Rosie Winterton MP: As Speaker, I will adjudicate rather than dictate

Posted On: 
14th October 2019

As a stabilising and unifying force, I have both the vision and experience vital to rebuilding democratic consensus, writes Dame Rosie Winterton MP ahead of The House magazine's Speaker Hustings

"We are a place of work and as such have a duty of care and a duty to listen"
Credit: 
Parliament UK

I have put myself forward to be Speaker because I have the right mix of experience and vision to be considered for this vital role and, in all humility, I believe would do it well.

Parliament has been through a turbulent period and the role of Speaker under enormous scrutiny.  Speaker Bercow’s period in office has been historic in many ways, and not without controversy. I would be a stabilising, unifying Speaker able to balance the rights of the Executive to carry out its mandate where it is given by the people, with the rights of Parliamentarians to hold the government to account, scrutinise legislation and to debate issues of the day. Getting that balance right is vital to our democracy.

The experience I would bring to the role comes from the various positions I have held in government and in opposition since entering Parliament in 1997.

As a Deputy Speaker who, I hope I have demonstrated, is impartial in the chair, shows respect for Members and in turn encourages Members to be respectful of each other’s views. A Deputy Speaker who tries to ensure frontbench and backbench Members are able to contribute fully to debates. I will adjudicate. I will not dictate.

As a chief whip who worked with all the majority and minority political parties, who understands the organisation of House business and the importance of achieving consensus where possible.

As a minister who understood the need to be accountable to, and scrutinised by, Parliament.

As a backbencher who wanted maximum opportunities to raise constituency and campaigning issues.

As a member of the House of Commons Commission who believes it is essential that we make the work of the commission more accessible to Members and all staff who work in Parliament and our constituencies. We are a place of work and as such have a duty of care and a duty to listen. To truly listen and support all who work here.

As Speaker I will:

• Build on my experience as Deputy Speaker to unify the House and achieve a fair balance between the rights of the Executive and the rights of Parliament

• Encourage the House to consider reforms in some of the ways we do business such as the Private Members’ Bills system and the way our Standing Orders work

• Ensure fairness in debate between frontbench and backbench Members, allowing reasonable time for debates on urgent business but not to the detriment of scheduled debates

• Use the position as chair of the House of Commons Commission to involve more Members in its work and to ensure that those who work in Parliament and our constituency offices have a safe place of work and are free from bullying, harassment and threatening behaviour

• Encourage IPSA to enable Members and their staff to carry out their work in an effective, family friendly environment, properly taking into account the needs of those who live outside the immediate London area as well as those within it

• Promote the Restoration and Renewal of Parliament and do as much as possible to make sure we return to the House as quickly as possible

This is a critical time for our democracy. The tension between a mandate from a referendum and Parliamentary sovereignty has put our institutions and all Parliamentarians under great strain.  Parliament needs a Speaker who can truly allow MPs to help resolve those tensions in a low profile, consensus building way in order to demonstrate to the country the vital and committed work Members of Parliament on all sides of the House do.

Those who make the law must also set the example. In this way we will enhance the political institutions we form and represent. In short, we must learn to disagree better.

It would be a huge privilege to be that Speaker.

Dame Rosie Winterton is Labour MP for Doncaster Central and Deputy Speaker