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Speaker’s Statement

Volume 510: debated on Thursday 27 May 2010

I should like to make a relatively brief statement. May I congratulate all Members on their success in being elected to this, the 55th Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? In particular, I should like to congratulate those who have been elected to the House for the first time—the largest number of new Members since 1997. The House always has sympathy with former Members who have lost out in the electoral contest, but there is no doubt that it also benefits from the regular infusion of fresh blood. I am sure that that will be true on this occasion.

I draw Members’ attention in particular to the House’s code of conduct, which we should all observe in letter and in spirit. Members are answerable for their conduct in this place not just to the House but to the public. While the new Parliament gives the House the opportunity to put behind us the events of the last few years, we cannot expect to be under any less scrutiny than our predecessors. At the same time, we should explain to the public how we work on behalf of our constituents.

On receiving royal approbation for my re-election as Speaker, I made the traditional claim to Her Majesty for all the House’s ancient and undoubted rights and privileges, particularly to freedom of speech in debate. That is at the very heart of what we do here for our constituents, and it allows us to conduct our debates without fear of outside interference, but it is a freedom that we need to exercise responsibly in the public interest, and taking into account the interests of others outside this House. I would encourage any Member to research carefully and to take advice before exercising this freedom in sensitive or individual cases.

I should like also to reiterate three key points about security. First: wear your photo-identity pass while you are on the parliamentary estate and take it off when you leave. The pass is particularly helpful for enabling our security and police officers to get to know who Members are, and with large numbers of people working here and visiting, it must be immediately apparent that people are in the right place and helped when they are not. Secondly, you are responsible for the behaviour of your visitors and for ensuring they are escorted in non-public areas of the estate. Thirdly, security is everyone’s responsibility. Please be vigilant and tell the Serjeant at Arms about any concerns you have on the subject. I will write to all Members soon with my updated guidance on conventions and courtesies of the House. Most of these will already be familiar from the “New Members’ guidebook”.

I have one last request to make of Members: brevity. If I am to fulfil my promise to champion the rights of Back Benchers, I want to be able to call as many as possible to ask questions and speak in debate. It is a simple equation: the shorter each question, the more Members may ask one. I will inevitably show my impatience when questions—and answers—are too long, and the more concise you are in debates, the more likely it is that others can speak and that you can do so next time.

Yesterday, I announced the timing of the ballot for the election of Deputy Speakers on Tuesday 8 June. I am now announcing an extension to the time, in order to allow Members to take part in the ballot and to attend the service for the new Parliament in St Margaret’s, which is being held that morning. The ballot for the election of Deputy Speakers will therefore be open from 10 am to 12 noon on Tuesday 8 June.