§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)
(addressing himself to the Clerk of the House, who, standing up, pointed to him, and then sat down): Sir Barnett Cocks, I have to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the resignation of the Right Hon. Horace King, lately Speaker of this House, gives leave to the House to proceed forthwith to the choice of a new Speaker.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
Sir Barnett, the Gracious Message from the Sovereign, delivered in another place, makes it imperative that we should now proceed to the election of a Speaker from among our number, and I therefore beg to move,That the Right Hon. Selwyn Lloyd do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.The election of a Speaker is a matter of tremendous importance to the House, and I am delighted, as I am sure the 2 whole House will be delighted, to recall that the conduct of our parliamentary affairs over many centuries has made our parliamentary system the envy and the pride of every country in the world.
Before I proceed to say what I want to say about my right hon. and learned Friend, I should like to put on the record, because it is important to do so, that one of the great responsibilities of a Speaker is to protect minorities in the House. This is particularly significant at this time in a very difficult world. The Speaker has not only got to protect political minorities as between Government and Opposition, but he has to safeguard the minorities within the Government party and the Opposition party. Indeed, he also has to safeguard the interests of some of those very illustrious men and women who have sat in this Chamber but have not conformed to any party or any splinter party. We have had many rumbustious Members who have found difficulty in conforming, but they have added to the character of the House and we shall always welcome them here, sure in the knowledge that the Speaker will see that their rights as a minority are safeguarded.
I have been fascinated and delighted at the interest shown by the House in the democratic procedure for the election of a Speaker. Even my worst enemy could not say that I was an automatic supporter of the Treasury Bench. Therefore, I hope that I shall be allowed to say that our 3 procedure is based upon hundreds of years of tradition and that whatever the House may decide to do in the future—because we do alter procedures, and rightly so, from time to time—the alteration of a tradition should be undertaken only after very careful consideration. I do not think the House will mind my saying that.
I now wish to address myself to the actual qualities of a Speaker, which are of tremendous importance to the House. I want to deal first of all with the aspect of administration. I have observed during the time that I have been in the House of Commons that my right hon. and learned Friend has always had a wonderful reputation for negotiation in all the distinguished offices that he has held. This is tremendously important for a Speaker. Unfortunately for me, I have never been present when he has been negotiating at home or abroad, but I wish to point out that a good negotiator has clarity of expression and precision of mind. Clarity of expression and precision of mind to declare rulings from the Chair are of very great importance. These are great qualities for my right hon. and learned Friend to have if he is elected to occupy the Chair.
Before I finish my point about administration, I should like to add that the House, including many new Members, will remember that one can never argue with the Speaker. Therefore, it is all the more important that the decisions should be clear, precise and made in such a way that everybody can understand them. I believe that any Speaker who understands Erskine May is a very great man indeed.
My second point is on the question of personality. This is, of course, very important. I am sure the whole House would wish me to pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend for the modesty with which he has approached all his great positions, his lack of ever desiring to seek the limelight, and the wonderful way, when he ceased to hold high office, of helping the House in keeping it running as smoothly, fairly and justly as it is possible to do in rather difficult circumstances. I am sure this is a quality which we all appreciate.
4 My real reason, on the personal side, for saying how proud I am to be able to propose my right hon. and learned Friend is that he has secured the affection of the House. This is very difficult to acquire. Affection is given to both men and women not because of position, capability, wit or brilliance; the person in the House of Commons who secures its affection is an absolutely first-class and real human being. If my right hon. and learned Friend is elected Speaker today, the knowledge that he holds the affection of the House will be of great help to him.
If my right hon. and learned Friend takes the Chair today, I shall be particularly proud and pleased in the knowledge that he has the support and affection of the House, and that, as the distinguished citizen which he already is, he will add another distinction to his high reputation by being a distinguished Speaker in what I and, I am sure, the whole House regard as the Parliament of the greatest country in the world.
There is just one other point I would like to make. In taking the Chair, although it is a great distinction and a great honour, which I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend recognises, the Speaker has to give up a lot in pursuance of the responsibilities he has accepted. He has to give up all his House of Commons friendships; he really has to isolate himself from House of Commons life. As in this speech I would like to make a little contribution myself of a creative character, I wonder whether, when we are discussing all the matters surrounding the election of a new Speaker, we could not find some way of reducing the isolation of the Speaker. This would be a great help, because the Speaker can be very lonely; he can be much away from the friendship and the affection of his parliamentary colleagues which he has previously enjoyed. If we could do something to lighten that burden, we should be taking another human step in the modernisation of our parliamentary democracy.
I was very proud to be invited to nominate my right hon. and learned Friend as Speaker, and I hope that the House will accord to him the honour which I feel is undoubtedly his and that in future he will serve, as I am sure he will, as a great and distinguished citizen 5 adding to all the magnificent work he has done for the House of Commons and the country.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I have very great pleasure in seconding the Motion that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) be called to the Chair.
The last time I followed the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) was at a great celebration of the implementation of equal pay for women in the public services—a battle in which we shared, and I pay tribute to that now. But that was at the Savoy Hotel. It was, of course, the Speaker-Elect who implemented that Measure following the decision of Lord Butler.
The hon. Lady did not always get on well with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I remember one occasion when she asked him a question. He, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave a rather frosty but flattering answer. If I remember rightly, she said, "Mr. Speaker, are you aware that I am indifferent to flattery, but sensitive to action?" I suppose that the significance of this Motion being moved by the hon. Lady is that women will get fair play under the right hon. and learned Gentleman as Speaker.
It is one of the rules that, once he is elected, the antecedents of Mr. Speaker must never be referred to, however lurid they may be. So, before the right hon. and learned Gentleman is elected, I want to say a word or two now. He has held a dazzling array of offices, including the Foreign Office and the Exchequer, and apart from that he has had a most distinguished career in peace and in war. But what brings him to our notice today is the fact that, having suffered the purge of 1962, he was brought to the leadership of the House in 1963 and had a reincarnation. He found himself no longer an aspirant for Government office but desired to be a good House of Commons man.
At that time, I was on the Front Bench for my party, dealing with accommodation and Members' facilities. I found him a most enthusiastic ally. Since then, he has served with distinction on the Select Committee on House of Commons Ser- 6 vices—and people there speak glowingly of his work on behalf of Members. I know the generosity of his outlook as a trustee of the Superannuation Fund of the House—and I express the view that, as an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, he will if necessary twist the arm of the present Chancellor to see that Members get their due justice in the question of an increase in Members' pensions.
There is one disadvantage which the right hon. and learned Gentleman labours under. He is a lawyer—a Queen's Counsel. All the Speakers of this House, with about half a dozen exceptions, have been lawyers, but those half a dozen exceptions have been the great Speakers. So it is bad enough to be discussing next week the Industrial Relations Bill to put the trade unions in a strait-jacket. I hope we are not going to have the House of Commons put in a legal strait-jacket.
I want to express my good wishes to the Speaker-Elect and say something on which I think I will carry both sides of the House with me. I hope that the new Speaker will create a few precedents. As I said to Mr. Speaker King, no Speaker gets a footnote in Erskine May unless he creates a few precedents of his own, unless he makes a few rules himself without regard to what was done 150 years ago, ruling in the common sense of the moment and for the needs of the moment, obeying the context of "now". The Speaker must consider this with Standing Order No. 9 and when people rise to speak. I hope that the House will not plead any precedents to the Speaker if he takes upon himself the job of looking after the House of which he will be both servant and master.
I remember Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster protesting against what he called, "The cheating point of order". I hope that, under the new Speaker, we will abolish that. It seems ripe for abolition, and I hope that we will get on to the business of the week far quicker than we do on Thursdays while Members think from their ankles on their feet what they want to discuss in future.
I join with the hon. Lady in expressing the hope that our new Speaker will not be so remote as previous Speakers have been, and that it will be the will of the House that we shall not look upon the person on whom we impose such heavy duties with the sort of restraints with 7 which we surveyed Mr. Speaker when I first came into the House.
As a rule, the Member proposed as Speaker pleads his unfitness for that office. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not do so. I might remind him that, in 1801, Sir John Mitford broke with tradition by declining to declare that he lacked the necessary qualities for the office. After all, we would not be voting for the right hon. and learned Gentleman unless we thought he had these qualities. For a Speaker to say afterwards that he did not really deserve it, is, in a way, a piece of impertinence to the House. Let him come as the unopposed choice of this sovereign House of Commons.
I do not want to make this a long speech, but I want to say something in which I hope I shall carry the whole House with me. We know the onerous duties which we are laying upon Mr. Speaker-Elect. We know how difficult it will be and we know how often we have to rely not only on his judgment, but on his sense of equity and his sense of fair play, which have already been mentioned.
On behalf of the whole House, I want to say that I hope that when the time comes for Mr. Speaker-Elect to step down from the Chair, he will step down to an even greater respect and affection than the undoubted respect and affection which prompt us to send him to this highest of all offices today.
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
Sir Barnett, I should like to say a few words about our task of electing a new Speaker. Mr. Speaker holds the most honourable office it is possible for any commoner in this land to hold. There are many difficulties attaching to his job.
First, there is the awful job of having to learn the name and constituency of every hon. Member of Parliament. Secondly, Mr. Speaker has to be available at all times of the day or night. Thirdly, by the very nature of his high office and in the cause of impartiality he has to keep himself aloof from his fellow Members. The congenial surroundings of the Smoking Room, the Dining Room and the Lobbies are not for him. It therefore becomes a very lonely job. For a man 8 who by nature is gregarious and friendly, as I believe Mr. Speaker-Elect to have been, continuous aloofness must be hard to bear.
Mr. Speaker must make decisions, sometimes very quickly, and, because he is not infallible, sometimes they may be wrong decisions. He may sometimes have to say things which are unpopular with large sections of the House. He has the advice of the learned Clerks, who deserve the highest praise for their advice and courtesy to hon. Members.
How many times have I seen an hon. Member leaving the Chamber with a horrible expression on his face and saying, "It's that old so-and-so of a Speaker! He never looks at me and never calls me." Some years ago, a new Member was heard to say this and an older Member asked him what he had done about it. For example, did he know about the green bag behind the Speaker's Chair? When the new Member said that he did not know about the green bag, he was told, "If you get a brace of pheasants and put them in the bag behind the Speaker's Chair, you may be certain that you will be called on the next occasion you rise." The poor chap had to have it explained to him later that the whole thing was meant as a joke.
As an old Member, I should like to express our sincere appreciation to the retiring Speaker. I think that he will go down in history as a good Speaker, and that is the reward for which every Speaker should wish to work.
To the new Speaker we offer our condolences for the hardships and burdens which he will have to bear on our behalf. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on the very high honour which will be his when he has been elected to this great office.
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
I rise not to propose another candidate, nor to attack the qualities of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirrall (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), but to express a back bencher's dissatisfaction with the way in which this election procedure has been handled.
This is not the first time that this sort of dissatisfaction has been expressed. In 1921, two hon. Members from the back benches objected in much the same terms. 9 In 1959 the then Leader of the Opposition, Hugh Gaitskell, objected at some length to the way in which the matter was dealt with. Yet here we are again, and the procedure in 1971 is still the same and nothing has been done to change it.
I hope that my intervention this afternoon will at least afford an opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, or the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, standing in for the Prime Minister, to give us some indication of his intentions in the matter. Does he believe that the present procedure is adequate? Does he intend to set in motion the process by which it may be changed?
From the moment when I first turned the pages of a history book I have believed that the first parliamentary duty of back-bench Members of Parliament was to control the Executive. The House has continually failed in that rôle and has progressively surrendered to the Executive. People have been saying this for years, but that is no reason why this afternoon we should surrender again without making a protest, and that is my only reason for doing so. In the war to control the Executive, our right to elect our own Speaker was one of the most significant victories. It was a major item in the development of parliamentary democracy. How would parliamentary democracy stand if, for example, the powers within our constitution were divided thus: the House controls the Executive, the Speaker controls the House, and the Executive controls the Speaker?
It might be objected that the Speaker does not control the House, that he serves it, and so he does. But there are many instances when he has to make a choice and when he has to give Rulings, when in fact, if not in theory, he controls the House. Moreover, in so far as he is a servant, and only a servant, of the House, he ought to be, and ought to be seen to be, a servant of the whole House and of the House itself, and not of the Executive, or of the two Front Benches. Such can be the case only if the Speaker is elected in a proper democratic manner.
By far the best procedure which we could adopt would be for a system of nominations followed by a secret ballot. It might be said that if this had been done the result would have been exactly 10 the same, and I do not entirely dissent from that view. But precisely the same defence could have been made, and, indeed, was made, of the old procedure for the emergence of the Leader of the Conservative Party. Can anyone seriously suggest that the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would be better today if he had emerged by the procedure which we are now currently proposing to use for the election of our Speaker than if he had been elected?
No doubt the Leader of the House will claim that he has followed precedent in all he has done. He is likely to use words similar to those which have been used in the House before; for instance, by his predecessor Mr. Chamberlain, who, on a similar occasion in 1921, said:In the election of every Speaker, as far back as we can go in modern times, it has been the practice of the Government of the day to ascertain, to the best of its ability, which Member of the House would be the most acceptable to the House. Having, as they think, ascertained that, the Government of the day have approached that Member with the request that he would allow his name to be submitted. In order to preserve the undoubted right of the House as against the Government and as against everyone else, the name has always been proposed on the Motion of an independent Member"—and one cannot be more independent than the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) who made the proposal this afternoon—and the judgment of the House has been submitted upon it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th April, 1921; Vol. 141, c. 316.]That is the procedure that Mr. Chamberlain set out in 1921, and I have no doubt that the Leader of the House will claim that he has operated it. He will be aware that even if he had followed that procedure in the letter and the spirit in which Mr. Chamberlain set it out in 1921, I would still have opposed it because it lacks democracy and is entirely inadequate to our purposes. Even if we were to accept that procedure as satisfactory we should still, and I do this afternoon, criticise the way in which it has been carried out in this instance.
In 1921 the then Leader of the House defended himself against charges that he had not adequately consulted the House by saying that he had appointed Lord Edmund Talbot to assertain the general sense of the House, to take soundings, to take the temperature of the House. It is hardly surprising that there were many 11 Members then who did not believe that this was adequately democratic.
Where are we now in 1971? The first test which any Member of the House ought to apply to this is to ask himself: "Was I consulted? Was I asked for my views?" In the discussions that I have had I have found very few hon. Members who believe that they were consulted in any meaningful sense of the word. Were all three Whips asked to consult their party Members? Was there any meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party held to discuss the matter in advance, not after the matter had been decided? Was there any meeting of the 1922 Committee to consider the matter? Was even the executive of the 1922 Committee consulted? Such discussion as I have been able to have has led me to conclude that none of these things was done on this occasion.
Whatever information was gleaned about the matter by Members of Parliament was gleaned from the pages of the Press. It was for this reason that in the 18th December issue of the New Statesman the political correspondent, Mr. Alan Watkins, said:Last Thursday Mr. William Whitelaw announced to the assembled Lobby correspondents that Mr. Lloyd would shortly succeed Horace King as Speaker of the House of Commons.In case the right hon. Gentleman protests that that is not a strictly accurate account of what he did say, perhaps he can explain how the following day, after that Lobby briefing, almost every newspaper in the country was able to announce, categorically without any reservation, that the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral would be the Speaker of this House? I hope that he will not rely on the same excuse used in 1921 to the same charge when it was said that the Press had got it all wrong and did not understand the forms and procedures of this House. The Lobby understands only too well the forms and procedures of this House, and it knew what it was told and reported accurately.
I maintain that the House was not consulted in any meaningful sense of the word. It was never asked who it wanted as Speaker, and even when two names somehow emerged, as if by magic from a hat—the right hon. and learned Member 12 for Wirral and the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter)—the House was not asked which of those two it preferred. The right hon. Gentleman will doubtless protest that he consulted the Opposition Front Bench. Here as a back bencher I probably part company from the Opposition Front Bench in what I am saying. Parliamentary democracy does not reside on the Opposition Front Bench; it does not reside on the Treasury Bench; nor does it reside in some spiritual "never-never land" suspended in the either somewhere half-way between the two. It resides in this House, in the Members of this House, in the unfettered rights of individual Members to be consulted and to speak their minds on a matter of this importance.
I do not speak in personal opposition in any way to the candidature of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I have no personal animosity towards him at all, and he will have my loyal support if and when he takes the Chair. But I do believe that we ought to question whether the Speaker ought to be selected from among senior Ministers whether past or present. There are two reasons for this and I will set them out briefly.
§ Mr. Pardoe
I knew that this would be a somewhat difficult speech to make in the light of the desperate desire of the benches opposite to fix everything quietly and silently, and to push it under the carpet. It will not be pushed under the carpet. It will be openly discussed in the House this afternoon if I have anything to do with it.
There are two reasons why we might object to a former senior Minister—any senior Minister not just this one. First of all, the Speaker ought to be a protector of the rights of back benchers, and can a man who is imbued with the rights of Government ever throw off that mode of thinking entirely? I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me if I quote Proust in illustration. Speaking of M. de Norpois he said:…in the course of a long career of diplomacy, he had become imbued with that negative, methodical, conservative spirit called 'governmental', which is common to all Governments and, under every Government, particularly inspires its Foreign Office. He had imbibed, during that career, an aversion, 13 a dread, a contempt for the methods of procedure, more or less revolutionary and in any event quite incorrect, which are those of an Opposition.I do not suggest for one moment that the right hon. and learned Member is another M. de Norpois, but the objection in principle remains, and it is a very important objection to which we should continually call attention.
On this point I do not feel too unhappy. The right hon. and learned Gentleman left the Front Bench some years ago and since then has worked hard and long with considerable success to improve the lot of back benchers. Being the person he is, he is as likely to serve the interests of back benchers as anyone else.
The second major reservation I have about the appointment of a senior ex-Minister lies in the fact that he cannot fail to be a figure of controversy. That is inevitable. No one who knows this House would ever dream of saying that the fact that a Member of the House had been responsible at any time in his past career for a particular item of policy necessarily debars him from that Chair. I would not dream of saying that, and I do not for one moment raise the subject in that spirit. But if a right hon. Gentleman has been involved in what is one of the most controversial issues in modern history, if he is still a figure of controversy when he occupies that Chair—and inevitably this will be the case—then is it right that we should have a senior ex-Minister in this capacity?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is excellently well qualified to be a Speaker, but he is not the only Member who is well qualified. There are many Members on the back benches, some Members even of the Government Party, and of the Opposition Party, who could have filled this rôle. The reason why there is no alternative candidate today is the power of party in this House. This is why we have arrived at the situation where we have only one candidate. The pressures on individual back benchers not to stand are very great; they were undoubtedly very great on the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, and we all understand those pressures.
The right hon. and learned Member will therefore become Speaker, and as 14 such he will have my fullest and loyal support, but I wish that he could have come to the Chair in a more democratic manner. I hope that the Leader of the House will take the opportunity to intervene this afternoon and tell us that he is prepared to set in motion processes which can change the procedures in the future and ensure that the next Speaker of this House is elected in a properly democratic manner and does not come to us by that curiously English system, dignified by the term "emergence", which is not democratic and does not defend parliamentary democracy as it ought to be defended.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
I agree with a tremendous amount of what the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) has said.
There seems to be a certain amount of confusion about what the House can and cannot do. For instance, what rules has it to govern an occasion such as this? Two things are absolutely clear from the precedents. The first is that a Division can take place on the first nomination without any other proposition being made. There is a considerable number of precedents on this, from the election of Mr. Speaker Onslow to that of Mr. Speaker Harley. Moreover, in two of those precedents the person nominated did not even consent to his nomination and advanced excellent reasons—not just nominal withdrawal—for not being elected. Nevertheless, the House elected him on each occasion and that was why the tradition of dragging the Speaker-Elect to the Chair was more than a charade.
I have been able to find no Ruling by any Speaker and no Resolution by the House that those precedents should be overturned. We may, therefore, take it that the House possesses today the same right which it possessed then, for reasons which seemed good and adequate to it, to go into the "No" Lobby against the proposition that one of its Members should take the Chair as Speaker, without any necessity for a competing nomination to be made. We should be crystal clear about that. The Journal of the House for 10th February, 1700, sets out the matter in full in the case of Mr. Speaker Harley, as he subsequently 15 became, and there has been no precedent or Ruling since then by which the House is deprived of that right.
There then comes the question: is there a principle at stake, or is there only a choice of alternative personalities? There is indeed a principle at stake. It does matter to the House, not only who the Speaker is, but how he is selected or elected. The power which a Speaker wields can have an immense influence on such diverse factors as the progress Government business and the rights of individual Members. If the Speaker always allows debates to take place under Standing Order No. 9, he can frustrate the Government's business. If he is heavy-handed in refusing applications under Standing Order No. 9, he can effectively destroy the right of the House to deal with emergencies as they arise.
The Speaker's selection of Amendments for the Report stages of Bills cannot be challenged. If he selects a few Amendments the legislation goes through quickly. If he peppers the Order paper with them it is delayed and it may never reach the Statute Book. Therefore, it cannot seriously be said that it does not matter who the Speaker is because he is, after all, advised by eminent and extremely learned Clerks.
Why did the House of Commons take such trouble to assert its own right to choose the Speaker, instead of having its Speaker chosen for it by the Executive? The fact that the Executive was then the Crown and today is the Treasury Bench is immaterial to the principle at stake. Objection was taken in 1951 and in 1959 and everybody said what a ludicrous system it was; but it has continued, and there is one way to ensure that it will not continue. That is by an adverse vote on the principle which will ensure once and for all that it will not continue, which is within the power of the House.
There are those who say that the place to utter such thoughts is not the Floor of the House, and that the time to utter them is not when it is within the power of the House to correct such abuses. Surely the place to discuss this matter is the Chamber of the House, and the moment is now. We know that, worn-out as the past processes are for the election of the Speaker, even those processes have been used in a bizarre manner. After the 16 presumed outcome of today's proceedings was, I understand, announced at the two party meetings—at neither of which, as it happens, was I present because I was at a meeting with a Minister on a constituent's affairs—I asked the first senior Member of the Opposition Front Bench, a senior Secretary of State in the last Government, whom I encountered, whether he had been consulted. He replied that he had not, and that he knew of nobody who had except, presumably, his own Chief Whip. How this emergence has come about either nobody knows except those who were involved in it, or no one is prepared to say. But what we do know is that the House of Commons as a whole has had no opportunity of participating in it.
Just as everyone who becomes a Member must be prepared to serve in the Chair if that is the wish of his or her fellow Members, so it is not for an individual either to put himself forward for election to the Chair or to announce that he has withdrawn his candidature since this is a burden—and it is a heavy burden—imposed by other Members upon one of their own number. There are ample precedents for showing that the protests have been genuine and that the reluctance has not been simulated by the burden having been imposed, but a vote of the House has always been accepted by the House and by the individual upon whom it was imposed.
Therefore, the question of principle on which the House should properly divide is embodied, not in the personality whose name appears in the Motion which was so ably proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), but in the method by which it has been done so that when the Chair is occupied no one outside or inside the House can say that it has become a place-man's pew and no one can have any ground for believing that its occupant has more reason to be grateful to the Treasury Bench and to the Opposition Front Bench, than he or she has to accept the honour, duty and burden imposed by the House.
Those are the reasons why I think the House should today re-establish itself. Opportunities come, but they are not always recognised as such. They pass and the siren voices which say that next time, not this time, is the time and that some other place, but not this place, is 17 the place, subtly carry the day. I hope that that will not happen today.
Leaving that point of principle, lest you, Sir Barnett, should rule, if it is within your power to rule—and it probably is not within your power to make any ruling—that there can be no Division without an alternative candidate being nominated, I nominate for the position of Speaker Sir Geoffrey Stanley de Freitas.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I beg to second the proposal that my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) be the Speaker-Elect.
In my recollection, there has never been a debate like this since I first came to the House 20 years ago, and the House is the healthier for that. I hope that it is not regarded as a form of words if I say to the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) that nothing that I am about to say is in any way a reflection on him as an individual.
It is not trite to say that no Member of the House who has had experience of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, either as a Minister or as a back bencher, but particularly as a Minister in his last office, would deny that he has served the House and the country very well indeed. Every hon. Member who has spoken in this debate has spoken not out of enmity or disfavour of the right hon. and learned Gentleman but because of the procedures which have brought us to this position. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was one of the best Leaders of the House under whom I have had the privilege to serve and in view of that experience, I am completely satisfied that, under his Speakership, the rights of back bench Members will be completely safeguarded.
My purpose in rising in this debate, however, is twofold: first, as the spokesman for the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) has said, to protest against the complete lack of prior consultation of back benchers, on both sides. The Leader of the House was at pains to emphasise that he had followed the traditional procedure in what he had done, and, of course, we accept that. I certainly accept it. So much the worse for the traditional procedure.
18 This afternoon, we are going through the farce of pretending that this House is electing its Speaker. We all know that whatever the theory might be, the fact is that this has been fixed and decided by the two Front Benches, most of whom, particularly my own right hon. Friends, should know that nothing irks back benchers more than for them to suspect that they have been by-passed by an agreement between the two establishments. They should remember the Bill to reform the House of Lords. They never seem to learn.
Certainly in my party there was no attempt whatever to consult back-bench Members. I remember the matter being raised at a business party meeting on a Thursday night and we were shrugged off—it was nothing to do with us. They did not know who was to be the Speaker. I suspect that they did but that they did not want us to know.
However that may be, in a circumstance like this—a uniquely House of Commons matter—steps ought to be taken to call an emergency party meeting so that we might go through the process of consultation. That was not done. The discussion, such as it was, took place between the two Front Benches. I understand that two names were put to my right hon. and hon. Friends from the Front Bench on the Parliamentary Committee and that it was they who decided whom the Speaker would be.
This is a unique situation. It behoves us to press upon the Leader of the House—and this is the proper time to do it—to refer this matter to the Committee of Procedure to see whether we can devise a more democratic way of going through the process of electing a Speaker.
The second point I want to make is this. When Mr. Speaker Morrison was elected in 1951, my party objected at that time that it was a serious break with precedent, the precedent being that of electing a Speaker who had not held Ministerial office. Mr. Morrison had held six Ministerial offices before he was called to the Speakership. In the previous hundred years, only two Speakers had been Ministers—Mr. Speaker Peel in 1884 and Mr. Speaker Lowther in 1905. If and when the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral is elected, he 19 will be the third successive Conservative-elected Speaker who has been elected after having held Ministerial office.
The main reasons for electing someone who has not held Ministerial office are twofold. First, a back bencher is best able to understand and sympathise with the wishes and frustrations of fellow back benchers. He is also less likely to yield to the blandishments of Ministers. I remember Mr. Speaker Clifton Brown, when he was in the Chair, ticking off Winston Churchill as Leader of the Opposition. He did that as a back bencher. Winston Churchill could hardly believe his ears when he was put in his place by Mr. Speaker simply because he had been a back bencher.
I would gladly have moved that the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) should have been the Speaker. I did my modest best to persuade him. I do not think he is present. Perhaps, at the last moment, he withdrew from the fight—it may be, promised a knighthood in the next Honours List. I do not know. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I am merely suggesting a possibility. I do not know what the objection is. It is a quite proper suggestion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] The Prime Minister went out of his way to make a statement that this would be the practice.
If that is not accepted as a possibility, the hon. Member for Burton might have been persuaded by the arguments used by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd Carpenter) when he, too, withdrew from the fight. The right hon. Gentleman said that if there were a Division in this House, and particularly between two Members of the same party, it might detract from the dignity of the holder of the office of Speaker.
That is an absurd, specious argument. No vote taken in this House on anything detracts in any way whatever from the dignity of anybody or anything in a democratic country such as ours. If there is a vote today, it will not be on the merits or demerits of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral. It will be on the procedures by which we have arrived at our decision. If and when the right hon. and learned Gentleman is elected, he will have the full support of every Member of the House. I say this without fear of contradiction.
20 There is, however, another point that needs to be stressed, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), who seconded the Motion, referred to this. I think he is probably wrong in his reference. A former Minister he said, might not be quoted once he had obtained the Speakership of this House. I remember that when Mr. Morrison was the Speaker I was taking part in a debate on new towns and methods of financing new town development corporations and I had occasion to look up the Second Reading debate on what was the New Towns Bill—in 1946, I think it was. Mr. Morrison had been a Minister and was at that time a Shadow Minister, and he spoke officially for the Tory Party and made the most extravagant accusations about the new town concept. He was standing where I am standing now. Then he became the Speaker, and I quoted what he had said, and he had to sit and take it.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral will, no doubt, if he is elected, be sitting in that Chair when we have foreign affairs debates in this House, and, no doubt, some of us on this side will have recourse to reminiscing and, no doubt, will bring up the part he played in 1956.
That is the danger we get into when we elect to the Speakership of this House a Member who has held a highly controversial office and engaged in highly controversial policies. He was not only engaged in that disreputable episode but he was also engaged in freezing nurses pay. The hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) referred to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's term of office as Chancellor of the Exchequer. She was a champion—she alleges that she was a champion—of the nurses. I do not know what her attitude at that time was, but certainly if any question of an incomes policy comes up within the next three or four years and the right hon. and learned Gentleman happens to be in that Chair I shall be at pains to refer to what he said on those occasions when he was saying that nurses should not have in any circumstances whatever more than 2½ per cent. [Interruption.] It is as well to say these things, and we have got to put that on record, because this House is riddled with pretence and hypocrisy.
21 I have always been an instinctive protector of dumb animals. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is no dumb animal, but he will be when he gets into that Chair, and I want to protect him. Of course, I suppose it is an inevitable thing to say upon this occasion that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will make an excellent Speaker. I thought there would be unanimous cheers at that. Everybody is expected to make an expression of that kind on these occasions, and if he does not he is regarded as boorish, and I might be if I did not do so, but I am not going to be boorish; but I beg to second the nomination of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering.
§ 3.33 p.m.
Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
In accordance with the custom of the House I now submit myself to its will.
May I begin with a word of tribute to the last Speaker? His outstanding attributes were humanity and kindness and he will be a difficult man for anyone to follow. As for myself, I appreciate very much what my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) have said about me.
I have been a Member of this House for over 25 years. I have formed many friendships in it. I have a deep affection for it. It is true, as has been said, that since I was for a time the Leader of the House my main preoccupations have been the attempts to improve the methods whereby we do our business and also to better the conditions of service both physical and financial of hon. and right hon. Members. Over the past seven years a certain amount of progress has been made, but I think there is still a great
§ deal more to be done, and I promise that, if I am elected to the Chair, those matters still will have my anxious care and attention.
§ As has been said, the Chair of this House is surrounded by great traditions—of utter impartiality, respect for the rights of minorities however or wherever they may be constituted, regard for the interests of back benchers against the Executive—and I do not think that it necessarily follows that because a Speaker was formerly a member of the Executive that disqualifies him from undertaking that very great responsibility; and finally, the maintenance of the dignity and order of our proceedings.
§ If the House does me the very great honour of electing me Speaker, I promise that I will do my very best to preserve and cherish those traditions.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)
I hope the House will understand and share with me the embarrassment I feel. I was not consulted in any way by anyone who proposed my name. I ask the House, therefore, to recognise the fact that I am a supporter of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) and I shall vote for him. I hope that in these circumstances those who mentioned my name in this way will be kind enough so far as is possible to withdraw my name from the ballot.
§ The Question was put by the Clerk, That the Right Hon. Selwyn Lloyd do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.
§ The House divided: Ayes 294, Noes 55.23
|Division No. 53.]||AYES||[3.37 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Bishop, E. S.||Burden, F. A.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Body, Richard||Butler, Adam (Bosworth)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Boscawen, Robert||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Bossom, Sir Clive||Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Mornay & Nairn)|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Bowden, Andrew||Carlisle, Mark|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Ashley, Jack||Bradley, Tom||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Astor, John||Braine, Bernard||Channon, Paul|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bray, Ronald||Chapman, Sydney|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Broughton, Sir Alfred||Clegg, Walter|
|Balniel, Lord||Brown, Bob (N'C'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Cockeram, Eric|
|Barder, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Brown, Ronald (shoreditch & F'bury)||Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)|
|Batsford, Brian||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Coleman, Donald|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Concannon, J. D.|
|Benyon, W.||Buck, Antony||Cooke, Robert|
|Biffen, John||Bullus, Sir Eric||Cooper, A. E.|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Cormack, Patrick||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Costain, A. P.||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Raison, Timothy|
|Critchley, Julian||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Rankin, John|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Redmond, Robert|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Judd, Frank||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|Dean, Paul||Kershaw, Anthony||Richard, Ivor|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Kinsey, J. R.||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Kirk, Peter||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Dixon, Piers||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Doig, Peter||Lane, David||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Rost, Peter|
|Douglas, Dick (strilingshire, E.)||Le Marchant, Spencer||Royle, Anthony|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Driberg, Tom||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Dunn, James A.||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lomas, Kenneth||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Edelman, Maurice||Longden, Gilbert||Sharples, Richard|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Loveridge, John||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||MacArthur, Ian||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|English, Michael||McCann, John||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Mackintosh, John P.||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Fell, Anthony||McLaren, Martin||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Simeons, Charles|
|Fidler, Michael||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Small, William|
|Foley, Maurice||Maddan, Martin||Soref, Harold|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Madel, David||Speed, Keith|
|Foot, Michael||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Spence, John|
|Ford, Ben||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Sproat, Iain|
|Fowler, Norman||Marks, Kenneth||Stainton, Keith|
|Fox, Marcus||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fry, Peter||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Steel, David|
|Gardner, Edward||Mather, Carol||Stewart-smith, D. G. (Belper)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Mawby, Ray||Stokes, John|
|Ginsburg, David||Mayhew, Christopher||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Golding, John||Mendelson, John||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Goodhart, Philip||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Taverne, Dick|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Miscampbell, Norman||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Gower, Raymond||Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)|
|Green, Alan||Money, Ernie||Temple, John M.|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Grylls, Michael||Monro, Hector||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Montgomery, Fergus||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Gurden, Harold||More, Jasper||Thomason, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Tilney, John|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Moyle, Roland||Trew, Peter|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Murray, Ronald King||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Havers, Michael||Murton, Oscar||Urwin, T. W.|
|Hawkins, Paul||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hay, John||Neave, Airey||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Hiley, Joseph||Normanton, Tom||Walters, Dennis|
|Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Warren, Kenneth|
|Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Oram, Bert||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hordern, Peter||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Weitzman, David|
|Hornby, Richard||Osborn, John||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Padley, Walter||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Palmer, Arthur||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hunt, John||Pavitt, Laurie||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hunter, Adam||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Woof, Robert|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Peel, John||Worsley, Marcus|
|Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Perry, Ernest G.||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pink, R. Bonner||Younger, Hn. George|
|James, David||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Janner, Greville||Price, David (Eastleigh)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Dame Irene Ward and|
|Jenkins, Rt Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Probert, Arthur||Mr. Charles Pannell.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Allen, Scholefield||Hardy, Peter||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Barnes, Michael||Horam, John||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Barnett, Joel||Huckfield, Leslie||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Booth, Albert||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Iremonger, T. L.||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)||Sillars, James|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Kaufman, Gerald||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)||Kerr, Russell||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Kinnock, Neil||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Latham, Arthur||Whitehead, Philip|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Evans, Fred||Maclennan, Robert|
|Faulds, Andrew||Marquand, David||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Forrester, John||Mikardo, Ian||Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop and|
|Gorst, John||Ogden, Eric||Mr. William Hamilton.|
§ Whereupon MR. SELWYN LLOYD was conducted to the Chair by MR. CHARLES PANNELL and DAME IRENE WARD.
(standing on the upper step): Before I take the Chair as Speaker-Elect, I wish to thank the House for the very great honour it has paid me by electing me to the Chair. As has been pointed out, my political past has not been entirely free from controversy. Therefore, I was not surprised that there was some controversy today. But I promise those who spoke in a contrary sense and those who voted against the proposition that I shall have no hard feelings at all with regard to that matter in the future. Thank you very much indeed.
§ Mr. SPEAKER-ELECT sat down in the Chair.
§ Then the Mace (which before lay under the Table) was placed upon the Table.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, it falls to me in the absence of the Prime Minister to be the first to congratulate you on behalf of the House. I am very happy indeed to do so as an old colleague of many years' standing. In a world which is rapidly changing the office of Speaker still commands the prestige and the magic which it has enjoyed over many generations. There is no higher distinction that this House can impose—and "impose" is the right word, because the job gets no easier. There is less physical danger in- 26 volved in the office than in the past, but intellectually it is as stimulating and as challenging a calling as ever it has been. It calls for qualities of intellect, character and understanding. All Members of this House without any single exception are confident that you will conduct yourself in the Chair in the highest possible traditions of this great office.
You bring qualities deepened and strengthened by experience of high office, which give you knowledge of men and of the affairs of nations. You bring to it proven qualities of wisdom, perspicacity, endurance and humanity, all of which you will need: wisdom to understand the points of order; perspicacity to anticipate them; endurance to listen to us all; and humanity to preside over the greatest free assembly in the world.
Your qualities are not only those which you have learned and tempered in high office. You have shown clearly your attachment to the rights and the problems of backbenchers. You have been Leader of the House, a Member of the Committee of Privileges and Chairman of the Services Committee. In all these jobs you have shown your concern for the traditions, honour and standing of this House, and no less your concern for the rights and facilities of individual Members of this House. Above all, you have shown to all of us a great love of the House of Commons. Everybody here today recognises in you a friend of the House of Commons and a friend of every single one of us, one who will be impartial, tolerant but firm; one who will be devoted at all times to the highest traditions of the great office to which 27 you have now been elected. Sir, we wish you all success.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends I wish to join the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in congratulating you on your election by this demanding but ever-discriminating House. It is no derogation from the compliments the House is addressing to you to say that my right hon. and hon. Friends take the view, and indeed always have taken the view—they took it in 1951, 1959 and 1965—that, irrespective of personalities, the Chair is best and most appropriately filled by a backbencher, and not by an ex-Minister. But although, as you have said, you have held the highest offices of State, this is a fact which we shall now all forget, as you, Sir, will now forget, as occupant of our Chair with the full confidence of us all.
Nor is it any derogation from the congratulations which the whole House would wish to pay to you if I say that I am sure it would be the view of the whole House that as soon as possible, now that you are firmly and unchallengeably established in the Chair, we should consider, perhaps through the Select Committee on Procedure, the machinery relating to the election of a Speaker in future. We should seek to provide a degree of consultation, the lack of which has led to perhaps some unfortunate and unhappy events this afternoon; but perhaps should also look for a procedure to enable the House when electing a Speaker in future, if this is to follow a Speaker's retirement, to do so in a more orderly and seemly manner.
Indeed, on these occasions we could perhaps allow the retiring Speaker to preside over our proceedings as happens in every municipality in the world when a mayor is elected. This might well be a solution, though I have no view on it, one way or the other. But in this modernising age we should look at this subject. If, as we all trust will not happen in your time, Sir, the Speakership might be vacant for other causes, I am sure that even then we could find a more orderly way of dealing with this question. I am sure that, with proper consultation, it would then be easier to arrange events so as to avoid the sort of happenings we 28 have seen today so that these proceedings could be improved.
These considerations do not of course arise now that the decision has been made, and made with the good will of the whole House. I am sure I speak for every hon. Member who, for reasons other than lack of confidence in you, Sir, voted against your election this afternoon. I am sure that every hon. Member who voted now fully accepts the authority, independence and impartiality with which you will conduct the affairs of this House.
It is customary on these occasions to list the qualities assumed to be necessary in a Speaker of this House. I am glad that today we have got away from the most obvious characteristics which have been quoted of every Speaker in the last 400 years, namely, total deafness and selective myopia. I have not myself noticed these qualities in you, Sir, over the years I have known you, though no doubt you will progressively and selectively develop them as occasion demands. Rather, those of us who have sat with you as Members of this House for 25 years, and indeed those who have come along since, want to underline that in voting for you today we are electing you for qualities you have so clearly shown, particularly during your period as Leader of the House—your perception of and concern for the rights of minorities and the wishes of the House as a whole and of individual hon. Members of this House. In that concern which you have abundantly shown over these past years lies the strength of our parliamentary democracy.
You have shown the same qualities and the same concern more recently in the performance of your duties as Chairman of one of the Select Committees of this House, particularly in regard to the way in which hon. Members are able to do their work in this House, both their work for Parliament and for their constituents. You have long experience of the Committee of Privileges of which, as the Home Secretary rightly said, you were a member. More than that, you were Chairman of that Committee, because I had the privilege to serve under you in that capacity in 1963–64, when you were Leader of the House.
Finally, you inherit a vast array of parliamentary conventions and precedents of which even the weighty Erskine 29 May can be only a brief summary. With your sense of Parliament, you will know when to follow those conventions and precedents, but equally you will know when the better working of the Parliament of the 1970s demands a certain, if I may use the expression yet again, "selective myopia" about precedents which have outlived their usefulness. You will know when to break with precedent.
No one will envy you one of your most onerous duties—that of selecting speakers from a list which so often far transcends the number for whom time can be found. As a Privy Councillor of long standing, as you are, you will be assailed by other right hon. Members desirous, from the weight of their experience, their innate qualities and, as is true of all Privy Councillors, their power of brevity in expression, of exercising a priority right of speaking—and, of course, as this Parliament proceeds there will be on the Government side a growing number of right hon. Gentlemen gravitating from the Front Bench to the back benches and pressing themselves upon you for selection. I am sure, Mr. Speaker-Elect, that you will be interpreting the views of the whole House if you exercise a certain discretion in not following a convention of this House—which, in any case, I understand is no longer held—by giving back benchers who are not yet members of the Front Bench an equal opportunity of selection.
This afternoon I know that the whole House will wish to join in expressing our congratulations, in expressing our confidence and, above all, in expressing our personal good wishes to you in the lonely task which you are taking up, and in expressing to you also the view that if you can find some ways of breaking that loneliness, and even removing the convention of remoteness, you will have many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides who will be willing to help you to do it.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, I can imagine few more embarrassing things than to have to sit and listen to a eulogy in one's lifetime, even though the facts be true, and I do not intend to extend that embarrassment for longer than just a moment. In fact, I intend to prove the accuracy of the 30 prophecy made just now by the Leader of the Opposition about the brevity of speeches by Privy Councillors.
I would, however, if I may respectfully do so, like to congratulate you very warmly on the honour which the House has conferred upon you and, if I may without sounding presumptuous, say that I congratulate you as a friend for whom I have a very great affection. I was in no doubt as to your impartiality from the experience of having you as a kindly neighbour behind me when the Conservative Party was in Opposition: indeed, one of the many disadvantages of the change of Government was that you departed from that scene to sit opposite. But I had no doubt from comments—caustic, accurate, brief but charitable—directed at both Front Benches that you had the quality of impartiality.
I knew that in one regard having been a Minister could be a disadvantage, and that knowledge came from an experience which I recently had with you in a matter relating very strictly to foreign affairs. I well remember that it was my privilege to accompany you and the Foreign Secretary from the heart of Bonn to the airport, and I am quite certain that both those distinguished companions, stripped of their Parliamentary Private Secretaries, their civil servants, their permanent advisers, their official cars, their V.I.P. treatment, had they not had a humble back bencher like myself with them, would certainly not have caught the aeroplane and probably would not have arrived at the right airport either.
You, Sir, are a lawyer, and if I may declare an interest I believe that that is potentially a very excellent training for almost any position in the realm. I have no doubt that the skill, forensic and otherwise, that you showed in the courts will enable you to show the lucidity and objectivity which is a prerequisite of every successful Speaker.
As Chairman of the Services Committee, as Leader of the House and, indeed, if I am not likely myself to be committed for contempt for disclosing what goes on in the Committee of Privilege, as a very active member of that Committee as well, you have, if I may say so, shown yourself to be first and foremost a House of Commons man with 31 an intense interest not only in the traditions of the House of Commons but in the welfare of its individual members.
Therefore, Sir, I wish you well. It might be less embarrassing to future Speakers if we could look at the procedure. Having myself set up machinery to investigate just those very processes within 24 hours of my own election as Leader of the Liberal Party—because precisely the same criticisms were levelled—I feel sure that I have done a good turn to all my successors, whoever they may be. I do therefore urge on the House the wisdom of taking that course.
In the position of Speaker one has to be, I suggest, more than judicial. It is very easy to be a judge; simply to give a judgment which the litigant has to accept or reject—and if he rejects it he then has the expense of an appeal. But I suggest that a judgment given in this House must not only be right on the precedents, but must have compassion and must have sense—and sometimes a little humour as well. Speaking for myself and my colleagues and, I think, for the whole House, we are confident that you have those qualities, and therefore it is in that spirit that I congratulate you, if I may, and wish you every good fortune in the very great, the very lonely and the very important task to which you have just been elected.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, may I as Father of the House offer you my congratulations. Having sat beside you on this bench—and for even a longer period on a similar bench opposite—I know the high qualities you bring to that Chair. I also know, and it is even more important, your deep affection for the House.
I remember when we first met. It was at the beginning of the war, and we were both at the Staff College at Camberley. You were there as a second lieutenant. Within a very short time you became a brigadier on the staff of the Second Army in the invasion of Europe. You had profited far more than any other student at the Staff College from what you had learned there.
Equally quickly did you profit in this House. Right hon. and hon. Members 32 have spoken about the time when you held high office in the House, but what I think is more important to the Chair you now occupy is the fact that when you came into the House you were a very independent back bencher: independent in the cause of independent television; quite ready to fight your battles as an independent Member. Those are the qualities we admire. In many cases we confer an honour on a Member in making him Speaker, but in this case I believe that it is you who, by accepting this onerous burden, are conferring an honour upon the House.
This is the last occasion, Mr. Speaker-Elect, on which we can offer you advice without having to put down a Motion on the Order Paper. When Mr. Speaker King—whose Speakership I believe to have been one of the finest periods in the history of the Speakership of the House—was first appointed I offered him advice by saying that I believed that the whole House was ready to accept a greater measure of discipline from the Speaker, knowing that by the exercise of that discipline more hon. Members might be able to take part in debate. I repeat that advice to you, Mr. Speaker-Elect.
I am pleased that the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) drew attention to "phoney" points of order—a disease that has grown year by year and that has never been cured so far by any Speaker however eminent. By heredity you should be able to cure disease. As a lawyer and diplomat, even as a Chancellor of the Exchequer, the qualities you have used can be brought to cure this disease. I hope that by the time you feel you wish to lay down your Speakership this problem of "phoney" points of order will have been cured under your illustrious Speakership.
§ Mr. Maudling
I have to signify that it is Her Majesty's pleasure that this House should present their Speaker on this day at 5.15 p.m. in the House of Peers, for Her Majesty's Royal Approbation.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Sitting suspended till 5.15 p.m.
§ On resuming—
§ Message to attend the Lords Commissioners;33
§ The House went:—and, having returned;
I have to report to the House that this House has been to the House of Peers, where Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to signify by her Lords Commissioners her approbation of the choice of myself as Speaker to this House.
My first duty in the House is to repeat my respectful acknowledgements of the 34 honour it has done me and the confidence that it has reposed in me, and to renew the assurance of my entire devotion to the service of the House.