On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The House of Commons could well agree to an early general election today, with Parliament being dissolved on Monday, which is the day scheduled for the election of your successor. If a general election is called, many Members could be quite understandably detained in their constituencies on Monday. To preserve the dignity of this place and the importance of the election, Mr Speaker, may I call on you to consider continuing in your position for the next two working days to ensure that you leave this place in the way that you would want to?
I will respond to the right hon. Lady, but first I will take the point of order from the hon. Member for North Wiltshire.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that the whole House will want to mark—and, I almost said, to celebrate—your departure from this post after 10 highly distinguished years in your seat, but would it not be a shame if the transition to the new Speaker were marked by anything less than an entirely seemly procedure? If, for example, a new Speaker were to be elected on Monday
Is there not therefore a strong argument, Mr Speaker, for you to be kindly asked to extend your stay in the Chair for another couple of days, until next Monday, and for a new Speaker to be elected when the new Parliament reassembles?
No, no, not yet. I am keeping the hon. Gentleman waiting because someone else signalled before he did, but I thank James Gray.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that everyone is aware of my personal ambitions in this regard but, to be very serious, it is perfectly possible that Parliament will be prorogued on Thursday evening. However, it might be prorogued on Monday or Tuesday next week. If it were prorogued on Thursday evening, there would not be a speakership election next Monday. I understand that if there were to be a general election on
If I am honest, speaking as a candidate, I think it odd for the House to be focusing on a speakership election when we should be focusing on the concerns of the nation. So let me gently say, as a candidate, that it would be good to resolve this matter as soon as possible. I think that it would be daft to have a speakership election before the general election.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to take a contrary view and I will tell you why if I may—you and I discussed this actually some months ago. I have stark memories of being a new Member of Parliament and, when we voted as new Members of Parliament, we just voted on party lines; we did not know the individuals involved. I believe it is right that Members of Parliament should have the choice of different candidates for Speaker whom we know. There is a possibility of a large churn at the next general election, with new Members of Parliament who actually will not have a clue about the individual candidates and will simply vote on party lines. I do not think that is right for Parliament.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I agree with Michael Fabricant because, when I came in in 1992 as a new Member, the first thing I did was vote for a Speaker, without knowing any of the candidates in any detail whatsoever. But surely the best way to resolve this issue is not to have a general election in December.
We have now had points of order from Mrs Miller and the hon. Members for North Wiltshire (James Gray), for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) and for Ilford South (Mike Gapes). My response is as follows, and I hope it will be taken in the constructive spirit in which it is intended. This is first and foremost, in terms of opinion, and opinion guides and informs us in everything here, not a matter for the Chair. It is in the first instance, I think, very properly a matter for the candidates for the Chair—I think that is a material factor if there is a consensus among them—and, if I may say so, for the usual channels. I have been apprised of this matter only within the last hour and I have had the briefest of exchanges with the Leader of the House about it. I think that there is merit in hearing the views of the candidates not in the Chamber, and the views of the usual channels.
I hope I can be forgiven, not least in response to the right hon. Member for Basingstoke, who made her point with great courtesy, for saying this. I made my announcement on
I hope I have given an earnest of my good intentions and let’s see if we can resolve this matter in a courteous and constructive way within the coming hours and certainly within 24 hours. I hope that is helpful. May I thank Members for what they have said and for the way in which they have said it?
I think there would be a Division on that, and I think the hon. Lady would be in isolation in the Division Lobby—“Four more years”, she said. [Interruption.] I am glad the House is in a good mood at this time of day.