LETTER FROM MR PETER BRADLEY MP TO THE
CLERK OF THE COMMITTEE
While I welcome the Procedure Committee's inquiry,
I have to express my disappointment that it was not undertaken
over the summer months so that the House could have avoided the
administrative shambles which the election of the current Speaker
More important still, the proceedings on 23
October hardly represented an advertisement for parliamentary
democracy to those members of the public who may have read about
them or, indeed, watched in bewilderment as the events unfolded
in the Chamber itself.
The reform of these rules is an urgent necessity
in order both to replace the current system with one which is
democratic and comprehensible and to begin the process of rehabilitating
the House of Commons in the eyes of the electorate who send us
Indeed, many will have been asking themselves,
if we cannot conduct our own affairs sensibly, efficiently and
democratically, how can we be trusted to administer theirs?
The restoration of the House's credibility and
authority is of crucial importance. However, I hope that no one
either assumes or pretends that that process can be achieved simply
by amending the rules governing the election of a Speaker.
Indeed, I hope that this inquiry will be the
first of a comprehensive review of the conventions and procedures
of the House and their appropriateness to a modern parliament
in a modern democracy.
I would not be in favour of candidatures being
decided through "the usual channels" as has been past
practice. Each Member should be free to seek election, with or
I argued in advance of the most recent election
that each candidate should produce and circulate to Members a
manifesto based on the principles and priorities which would guide
him or her in their occupancy of the chair. I was also a supporter
of and attended the hustings which took place immediately prior
to the election proceedings and proved very helpful, I believe,
to candidates and electors alike.
I am firmly of the view that, in future, candidates
for Speaker should be required to produce a manifesto and attend
hustings. It is preposterous that democratic elections can take
place in which the electors do not know who the candidates are
or what they stand for and have not had the opportunity to cross-examine
Moreover, candidates should have the right to
canvass support not so much on the basis of personal or Party
loyalties, as is currently the case, but on the commitments which
they are prepared to make as to their priorities and conduct as
In order to avoid frivolous candidatures, I
believe that each candidate, in order to qualify for election,
must be able to secure nomination from at least ten other Members.
I would dispense with the speeches of each candidate's
nominator and seconder which, frankly, sounded on 23 October more
like obituaries than endorsements for higher office. In their
place, the candidate's own speech of no more than ten minutes
should take centre stage and he or she should be allowed up to
three speeches in support of no more than five minutes each.
In circumstances where there are more than two
candidates, I would favour a secret ballot in which the two leading
candidates can be identified.
They would then be subject to a run-off in order
that the winning candidate could be seen to command support from
a majority of Members participating in the ballot.
I believe that the ballot itself should be secret
in order to avoid any suspicion that the new Speaker may favour
his or her supporters in subsequent proceedings in the Chamber.
I hope that the above is helpful. May I, however,
reiterate the point I have made above: these reforms should not
be regarded as an end in themselves but simply the first in the
series required to modernise the proceedings of the House and
make them intelligible and credible to Members and the public
21 November 2000