Sir George proposes Michael Martin as Speaker
13 Jun 2001
In one of the first speeches of the new Parliament, Sir George proposed that Michael Martin take the Chair as Speaker. Then in accordance with tradition, helped to "drag" the Speaker to the Chair.

The photograph, by Deryc R. Sands, editor of the Palace of Westminster Staff News, is reproduced with permission. The Speaker was dragged to the Chair by Ann Keen MP (to his right) and Sir George (behind him).


Extract from Hansard:

2.56 pm
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): I beg to move,
That Mr. Michael J. Martin do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.

Mr. Dalyell, I begin by congratulating you on your accession as Father of the House. Given your commitment to the House and your knowledge of how to use it effectively, it gives all of us pleasure to see you supervising our proceedings today. I, too, wish you a full and speedy recovery. I also hope that you will continue to be as irreverent to those on your Front Bench as your predecessor as Father of the House was to mine. [Laughter.]
As we meet this afternoon, there are two important vacancies in our political institutions, and I am happy to make a nomination for one of them. In commending the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) as Speaker, I congratulate him on his re-election to Parliament. Although his election was contested, I suspect that he did not experience the aggravation that the rest of us suffered in getting here. I mention in passing that we in North-West Hampshire saw a new form of co-operation between the other two parties: the Labour party ran a low-key campaign to let the Liberal Democrats have a clear shot at me; and the Liberal Democrats ran a low-key campaign to give Labour a shot. [Laughter.] I am happy to say that my majority increased to more than 12,000.
There are two reasons why I move the motion, the first of which is continuity. I do not believe that our Speaker should be put into play at the beginning of every Parliament. I can do no better than quote the second report of the Select Committee on Procedure, published in February:

"In our view it would be undesirable in these circumstances for a multi-candidate ballot to take place automatically. As we have seen, since the middle of the nineteenth century there has been a strong presumption that a Speaker once elected by the House is not subsequently challenged. If it were to become accepted that a change in the composition of the House following a General Election were as a matter of course to lead to a change in the occupancy of the Chair, we believe there are grave dangers that the office itself would be destabilised and in danger of becoming politicised. Equally, however, we believe it is important that the House should not be denied the right to change its Speaker, however unlikely it may be that that right will be exercised."

I agree with that sentiment, as did the House when it agreed to change our procedures. Although the Speaker should be validated, there should be a presumption against challenging the incumbent.
Continuity is not the only reason. If we were starting from scratch, I believe that the House would choose the right hon. Member for Springburn as its Speaker today. His long service in the House and deep roots in the Back Benches, his work on the Chairmen's Panel and domestic Committees, his experience as Deputy Speaker, his genial and approachable manner, underpinned by a deep affection and commitment to the House--all those qualities strike a chord with the House. That commitment was confirmed in his acceptance speech last October and reinforced in the statement that we have just heard, which was greatly welcomed.

Mr. Dalyell, all Speakers develop their own style, and we saw the right hon. Member for Springburn develop his in the previous Parliament: a more approachable, informal style of Speaker, mixing with Members in the Tea Room and elsewhere, no wig or silk stockings--rather like the Scandinavian approach to the monarchy, but so far without the bicycle.

A key role lies ahead for Mr. Speaker in this Parliament. There is a strong view that the House should reassert the accountability of the Executive to Parliament. A growing number of hon. Members want the House to be more relevant to the concerns of those whom we represent, more effective in what it does, and a better link between Government and governed. The right hon. Member for Springburn is well qualified to supervise and manage that debate during this Parliament. I believe that he is entitled to support from the whole House in that role.

The House will understand why I was unable to propose the right hon. Member for Springburn last time, but I have no hesitation in proposing him today.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That Mr. Michael J. Martin do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.

Whereupon Mr. Tam Dalyell left the Chair, and Mr. Michael J. Martin was taken out of his place and conducted to the Chair by Sir George Young and Ann Keen. [Applause.]
 
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