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EXCL Betty Boothroyd: Speakers should have the ‘courtesy’ to resign mid-term

3 min read

Commons Speakers should stand down from the job midway through a parliament, Betty Boothroyd has said.


In an apparent dig at John Bercow, who has pledged to stay in post until the end of this Parliament, the legendary former Speaker said it was "courtesy" for them to depart before then.

She said it meant that MPs would know all about the potential candidates for the role before they voted for them.

Baroness Boothroyd also said Speakers should quit as MPs when they take on the role, to prevent the democratic process being "denied to thousands of citizens" in their constituency.

She made her comments in an interview with The House magazine.

Baroness Boothroyd, who now sits as a crossbench peer, was the first female Speaker and served in the role from 1992 until 2000.

Calling for a constitutional committee to review the existing rules of the Speakership, she said: "I have a belief that when somebody is elected Speaker they retire from that seat.

"So, let’s say the Speaker-elect is the member for Tolpuddle. The Speaker retires from the seat and a by-election takes place. They are then totally independent in the Chair.

“Remaining as the member for Tolpuddle would mean the electors of that constituency are not fully represented in parliament. The democratic process is denied to thousands of citizens.

“It doesn’t matter whether the issue of the day is pensions or peace, that constituency has neither voice nor vote in the forum of the nation and I believe it should have.

“This is what I would like to see. I think there is merit in putting this issue to a constitutional committee to examine it all in detail.”

She argued that a Speaker would have more capacity to represent parliament around the country as well as overseas if they were required to step down as an MP upon election.

Baroness Boothroyd, who was Labour MP for West Bromwich West before becoming Speaker, added: “I always believed long before I was Speaker, that a Speaker should retire mid-term. It should never be at the end of a parliamentary session.

"I was in the unfortunate position of when [Jack] Weatherill retired, it was at the end of a parliamentary session. And therefore, you have a new House, you have new members, they don’t know who they’re getting. Whereas, if it’s mid-term, they know the weaknesses and strengths of a candidate.

“I believe all Speakers should do that courtesy – it is a courtesy – to the House.”

LORDS REFORM

Elsewhere in her interview, the former Labour MP called for the end to hereditary peer by-elections and called for the Lords appointments committee to have “greater authority” and “greater power”.

And she branded Brexit a “mistake” but insisted that it must still take place.

"This is what was determined and we have to get the best out of it that we possibly can," she said.

“This is what I’m aiming at and I hope a lot of people in both Houses will be aiming for.”

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