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Points of Order

Volume 667: debated on Tuesday 29 October 2019

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 4 November, the House could be dissolved on Tuesday. Let us imagine that that new Speaker were then not to be elected when representatives of other parties stood against him or her in the constituency. In that event, a Speaker would be sitting in your Chair for just one day, which would be a great deal less than seemly. There are a number of other reasons—to do with pensions, for instance—for that not to be allowed.

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?

Order. We do not want a spate of points of order. The point has been made with great clarity and courtesy by the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller). However, if the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) really thinks that he has anything to add, I will come to him in a moment.

No, no, not yet. I am keeping the hon. Gentleman waiting because someone else signalled before he did, but I thank the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (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 12 December, the requirement for a 25-day dissolution before that would mean that the House would be dissolved next Wednesday.

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 the hon. Member for Lichfield (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 the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (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 9 September and I meant it. I have not the slightest ambition to serve any longer than the close of business on Thursday. Having been a Member of this place for 22 years and Speaker for 10, I will do my duty and, if the House asks me to do as people have requested, of course I take that extremely seriously and as close to being an instruction as makes no difference, but I do not think that it should be resolved here and now.

I hope I have given an earnest account of my good intentions and let us 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.

Bills Presented

Northern Ireland Budget Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Julian Smith, supported by the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and Rishi Sunak, presented a Bill to authorise the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of Northern Ireland of certain sums for the service of the year ending 31 March 2020; to appropriate those sums for specified purposes; to authorise the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland to borrow on the credit of the appropriated sums; and to authorise the use for the public service of certain resources (including accruing resources) for that year.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 9) with explanatory notes (Bill 9-EN).

Early Parliamentary General Election

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

The Prime Minister, supported by Secretary Dominic Raab, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Michael Gove, Secretary Priti Patel, Oliver Dowden and Secretary Stephen Barclay, presented a Bill to make provision for a parliamentary general election to be held on 12 December 2019.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time today, and to be printed (Bill 10) with explanatory notes (Bill 10-EN).