Publications / Briefings

Back to Business: Election of the Speaker

3 Jul 2024
Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP 'dragged' to the chair, having been elected as Speaker of the House of Commons, 4 November 2019. ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP 'dragged' to the chair, having been elected as Speaker of the House of Commons, 4 November 2019. ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The first item of business for MPs will be the election of their Speaker. Sir Lindsay Hoyle is seeking re-election. How will the election process work? The Father (or Mother) of the House presides over the election: who will that be? Why will the Speaker-elect be 'dragged' to the Chair by MPs? What role does the Monarch and the House of Lords play in the process?

Between the summoning of the new Parliament on Tuesday 9 July and the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday 17 July a series of important procedures that mark the start of any new Parliament will be implemented: the receipt of the Return Book confirming the election of all MPs; the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons; the approval of the Speaker’s election and his laying claim to the “ancient and undoubted rights and privileges” of the House on behalf of MPs; and the swearing-in of all Members of both Houses.

The procedures initiating the election of the Speaker and his approval in office by the Monarch are set out in Standing Orders 1, 1A and 1B.[1]

On Tuesday 9 July, Black Rod will be sent to summon the House of Commons to attend the House of Lords. There, the Lords Commissioners - a group of Privy Counsellors who are appointed by the King to carry out specific tasks in Parliament on his behalf when he is not present in person - will direct MPs to choose a Speaker. The Commissioners are likely to include the Speaker of the House, the Leader of the House (in the event that Labour wins the General Election this is likely to be Baroness Smith of Basildon), the Shadow Leader of the House and the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers.

On their return to the House of Commons, MPs will begin the process of electing a Speaker immediately. The process is overseen by the Father or Mother of the House, namely the Member with the longest continuous service who is not a Minister.

The Father or Mother of the House will ask Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who was Speaker at the dissolution of the previous Parliament, if he is again willing to serve as Speaker. As Sir Lindsay is seeking re-election to the House of Commons – and so by convention has faced no opposition in his constituency from the major parties – it is expected he will seek to be re-elected.

If the Speaker in the previous Parliament seeks re-election to the Chair, a motion is put before the House by a Member for consideration forthwith, “that (name of former Speaker) do take the Chair of this House as Speaker”.[2] The vote on the motion is usually taken ‘by acclamation’ (that is by MPs shouting in support of or opposition to the motion). It is customary that the motion is uncontested and the former Speaker is re-elected. Exceptionally, if MPs audibly shout in opposition to the motion then a division (a formal vote requiring MPs to go through the voting lobbies to record their decision) will be needed.

Once the question is agreed to, the Father or Mother of the House will leave the Chair and return to the backbenches. The Speaker-elect will be ‘dragged’ from his place on the backbenches to the Chair by other Members. This custom is rooted in the history of the office of the Speaker.

In previous centuries one of the Speaker’s roles was to communicate the opinions and decisions of the House of Commons to the Monarch. On several occasions, the Speaker was executed for conveying messages that were not to the liking of the Monarch. Understandably, some MPs were therefore reluctant to accept the position.

Having been conveyed to the Chair the Speaker-elect will say a few words to acknowledge and thank the House for the honour it has bestowed and then take the Chair. At this point the Mace will be placed upon the table in front of the Speaker-elect (this is the symbol of Royal authority within Parliament). Brief speeches of congratulation by each of the party leaders will then follow. However, the Speaker is not confirmed in office until the House of Commons’ choice is approved by the Monarch.

Assuming that Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s re-election on 9 July passes without controversy, the following day Black Rod will again be sent to summon the House of Commons to attend the House of Lords to confirm the choice of Speaker. (In 2019, when the Government wished to proceed rapidly with Brexit-related legislation, exceptionally Black Rod was sent to the House of Lords on the same day as the re-election of the Speaker. In 2010, 2015 and 2017, however, Black Rod summoned the House of Commons the day after the election of the Speaker.)

The King will not be present, but will again be represented by the Lords Commissioners, who will be robed and seated between the Throne and the Woolsack.

“It not being convenient for His Majesty to be personally present here this day”, the Lords Commissioners will be empowered, by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm, to “do all things in His Majesty’s name, which are to be done on His Majesty’s part in this Parliament.”[4]

On arrival in the House of Lords, the Speaker-elect will inform the Lords Commissioners:

“That in obedience to the Royal Command, His Majesty’s most faithful Commons have, in the exercise of their undoubted rights and privileges, preceded to the election of a Speaker, and that their choice has fallen upon myself. I therefore present myself to your Lordships’ Bar and submit myself with all humility for His Majesty’s gracious Approbation.”[5]

The presiding Commissioners will, on behalf of the Monarch, then approve and confirm his election.

The Speaker lays claim, by ‘humble petition’, to the “ancient and undoubted rights and privileges” of the House of Commons from the Crown. This is an assertion of the parliamentary privilege granted to Members of the House of Commons dating back to the Bill of Rights of 1689.[6]

The “rights and privileges” include freedom of speech, freedom from arrest, and freedom of access to His Majesty whenever required via the Speaker. These will be duly granted by the Lords Commissioners on the Monarch’s behalf.

Having received the Approbation, the Speaker will then return to the House of Commons.

[4] Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords, Appendix F, Opening of a new Parliament and election of Commons Speaker

[5] Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords, Appendix F, Opening of a new Parliament and election of Commons Speaker

©UK Parliament/Maria Unger

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