Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee 5:00 pm, 3rd April 2019

In my recollection—I have been saying this to audiences across the country for years, so I hope it is right—the last occasion on which the Speaker had to exercise a casting vote was in 1993. I will be corrected by Sir William Cash if I am wrong, but I believe that it was appertaining to the Maastricht treaty Bill. I say to Sir Patrick McLoughlin that I am probably pushing my luck here in the face of such an established authority as the hon. Member for Stone, but I think that it was on an amendment in the name of the then Leader of the Opposition relating to the social chapter. Speaker Boothroyd cast her vote in the way that she did, against that amendment.

The rationale—I say this as much for the benefit of new Member as of others—for the exercise of the casting vote is, as I have said, that it is not for the Chair to create a majority that does not otherwise exist. The way in which the casting vote is exercised also depends on the stage at which a matter is being aired. For example, it could be, and probably would be, exercised differently on Second Reading of a Bill, because there is an important principle of encouraging further debate. It might then be used to send a Bill into Committee when it is not going to get on to the statute book straight away. If it was the final stage of the Bill, the casting vote would be against. In a situation in which a decision would be made that a day would be allocated for particular business, I judge that it is not right for me to make that decision if the House has not done so by a clear majority. I hope that that is clear and generally acceptable.