Examination of Witness (Questions 160
TUESDAY 23 JANUARY 2001
160. Not only that but the taking of the candidate
to the Chair, the way then that the successful applicant accepts
nomination as Speaker elect and then proceeding from there to
report it to Her Majesty via the House of Lords.
(Mrs Beckett) I think perhaps we should seriously
consider abandoning the fiction that the Speaker is utterly unwilling
to become Speaker. I know it was not a fiction in the past and
I understand fully the wish to evoke our history and to say this
is where we came from, this is how much things have changed. Whether
we should continue ... It is perhaps one of those things like
wearing a top hat to raise a point of order that the House might
like to reconsider.
161. Do you have any views on the way the Deputy
Speakers are appointed? Would you wish to see those changed?
(Mrs Beckett) You remind me of a point I made a little
while ago about process and outcome. I am conscious that there
are Members who feel that because the process of election must
always be right, therefore the Deputy Speakers should be elected.
I am rather inclined to the view that there is also something
to be said for the procedure that we have now. Going back actually
to the point I made some moments ago, which is first of all if
the Deputy Speaker were to be elected you might actually get some
more genuine reluctance given the hours and workload of the Deputy
Speakers, but also, you are opening up a completely different
area and you are also having
162. I am trying to carry forward the debate
in which you talked about the "usual channels" not being
(Mrs Beckett) The other thing you would get if you
moved away from a system of an election is that you might lose
the capacity to bring forward people of whom again others have
not thought. For example, if I may be perfectly frank, when Michael
Martin became a Deputy Speaker I had not had much contact with
him in his role as Chair of the Administration Committee. I was
surprised to find him being put forward as a Deputy Speaker. Whether
at that stage the House would have chosen him in the way the House
then overwhelmingly chose him as Speaker, I am really not sure.
A little room for manoeuvre in these things can often be valuable
and I am also very mindful of the fact that it does give us the
opportunity to maintain some party balance. It would be most unfortunate,
if as a result of having an electoral process, we ended up with
a group of Speaker and Deputy Speakers who were predominantly
of one party. There are issues such as whether or not we try to
maintain some kind of gender balance, things of that kind. I am
inclined to the view that if we are going to propose change, particulary
major change, let us do one thing at a time.
163. You have been extremely agreeable and courteous
in the responses which you have made to the questions. On behalf
of the Procedure Committee may I thank you very much for the evidence
which you have given today. I will, as I have in the case of other
witnesses, let you have a full list of all the questions which
if we had had time we would have put to you. If you wish to build
on any of the answers you have given, we should be very happy
to hear from you. I hope that is acceptable.
(Mrs Beckett) That is fine; thank you very much.
Chairman: Thank you again very much indeed for
coming to give evidence to us this afternoon.