Select Committee on Procedure Minutes of Evidence


  Further to the Chairman of the Procedure Committee's letter dated 9 November, the following are my views on the issue of electing the Speaker.

  I am against "hustings" or written manifestos. I am concerned that this could lead to an "auction" for the Speakership and, in particular, to candidates for the Speakership being driven to take positions on matters which are for decision by the whole of the House. I believe there was some evidence of this in the recent contest. I believe that the qualities required by the Speaker—integrity, independence and experience—are difficult to communicate by way of a manifesto, and that the House probably has the relevant information from its perception of candidates over recent years.

  I believe the present voting procedure is unsatisfactory, as it places undue weight on the order of selection. It is perfectly possible for three candidates to be acceptable to the House. Under the present procedures, the first one to be voted on would become Speaker, although either of the later two could secure a bigger majority. The present procedure also poses problems for those whose first preferred candidate is low down, but whose second preferred candidate is high up, with an unacceptable candidate to them in between. It poses a difficult question as to whether or not they should support their second preferred candidate.

  I would therefore prefer a system that narrowed the choice down to two or three candidates, by a preliminary ballot. I think a preliminary ballot could well be by secret ballot, though I think the final one should take place as it takes place at the moment—with candidates being proposed, seconded and indicating acceptance, followed by a traditional vote.

  The recent contest posed difficulties for all candidates as the House was in recess for most of the time. If possible, I think this should be avoided. I also take the view that three months is too long a period for the contest.

14 November 2000

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