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Points of Order

Volume 669: debated on Tuesday 7 January 2020

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for raising a complicated matter, but I hope that you have been given warning that this might be raised. It concerns the election tomorrow of a Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means and the other Deputy Speakers. There is a deal of confusion about how the voting system works. It is extremely complicated, because we are electing three posts, but with restrictions. There must be one woman. There must be one Member of the Opposition and two must come from the Government side, and one will be Chairman of Ways and Means. Can you clarify, therefore, that a voter’s first preferences may be counted even if that voter’s first preference choice is elected, which may affect the outcome of the election of the Chairman of Ways and Means?

I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman did not raise that in 2010, when I stood. You have managed to cope with the system all this time. You have managed to accept it until now, and I find it quite strange for this suddenly to be raised at the last minute. The House has been aware of this voting system and it has accepted it. However, I think that this is slightly premature because at 6 o’clock we will know how the system will work and whether one candidate is automatically elected. That may be a woman—I am not sure. It might be better if we waited until 6 pm to see what the system throws up because this answer will be different, depending on what happens.

However, I assure the House that I was not impressed with this system in 2010. The House has had many chances to change it. If Members are unhappy, it is up to the House to change the system. Please do so, because back in 2010 I genuinely thought that it was not the best. If you are still telling me that it is not good now, there is a way to do something, but I find it strange that we have waited all this time to raise this.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Assuming that there is an election tomorrow, could you inform the House, first, that everybody will be required to vote only once and that their vote will be ranked; and secondly, what arrangements in terms of time and place you have made for the election to take place tomorrow?

Standing Order No. 2A sets out the rules on the election of Deputy Speakers. There is a secret ballot. Candidates are in alphabetical order. Members can vote for as many or as few candidates on the ballot paper as they wish, marking the candidates in order of preference. Ballots are counted under the single transferable vote. Nominations close at 6 pm this afternoon—so we will know the list, which may help. See paragraph 10 of the briefing notes—Members each have one vote, which is transferable. The wording will be on the ballot paper, with an explanation of that. What time it is declared will depend on the count and how quick that is, but obviously, other business will defer the announcement of it. My understanding is that the vote takes place between 10 am and 1.30 pm, as I stated earlier—I pointed out what time the ballot is open. Hopefully, that is helpful to Members and we can move on, as we have a long night ahead of us.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is about elections, but not those elections, I am afraid. As you will know, members of the new Government were appointed on 24 July last year. Many of them have yet to face a Select Committee grilling, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Secretary. The Leader of the House’s office at the moment is telling the press that it is unlikely that Select Committees will be in place before Easter. That would mean that those Ministers would have ruled this country for nine months without ever facing a grilling from a Select Committee. Is there anything in your power that you can do to make sure that this process is expedited, so that the proper duties of scrutiny can be done by this House?

I would like to think that a conversation will take place between the usual channels, and anything that I can do to help to ensure that we get Committees up and running, I will. I think that it is better for the House and it gives Members a real interest in getting their teeth into holding the Government to account and making sure that Select Committees are effective. [Interruption.] I hear one voice saying, “I have done two already.” Some may not have, but others have certainly carried out their duties.