaker from 1992 to 2000. The appointment
of Sylvia Heal MP to the vacant Deputy Speakership in November
2000 demonstrated a willingness on the part of the 'usual channels'
to reflect the overall gender balance in the House. We welcome
the steps taken to ensure that appointments to Deputy Speakerships
reflect the gender balance within the House; and we recommend
that this convention be maintained, as far as reasonably possible,
in future appointments.
12 Updated from 1996 figures cited by Matthew Seward,
Unsung Heroes? Deputy Speakers in the House of Commons (Centre
for Legislative Studies, University of Hull, 1997), p. 14. Back
The objections were to the appointment of Sir Robert Grimston
in 1962 and Mr Harry Gourlay in 1968. Back
Seward, Unsung Heroes?, p. 17. Back
For instance, in the recent reports of the Modernisation and Liaison
Committees on reform of the Select Committee system: First Report
of the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons,
Session 2001-02, Select Committees, HC 224, para. 41; Second
Report of the Liaison Committee, Session 2001-02, Select Committees:
Modernisation Proposals, HC 692, para. 27. Back
Erskine May, 22nd edition (1997), p. 195. Back
Mr Austin Hopkinson objected to the appointment of Major Milner:
HC Deb, 20 January 1943, vol. 386 cols. 252-64, also Ev 5. Back
HC Deb, 29 January 1962, vol. 652 col. 713. Back
Appendix 1, Ev 2. See also the table of Speakers and Deputy Speakers
since 1970, provided by the Clerk of the House: Appendix 2, Ev
Betty Harvie Anderson (1970-1973: resigned); Betty Boothroyd (1987-92:
elected Speaker); Dame Janet Fookes (1992-97: not re-elected to
the House); Sylvia Heal (2000-). Back