Frank Field MP
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The New Speaker Must Get to it

Congratulations to John Bercow on his election as Speaker. It is a great office to hold at any time. It is now a crucial one in helping to salvage the good name that should be associated with politics.

Two things trouble me, however. The new Speaker made much about how honourable the vast majority of Members of Parliament are. That is not how the public sees us, I'm afraid.

In one sense that doesn't matter too much. The allowance system is to be reformed by the Kelly Commission. Our past expenses are also to be subjected to an audit by a new independent body which will cost the taxpayer another £600,000 each year. They will presumably treat the Speaker equally with the rest of us. What will they make of flipping a main home? And where does it leave the standing of those Members who have already repaid money back to the Fees Office.

More troubling was the Speaker's acceptance speech. Prime Ministers and Speakers are never more powerful than at the point of election. Any reforming Speaker is going to face huge resistance here in the Commons.

That is why I was disappointed that the acceptance speech was not mainly devoted to outlining the changes the Speaker intended to bring in immediately.

Shouldn't notice have been given that his Speakership depended on establishing a Business Committee of the House which had total control over how it spends its time? No other reforms come near to touching this one for importance.

Shouldn't the Speaker have let it be known, even in the gentlest tones, that he had nailed his Speakership to this reform? Likewise wasn't this an opportunity to say that the appointment of the Grand Committee's Chair on Thursday ought be selected by secret ballot, and that he would receive nominations on the Committee's membership directly from Members. He could then pass on his recommendation on the Committee's membership to the Committee of Selection.

What was wonderful about yesterday's proceedings was that the Speaker will thoroughly enjoy his role, this is an attribute not to be under valued. We need somebody who combines the serious intent of a reformer with a character that believes no matter how difficult the decisions that now face us, we should make them with good humour and believing the best in our opponents' motives.
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Given all the time that Bercow has reportedly devoted to dreaming of being appointed as Speaker, it is very disappointing that he doesn't seem to have a clear cut plan of reform. Just how independent he is will be interesting to monitor as he clearly owes the realisation of his ambition to Labour MPs.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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