SHOULD NOTICE OF APPOINTMENT MOTIONS
46. As we have seen, motions for the appointment
of Deputy Speakers at the beginning of a Parliament, and those
to fill vacancies during a Parliament, are customarily made without
notice. The names to be put to the House may be an open secret
to a small number of Members, but the House at large is given
no advance indication of the decisions it will be invited to take.
47. There is a procedural obstacle to giving notice
of a motion to appoint Deputy Speakers at the start of a Parliament.
This is that no Order Paper is issued, or can be issued, for the
day of State Opening. The appointment of deputies cannot be deferred
beyond that day as the Speaker's commitments require that a deputy
be in place and able to take the Chair that afternoon.
48. This is not an insurmountable difficulty. One
possibility is that the Government could nominate a senior backbencher,
for example the most senior returning member of the Chairmen's
Panel not nominated as Deputy Speaker, to be appointed as temporary
Deputy Speaker for a short, stipulated period, in order to allow
time for notice of an appointment motion to be given. An alternative
and simpler solution would be for the Speaker, at a suitable point
during the swearing-in of Members, to give the House an informal
indication from the Chair that the Government was expected to
move a motion to appoint a named individual before the Debate
on the Address. Copies of the Speaker's brief statement could
be posted in the lobbies and placed in the Vote Office.
49. Under the present system, Members are at leave
to oppose a motion, or seek to move a manuscript amendment substituting
another name for that proposed.
It might be argued that if notice of a motion were to be given,
this would act as an encouragement to Members to seek to amend
the motion or oppose it, which would be undesirable. A 'worst
case scenario' would be one in which there was a proliferation
of candidates and a lengthy debate on amendments to the motion,
such as took place on the motion to elect a Speaker in October
2000, when under the old rules 12 candidates for the Chair put
themselves forward. However, as our predecessors commented in
their report on election of a Speaker, this situation arose because
of a breakdown in the previous conventions governing such elections,
under which the 'usual channels' were effectively entrusted by
the House with the task of winnowing out candidates with limited
support, and presenting the House with a choice of, if not a single
candidate, then at most two. The Committee commented that this
attitude, which they characterised as one of 'benevolent paternalism',
was "one that now appears to command no support within the
House: none of our witnesses considered that the 'usual channels'
should have any formal role to play in the choice of a Speaker".
We do not detect a similar antipathy to the role of the 'usual
channels' in the appointment of Deputy Speakers. We have commented
above on the way in which we believe they can play a valid role
in identifying suitable candidates and undertaking the negotiations
necessary to ensure that the names to be proposed are acceptable
to the House. We believe that, provided the 'usual channels'
carry out this task conscientiously and on a basis of widespread
consultation within the House, the names they put forward are
likely to command the assent of a majority of Members.
50. We do not underestimate the potential embarrassment
for the Government of a debate and a defeat on the floor of the
House on a House of Commons matter such as this, if the Government's
motion were to be opposed. We therefore anticipate that obliging
the Government to give notice of motions for appointment would
contribute to ensuring that the soundings taken by the 'usual
channels' were robust and realistic, and that prior agreement
would be reached between the parties on names likely to be acceptable
to the House as a whole.
51. We recommend that notice of motions for the
appointment of the Chairman of Ways and Means, and the First and
Second Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means, should be given a minimum
of one sitting day in advance; and that at the start of a Parliament,
where formal notice is not possible, informal notice of such a
motion should be given by the Government to the Speaker, to be
communicated to the House in advance of the day of State Opening.
We further recommend that the mover of the Government's motion
(usually the Leader of the House) should in moving the motion
briefly outline the consultations which have taken place and give
some indication of the extent to which the nomination has cross-party