Select Committee on Speakership of the House First Report


Extract from the Proceedings of the Committee relating to the Report

SESSION 2002-03

Tuesday 18 November 2003

Present:

Lord Alexander of Weedon

Lord Ampthill

Lord Carter

Lord Desai

Lord Freeman

Baroness Gould of Potternewton

Lord Lloyd of Berwick (Chairman)

Lord Marsh

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

Lord Tordoff

Lord Trefgarne

A draft Report was proposed by the Chairman, brought up and read.

Paragraphs 1 to 5 were agreed to.

It was moved by the Lord Trefgarne, after paragraph 5, to insert the following new paragraphs:

"Before going further, we should record that two members of the Committee (Lord Trefgarne and Lord Freeman) take issue with the whole basis on which the rest of this report has been drafted. The proposal for new arrangements for the Speakership did not come from within the House, nor was it the subject of any consultation within the House. It was announced out of the blue as the result of a Government reshuffle and did not, they feel, have the benefit of adequate preconsideration.

The fact that the role of the Speaker is almost entirely ceremonial makes it appropriate, if not essential, that it should be combined with other duties of a high office. Thus, if a specific new post of Speaker is to be created, then it becomes necessary to search for functions to give to the Speaker in order to make the role worthwhile and to attract candidates who will command respect. The only significant additional duty which has been suggested is that of Chairman of the proposed Judicial Selection Commission but that proposition was rejected out of hand by the Lord President of the Council and the Lord Chancellor when they gave evidence to us.

Furthermore, Lord Trefgarne and Lord Freeman believe that, if a new post were to be created, powers would soon accrete to the job to the steady erosion of the principle of self-regulation which we seek to support.

In a House that operates by self-regulation - and we wish it to continue to do so - there is an overwhelming case for continuing the present practice of relying on the Leader of the House and other members of the Government to give guidance when necessary. Their role as Ministers leaves no doubt that they have no power and can only offer guidance. Passing such functions to a new independent Speaker would soon create a situation in which members were expected always to defer to the Speaker. In turn, Peers would cease to give way at Question Time on the basis that there was no point in doing so if there was a chance that the Speaker might choose them to ask the next Supplementary. In short, the ethos of self-regulation would progressively disappear. It would be far better to retain the present arrangements unchanged.

Attention has been drawn to the (it is said) anomalous role of the Leader in allowing Private Notice Questions. In truth, this is not a problem since any unpopular decision by a Leader can be corrected by a decision of the House, although this has only very rarely been attempted. Furthermore, we know of no case when a Leader has in fact wrongly disallowed a PNQ, since they are always guided by the Companion. But, if this is thought still to be a problem, then perhaps the Leader should consult through the usual channels before making his or her decision.

Lord Trefgarne and Lord Freeman make one final point. There is a case for strengthening the present self-regulation arrangements by persuading Peers to follow Standing Orders more closely, particularly as regards to the relevance of speeches and related matter. They therefore believe that Whips and, indeed, other senior Peers, should be ready to intervene more frequently when a less experienced Peer is contravening Standing Orders. To assist this process provision should be made for the Clerks to guide the Government Front Bench more proactively."

Which being objected to, the question was put thereupon, and the Committee divided:

Contents  3Not-Contents  8
Lord Alexander of Weedon

Lord Freeman

Lord Trefgarne

Lord Ampthill

Lord Carter

Lord Desai

Baroness Gould of Potternewton

Lord Lloyd of Berwick

Lord Marsh

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

Lord Tordoff

The amendment was disagreed to.

Paragraphs 6 to 57 were read and agreed to with amendments.

It was moved by the Lord Freeman, in paragraph 58 (now 57), to leave out "To revive the name to describe a very different and inevitably lesser Office might be seen as pretentious, and might even lead to confusion. So regretfully we cannot support the title of Lord Chancellor." and insert "We believe that once the non-speakership functions of the Lord Chancellor have been transferred, by statute, from him, then the Lord presiding as Speaker should be called Lord Chancellor."

Which being objected to, the question was put thereupon, and the Committee divided:

Contents  2Not-Contents  8
Lord Freeman

Lord Trefgarne

Lord Alexander of Weedon

Lord Ampthill

Lord Carter

Lord Desai

Baroness Gould of Potternewton

Lord Lloyd of Berwick

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

Lord Tordoff

The amendment was disagreed to.

Paragraph 58 (now 57) was agreed to.

Paragraphs 59 to 65 (now 58 to 64) and Appendices 1 and 2 were agreed to with amendments.


 
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