Speaker of the House of Commons (United Kingdom)

Speaker of the
House of Commons
John Bercow

since 22 June 2009
Style Mr Speaker
(Informal and within the house)
The Right Honourable
Residence Palace of Westminster
Nominator House of Commons
Appointer Monarch of the United Kingdom
at the behest of the House of Commons
Term length At Her Majesty's pleasure
elected by the Commons at the start of each Parliament, and upon a vacancy
Inaugural holder Thomas Hungerford
Formation 1377
Website Office of the Speaker
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The Speaker of the House of Commons is the presiding officer of the House of Commons, the United Kingdom's lower chamber of Parliament. The office is currently held by John Bercow, who was initially elected on 22 June 2009, following the resignation of Michael Martin. He was returned as an MP in the 2010 general election and was re-elected as Speaker when the House sat at the start of the new Parliament on 18 May 2010. He was again returned as an MP in the 2015 general election and was re-elected, unopposed, as Speaker when the House sat at the start of the new Parliament on 18 May 2015.[1]

The Speaker presides over the House's debates, determining which members may speak. The Speaker is also responsible for maintaining order during debate, and may punish members who break the rules of the House. Unlike presiding officers of legislatures in many other countries, the Speaker remains strictly non-partisan, and renounces all affiliation with his or her former political party when taking office as well as when leaving the office. The Speaker does not take part in debate or vote (except to break ties; and even then, the convention is that the speaker casts the tie-breaking vote according to Speaker Denison's rule). Aside from duties relating to presiding over the House, the Speaker also performs administrative and procedural functions, and remains a constituency Member of Parliament (MP). The Speaker has the right and obligation to reside in Speaker's House at the Palace of Westminster.[2]


The office of Speaker is almost as old as Parliament itself. The earliest year for which a presiding officer has been identified is 1258, when Peter de Montfort presided over the Parliament held in Oxford. Early presiding officers were known by the title parlour or prolocutor. The continuous history of the office of Speaker is held to date from 1376[3] when Sir Peter de la Mare spoke for the commons in the "Good Parliament" as they joined leading magnates in purging the chief ministers of the Crown and the most unpopular members of the king's household. Edward III was frail and in seclusion, his prestigious eldest son, Edward the Black Prince, terminally ill. It was left to the next son, a furious John of Gaunt, to fight back. He arrested De la Mare and disgraced other leading critics. In the next, "Bad Parliament", in 1377, a cowed Commons put forward Gaunt's steward, Thomas Hungerford, as their spokesman in retracting their predecessors' misdoings of the previous year. Gaunt evidently wanted a 'mirror-image' as his form of counter-coup and this notion, born in crisis, of one 'speaker', who quickly also became 'chairman' and organiser of the Commons' business, was recognised as valuable and took immediate root after 1376-7.

On 6 October 1399, Sir John Cheyne of Beckford (Gloucester) was elected speaker. The powerful Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Arundel, is said to have voiced his fears of Cheyne's reputation as a critic of the Church. Eight days later, Cheyne resigned on grounds of ill-health, although he remained in favour with the king and active in public life for a further 14 years.

Although the officer was elected by the Commons at the start of each Parliament, with at least one contested election known, in 1420 (Roger Hunt prevailing by a majority of just four votes), in practice the Crown was usually able to get whom it wanted, indicating that the famous 'defence of the Commons' privilege' should not be seen in isolation as the principal thread in the office's evolution. Whilst the idea of giving this spokesman personal immunity from recrimination as only being the voice of the whole body was quickly adopted and did enhance the Commons' role, the Crown found it useful to have one person with the authority to select and lead the lower house's business and responses to the Crown's agenda, much more often than not in the way the Crown wanted. Thus, Whig ideas of the Commons growing in authority as against royal power are somewhat simplistic – the Crown used the Commons as and when it found it advantageous to do so, and the speakership was part of the process of making the Commons a more cohesive, defined and effective instrument of the king's government.

Throughout the medieval and early modern period, every speaker was an MP for a county, reflecting the implicit situation that such shire representatives were of greater standing in the house than the more numerous burgess MPs. Although evidence is almost non-existent, it has been surmised that any vote was by count of head, but by the same token perhaps the fact so very little is said about actual votes suggests that most decisions, at least of a general kind, were reached more through persuasion and the weight by status of the county MPs. In such a situation, the influence of the speaker should not be underestimated. Sir Thomas More was the first speaker to go on to become Lord Chancellor.

Until the 17th century, members of the House of Commons often continued to view their Speaker (correctly) as an agent of the Crown. As Parliament evolved, however, the Speaker's position grew into one that involved more duties to the House than to the Crown; such was definitely the case by the time of the English Civil War. This change is sometimes said to be reflected by an incident in 1642, when King Charles I entered the House in order to search for and arrest five members for high treason. When the King asked him if he knew of the location of these members, the Speaker, William Lenthall, famously replied: "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here."

The development of Cabinet government under King William III in the late 17th century caused further change in the nature of the Speakership. Speakers were generally associated with the ministry, and often held other government offices. For example, Robert Harley served simultaneously as Speaker and as a Secretary of State between 1704 and 1705. The Speaker between 1728 and 1761, Arthur Onslow, reduced ties with the government, though the office did remain to a large degree political. The Speakership evolved into its modern form—in which the holder is an impartial and apolitical officer who does not belong to any party—only during the middle of the 19th century.

Over 150 individuals have served as Speaker of the House of Commons. Their names are inscribed in gold leaf around the upper walls of Room C of the House of Commons Library. The three most recent Speakers have been notable for a series of firsts. Betty Boothroyd, elected in 1992, was the first woman Speaker. Michael Martin, elected in 2000, was the first Roman Catholic Speaker since the Reformation. John Bercow, elected in 2009, is the first Jewish Speaker.

By convention, Speakers are normally addressed in Parliament as "Mr Speaker", and their deputies as "Mr Deputy Speaker". Betty Boothroyd was, at her request, addressed as "Madam Speaker". When Betty Harvie Anderson had served in the 1970s as a Deputy Speaker, on the other hand, she had been addressed as "Mr Deputy Speaker".


MPs elect the Speaker from amongst their own ranks.[4] The House must elect a Speaker at the beginning of each new parliamentary term after a general election, or after the death or resignation of the incumbent.[4] Once elected, a Speaker continues in office until the dissolution of Parliament, unless he or she resigns prior to this. Customarily, the House re-elects Speakers who desire to continue in office for more than one term. Theoretically, the House could vote against re-electing a Speaker, but such an event is extremely unlikely.

The procedure for electing a Speaker has changed in recent years. Until 1971, the Clerk of the House of Commons became temporary Chairman of the House. As the Clerk is never a Member, and therefore is not permitted to speak, he would silently stand and point at the Member who was to speak. However, this procedure broke down at the election of a new Speaker in 1971 (see below) and had to be changed. Since that time, as recommended by a Select Committee, the Father of the House (the member of the House with the longest period of unbroken service who is not a Minister) becomes the presiding officer.[4]

Until 2001, the election of a Speaker was conducted as a routine matter of House of Commons business, as it used motions and amendments to elect. A member would move "That Mr(s) [X] do take the Chair of this House as Speaker", and following debate (which may have included an amendment to replace the name of the member on whom the Speakership was to be conferred), a routine division of the House would resolve in favour of one candidate. There was, however, a considerable amount of behind-the-scenes lobbying before suitable candidates were agreed upon, and so it was very rare for a new Speaker to be opposed. However, this system broke down in 2000 when 12 rival candidates declared for the job and the debate occupied an entire Parliamentary day.[4] The House of Commons Procedure Committee then re-examined the means of electing a Speaker and recommended a new system that came into effect in 2007 and was first used in June 2009, following the resignation of Michael Martin.

Under the new system, candidates must be nominated by at least twelve members, of whom at least three must be of a different party from the candidate. Each member may nominate no more than one candidate. The House then votes by secret ballot; an absolute majority (in the UK sense, i.e. more than 50% of the votes cast) is required for victory. If no candidate wins a majority, then the individual with the fewest votes is eliminated, as are any other candidates who receive less than five percent of the votes cast. The House continues to vote, for several rounds if necessary, until one member receives the requisite majority. Then, the House votes on a formal motion to appoint the member in question to the Speakership. (In the unlikely event that this motion fails, the House must hold a fresh series of ballots on all of the nominees.)

If only one candidate is nominated, then no ballot is held, and the House proceeds directly to the motion to appoint the candidate to the Speakership. A similar procedure is used if a Speaker seeks a further term after a general election: no ballot is held, and the House immediately votes on a motion to re-elect the Speaker. If the motion to re-elect the Speaker fails, candidates are nominated, and the House proceeds with voting (as described above).

Upon the passage of the motion, the Speaker-elect is expected to show reluctance at being chosen; he or she is customarily "dragged unwillingly" by MPs to the Speaker's bench.[5] This custom has its roots in the Speaker's original function of communicating the Commons' opinions to the monarch. Historically, the Speaker, representing the House to the Monarch, potentially faced the Monarch's anger and therefore required some persuasion to accept the post.[6]

The Speaker-elect must receive the Sovereign's approval, or the "approbation", before he or she may take office. On the day of the election, the Speaker-elect leads the Commons to the Chamber of the House of Lords, where Lords Commissioners appointed by the Crown confirm him or her in the monarch's name. Thereafter, the Speaker requests "in the name and on behalf of the Commons of the United Kingdom, to lay claim, by humble petition to Her Majesty, to all their ancient and undoubted rights and privileges, especially to freedom of speech in debate, to freedom from arrest, and to free access to Her Majesty whenever occasion shall require." After the Lords Commissioners, on the behalf of the Sovereign, confirm the Commons' rights and privileges, the Commons return to their Chamber. If a Speaker is chosen in the middle of a Parliament due to a vacancy in the office, he or she must receive the royal approbation as described above, but does not again lay claim to the Commons' rights and privileges.

Speaker's seat

When Speaker Edward FitzRoy, previously a Conservative MP, was opposed by a Labour Party candidate at the 1935 general election, there was strong disapproval from other parties and a sub-committee of the Cabinet considered whether a special constituency should be created for the Speaker to remove the obligation to take part in electoral contests. The sub-committee came to the conclusion that Parliamentary opinion would not favour this suggestion; however, in December 1938, with a general election expected within a year or so, a motion from the Prime Minister was put down to nominate a Select Committee to examine the suggestion.[7] The committee, chaired by former Prime Minister David Lloyd George, reported in April 1939 that no change should be made; it found that preventing opposition to a sitting Speaker would be "a serious infringement of democratic principles" and that "to alter the status of the Speaker so that he ceased to be returned to the House of Commons by the same electoral methods as other members or as a representative of a Parliamentary constituency would be equally repugnant to the custom and tradition of the House".[8][9] With the outbreak of the Second World War, no general election was held until 1945.

Notable elections

William Court Gully

Though the election of a Speaker is normally non-partisan, there have been several controversial elections in history. For example, in 1895, the sudden retirement of Arthur Peel came at a time when partisan feelings were running high. The Conservatives and Liberal Unionists put forward Sir Matthew White Ridley, a well-respected MP who had many years of experience, and hoped for a unanimous election as the previous Speaker had been a Liberal. However, the Liberals decided to oppose him and nominated William Court Gully who had been an MP for only nine years and had been a relatively quiet presence. On a party-line vote, Gully was chosen by 285 to 274. Although Gully proved his impartiality to the satisfaction of most of his opponents, and was unanimously re-elected after the 1895 general election, the episode left many Unionists bitter. During that year's general election, Gully became one of the few Speakers to be opposed in his own constituency, a sign of the bitterness of the time. It was not until the mid-1930s that it became common for a Speaker to face some form of opposition for re-election.

The 1951 election was similarly controversial. After the incumbent Speaker, Douglas Clifton Brown, retired at the 1951 general election, there was a great demand from the Labour Party for Major James Milner to become the first Labour Speaker after he had served as Deputy Speaker for eight years. However, the Conservatives (who had just regained power) nominated William Shepherd Morrison against him. The vote again went down party lines, and Morrison was elected. Milner received a peerage as compensation.

In 1971, having had early warning that Horace King would be retiring, the Conservatives took the lead in offering to the Labour Party either Selwyn Lloyd or John Boyd-Carpenter as potential Speakers. The Labour Party chose Selwyn Lloyd, partly because he was perceived as a weak figure. However, when the House of Commons debated the new Speaker, Conservative MP Robin Maxwell-Hyslop and Labour MP Willie Hamilton nominated Geoffrey de Freitas, a senior and respected backbench Labour MP. De Freitas was taken aback by the sudden nomination and urged the House not to support him (a genuine feeling, unlike the feigned reluctance which all Speakers traditionally show). Lloyd was elected, but there was a feeling among all parties that the system of election needed to be overhauled. Now, a candidate's consent is required before he or she can be nominated.

The last three instances of the election of a new Speaker (1992, 2000 and 2009) have all been relatively controversial. Bernard Weatherill had announced his impending retirement a long time before the 1992 general election, leading to a long but suppressed campaign for support. Betty Boothroyd, a Labour MP who had been Deputy Speaker, was known to be extremely interested in becoming the first woman Speaker (and in doing so, finished the chances of fellow Labour MP Harold Walker who had also been Deputy Speaker). The Conservative former Cabinet member Peter Brooke was put forward at a late stage as a candidate. Unlike previous elections, there was an active campaign among Conservative MPs to support Boothroyd and about 70 of them did so, ensuring her election. She was the only speaker elected in the 20th century not to be a member of the governing party at the time of her first election.

Betty Boothroyd announced her retirement shortly before the summer recess in 2000, which left a long time for would-be Speakers to declare their candidature but little opportunity for Members of Parliament to negotiate and decide on who should be chosen. Many backbench Labour MPs advanced the claims of Michael Martin. Most Conservatives felt strongly that the recent alternation between the main parties ought to be maintained and a Conservative Speaker chosen. The most prominent Conservative choices were Sir George Young and Deputy Speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst. With several additional candidates announcing themselves, the total number of Members seeking the Speakership was 14, none of whom would withdraw. A lengthy sitting of the House saw Michael Martin first proposed, then each of the other candidates proposed in turn as amendments, which were all voted down. In points of order before the debate, many members demanded a secret ballot.


The Speaker, by convention, severs all ties with his or her political party, as it is considered essential that the Speaker be seen as an impartial presiding officer.[5] In many cases, individuals have served in ministerial or other political positions before being elected Speaker. For example, Selwyn Lloyd and George Thomas had both previously served as high-ranking Cabinet members, whilst Bernard Weatherill was previously a party whip.

In the House, the Speaker does not vote on any motion, except in order to resolve ties. After leaving office, the Speaker normally takes no part in party politics; if elevated to the House of Lords, he or she would normally sit as a crossbencher.

If the current Speaker decides to contest a general election, he/she does not stand under a party label, but is entitled to describe himself/herself on the ballot as "The Speaker seeking re-election", under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act. In the past, the Speaker could sometimes be returned unopposed; this has not happened in the last few decades, but they have sometimes faced opposition only from fringe candidates.

However, the convention that major parties do not stand against the Speaker is not as firmly established as is sometimes suggested. Generally, former Labour Speakers have faced only fringe candidates, but former Conservative Speakers have faced major party candidates. The Labour and Liberal parties stood against Selwyn Lloyd in both elections in 1974, and Labour and the SDP stood against Bernard Weatherill in 1987. Speakers who represented Scottish or Welsh constituencies have also faced nationalist opponents: Plaid Cymru stood against George Thomas in 1979, and the Scottish National Party stood against Michael Martin in 2001 and 2005. At the 2010 general election, Speaker John Bercow faced Nigel Farage, former and new leader of UKIP, who obtained 17.4% of the vote (up from 3.5%), and John Stevens, from the Buckinghamshire Campaign for Democracy party, who obtained 21.4% of the vote. Bercow won with only 47% of the vote.


Presiding officer

The Speaker's primary function is to preside over the House of Commons.[10] Traditionally, the Speaker when presiding wore court dress—a black coat with white shirt and bands, beneath a black gown, with stockings and buckled shoes, and a full-bottomed wig. But in 1992 Betty Boothroyd, the first female Speaker, eschewed the wig. Her successor, Michael Martin, also declined to wear the wig; moreover, he chose to simplify other aspects of the costume, doing away with the once customary buckled court shoes and silk stockings. His successor John Bercow abandoned traditional dress, wearing a plain black gown over his lounge suit when presiding.[11] For ceremonial occasions such as the State Opening, the Speaker wears a black and gold robe with a train; previously, this was worn over court dress with a white waterfall cravat, but the present Speaker wears plain morning dress.

Whilst presiding, the Speaker sits in a chair at the front of the House. Traditionally, members supporting the Government sit on his or her right, and those supporting the Opposition on his or her left. The Speaker's powers are extensive — much more so than those of his or her Lords counterpart, the Lord Speaker. Most importantly, the Speaker calls on members to speak;[10] no member may make a speech without the Speaker's prior permission. By custom, the Speaker alternates between members supporting the Government and those supporting the Opposition. Members direct their speeches not to the whole House, but to the Speaker, using the words "Mister Speaker" or "Madam Speaker". Members must refer to each other in the third person by the name of their constituency or their ministerial titles (not their names); they may not directly address anyone other than the Speaker (who does call them by name). In order to maintain his or her impartiality, the Speaker generally refrains from making speeches, although there is nothing to prevent him or her from doing so. For example, on Wednesday 3 December 2008, Speaker Martin addressed the House on the subject of the arrest of Damian Green MP and the subsequent searching of his office within the precincts of the House of Commons.[12]

During debate, the Speaker is responsible for maintaining discipline and order.[13] He or she rules on all points of order (objections made by members asserting that a rule of the House has been broken); the decisions may not be appealed. The Speaker bases decisions on the rules of the House and on precedent; if necessary, he or she may consult with the Parliamentary Clerks before issuing a ruling.[10] In addition, the Speaker has other powers that he may use to maintain orderly debate. Usually, the Speaker attempts to end a disruption, or "calls members to order", by repeating "Order! Order!" If members do not follow his or her instructions, the Speaker may punish them by demanding that they leave the House for the remainder of the day's sitting. For grave disobedience, the Speaker may "name" a member, by saying "I name [Mr X]." (deliberately breaching the convention that members are only referred to by reference to their constituency, "The [Right] Honourable Member for [Y]"). The House may then vote to suspend the member "named" by the Speaker.[10][14] In case of "grave disorder", the Speaker may immediately adjourn the entire sitting.[13] This power has been invoked on several occasions since it was conferred in 1902.

In addition to maintaining discipline, the Speaker must ensure that debate proceeds smoothly. If the Speaker finds that a member is making irrelevant remarks, is tediously repetitive, or is otherwise attempting to delay proceedings, he or she may order the member to end the speech. Furthermore, before debate begins, the Speaker may invoke the "Short Speech" rule, under which he or she may set a time limit (at least eight minutes), which will apply to every speech. At the same time, however, the Speaker is charged with protecting the interests of the minority by ensuring sufficient debate before a vote. Thus, the Speaker may disallow a closure, which seeks to end debate and immediately put the question to a vote, if he or she finds that the motion constitutes an abuse of the rules or breaches the rights of the minority.

Before the House votes on any issue, the Speaker "puts the question"; that is, he or she orally states the motion on which the members are to vote. He or she then assesses the result of a voice vote, but any member may demand a division (a recorded vote). The Speaker may overrule a request for a division and maintain the original ruling; this power, however, is used only rarely, usually when members make frivolous requests for divisions in order to delay proceedings.

The Speaker does not vote in the division, except when the Ayes and Noes are tied, in which case he or she must use the casting vote. In exercising the casting vote, the Speaker may theoretically vote as he or she pleases, but, in practice, always votes in accordance with certain unwritten conventions, such as Speaker Denison's rule. First, the Speaker votes to give the House further opportunity to debate a bill or motion before reaching a final decision. (For example, the Speaker would be obliged to vote against a closure motion.) Secondly, any final decision should be approved by the majority. (Thus, for instance, the Speaker would vote against the final passage of a bill.) Finally, the Speaker should vote to leave a bill or motion in its existing form; in other words, the Speaker would vote against an amendment.

Since the House of Commons is a very large body, Speakers are rarely called upon to use the casting vote. Since 1801, there have been only 49 instances of tied divisions. The last tied votes were on 30 January 1980, when the House divided 201-201 on a motion to grant leave to bring the Televising of Parliament Bill (the then Deputy Speaker Bernard Weatherill voted Aye) and on 21 June 1990, 197–197 on an Amendment of Law Relating to Termination of Pregnancy (the Deputy Speaker Sir Paul Dean voted No). There was believed to be a 317–317 vote on an amendment to a motion concerning the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, but it was quickly discovered that one extra "Aye" vote had been erroneously counted. Prior to the counting error having been noted, Speaker Betty Boothroyd did give a Casting Vote of No, although this was later expunged when the error became clear.[15]

Other functions

In addition to his or her role as presiding officer, the Speaker performs several other functions on the behalf of the House of Commons. He or she represents the body in relations with the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and non-parliamentary bodies. On important occasions of state (such as Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee in 2002), the Speaker presents Addresses to the Crown on behalf of the House.

The Speaker performs various procedural functions. He or she may recall the House from recess during a national emergency, or when otherwise requested by the Government. When vacancies arise, the Speaker authorises the issuance of writs of election. Furthermore, the Speaker is responsible for certifying bills that relate solely to national taxation as "money bills" under the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949. The House of Lords has no power to block or substantially delay a money bill; even if the Lords fail to pass the bill, it becomes law within a month of passage by the Commons. The Speaker's decision on the matter is final, and cannot be challenged by the Upper House.

The Speaker is also responsible for overseeing the administration of the House. He or she chairs the House of Commons Commission, a body that appoints staff, determines their salaries, and supervises the general administration of those who serve the House. Furthermore, the Speaker controls the parts of the Palace of Westminster used by the House of Commons. Also, the Speaker is the ex officio Chairman of the four boundary commissions (for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland), which are charged with redrawing the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies to reflect population changes. However, the Speaker normally does not attend meetings of the boundary commissions; instead, the Deputy Chairman of the Commission (usually a judge) normally presides.

Finally, the Speaker continues to represent his or her constituency in Parliament. Like any other Member of Parliament, he or she responds to letters from constituents and attempts to address their concerns.


The Speaker is assisted by three deputies, all of whom are elected by the House. The most senior deputy is known as the Chairman of Ways and Means; the title derives from the now defunct Ways and Means Committee which formerly considered taxation-related bills. The remaining deputies are known as the First Deputy and Second Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means. Typically, the Speaker presides for only three hours each day; for the remainder of the time, one of the deputies takes the Chair. During the annual Budget, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer reads out the government's spending proposal, the Chairman of Ways and Means, rather than the Speaker, presides. Moreover, the Speaker never presides over the Committee of the Whole House, which, as its name suggests, consists of all the members, but operates under more flexible rules of debate. (This device was used so that members could debate independently of the Speaker, whom they suspected acted as an agent or spy of the monarch. Now, the procedure is used to take advantage of the more flexible rules of debate.)

Deputies have the same powers as the Speaker when presiding. Akin to the Speaker, they do not take part in partisan politics, and remain completely impartial in the House. However, they are entitled to take part in constituency politics, and to make their views known on these matters. In general elections, they stand as party politicians. If a Deputy Speaker is presiding, then he or she holds the casting vote instead of the Speaker.

Precedence, salary, residence and privileges

The Speaker is one of the highest-ranking officials in the United Kingdom. By an Order in Council issued in 1919, the Speaker ranks in the order of precedence above all non-royal individuals except the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, and the Lord President of the Council. In England and Wales, he also ranks below the two archbishops of the Church of England, in Scotland, he also ranks below the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and in Northern Ireland, he also ranks below the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic archbishops of Ireland, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

In 2010, the Speaker received a salary of £145,492,[16] equal to that of a Cabinet Minister. Speaker's House, the official residence, is at the northeast corner of the Palace of Westminster and is used for official functions and meetings,[17] with private accommodation in a four-bedroom[18] apartment upstairs. Each day, prior to the sitting of the House of Commons, the Speaker and other officials travel in procession from the apartments to the Chamber. The procession includes the Doorkeeper, the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Speaker, a trainbearer, the Chaplain, and the Speaker's Private Secretary. The Serjeant-at-Arms attends the Speaker on other occasions, and in the House; he or she bears a ceremonial mace that symbolises the royal authority under which the House meets, as well as the authority of the House of Commons itself.

Customarily, Speakers are appointed to the Privy Council upon election. Thus, the present and former Speakers are entitled to the style "The Right Honourable". On retirement, Speakers were traditionally elevated to the House of Lords as viscounts. The last Speaker to receive a viscountcy was George Thomas, who became Viscount Tonypandy on his retirement in 1983. Since that year, it has instead been normal to grant only life baronies to retiring Speakers.

Speaker's Chaplain

The post of chaplain to the Speaker has historically been held by a Canon Residentiary of Westminster Abbey; in recent years, the post was held by the same canon who was also the Rector of St Margaret's, Westminster (Parliament's parish church.) In 2010, Bercow appointed Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Vicar of Dalston and Haggerston as his chaplain; she remains a vicar as well as Speaker's Chaplain. Hudson-Wilkin was the first chaplain appointed not to be a canon of Westminster.[19]

Official dress

Henry Addington in state robes.

On normal sitting days, the Speaker wears a black silk lay-type gown (similar to a Queen's Counsel's gown) with (or without, in the case of Bercow) a train and a mourning rosette (also known as a 'wig bag') over the flap collar at the back.

On state occasions (such as the Opening of Parliament), the Speaker wears a robe of black satin damask trimmed with gold lace and frogs with full bottomed wig and, in the past, a tricorne hat. [20]

The current Speaker no longer wears the traditional court dress outfit, which included knee breeches, silk stockings and buckled court shoes under their gown, or the wig. Betty Boothroyd first decided not to wear the wig [21]and Michael Martin chose not to wear knee breeches, silk stockings or the traditional buckled shoes, preferring flannel trousers and Oxford shoes.[22] Bercow chose not to wear court dress altogether in favour of a lounge suit, as he felt "uncomfortable" in court dress[23][24][25] (he wore morning dress under the State Robe at State Openings). As seen at the 2015 State Opening of Parliament, Bercow further toned down the state robe by removing the gold frogging on the sleeves and train, so that it now resembles a pro-chancellor's robe at certain universities. However, he returned to wearing the traditional robe in 2016.

Current Speaker and Deputy Speakers

Wikinews has related news: UK MPs elect John Bercow as new Speaker of the House of Commons

See also



  1. "John Bercow to continue as Commons Speaker with MPs' backing - BBC News". Bbc.co.uk. 18 May 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  2. "What does the Speaker actually do?". BBC News. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  3. Roskell, J.S. (ed.). The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1386-1421. Alan Sutton Publishing. ISBN 9780862999438.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "The Speaker" (PDF). Westminster, United Kingdom: House of Commons Information Office. September 2003. pp. 4–5.
  5. 1 2 "Tory MP Bercow is elected Speaker". BBC News. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
  6. "Traditions of Parliament". Westminster, United Kingdom: Parliament of the United Kingdom.
  7. "The Speaker and Elections". The Times. 16 December 1938. p. 16.
  8. "The Speaker's Seat". The Times. 14 April 1939. p. 8.
  9. "Report from the Select Committee on Parliamentary Elections (Mr. Speaker's Seat)", House of Commons Paper 98, 1938–39 Session, HM Stationery Office 1939.
  10. 1 2 3 4 "The Speaker" (PDF). Westminster, United Kingdom: House of CommonsInformation Office. September 2003.
  11. Philip Webster (24 June 2009). "Farewell to tights as new Speaker John Bercow presides over Commons". The Times. Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  12. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm081203/debtext/81203-0001.htm#08120351000001 |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 3 December 2008. col. 1–3.
  13. 1 2 "Disciplinary and Penal Powers of the House" (PDF). Westminster, United Kingdom: House of Commons Information Office. March 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  14. "Disciplinary and Penal Powers of the House" (PDF). Westminster, United Kingdom: House of Commons Information Office. March 2003. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 August 2005. Retrieved 32 June 2009. If a Member has disregarded the authority of the Chair, or has persistently and wilfully obstructed the House by abusing its rules, he or she may (generally after being given every opportunity to set matters to rights) be named. That is, the Speaker says "I name Mr William White [or whoever]". Thereupon, usually the Leader of the House, the Government Chief Whip, or the senior minister present, moves "that Mr William White be suspended from the service of the House". If the motion is passed, if necessary after a division, the Member is directed to withdraw, and suspension (for five sitting days for a first offence), follows. A second offence in the same Session will lead to suspension for 20 sitting days, and a third, to suspension for a period the House shall decide. Should a Member refuse to withdraw, and then resist removal by the Serjeant at Arms, suspension for the remainder of the Session ensues. Where the Member has been suspended from the service of the House under Standing Order No. 44, salary is now forfeited during the period of suspension. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  15. "House of Commons: Tied Divisions". United Kingdom Election Results. David Boothroyd. Archived from the original on 5 January 2008. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  16. "Ministerial Salaries" (PDF). Westminster, United Kingdom: House of Commons Information Office. September 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  17. 1 2 House of Commons Speaker's Residence (Online Video). C-SPAN. 1995-07-01.
  18. "A table of the work done and costs incurred to furnish the Speaker's accommodation in the Palace of Westminster between 22 June 2009 and end October 2009" (PDF). House of Commons. 2010. FOI. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  19. "New Speaker's Chaplain appointed". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  20. Campbell, Una (1989). Robes of the Realm. Michael O'Mara Books Ltd: London. pp. 53-54.
  21. London Business Forum - Order, Order, Order 21 Nov 2006
  22. BBC - Speaker Bercow ditches stockings 18 Nov 2009
  23. The Guardian - John Bercow abandons traditional dress as he begins Speaker role 23 June 2009
  24. BBC - Tailors let down by Speaker dress 25 June 2009
  25. The daily Telegraph - Betty Boothroyd criticises John Bercow over rejection of Speaker's outfit 15 Jan 2010
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