The right hon. and learned Kenneth Clarke, the Member for Rushcliffe, took the Chair (Standing Order No. 1(1)).
The House will now proceed to the election of a new Speaker in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order No. 1B. In a moment, I will call the candidates to address the House in the order in which I drew their names by lot this morning. The order of speaking was published this morning and has, I think, been visible on the Annunciator to all Members, but it is purely random. I have asked each candidate to speak for no more than five minutes. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] The candidates will no doubt be further advised by that response. When all candidates have addressed the House, we will proceed to the first ballot.
I am sure that all the other candidates in the election today will agree with me, Mr Clarke, when I say that none of us can match the experience that you have in this place, or the esteem in which you are held. You are leaving us after half a century of service, and we thank you for that service, but others are leaving in part because of what our politics has become. As the House is the crucible of our politics, that should concern us all, which is why the role of Speaker matters so much.
I am putting myself forward after 22 years of diverse experience as a Back Bencher, a Minister, a shadow Leader of the House, a Chief Whip and a Deputy Speaker. Restoring public confidence in Parliament is all our responsibility, but the Speaker sets the tone. My view is that the Speaker’s job is not to dominate proceedings or speak for Parliament but to facilitate debate and allow Parliament to speak for itself, with all its different voices and in all its diverse voices.
During my time as Opposition Chief Whip, I worked with the majority and minority parties to build consensus where we could, and I made sure that we did not fall out when we could not agree. As Deputy Speaker, I have been struck by the fact that in so many of our debates there is consensus, with members of different parties working together to find common ground. Of course, there will always be times when the House is rumbustious; that is fine. What the public do not like is ill temper and intolerance. The turbulent time in our politics has put this institution, and all of us, under great strain. [Interruption.] Order! [Laughter.] The phone ringing was not a set-up, I promise you.
The Executive must be allowed to carry out their mandate when it is given by the people, but Members of Parliament must also be allowed to scrutinise legislation and hold the Government to account. The Speaker has a crucial role in getting that balance right. If there is a logjam, the Speaker should help Parliament to find a way through—to bring parties together to solve the problem. In all the posts I have held, I have been a conciliator; as Speaker, I would douse the flames, not pour petrol on them—a stabilising, unifying Speaker, and a Speaker from the north so that the public see that Parliament is about the whole country, not just London. And the last woman from the north did a pretty good job.
To gain respect from the public, we must show each other respect. The next Speaker must lead by the example she sets, changing the tone and lowering the temperature when the House gets overheated. As Deputy Speaker, I have tried to do that; I hope Members feel I have been impartial, not impatient.
As Deputy Speaker, I have seen tempers rise if there is too much disruption of business. Urgent questions are an important innovation of our last Speaker, but I have seen Members become frustrated, having worked hard on a speech only to end up being squeezed by a three-minute time limit. Urgent business must be debated when it is urgent, but UQs and statements should not take hours, neither should PMQs—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] If a Member does not get called, they should get priority next time, and newer Members should not always have to wait until last to be called. All our constituencies have the same right to be heard.
Parliament should be a workplace free from bullying and harassment. The Commission must be at the centre of changing the culture of Parliament. It should be accessible to Members and staff and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority should stop getting in the way of Members doing their jobs. MPs who are parents or have caring responsibilities need proper support; we must become a modern, family-friendly workplace.
My dad was a headteacher in Doncaster and I bump into people he taught all the time. He is remembered not as a fierce disciplinarian, but as someone who was fair, encouraging and trusted—not a bad legacy. My ambition as Speaker would be to follow his example: not seek the limelight, but build trust.
Politics can be cruel. A young lad came up to me in Tonypandy the other day. He could not quite place who I was, but he knew he had seen me somewhere, maybe on telly. I said, “Well, maybe it’s because I am the MP for the Rhondda,” and he said, “No, that’s Chris Bryant—and he’s much younger than you.” For the record, I am 57, older than John Bercow.
Politics has, however, felt especially cruel in the past few years. Many of us feel battered and bruised, and many of the public feel that Parliament has been a bit of a bearpit, but we speak as we find and my personal experience from earlier this year, when I was wandering around looking like I was auditioning for the part of the monster in “Frankenstein”, was that there are untold, countless moments of personal, enormous generosity in this House, and most of the country would be enormously proud of the way we do our business if only they knew.
The truth is that politics is an honourable profession. Every single one of us in this House entered politics because we wanted to change the world for the better, and often the individual campaigns that we run touch millions of lives: just think of the campaign to get Brineura for children with Batten disease; think of the work that has been done on getting an inquiry on contaminated blood, or for that matter on children’s funerals or on people trafficking. There are so many different campaigns, including the one I dedicated myself to on acquired brain injury and melanoma. That is why it is so important that we revitalise and stand up for parliamentary democracy and return to the rulebook—stitch it back together.
I am standing because I love Parliament—I believe in parliamentary democracy and I want to do things properly. That means being a Speaker who has absolutely no favourites, who believes in standing by the rules, who is completely impartial, and who knows “Erskine May” inside out and back to front—I have it lying by my bedside—[Laughter.] All right! It means being a Speaker who is an umpire, not a player.
This is one of the most demanding jobs in British politics. For centuries it was said that it could be done only by a top-rate lawyer, and that is because the decisions that are made by the Speaker are of constitutional significance. You have to be quick on your feet. You have to be able to defend the decision and explain it in plain English.
There are things I want to do. I want to get Prime Minister’s questions back to 30 minutes. I want to publish a speakers list for debates so that you know when you will be called, and if you do not get called today you will get called first tomorrow. I want to call colleagues according to their relevance to the subject, rather than according to some idea of seniority. I want to stop the clapping—[Applause.] Yes, very funny! Can we return to waving the Order Papers? That is the traditional way. For that matter, I also want to stop the hectoring and the addresses to the Gallery.
I want to make sure that every single MP, their families and, importantly, their staff are safe in their constituency offices and in their homes. I want to make the timing of the parliamentary day more predictable, I want to increase the human resources department, and I want to—no, I do not just want to, I will sort out the wi-fi and the mobile signal.
Let me end with three Speakers from the past. The first is Betty Boothroyd, who, when she stood for Speaker, said:
“I say to you, elect me for what I am and not for what I was born.”—[Official Report, 27 April 1992; Vol. 207, c. 15.]
I was taught as a child to judge somebody not according to the colour of their skin, their religion, their gender or sexuality, what school they went to, what accent they spoke with or what part of the country they were from, but according to the strength of their character and whether they could do the job well. I hope you will all judge me in exactly the same way today.
The second speaker is Speaker Onslow who, in the 18th century, was the first speaker to say that he would
“be respectful and impartial to all.”
That will be my motto.
Most famously of all, the Speaker you all know, I guess, is Speaker Lenthall, who told Charles I:
“I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am”.
That is all I ask: the chance to serve.
What an honour it is to stand for this job. Like all those standing, I love this place and I only wish to serve it. I think that it is pretty good training to be Speaker to have been, as I have been, a Back Bencher for 33 out of the last 36 years—although, to be absolutely honest, nobody asked me to serve any longer on the Front Bench.
One of the reasons many people enjoy their service on the Back Benches is that they love holding the Government to account and being sincere to their beliefs, however unpopular those beliefs are. That is the sort of Back Bencher that I want to encourage.
That is enough of me. I just want to take a moment to talk about what I believe the Speaker should be. I am with Chris and Rosie on this. I think the Speaker should submerge his or her character in the job. The Speaker should be the servant of the House. The Speaker should be a dignified and quiet voice, and I believe that all the candidates standing today can achieve that.
I believe that we in this Parliament should not be contemptuous of what we have achieved over the past three years. Insults have been hurled at us, but Chris mentioned our famous forebear and how he, as our Speaker, made it clear that he was only the servant of the House. We who sit in this House should be proud of what we have achieved over the past three years as the cockpit of the political nation, where every point of view can be heard, debated and thrashed out. I believe that we can make this place even better. It is no accident that the great speeches in history in this place were precisely that: speeches. They were not interminable self-regarding interventions or points of order or statements that go on forever. We should recreate the great debates in this place and allow adequate time and be fair to everybody, so that everybody gets a fair crack of the whip, literally, to put their point of view.
We can go from strength to strength, but this place is not just about words—important as they are—or votes; it is also about a sense of history and a sense of place. I particularly wanted to stand in this election to make this point: we must preserve this world heritage site, but we must preserve it in a way—here I speak as somebody who served for 18 years as Chairman either of the Public Accounts Committee or the Public Accounts Commission—that looks after the interests of our paymasters, the taxpayers. We cannot waste billions of pounds. We have to do the job properly, but we have to do it right. You have all received a letter from SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which proves that we can do the job cheaply and efficiently with the erection of a temporary Chamber, rather by demolishing Richmond house and wasting billions of pounds. I particularly wanted to make that point, because we have a duty of care to our constituents in terms of the money.
Those are my priorities, and I want to ensure that once again this place can be the forum of great, determined and sincere speeches. I end by saying that nobody here should worry about what they have done or what they have achieved in recent years. Be of good heart, be of good cheer, be sincere to your beliefs and above all, dear friends, hold the Executive to account whoever they are, because that is what this place is all about.
When I was growing up in the small village of Elderslie in the west of Scotland, who would have thought that little Eleanor from across the road would one day end up standing to be the Speaker of the House of Commons? I certainly did not. It is a great testament to our country and to our democracy that this moment is even possible.
I begin, Mr Clarke, by paying tribute to you on this your last day in the House after nearly 50 years. Thank you for your service. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I imagine that you are finding that the House looks rather different from where you are now sitting compared with your usual seat up here. Well, I know how you feel.
Standing where I am today, for the first time in six years, reminds me of how easy it is to see ourselves as “us and them”, whereas for the last six years, sitting there in the Chair, it has seemed to me just to be us—us, the House—because that is how it should be from the Chair. It is the role of the Speaker not to create division or rancour in this House, but to seek consensus and to remind us of the things that unite us all: our rules, our procedures, and our precious conventions. As Rosie and Chris rightly said, and despite what our detractors say, the House of Commons is full of good people—
Hear, hear!—[Laughter.] In all corners of this place there are good people who genuinely want to make the world a better place. Of course we all have different ideas about how we would do that, but even if we sometimes fall short, our intentions are, in a word, honourable.
I am very sad that so many hon. Members, whom I see as I look around the Chamber, have decided to leave the House tomorrow. It is time someone had the courage to defend Members of Parliament, not just inside this House but outside it as well. Defending Members of Parliament is what I will do if the House makes me Speaker, because failing to stand up for the honourable men and women who come to this place to do their public duty not only harms the individual MP but weakens Parliament in the eyes of the nation.
We all know that, beyond the Westminster bubble, there is real anxiety about the health of our democratic system. We need to rebuild confidence and trust in our politics, and it must begin with this election today. There are times for continuity and there are times for change. This is a time for change, and I want to be that change.
This is the 21st century, for goodness’ sake. We need to escape the overbearing and hierarchical structures that have made it all too easy for a culture of bullying to take root. As Deputy Speaker, I hope I have always discharged my duties with consistency, with courtesy and with kindness.
Despite being a lawyer, for which you will have to forgive me, I always try to remember that we are dealing not merely with rules and laws here; we are also dealing with the welfare of people. That is why the most urgent change I want to see is making the Speaker more accountable than at any time in our history. While I am at it, may I just say that it is not the role of the Speaker to say any more than needs to be said nor to take up time in this Chamber, especially when that robs Back Benchers of their precious speaking time? [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!] Well, I am glad someone agrees with allocated minutes.
The Speaker is not the ruler of the House of Commons but its servant. It is in that spirit that I ask the House to entrust to me this most historic and special role.
I think we all know there is a lack of trust in Parliament and politics right now, with everything from the behaviour in the Chamber to the allegations of bullying and sexual assault—we have had three such allegations since this race for the speakership began just six weeks ago—and the general state of politics out there in the nation. So the next Speaker has a key role in setting the tone, yes, in the Chamber but also with colleagues in this place who support us in our work and in the country.
I would be a Speaker who speaks less, but when I speak it will be with the clear intent of standing up for MPs. The House has heard from other candidates today and at the hustings that we are in broad agreement on how to manage the Chamber. We want to be champions—I certainly would be—of better conduct. I would be an impartial Speaker, a director rather than an actor. We also want better time keeping. Urgent questions and statements are going on too long, and that greater discipline would give greater certainty on timings so we can plan the rest of our lives. We need an end to short time limits.
I have a track record of fairness and of delivering what I promise. I have chaired the Public Accounts Committee for the last four and a half years, and I have introduced a new way of working on the Select Committee corridor. As a Minister, I dealt fairly with all MPs, whatever their party, because, let us not forget, we are all here only because our constituents elect us. We respect each other, we respect our constituents—it is as simple as that. Some time ago, I was mayor of a hung council in London, where I had the casting vote, while also being the first citizen, so I had to handle some pretty difficult situations in a fraught council chamber. But I am not a grandstanding politician. I would speak little, and, as many of you know, I am incredibly discreet when you come to see me about matters in your constituency. I would not seek self-publicity, but would speak up only for MPs, and for Parliament and our democracy.
We need better support for MPs. There is too little personal development and careers advice, and that shows up starkly when so many Members are leaving with short notice and we have Members losing seats. Of course, on restoration and renewal, it was my amendment that moved us forward, so we will be leaving the building. We need to tackle that, and I am already working up plans on how we monitor the cost—of course that is important—but this is also an opportunity to rekindle trust in our politics and our democracy, to rekindle how we do things and how we change the culture of this place. As Speaker, I would have your back—on unfair publicity, on expenses. More than that, I would work to educate the public about what great work MPs do in this place, and I would step up the approach to personal security and online bullying, which is leading to too many colleagues leaving this place because it is intolerable.
However, the main thrust of why I am standing is about the bullying and harassment that is still too rife in this building. It is just over a year since Dame Laura Cox reported and, yes, we need an independent process in place, but we need more than that. Gemma White’s report earlier this year highlighted problems in our own offices. There is a good list of MPs to work for and a bad list of MPs to work for—staff know this, we know this. It may be an uncomfortable message. It may not be a vote-winner today, but we should not be complacent even if we are on that good list. We should not rest while young staff in this building are fearful and tearful and afraid to raise concerns about how they have been treated. We need better HR, and supported and trained senior office managers; and we need to tackle this now. It has to stop; it is going to be the next expenses scandal, colleagues, if we do not tackle this. We have to lead by example. We have to put our own house in order and call out bad behaviour where necessary—but we need to prevent it before it gets to that point. We do that externally and we need to do that here. I would be utterly committed to this. I have worked up plans, and I have talked to staff and unions about how to deliver on this. We need to work with staff. We cannot talk about them without them. We need a culture shift. We have to lead by example. Don’t let this moment pass.
I will say, as has everybody else, that you will be missed in this House, Mr Clarke, but I do know one thing: I don’t think it will be the end of your voice—I think your voice will continue to give us advice for a lot longer in time.
A great hero of mine is here today: Baroness Boothroyd. She was the white rose; she was the voice of the north, and what the white rose brought, hopefully the red rose will follow.
Of course, it is an absolute privilege to speak again from these Back Benches. These are the Back Benches that matter. These are the Back Benches that hold the Executive to account, and there has been no better time than the 13 years I spent here, sometimes with the Labour Government and shortly afterwards with a different Government. But this is about making sure, whoever is in power, that those on these Benches have the right to question and hold to account. That is what matters. Of course, this is about having an accountable Speaker to back to that up: it is not just about the Back Benchers; it is about a Speaker who endorses and supports the Back Benchers. That is what I hope I have always shown during my nine years as Deputy Speaker. I have tried to ensure that not one part of this House has not been called to speak, and whatever the size of a party I have encouraged Members to make sure that their voice is heard, and I want to continue to do that.
This is not a club for people who have been here for 35 years—do not take that the wrong way, Mr Clarke. The fact is that when I look at people who have been in this House for 35 years, I think, “I’ve heard that speech before and will do again many more times.” That speech is important, but the person who walked through the Chamber door yesterday is just as important to their constituents. Their voice must be heard as well and there ought not to be a pecking order. It is about equality. We are all equal in this House when we come to speak. That is the point that we must retain, and I promise that that is what I will do.
A Speaker has to be trusted, and I hope that I have built up that trust. It is about having a proven track record, and I hope the House will agree that I have that track record. People say, “Well, I’ll do this in such an amount of time for Prime Minister’s questions,” or that they will do something else, but I have done it. I have been there and yes, we did reduce the time, because it is not about me; it is about the people on these Benches. That is why we can do it in good time and that is what I want to continue to do. When I say, “I have done it”—I have done Prime Minister’s questions, I do the Budget and I have done many other things in this House—it has all been done with fairness, which is what matters to us all.
Other Members have touched on reform. We need to continue to reform. We need to support the people in security. When I took over responsibility for security, there were no measures for MPs. There was so little for us—we did not matter. I hope people will recognise what I have done: I have stood up and made sure that we can feel safe. That job has started, but it has not finished; I want the House to give me the chance to finish it as Speaker. I promise that I will continue to fight to make sure that we are safe, our families are safe, our staff are safe and the House is safe. That is what matters.
It is about delivering for all and I assure the House that that is what I will do. It is about experience and drive. I will make sure that reform continues for the best of all. I believe that the Chamber is underused; we ought to look seriously at how much more we can get out of it. We can come forward with great ideas.
My pledge to the House and its Members is that I will be here for you. I will make sure that a Deputy Speaker can become Speaker and will not let you down. I will be accountable.
These are difficult, even dangerous times for our parliamentary democracy. The country is divided and the House is divided. The public view of this House is at an all-time low. Too often, this Chamber descends into shouting and abuse. Relations between this House and the Government are broken. Many of us work under a hail of threats of violence—against us, our families and our staff. So Members’ choice of the next Speaker is really important.
I know that the House wants a Speaker who will be, and who will be seen to be, scrupulously impartial and fair to every MP from every party. When I was Leader of the House, I was exactly that. But it is not just about being fair; it is about perception. We cannot go on with huge decisions being made by one person, behind closed doors. I would reform the Speaker’s powers to make them transparent and accountable to this House, and I would be fearless in standing up for the rights of the House.
I know that the House wants a Speaker who understands what it is to be a Government Back Bencher and an Opposition Back Bencher, and a Government Minister and a shadow Minister, and I have been all those things. My guiding principle would be that all constituencies are equal and, because of that, all Members are equal and owed equal respect. So as Speaker, I would regard it as my responsibility to help you wherever you are in the House, and however long you have been here, to be the best that you can be.
One thing that I have not been is a member of one of our minority parties. That is why, if I were Speaker, I would want a fourth deputy in my team, drawn from the members of the minority parties, so I would have that perspective right at my side.
I know you want a Speaker who will help Parliament change with the times. I have fought for and won reform: making our Select Committees powerful and independent by giving us the right to elect the Chairs rather than their being appointed by the Whips—I did that when I was Leader of the House; setting up the Backbench Business Committee so that we can choose the subject of debates—I did that, too, as Leader of the House; changing the voting system for election of Speaker to make it by secret ballot—I hope that that was a good idea; and just this year, by working with Members across parties, getting the right for new mothers and fathers to vote by proxy when your baby is born.
I am running for Speaker in these difficult times because I have unparalleled experience and an unparalleled record of reform of this House, but there is one other reason I want your vote. Parliament has changed. It is nothing like the old boys’ network it was when I first came in—when I was one of only 3% women Members among 97% men. Now, there are 211 women in every party in the House, and men here who speak up for women’s rights, too, but, in 600 years, there has only ever been one woman Speaker. I do not actually agree with making reference to the Gallery, but I will break with precedent here and pay tribute to Betty Boothroyd. So, in 600 years, there has only ever been one woman. There have been 156 men. This is my question to the House today: can we show the country that we have changed by putting the second woman in that Speaker’s Chair?
Many of you are standing down—some after only a short time here, and that should concern us all. I want to thank all of you who have served in this House and to say to all of you who are standing down that I wish you well for the future. Some are standing down after decades here, and that brings me to the Father of the House, Ken Clarke. Ken, you have been a phenomenal, exemplary parliamentarian, and I just wanted to say that and to thank you.
Thank you very much, Ms Harman. I am genuinely grateful. I have no idea what voter appeal those very kind words addressed to me will have.
All of the candidates have now addressed the House. In a moment, I will declare the ballot open. Before I do, I have to give a clear explanation of the process, which is not actually familiar to any of us. First, Members with surnames beginning with the letters A to K inclusive should vote in the Aye Lobby. Members with surnames beginning with the letters L to Z should vote in the No Lobby. Please enter the Lobbies by the main entrances as the side doors will be locked. When you enter the Lobbies, please give your name to the Clerk at the appropriate desk for the letter of your surname. As usual, surnames have been divided into three streams in each Lobby. When you pass the desk, you will be given a ballot paper. When you have completed it, please place it in one of the ballot boxes at the exit of the Lobby. That should be familiar. [Laughter.] I remind Members that they should vote only for one candidate. It is not a transferrable vote; it is an exclusive vote. The ballot will remain open for 20 minutes. I hope to announce the result of each ballot around 45 minutes after the closure of the ballot. [Interruption.] That, I think, is for counting and the printing of new ballot papers. The House will be alerted by the Annunciator before it is to resume, and Division bells will also be rung.
I declare the ballot open.
This is the result of the first ballot. The total number of ballots cast was 562. The number of votes cast for each candidate, in alphabetical order, was as follows:
Chris Bryant, 98;
Ms Harriet Harman, 72;
Meg Hillier, 10;
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, 211;
Dame Eleanor Laing, 113;
Sir Edward Leigh, 12;
Dame Rosie Winterton, 46.
There were no spoiled ballots. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] A remarkable achievement for this particular assembly.
No Member received more than 50% of the ballots cast, so we proceed to a further ballot. Meg Hillier received the fewest votes and Sir Edward Leigh also received fewer than 5% of the ballots cast, so under the rules they both leave the contest.
Before I confirm the list of candidates for the next ballot, I now invite any candidate who wishes to withdraw to inform me in the Chamber within the next 10 minutes, which means that I sit here for 10 minutes waiting for each of the candidates to carefully consider their position and then come to inform me if they wish to withdraw from the next ballot. I shall then make further announcements, and we will have to have new ballot papers printed before we actually get to the next round of voting. I will now suspend the House, and in 10 minutes’ time I will announce the candidates who are proposing to proceed to the second round of the ballot.
Order. No candidates have withdrawn, so the candidates for the next ballot are Chris Bryant, Ms Harriet Harman, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Dame Eleanor Laing and Dame Rosie Winterton. The next ballot will be opened as soon as the ballot papers have been printed, checked and put in place, which is likely to be in about 20 minutes—[Hon. Members: “Oh!”] This is an early stage of these proceedings at the present rate of progress. I will cause the bells to be rung as soon as the Lobbies are ready, and the ballot will then start. As before, Members will have 20 minutes in which to vote.
I am sure that we are both out of order, but, with great respect, although these arrangements do need revising in various other respects, with the arrangements that we have it was not possible to know who the candidates were for the next round until a proper opportunity had been given for any candidates who wished to withdraw. I am afraid that the delay is inevitable. I declare the House suspended until the next stage in the proceedings when we have the ballot papers.
Order. In a moment, I will declare open the ballot. The voting arrangements are identical to those for the last ballot, and as before, the ballot will remain open for 20 minutes. I hope to announce the result of the next ballot around 45 minutes after the closure of voting. The House will again be alerted by the Annunciator before it is to resume. Division bells will also be rung. The ballot is now open.
Order. This is the result of the second ballot. Five hundred and seventy five ballots were cast—[Hon. Members: “Ooh!”] Late arrivals, I think. The number of votes cast for each candidate was as follows:
Chris Bryant, 120;
Ms Harriet Harman, 59;
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, 244;
Dame Eleanor Laing, 122;
Dame Rosie Winterton, 30.
There were no spoiled ballots. Yet again, no Member received more than 50% of the ballots cast, so we proceed to a further ballot. Dame Rosie Winterton received the fewest votes, so she retires. Before I confirm the list of candidates for the next ballot, I now invite any candidate who wishes to withdraw to inform me in the Chamber or the Clerk Assistant in the Reasons Room within the next 10 minutes.
Order. Dame Rosie Winterton has been eliminated and Ms Harriet Harman has withdrawn her candidature. [Interruption.] I would have thought that that would be a popular gesture—not in personal terms but because it saves us a ballot. Otherwise, I am sure, there is widespread regret.
The candidates for the next ballot are Chris Bryant, Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Dame Eleanor Laing. I repeat, as I did before, that the next ballot will be opened as soon as the ballot papers have been printed, checked and put in place, which is likely to be in about 20 minutes. The Division bells will be rung as soon as the Lobbies are ready, and the ballot will then start. As before, Members will have 20 minutes to vote.
In a moment, I will declare the ballot open. The voting arrangements are identical to those for the last ballot. As before, the ballot will be open for 20 minutes. I hope to announce the result about 45 minutes after the closure of the ballot. Before we resume, the House will again be alerted by the Annunciator and the Division bell will be rung. The ballot is now open.
Order. This is the result of the third ballot. The number of ballots cast was 565. The number of votes cast for each candidate were as follows:
Chris Bryant, 169 votes;
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, 267 votes;
Dame Eleanor Laing, 127 votes.
Two ballot papers were spoiled.
Those Members with adequate mental arithmetic will know that no Member received more than 50% of the ballots cast. Dame Eleanor Laing received the fewest votes and therefore leaves the contest.
Again, before I confirm the candidates for the next ballot, I invite either candidate who wishes to withdraw to inform me in the Chamber or to inform the Clerk Assistant in the Reasons Room within the next 10 minutes.
I think Mr Bryant has done the House a considerable courtesy. We now move to what, as far as I can see, is the final and decisive ballot, for which the candidates are Chris Bryant and Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Once more, the ballot will be opened as soon as the ballot papers have been printed, checked and put in place, which is likely to be in about 15 minutes. I will cause the bells to be rung as soon as the Lobbies are ready, and the ballot will then start. As before, Members will have 20 minutes to vote.
In a moment, I will declare the ballot open. The voting arrangements are of course identical to those for the last ballot. The ballot will be open for 20 minutes. As there are only two candidates, I hope to announce the result about 30 minutes after the closure of the ballot. The House will be alerted by the Annunciator before it is to resume, and the Division bell will be rung. The ballot—the final ballot—is now open.
This is the result of the fourth and final ballot. Five hundred and forty ballots were cast—some other pressing engagements have taken people away. The number of votes cast for each candidate was as follows: Chris Bryant 213; Sir Lindsay Hoyle 325. Two ballots were spoilt. Sir Lindsay Hoyle has obviously secured more than 50% of the ballots cast.
Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 1B(10)), That Sir Lindsay Hoyle do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.
Question agreed to.
I invite Sir Lindsay Hoyle to take the Chair of the House. [Applause.]
Mr Kenneth Clarke left the Chair, and Sir Lindsay Hoyle was taken out of his place and conducted to the Chair by Jackie Doyle-Price, Mr Nigel Evans and Caroline Flint.
(standing on the upper step): No clapping. [Laughter.]
Mr Clarke, thank you for the way you have chaired our proceedings. We have kept you longer than expected and I really appreciate it. You have been steadfast in the job you have done and it really is appreciated.
May I say thank you to all the candidates? Whoever was selected would have made a great Speaker. We thank those who withdrew—Sir Henry Bellingham and Mr Shailesh Vara—for the way they wanted to ensure that we did not have to stay for another two rounds.
As I have discussed, it is about the campaign and the challenges ahead for me and this Chamber. I stand by what I have said and stand firm. I hope that this House will be once again a great, respected House, not just in here but around the world. I hope that once again it is the envy of the world. We have to make sure that that tarnish is polished away and that the respect and tolerance that we expect from everyone who works here will be shown, and we will keep that in order.
I also want to say something to my family. [Applause.] There is one difficult part that I want to get over. There is one person who is not here: my daughter Natalie. I wish she had been here. We all miss her, as a family, and none more so than her mum Miriam. I have to say that she was everything to all of us. She will always be missed but she will always be in our thoughts. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]
I hope to show that the experience I have shown previously will continue. As I have promised, I will be neutral. I will be transparent. I think that this House can do more to ensure that that transparency continues, and nowhere more than in respect of the Commission. I have never served on the Commission—I have never even seen the minutes of the Commission—but I do believe there is a need for a little bit of transparency once again.
I have to say thank you to my family, but also to the staff from my office who are also with me tonight. They have been with me for a long time. In fact, Bev, who is up there and who will get all embarrassed, has been with me for 21 years. She left university and said, “I’m never going to get married. I’m never going to have children. I don’t want any of that in my life.” Guess what? She is married; she has children; and she is still with me. The same with Peter and Mike. They have done a fantastic job. They have been really good.
I want to thank everybody. It has been a long night. I do not want to keep you any longer, but I do stand by what I have said. This House will change, but it will change for the better. Thank you, everybody.
The Speaker-Elect sat down in the Chair and the Mace was placed upon the Table.
Mr Speaker-Elect, I know that you will want to join me in thanking, first of all, the Father of the House for the way that he has conducted today’s proceedings. Where is he? [Interruption.] There he is! I pay renewed tributes to my right hon. and learned Friend who outranks just about every Member not just in length of service, but in distinction. He has held six Cabinet posts, including two great offices of state. His Hush Puppies have been found propped up on the desk of ministerial offices in four separate decades. His continuing physical and intellectual robustness are a tribute to the benefits of a lifetime’s diet of beer, curry and Castella cigars, all of which I hope he will continue to enjoy in a long and happy retirement at Trent Bridge, or touring the famous jazz clubs in West Bridgford.
Mr Speaker-Elect, in congratulating you on your election, I observe that you have prevailed over an extremely strong field and that every other candidate earlier on spoke forcefully and well. I will not presume to identify exactly what characteristics other Members of this House saw in you when they elected you just now, but speaking for myself, after long and happy years of dealing with you, I think I know what it is. Let me say that, whenever any of us is preparing to speak in this Chamber, we all know that there is a moment between standing up and when the Speaker calls us when our heart is in our mouth and in that moment of anxiety about whether we are going to make a fool of ourselves and, indeed, at the moment when we sit down amid deafening silence, the kindliness of the Speaker is absolutely critical to our confidence and the way that we behave.
Mr Speaker-Elect, over the years, I have observed that you have many good qualities. I am sure that you will stick up for Back Benchers in the way that you have proposed, and I am sure you will adhere to a strict Newtonian concept of time in PMQs. I believe that you will also bring your signature kindness and reasonableness to our proceedings, thereby helping to bring us together as a Parliament and as a democracy. No matter how fiercely we may disagree, we know that every Member comes to this place with the best of motives, determined to serve the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world and to achieve our goals by the peaceable arts of reason and debate invigilated by an impartial Speaker, which was, and remains, one of our greatest gifts to the world. Thank you, Mr Speaker-Elect, and congratulations.
Mr Speaker-Elect, may I join others in offering my congratulations to you on winning the election, and thank the Father of the House for conducting the election in the way in which he did? Congratulations and commiserations to the other candidates who did not succeed in getting elected, but who nevertheless made sure that we had a good campaign and serious debate all across the House; that was very important.
We are well aware, Mr Speaker-Elect, of your abilities at chairing the House because we have been through Finance Bills and Budgets in which you are robust in ensuring that people stick to the point and the subject of the debate, as some comrades on my side of the House and Members on the Government side sometimes deviate from the subject in hand—unprecedented, I know, but there we are.
In your position, Mr Speaker-Elect, you are going to need eyes in the back of your head. It is a difficult job; you do not know what is coming at you next. I realise that you have actually been in training in this regard, because I have been looking at a photograph of you at the weekend apparently watching the rugby world cup final while at the same time not watching the television. The only conclusion that I can draw from this is that you literally do have eyes in the back of your head, because you were able to make some very wise comments about the progress of the match that you were apparently not watching at the same time. These qualities alone equip you to be an absolutely brilliant Chair of this House.
Mr Speaker-Elect, as you have said and many know, the job of Speaker is not just a ceremonial one. It is about the rights of Back Benchers to be able to speak up and the power of Parliament to hold the Government to account. The whole principle and point of a parliamentary democracy is that we have a strong Parliament that can hold the Executive to account, and I know that you will stand up for that principle because that is what you believe in. It is absolutely at the heart of our political system.
Mr Speaker-Elect, you take the wellbeing of everybody who works in this building, and of Members, very seriously. This is a fevered and imaginative place that we all work in. People are put under enormous stress, and both staff and Members of this House sometimes find themselves in a lonely and desperate place because of that. I know that you take your responsibilities in that area very seriously and that you want to make this an even more compassionate and humane place in which to work.
Mr Speaker-Elect, thank you for your work and for taking this job on, but also for assuring us that you will always stand up for the democratic values that this House represents and the power of an elected Parliament to express its views and hold the Executive to account, because that is the whole principle behind our parliamentary democracy.
Congratulations, Mr Speaker-Elect. Some Members on the Scottish National party Benches thought that we might salute you by singing the “Ode to Joy”, but we got into a little bit of trouble the last time we tried that when you were in the Chair. I am sure that the Father of the House would not have minded though, and we congratulate him on chairing today’s proceedings.
All the candidates said that they would protect and respect the rights of the third party and the smaller parties in this House, and we appreciate and look forward to that. Not quite as many SNP Members are here as there might have been in other circumstances, but we look forward to coming back in even greater numbers after 12 December to congratulate you more fully, Mr Speaker-Elect. Your predecessor presided over historic times and I think there are historic times yet to come. Perhaps you will be presiding over independence for Scotland. We look forward to the years to come and wish you every success.
I thank the Father of the House for the way in which he conducted this election. Congratulations from the Liberal Democrat Benches on your new role, Mr Speaker-Elect. You have been clear that you want to be a strong champion for Back Benchers in this place, and have always conducted yourself with good humour and taken great care of Members in this place. The focus that you placed on the importance of health and wellbeing—particularly mental health—in your election campaign is very welcome indeed for those who work here, including Members and others in different roles.
Mr Speaker-Elect, you take the Chair at a time of great challenge for our democracy. The issues of security that you have championed as Deputy Speaker are more important than ever, with increasing threats. The focus on stamping out the unacceptable culture of bullying and harassment is hugely important. I hope you will also continue the work of modernisation of this place that we have seen in the past decade. I welcome your pledge on outreach to make sure that we reach out to disadvantaged groups. We should none of us be happy until this place properly represents the communities that we serve.
I wish you well in your new role. It is not one that will necessarily be a popularity contest where you will find yourself welcomed by everybody, but I may at least hope that you will frustrate the various parts of this House equally.
Thank you, Mr Speaker-Elect. It gives me great pleasure to be able to call you that and to wish you well. I want to thank the Father of the House for the way that he conducted the election, and the staff of the House as well. You have already demonstrated in your role in the Chair on certain occasions how you intend to conduct yourself, and I think that will be welcome across the House. I think that the House is looking for a breath of fresh air and a way forward that is broadly based, and your vote tonight reflects a broad consensus across the House. I wish you extremely well for the future, and your family. Of course, with all the challenges that you have been through in recent times, you have come through that all the stronger, and much admired. You have been a good friend, not just when you were seeking votes but long before that. Thank you.