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5.19 pm

Mr. Alan Williams (in the Chair): The candidates for the next ballot will be Margaret Beckett, Sir Alan Beith, John Bercow, Sir Alan Haselhurst, Miss Ann Widdecombe and Sir George Young. It will be opened as soon as the ballot papers have been printed, checked and put in place. This is likely to take about 20 minutes. I will have the bells rung as soon as the Lobbies are ready, and the ballot will then start. As before, Members will have 30 minutes to vote.

Proceedings suspended.

5.36 pm

Mr. Alan Williams (in the Chair): The ballot papers are now in the Lobbies. The second ballot is now open.

Sitting suspended.

6.55 pm

On resuming—

Mr. Alan Williams (in the Chair): Order. This is the result of the second ballot. Five hundred and ninety-nine ballots were cast. The numbers of votes cast for each candidate were as follows:

Margaret Beckett, 70 votes;

Sir Alan Beith, 46 votes;

John Bercow, 221 votes;

Sir Alan Haselhurst, 57 votes;

Miss Ann Widdecombe, 30 votes;

Sir George Young, 174 votes.

One ballot was spoiled. [Laughter.] Well, at least one of you is being consistent.

No Member received more than 50 per cent. of the ballots cast. Miss Ann Widdecombe received the fewest votes.

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Before I confirm the list of candidates for the next ballot, I invite—almost beg— [Laughter.] I am getting older. I invite any candidate who wishes to withdraw to inform me, please, in the Chamber within the next 10 minutes. The next ballot will be opened as soon as the ballot papers have been printed, checked and put in place, which is likely to be about 30 minutes from now. I will have the bells rung as soon as the Lobbies are ready, and the ballot will then start.

I have made a change to the voting time: under the powers given to me under the Standing Order, the time for voting in the next ballot will be reduced to 20 minutes. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Thank you.

6.56 pm

Proceedings suspended.

7.6 pm

Mr. Alan Williams (in the Chair): Order. Margaret Beckett, Sir Alan Haselhurst and Sir Alan Beith have all withdrawn. The candidates for the next ballot are John Bercow and Sir George Young. It will be opened as soon as the ballot papers have been printed, checked and put in place, which is likely to be in about 20 minutes. I will have the bells rung as soon as the Lobbies are ready, and the ballot will then start. Members will have 20 minutes this time to vote.

Proceedings suspended.

7.18 pm

Mr. Alan Williams (in the Chair): The, hopefully, final ballot is now open.

Sitting suspended.

8.30 pm

On resuming—

Mr. Alan Williams (in the Chair): This is the result of the third ballot. Five hundred and ninety-three ballots were cast. The number of votes cast for each candidate was as follows: John Bercow 322; Sir George Young 271. [Applause.] Order. Let us make sure that we sign it off properly. Mr. John Bercow has secured more than 50 per cent. of the ballots cast.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 1B(10)), That John Bercow do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.

Question agreed to.

Mr. Alan Williams (in the Chair): Congratulations, Mr. Speaker Bercow. [Applause.]

Mr. Alan Williams left the Chair, and John Bercow was taken out of his place and conducted to the Chair by Mr. Charles Walker and Sandra Gidley.

Mr. Speaker-Elect: (standing on the upper step): Thank you. My first pleasant duty is warmly to thank on behalf of us all Alan Williams for the magnificent and good-humoured way in which he has conducted this election. It has been a very long day, and those of you expecting a customarily lengthy diatribe will be sorely disappointed.

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I should like to thank and pay a heartfelt tribute to all of the candidates who stood in this election. It has been a constructive debate that we have enjoyed over the last few weeks. I confess that I have the highest regard for all the other candidates; each brought something to the occasion; each had a contribution to make; and I can honestly say that each made that contribution in the most sincere and constructive fashion to the great and continuing benefit of this House.

Colleagues, you will understand that my thoughts at this time are, above all, with my family: my wife, Sally, our three very young children, Oliver, Freddie and Jemima, not to mention my beloved mother, who has been keenly interested in the proceedings.

Colleagues, you have just bestowed upon me the greatest honour that I have enjoyed in my professional life. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the confidence that you have placed in me, and I am keenly aware of the obligations into which I now enter. I just want to say this about the responsibility of the office.

I said only a few hours ago in my speech that, if elected, a Speaker has a responsibility immediately and permanently to cast aside all his or her previous political views. I said it— [Interruption.]—and I meant it. My commitment to this House is to be completely impartial as between members of one political party and another. That is what it is about, and I will do my best, faithfully and honourably and effectively, to serve this House in the period ahead.

We have faced quite the most testing times. It has been a gruelling experience. Many Members feel very sore and very vulnerable, but large sections of the public also feel angry and disappointed. We do have to reform, but I just want to say that I continue to believe that the vast majority of Members of this House are upright, decent, honourable people who have come into politics not to feather their nests, but because they have heeded the call of public service. They want to serve their constituents, to make a difference and to improve the lot of their fellow citizens in this country, and for such people I shall always have the highest respect. It is on that basis, with that conviction, and in that spirit that I shall seek to discharge my obligations in this office, which—as I have said—I regard it as the greatest privilege of my professional life to occupy.

8.37 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Mr. Speaker-Elect, let me say on behalf of the whole House that it gives me the greatest pleasure to offer you the warmest congratulations on your election as the 157th Speaker of the House of Commons. You join a long and prestigious history of Speakers who have all shared this moment in the election process. For now, however, you await confirmation by the monarch.

The House will know that, having received royal approval, the longest sitting Speaker held this great office for 33 years. Sir John Popham, however, was not so fortunate. He was the shortest-serving Speaker ever elected by this House. He might have been acceptable to his fellow Members, but he was not acceptable to the monarch. Let us hope that tonight you follow in the tradition of the longest-serving Speaker.

In our election of the Speaker, the House is carrying out one of its most important responsibilities. The public are today looking to see whether we mean to
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change, and I believe that it was made clear in all the speeches made by all the candidates for the office of the new Speaker that we have taken an important step in that process of change. So let me also pay tribute, on behalf of all Members of this House, to all Members who were prepared to put their names forward as candidates for this great office, and to the high quality of their speeches today. We should draw confidence from the knowledge that all 10 candidates were clearly driven by their desire to do what is best for this House and, by so doing, to do what is best for the public and those whom we serve, and I thank them all.

Let me also thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), who ensured today that the election was carried out under new procedures, and did so with his customary charm, dignity and fairness.

Mr. Speaker-Elect, all of us in this House know that you bring great personal strengths, and integrity and independence, to the office to which we have elected you. Your deep and passionate concern for children’s issues, especially for those of children with learning disabilities, has been warmly welcomed right across this House. Your interest in helping those in greatest need, not only here in Britain but in helping some of the poorest people on our planet, has been a mark of your distinction in this House. In your co-chairing of the all-party parliamentary group on Burma, you have demonstrated your commitment to democracy in every part of the world. You said that you had now cast aside all your past political views; some of us thought you had done that some time ago. You are, of course, highly respected as a professional tennis coach; for ever now, you have moved to the position of umpire. Your commitment in your speech today was to change. You will bring strength of character and purpose to our House and all of us will wish you to succeed as you discharge your responsibilities in a spirit of fairness and responsibility.

This House has faced great moments of difficulty and great moments of challenge. Today, we have the opportunity to begin a new chapter with a new Speaker. Today we have heard that every candidate for the office has understood that Parliament must reform. We have shown today also that we can cross party divisions in our choice of Speaker, and I believe this country will also want us to work together in the same spirit as we set about reforming and changing our politics in this great House and creating a new system of transparency and accountability that should take immediate effect.

Undoubtedly, the road ahead will not be easy, but with your leadership and integrity, this House has begun along the path to renewal. Mr. Speaker-Elect, this House, I know, joins me in congratulating you on the highest of distinctions and thanks you for taking up the greatest of responsibilities in this House of Commons. Congratulations.

8.42 pm

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Mr. Speaker-Elect, may I join the Prime Minister in offering my congratulations, and in wishing you well, not least in crossing that last hurdle that the Prime Minister referred to: the agreement of the monarch? I would like to thank the Father of the House for the way in which he conducted proceedings. I was not here for the last
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contested election for Speaker, but I gather that this one was a model of efficiency and good practice, so I thank him for that.

Mr. Speaker-Elect, you know that on the Conservative Benches all colleagues share a view of the importance of the House of Commons, the importance of the role of Speaker and the importance of the practices and procedures in this House, and you should know that, in discharging your responsibilities, it goes without saying that you have the support of those on these Benches, but not just in your work as Speaker, but in the vital work of reforming and renewing this House, which so badly needs to happen.

Mr. Speaker-Elect, I have read a lot about our own relationship. The thing that has never come out is the fact that, of course, briefly for a time we were both together the first pair of the Lords and Commons tennis team. I would also like to put on record a historical first that you have achieved, which is to be the first person of the Jewish faith to occupy the office of Speaker of the House of Commons, and it is a milestone that we should mark. I also noted, as all colleagues did, what you said about casting away your past political views, and I think that on the Conservative Benches we would say, “Let’s hope that includes all of them.”

I listened carefully, as did hon. Members throughout the House, to an excellent debate this afternoon and a series of very strong and powerful speeches. I thought that there was something very powerful in what the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) said about our need to demonstrate in this House of Commons that we get it—that we get the need for transparency, that we get the need for the reform of pay and allowances, and that we get the need to understand, and respond properly to, the public’s anger. We share a collective responsibility for what went wrong; we share a collective responsibility for putting it right. Your success will enable all of us to succeed in that; and on that note, I wish you well.

8.44 pm

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I, too, wish to add my congratulations on your election, Mr. Speaker-Elect, and I also thank the Father of the House for conducting the proceedings. The move to a secret ballot was the right one, and I congratulate him on inaugurating the process so successfully, although judging by the cheer that went up when he said that the third ballot would be accelerated, I am not alone in hoping that next time we will be able to move at a less dignified pace.

You have an enormous challenge and opportunity before you, Mr. Speaker-Elect. Never in living memory has Parliament been the subject of so much anger and dismay from the people who send us here. The need for change is simply unprecedented, but you know, as we all know, that change does not come easily to this place, where old habits die hard. So you must be different from every Speaker who has ever come before you—no longer just another pillar of the establishment. We urge you to reinvent the role of Speaker as a catalyst for radical change. On your own, you cannot bring about that change, but you can become one of its prime architects.

In your speech to us this afternoon, you rightly said, “I do not want to be someone; I want to do something.” I urge you also to remember some of the words of other
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candidates in today’s election, especially those of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) who rightly said that we should all look to change what he called the settlement between Parliament and the people, and of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) who said that this is a moment not for rhetoric but for action.

To misquote the misquote from the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), you must now show that you are in the office of Speaker, but not run by the office of Speaker. You will be at the centre of an institution that you yourself will wish to challenge. We know that there are many things that everyone agrees on, so let us not delay, consult and analyse, but act quickly on reform, under your guidance and leadership. You have a mandate for change, Mr. Speaker-Elect, not just from the votes you won today across the Floor of the House, but from the people of Britain whose legitimate anger made this election happen. I urge you to use it.

8.47 pm

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): May I congratulate you most warmly, Mr. Speaker-Elect, personally and on behalf of my Friends and colleagues in Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party? Today we saw Parliament at its best, with 10 worthy candidates, 10 very good speeches and one very worthy winner. I feel sure, Mr. Speaker-Elect, that you will be as mindful of the need to protect the interests of minority parties as you will of all the parties in this House. Without doing too much damage to myself by saying things like that, may I finish by warmly congratulating you and wishing you well in the momentous tasks that you have ahead of you?

8.47 pm

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): May I, on behalf of my colleagues, join in thanking the Father of the House for the manner in which proceedings were conducted today? I also want to thank all the candidates. The campaign that we witnessed, the debate and the ideas were important in raising the sights of Members of this House, and were important reminders of our purposes and our proper priorities.

The contributions today went some way towards re-edifying the proceedings of this House, but we now have to move forward to reforming the processes of this House. It is clear that you, Mr. Speaker-Elect, have received a mandate towards that end. All the other candidates sought a mandate to that end and all party leaders have pledged themselves to that end. Let us now move to decisive, authoritative reform that means something to Members of this House and that is credible to the public.

I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker-Elect, on your election. It is important that you are the first member of your religion elected to this high office, and all of us have every confidence that you will honour every pledge that you have made.

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