December 11 2013 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham has revealed he could throw his hat in the ring for the vacant job of deputy speaker in a move that would take away his right to a House of Commons vote.
The Speaker is one of the most important figures in British parliamentary politics. Speakers are central to the image and mythology of Westminster, some of them credited with founding the distinctive norms and practices for which the House of Commons is widely known. During debates, the Speaker keeps order and calls MPs to speak.
If Henry Bellingham were to win the support of the House of Commons he would be one of three deputy Speakers, who, once elected withdraw from an active political role,
Unlike the speaker, they do not resign from their parties.
Until the 17th century, Speakers were appointed by the King and were often regarded by the Commons as his mouthpiece. However, Speakers did sometimes have to deliver bad news from the Commons to the King and this made their job risky: seven Speakers were executed by beheading between 1394 and 1535.
The Speakership gradually achieved greater independence from the Sovereign. A watershed moment in this evolution occurred in 1642, when King Charles I entered the Commons chamber to arrest five Members he suspected of treason. Speaker Lenthall made the following famous speech: ‘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…’.
Between 1641 and 1967 the most senior deputy - the Chairman of Ways and Means - oversaw a committee responsible for raising tax, but in 1967 all fiscal matters, including tax transfered to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Following the resignation last month of Nigel Evans, who is facing sex offence charges, Mr Bellingham said he was building support from colleagues and was likely to stand for the role chairing debates and running parliament.
The former foreign office minister, who lost his job in last year’s reshuffle, said he was looking for a new challenge after years in frontbench and parliamentary private secretary roles.
“I am not going to beat about the bush: I enjoyed my role in government very much, but that came to an end,” he said.
The role would see him carry on as a backbencher, he said, but in a “slightly different role” as the “engine room” of parliament.
“I will remain the MP for North-West Norfolk,” he said. “I would be there to fight for the constituency flat out. We are impartial, because chairing procedures you have to be. You cannot ask questions or speak in debates, but I would have unprecedented access to ministers from the prime minister downwards.”
He admits that he is an outsider for the job, but said there was a positive response from the people he has spoken to.
A number of other MPs, including former rail minister and Chelmsford MP Simon Burns and Mid-Bedfordfordshire MP and I’m a Celebrity contestant Nadine Dorries, have also publicly stated their interest in the job.
He said that he had a constructive relationship with speaker John Bercow – who would be his boss – which would be important.
Nominations close next Tuesday and Mr Bellingham said he was likely to stand unless the dynamics of the contest change in the interim.
“I have had a very positive response from people. I am going to pick up a reasonable amount of support. But I am not going to make any predictions. I am an outsider.”
He admitted that he did not know as many of the 2010 intake in the House of Commons as others might as he had been travelling in his foreign office role.
The whole of the House of Commons will have a vote.