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Chairman Of Ways And Means And Deputy Chairman

Volume 772: debated on Wednesday 30 October 1968

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Motion made, and Question proposed,

That Mr. Sydney Irving be the Chairman of Ways and Means, and that Mr. Harry Gourlay be the Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.—[ Mr. Peart.]

On a point of order. Would you be prepared, Mr. Speaker, to accept an Amendment that the Government should divide the Motion into two parts?

I am quite willing to divide the Motion into two parts. It has been done in the past.

Question, That Mr. Sydney Irving be appointed Chairman of Ways and Means— put and agreed to.

Question proposed,

That Mr. Harry Gourlay be Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.

I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say that we warmly endorse all that has been said about the previous Chairman of Ways and Means. We are grateful to him. May I say that it has been a pleasure to serve under him on the Panel of Temporary Chairmen.

May I also say that what I am about to address to the House now is not intended, in any way, to be a reflection upon the hon. Member who has been proposed to serve as Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. I have great respect for the hon. Member, and apologise for not having given him any notice of this, but I was not quite certain whether we were to have this Motion before us this afternoon.

I would like to refer to a short debate which took place in rather similar circumstances on 29th January, 1962, when the same sort of issue came before the House. It was the now right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. Horace King) who sought to challenge the appointment as Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means of an hon. Member of the House who had not been serving as a Chairman on the Temporary Panel hitherto.

I believe that it is absolutely right for the Government of the day to recommend an hon. Member from their own side to fill this appointment. Some other hon. Members would not agree, but I believe it right that the Government of the day should find both the Chairman of Ways and Means and his Deputy. It is worth recalling what the right hon. Member for Itchen had to say on the occasion to which I have referred:
"…there are a number of hon. Members who have for quite a number of years now undertaken the office of Chairman of Committee and are members of the Chairman's Panel, and we think that it would be much more appropriate if the Leader of the House and the Government were to consider this matter further and then bring to the House at a later date the name of someone from the party opposite…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1962; Vol. 652, c. 711.]
I would prefer that he should be someone from the Government side, now serving on the Chairmen's Panel, who would be acceptable to the House. I warmly endorse the sentiments then expressed and ask the Government whether we could have another opportunity of considering the second Motion.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Fred Peart)

I note with interest the reference to the speech of the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. Horace King). I should like to repeat the speech of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), who had to reply on that occasion as Leader of the House. I understand the argument put forward by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). It has been deployed before. The hon. Gentleman put the argument very fairly and implied no criticism of any individual concerned.

Experience of the Chair is, of course, very important, and the whole House owes a debt to those who serve Mr. Speaker on the Chairmen's Panel. Naturally, when a vacancy of this sort becomes known, consideration is given to members of that Panel, but that does not preclude consideration also being given to other hon. Members. Indeed, it is quite often found that the most suitable choice lies outside the Panel.

The hon. Gentleman proposed in the Motion to be Chairman of Ways and Means—a proposal which, I am glad to note, commends itself to every hon. Member—himself had no experience of the Chair when he became Deputy Chairman. Nor had his predecessor as Deputy Chairman. Of all the Deputy Chairmen appointed since the office came into being—and I have gone into the matter carefully, because I thought that an hon. Member would probably raise it—more than half did not have previous experience of the Chair.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, you may recall that neither of your two predecessors in the most important office that you hold had had experience of the Chair before becoming Speaker.

I ask the House to accept that no discourtesy is intended to members of the Chairmen's Panel. Those who have the responsibility of making proposals to the House must not feel limited in their consideration to that Panel. I hope that what I propose is accepted.

May I say that Mr. Speaker cannot comment in any way on the views of the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen. Mr. Speaker has no opinions.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That Mr. Harry Gourlay be Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.