Select Committee on Speakership of the House First Report


Deputies

33. The new Speaker would continue to need a team of deputies, but we believe that the present panel of 28 deputies is too large. A smaller panel would have the advantage of ensuring that all deputies had the opportunity to gain plenty of experience.

34. We received some evidence to suggest that we might follow the example of the House of Commons, where the Speaker is supported by three salaried deputies and other Members preside only in Westminster Hall and in Standing Committees. This House already has two salaried Deputy Speakers, namely the Chairman of Committees and the Principal Deputy Chairman. But we do not think that it would be right to ask them to take a greater role. The Chairman of Committees has a considerable amount of work outside the Chamber, and the Principal Deputy Chairman perhaps even more so, chairing the European Union Committee and supervising the six - soon to be seven - sub-committees. He also has numerous meetings both in London and in other European Union countries. It would be unreasonable to ask him to undertake more than an occasional token stint on the Woolsack.

35. So we propose to leave the number of salaried deputies as it is. In addition there should be a panel of 16 unsalaried deputies who would support the Speaker in the Chamber and would also take the chair in all Grand Committees. A panel of this size would, we think, ensure that an undue burden need not be placed on the Speaker and the two salaried deputies, and would give its members the opportunity to undertake regular duty on the Woolsack or in the Chair (in Grand Committees as well as in the Chamber).

Functions outside the Chamber

36. The new Speaker will have much more time to involve himself in the affairs of the House than the Lord Chancellor. He should be an ex officio member of the House Committee and the Procedure Committee, and Chairman of the former. We received some evidence proposing that the office of Speaker should be merged with that of the Lord Chairman of Committees. We do not agree. In our view there is more than enough work for two. The offices should therefore be kept separate, and the Lord Chairman should continue to be the spokesman of the House Committee when presenting its Reports and answering questions on administrative matters.

37. Other functions to which we attach great importance are as follows:

(a)  Ceremonial role.

(b)  Representing the House abroad.

(c)  Receiving and entertaining overseas dignitaries.

(d)  Looking after new Members.

Ceremonial role

38. We recommend that the ceremonial role of the Speaker should remain as similar as possible to that of the Lord Chancellor. There should be a procession into and out of the Chamber at the start and end of business. The Speaker should be appointed a Privy Councillor and should take part in the Royal Commissions at the start of each Parliament and the end of each session. The Speaker would take over the Lord Chancellor's role of presenting Addresses to Her Majesty the Queen on ceremonial occasions.

39. The Speaker's dress should be dignified, and should include a gown. We assume that the Purse will no longer form part of the trappings of office since its purposes are to hold the Queen's Speech and (in theory) to hold the Great Seal - both purposes relating to the Lord Chancellor's ministerial functions.

Representing the House abroad

40. There is an annual meeting of European Union Speakers, and there are biennial meetings of Commonwealth Speakers and Council of Europe Speakers. In recent years these, and other ad hoc international meetings of Speakers, have more often than not been attended by the Chairman or Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees rather than by the Lord Chancellor himself. We hope that the new Speaker will be able to participate in such gatherings in person.

41. We do not foresee the new Speaker playing any special role in relations to visits to other Parliaments, since there are already well-established arrangements for such visits under the auspices of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Receiving and entertaining overseas dignitaries

42. We hope that the new Speaker will play a significant role in receiving and entertaining overseas Speakers and other Parliamentarians visiting Westminster.

Providing guidance to Members

43. The new Speaker should play a leading part in welcoming new Members to the House and in ensuring that they are aware of our customs and traditions. Longer-serving members could also on occasion benefit from the Speaker's guidance.

Residence

44. Certain of the rooms in the Lord Chancellor's residence will be needed for official entertaining by the new Speaker and could continue to be available at other times for charitable and other functions. The House will in due course wish to consider whether the other rooms should continue to be used as a residence for the exclusive use of the new Speaker or whether they should be used for other purposes.

Miscellaneous statutory functions

45. We recommend that the following statutory functions should be transferred, when a legislative opportunity permits, from the Lord Chancellor to the Speaker:

46. Certain other statutes already refer to the Speaker of the House as such, and thus will not need amendment. They include the Clerk of the Parliaments Act 1824, the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840[9] and the Insolvency Act 1986 (section 427, and section 426A inserted by section 266 of the Enterprise Act 2002).

47. We recommend that those statutory functions which are given to the Speaker in relation to the House of Commons and to the Clerk of the Parliaments in relation to the House of Lords should remain unchanged. The functions in question relate to parliamentary copyright and freedom of information.[10]

Appointment or Election

48. Three Members suggested that the Speaker should be a member of the Cabinet appointed by the Government. The purpose of this suggestion was to secure at least two Members of the House as members of the Cabinet. However, the great majority of those replying favoured election.

49. We recommend a system requiring only a single secret ballot, by means of the alternative vote. Such a system was successfully used in the first by-election to elect a hereditary peer, in March 2003.

50. Candidates would be proposed and seconded by two Members. Voters would rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate received at least half the first-preference votes then the candidates with fewest votes would be progressively eliminated until one candidate had at least half the remaining valid votes.

51. The name of the successful candidate should then be submitted to Her Majesty the Queen, who would be invited to make the formal appointment.

52. We propose that a Speaker should be elected for a period of five years, with the possibility of renewal. As in the Commons, a simple motion of appointment would suffice if there was only one candidate. We consider it important that an election should not coincide with the start of a new Parliament, because of the practical difficulties that would arise.

53. A factual statement of the service in the House of each candidate would be prepared by the Clerk of the Parliaments and made available to Members.

54. To avoid a hiatus in the event of the death or resignation of a Speaker we propose that Standing Orders and statute should provide that the Chairman of Committees may act during any vacancy in the office of Speaker.

Title

55. In relation to the new Speaker's title, the starting point is that the title of Lord Speaker already exists. It is used in paragraph 4.01 of the Companion quoted in paragraph 8 above. It is also used in Standing Orders 22[11], 38(1)[12] and 58[13].

56. It has, however, been forcefully argued by Lord Strathclyde (Q 121), Lord Craig of Radley (Q 153) and others that the title of "Lord Chancellor" should be retained for the Speaker of the House. It was pointed out that the Office has evolved over many centuries. It is an Office of great dignity, and the retention of the name would add dignity to the Office of the new Speaker. Other names have survived such as that of Lord President and Lord Privy Seal, even though the holders of those Offices now fulfil very different roles. The same could be true of the Lord Chancellor.

57. We have sympathy with this argument. For in the words of Lord Chief Justice Crewe in the Oxford peerage case (1625) there is no man but that "his affection would stand for the continuance of so noble a name, and would take hold of a twig or twine thread to uphold it". But we must not let "affection press upon judgment". It seems to us that there is an essential difference between the Lord President and the Lord Privy Seal on the one hand, and the Lord Chancellor on the other. The former Offices were never abolished. They have merely withered away. If the legislation goes through as the Government intends, the great Office of Lord Chancellor will have been abolished by statute. To revive the name to describe a very different and inevitably lesser Office might be seen as pretentious, and might even lead to confusion. See Lord Brabazon of Tara's evidence (Q 194). So regretfully we cannot support the title of Lord Chancellor.[14]

58. It has however been suggested that if there is to be a new supreme court then "Lord Chancellor" might be a very suitable title for the senior judge.

59. So we come back to "Lord Speaker". It is not only the existing title, but it is also in our view the natural title. The only argument against it is that it might lead to confusion with the Speaker of the House of Commons. We do not regard this as a serious risk. Both Houses of the Canadian Parliament have a Speaker.[15] Baroness Boothroyd, who approved the title "Lord Speaker", did not foresee any confusion (Q 76). We were impressed by her evidence. Accordingly we recommend that the existing title be retained, and that the new Speaker should be known as the Lord Speaker.

Salary and pension

60. We recommend that initially the Speaker should be paid a salary equal to that of a Cabinet Minister in the House of Lords, currently £96,960.[16] That would give an appropriate lead over the Chairman of Committees, whose current salary is £75,706. In the longer term it would be appropriate for the Senior Salaries Review Body to advise on the Speaker's remuneration.

61. When a legislative opportunity permits, we recommend that provision should be made for the new Speaker's salary, like that of the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons, to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund.

62. We also recommend that appropriate statutory provision should be made for the new Speaker's pension, as is already the case for the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Staff support and office accommodation

63. The Lord Speaker will need personal staff, but we leave it to the House Committee to determine the appropriate number and grading.

64. We note that the rooms recently occupied by the Lord Chancellor, his private office and his Permanent Secretary are likely to provide more than enough space for the Lord Speaker and any staff, and we leave it to the Administration and Works Committee to settle the arrangements.


9   These two Acts refer both to the Lord Chancellor and to the Speaker, so it would be appropriate in due course to remove the references to the Lord Chancellor. Back

10   Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, section 167, and Freedom of Information Act 2000, sections 34 and 36. Back

11   "If any Lord has occasion to speak with another Lord while the House is sitting, they are to retire to the Prince's Chamber, and not converse in the space behind the Woolsack; or else the Lord Speaker is to call them to order, and, if necessary, to stop the business in agitation." Back

12   "If a balloted debate or a time-limited debate is continuing at the end of the time allotted to it, the Clerk at the Table shall rise and thereupon the Lord Speaker shall ask the mover whether or not he wishes to withdraw his Motion. If the mover does not ask leave to withdraw, or if leave to withdraw is refused, the Lord Speaker shall, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 19, put the Question forthwith." Back

13   "If, on a division upon a Bill, or upon a Question for the approving or disapproving of subordinate legislation, less than thirty Lords have voted, the Lord Speaker shall declare the Question not decided, and the debate thereon shall stand adjourned to a subsequent sitting; and, if such division take place when the House is in Committee, the Chairman shall declare the Question not decided, whereupon the House shall resume, and shall be again in Committee at a subsequent sitting." Back

14   It is not an argument that has weighed with us, but for the sake of completeness we should point out that if the new office of Speaker is established before the office of Lord Chancellor is abolished by statute then there will in any case be a transitional period during which the title "Lord Chancellor" will not be available. Back

15   In the Canadian Senate the title used is "Speaker of the Senate". Back

16   We have not attempted to estimate the total annual cost of our proposals. The costs of office accommodation and the residence are in any case hard to measure, the more so in the absence of any clear indication as to the alternative use to which the accommodation might be put. If the Lord Speaker were to entertain a substantial number of guests on behalf of the House then that could add to the total cost, but that is a matter for the House Committee to consider. Back


 
previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003