The Speaker's Committee

Part of Orders of the Day — Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 14th February 2000.

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Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls Conservative, Teignbridge 7:45 pm, 14th February 2000

Some of the concerns of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) have occurred to me, too. It is obvious from a casual reading of the clause that the mere presence of the Speaker apparently confers a certain—how can I put it?—authority and genuineness. Anyone coming to the thing afresh would say, "If it is the Speaker's Committee, there will be fair play, both explicitly and implicitly." When I went through the clause carefully, I kept waiting for a subsection to say, "And there shall be a mechanism to ensure that the Opposition"—not just the principal Opposition, but minor parties, possibly even as minor as the Liberal Democrats—"play a role," but, remarkably, it is not there.

Obviously, every holder of the Speaker's office is there because of the high esteem in which that Members hold that person. That has always been our tradition and, I am sure, always will be, but, at the same time, the clause relies entirely on the hope and expectation that it will all work out in the end. If the intention is that the Speaker's Committee, with the authority of the name of the Speaker, should be an authoritative body that commands respect and trust, there should be some mechanism to ensure that there is representation from the principal party of opposition and possibly the minor ones, too. In so far as clause 2 does not have that assurance, it is defective.