2

ELECTION OF SPEAKER IN UK AND INDIA

G.C. MALHOTRA

On 23 October 2000, fifty-five-year-old Labour MP and the First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means1, Mr. Michael John Martin was elected as the 156th Speaker of the UK House of Commons. This election was necessitated by the retirement of the incumbent Speaker Miss Betty Boothroyd. It was the third contested election after 1951, the fourth of the 20th century and the ninth since the year 1800. The election was unique in two ways; for one, there was an unprecedented number of candidates; secondly, the considerable amount of the House time spent on conducting the election led to an urgent inquiry by the House Procedure Committee into the rules governing the election of the Speaker. The Procedure Committee, which went on to examine the election process anew, in its Report, recommended certain changes in the current procedure for electing the Speaker.

Election of Speaker

The need for choosing a Speaker of the House of Commons arises when there is a newly-elected House or upon the resignation, retirement or death of a sitting Speaker or when the sitting Speaker ceases to be a member of the House for any reason. The election of the Speaker is held at the start of a new House of Commons, irrespective of whether or not the Speaker in the previous House has been re-elected as a member. If the previous Speaker has expressed his or her willingness to continue, the election becomes a mere formality.

Once a Speaker, Always a Speaker!

This practice has been maintained since 1841, when the Liberal sitting Speaker Charles Shaw-Lefevre, first elected Speaker in May 1839, was unanimously re-elected as Speaker in August 1841 by a newly-elected Tory-controlled House of Commons. The Tory leader, Sir Robert Peel argued that it was not necessary that a person elected to the Chair, who had conscientiously and ably performed his duties, should be replaced because his political opinions were not consonant with those of the majority of the House2. Since then, whenever a sitting Speaker has sought re-election as Speaker, he has always been re-elected. There is, however, no constitutional or legislative provision that would guarantee re-election of the sitting Speaker. On 19 February 1835, the candidature of the sitting Conservative Speaker, Charles Manners-Sutton, the Speaker in seven previous Houses, for another term was rejected by the House which voted in favour of Mr. James Abercromby, a Liberal. Since then, till now, this has been the only instance when the House has rejected a sitting Speaker seeking re-election.

Starting 1835, when the sitting Speaker of the House was not re-elected as Speaker, till the year 2000, only 17 members have occupied the Office of the Speaker. Mr. Michael J. Martin is the 18th to occupy the Office since 18353. 

Speakers and Party Affiliations

In the general elections in the past, political parties have fielded candidates against the sitting Speakers. For instance, in the general elections held in April 1895, the Conservative Party had pitted a candidate against the sitting Speaker William Court Gully, a Liberal. Speaker Gully held to his seat by an increased majority even while the Conservatives won the general elections. The Conservatives who subsequently formed the government, however, did not put any candidate in the election for Speakership against the sitting Speaker Gully, who was re-elected Speaker unopposed on 12 August 1895. Earlier, Mr. Gully was first elected Speaker in a contested election on 10 April 1895 at the fag end of the previous House. He was elected Speaker the third time on 3 December 1900. For the next 35 years, no Speaker was opposed in his constituency. This practice was again broken in 1935 when the Labour Party decided to field a candidate against Speaker Edward A. FitzRoy belonging to the Conservatives. Speaker FitzRoy won in the general elections and was re-elected as the Speaker for another term. The Labour Party once again contested the Speaker’s seat in the general election held in 1945. In spite of Labour’s mammoth victory, the sitting Speaker, Clifton Brown, a Conservative, retained his seat and was re-elected Speaker. In the 1964 general elections, Speaker Sir Harry Hylton-Foster (Conservative) was opposed in his constituency by candidates of the Labour and Liberal Parties. While the Labour Party got a majority, Speaker Hylton-Foster retained his seat and was re-elected as the Speaker unanimously. Two factors in particular have been crucial in securing the continuity of the Office. Firstly, during the period of what may be termed modern Speakership, no Speaker seeking re-election in his constituency has ever been defeated at the polls; secondly, during the same period, no incoming majority following a change of government has ever given in to the temptation to replace a sitting Speaker4.

The first contested election of the 20th century took place in 1951 when two candidates – Mr. W.S. Morrison and Major James Milner – were proposed for Speakership5. The Conservative Party candidate
Mr. Morrison was elected as the Speaker by 318 votes as against 251 votes for the Labour Party candidate, Major James Milner
6. The second occasion for a division to decide the Speaker arose in 1971 when the name of a genuinely unwilling second candidate, Sir Geoffrey de Freitas, a prominent Labour back bencher was proposed in order to have a vote and express the back benchers’ dissatisfaction and protest against the lack of prior consultation of back benchers, on both sides of the House, preceding the nomination of the Conservative Member, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd as Speaker. Speaking against the way in which the election procedure had been handled, Mr. John Pardoe, the Liberal Party M.P., argued that ‘the Speaker in so far as he is a servant, and only a servant, of the House, he ought to be, and ought to be seen to be, a servant of the whole House and of the House itself, and not of the Executive or of the two Front Benches. Such can be the case only if the Speaker is elected in a proper democratic manner’7. He went on to say that ‘Parliamentary democracy does not reside on the Opposition Front Bench; it does not reside on the Treasury Bench; nor does it reside in some spiritual “never-never land” suspended in the ether somewhere half-way between the two. It resides in this House, in the unfettered rights of individual members to be consulted and to speak their minds on a matter of this importance’8. Conservative MP, Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop, supporting the objection raised by Mr. Pardoe, proposed the name of prominent Labour backbencher, Sir Geoffrey de Freitas as a candidate to have a division. In the subsequent division, Mr. Lloyd was elected by securing 294 votes to 559. Sir Geoffrey had not been consulted about his candidature, and before the division was taken, he expressed his embarrassment and said that he would support Mr. Lloyd10.

The Procedure Committee of 1971-72

As a result of the back bench protest against lack of consultation  before the 1971 Speaker’s election, the Procedure Committee examined the procedure for electing the Speaker and presented its report on 26 January 1972. It recommended that the retiring Speaker should, if possible, occupy the Chair until his successor is elected and that on all other occasions, including the re-election of a Speaker at the beginning of a new Parliament or when the Speaker has ceased for whatever reason to be a member of the House, the House should meet under the Chairmanship of “that member of the House and not being a Minister of the Crown, who has served for the longest period continuously as a Member of this House” and not by the Clerk of the House of Commons as had been the practice till then. Such Member is popularly known as the Father of the House. Since then, the Father of the House presides from the lower Chair, the Clerk’s place at the Table. The Father of the House enjoys all those powers which may be exercised by the Speaker during the proceedings to choose a Speaker. On the contrary, the Clerk of the House, presiding over the proceedings to elect a Speaker, had no power to speak or deal with points of order under the Standing Orders, thus putting the whole House in a vulnerable position.

The Procedure Committee also recommended that a question should be put to the House in the event of a single candidate; and the question on any other candidates should be put as amendments to the original motion. The Committee’s proposals were accepted by the House on 8 August 1972, and are now enshrined in Standing Order No. 1. The assumption was that a ‘vetting’ of suitable candidates would take place behind the scenes by the Government in consultation with the Opposition and others, with a view to putting a sole candidate, or at the most two, before the House. The 1972 reforms were not intended to deal with a situation in which a multiplicity of candidates stood for election11. The idea of having voting first on the second candidate put forward as an amendment to the original motion, was to measure the support he or she enjoyed in the House. If the amendment was defeated, a unanimous election of the first or another candidate might be achieved12.

In case of a vacancy during the session, the House is acquainted by a senior Minister with Her Majesty’s leave to elect a Speaker. The Chair calls a member to propose a candidate and another member to second that candidate. Then the Chair proposes the question “that.... do take the Chair of this House as Speaker” which may be followed by a debate, at the end of which the member proposed will make the customary speech submitting himself to the House. At the end of the debate, if no other candidate has been proposed, the Chair puts the question. However, before any decision is taken by the House on the first nominee, another member may be proposed which should be moved as an amendment to the original motion, to leave out the name in that motion and insert the other name. The Chair then proposes “that the amendment be made”, which is followed by a debate. Then the member so nominated will indicate his or her willingness to accept the office. If the amendment is carried, no further amendment can be moved and the Chair puts the main question as amended, i.e. that the member named in the successful amendment take the Chair as Speaker. The House may divide on that question. If the amendment is not carried, further amendments may be moved in like manner. If and when all amendments have been negatived and no further amendments are forthcoming, the Chair puts to the House the main question unamended. Once the Speaker is elected, the Father of the House relinquishes the Chair.

Putting an alternative candidate as an amendment

The new procedure as enshrined in Standing Order No. 1 came into operation for the first time on 6 March 1974 when Speaker Lloyd was unanimously re-elected to the Chair. However, the new procedure for putting an alternative candidate as amendment to the motion for the first candidate was put into operation for the first time in April 1992. On 27 April 1992, after the name of Mr. Peter Brooke was proposed and seconded, followed by a debate and submission to the House by the candidate, an amendment proposing the name of Miss Betty Boothroyd was carried by 372 to 238 votes13. Thereafter, the main question, as amended, was put and agreed to without division. This was the third contested election of the 20th century14.

Election of British Speakers, 1951-2000

The Procedure Committee of 1971-72 had expressed the hope that the Speakers would choose to retire in the middle of a session, giving at least ten days’ notice of his or her impending retirement, rather than at the end of a Parliament. There is an advantage in doing this as members would have some knowledge about the qualities of the potential candidate as someone from the present House and whom they are familiar with.

Since 1971, three Speakers, Speaker Horace Maybray King (1971), Speaker Selwyn Lloyd (1976) and Speaker Betty Boothroyd (2000) retired during the tenure of the House of Commons. However, Speaker George Thomas (1983) and Speaker Bernard Weatherill (1992) retired only at the end of their tenures. For Speakers of the House of Commons since 1951, the dates of their election, party in power, party to which the Speaker belonged to at the time of election, etc., see
Table I.

Miss Boothroyd, who was first elected in the contested election in 1992 and re-elected unanimously in 1997, had announced on 12 July 2000 her retirement that would become effective “immediately before the House returns from the summer recess” on 23 October 2000. While announcing her intention to relinquish the Office of Speaker, Miss Boothroyd said that there was a clear advantage in a new Speaker being elected during the course of a Parliament. It ensured that all members were familiar with the qualities of potential successors. She added that her decision would give her successor a run-in before the general election16. This announcement meant that when the House would meet after the summer recess on 23 October 2000, there would be no sitting Speaker and the election of the new Speaker would be held, as provided in Standing Order No. 1 of the House of Commons, under the chairmanship of the Father of the House.

Questioning the British Election Procedure

Following the announcement of retirement by Speaker Boothroyd, a large number of members started showing interest in becoming the next Speaker of the House of Commons or was projected by others as good candidates. Some members even pleaded with the outgoing Speaker to stay on for long enough to enable the rules surrounding the Speaker’s election to be changed to accommodate a field for not one or two candidates, but as many as ten or more. The Leader of the House, however, resisted the proposals about making time available for rule changes17.

The main concern appeared to be the limited opportunity for the House to consider the election process and suggest possible changes to the existing process before the election. Members also raised queries about the suitability of the existing process as contained in Standing Order No. 1 to provide them with a full and free choice of candidates. It was expressed that none of the candidates expressing interest in the post would be put to the test of his or her popularity before going forward to a full debate in the House. Consequently, a candidate with the support of just a few members of the House stood as much chance as those rated highly of being put forward in the House debate. It was also contended that the situation under the present system gets complicated as no one knows how the Chair would decide which of the candidates to call first as it is his discretion. Those called first may have a better chance of winning than those who do not catch the Chair’s eye. Thus, it was felt that a candidate at No. 10 or No. 12 was unlikely to be chosen. Therefore, many members of the House of Commons expressed dissatisfaction over the present election procedure and termed it as discredited and undemocratic. In 1996, the Procedure Committee also had admitted some inherent weaknesses in the system of election of the Speaker as laid down in Standing Order No. 1, in particular the burden laid on the Father of the House to decide who was to catch his eye to move the first candidate. However, it recommended no change in the existing procedures for the election of the Speaker as, according to its view, there was no better system.

Election Process

The House met at 2.30 P.M. on 23 October 2000 to choose the new Speaker and since there was no sitting Speaker, the Father of the House, Sir Edward Heath took the Chair. After Sir Edward explained the procedure of election, veteran Labour MP, Mr. Tony Benn proposed a ballot system for the election of the Speaker and requested the Chair to allow the House to decide his proposal. According to the proposal, ballot papers would be printed for all candidates and after a debate, members would vote for their preferred candidates. Only the top two candidates would go to a run-off and there would be a division to decide the candidate with the largest number of votes to become the Speaker. The proposal was supported by many Members from both sides of the House who were advocating a free, fair, open and democratic ballot.

At a husting organized on the morning of the election day by the Labour MP, Mr. Gordon Prentice and attended by approximately 150 members, there was near unanimity to go for a ballot of the candidates.

While expressing sympathy with the anxiety shown by members about the present system, the Father of the House, said that his powers under the Standing Order did not extend to presiding over a debate and a decision on other possible methods of election. Besides, it would become very confused if an attempt to change the rules was made in the middle of the election process. However, with a view to assisting the House, Sir Edward announced, in advance, the order in which he would call members to propose candidates. He said that the list was not exhaustive. Members might catch his eye to put forward other candidates if no amendment moved by a Member whose name was on the list was carried. If any amendment was carried and the main question as amended was agreed to, no subsequent amendments could be proposed.

The Father of the House then announced the list of 12 candidates whose names had been notified to him. Sir Edward said that he had decided the order of the candidates at his discretion. He said that this had always been the case in the past but his predecessors never announced in advance the names and their placings. Rejecting the demand for a change in the election process, Sir Edward said that the announcement of the names of candidates and their proposers and seconders would give the House far more information than it had ever had in the past which might enable it to take a decision.

Election of Michael Martin as Speaker

The actual process of election of the Speaker began at 2.58 P.M. and continued until about 9.15 P.M. Mr. Peter Snape, commending the name of Mr. Martin, proposed: “that Mr. Michael J. Martin do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.” Ms. Ann Keen seconded the motion.
Mr. Martin then submitted himself to the House. Thereafter, eleven amendments, one after the other proposing and seconding names of other candidates, were negatived by the House one by one. The main motion proposing the name of Mr. Martin was then put to the House, and on a division, Mr. Michael J. Martin, securing 370 votes against 8, was elected as the 156
th Speaker of the House of Commons. Sir Edward Heath then left the Chair. Mr. Martin was taken out of his place and ‘dragged’ to the Chair as per convention by Mr. Peter Snape and
Ms. Ann Keen, the proposer and seconder, respectively of his candidature.

Before resuming the Chair, the Speaker-elect, standing on the upper step, thanked the members for reposing confidence in him. He assured the House that he would try to prove himself worthy of that confidence and to maintain the high traditions of the House. Thereafter, members congratulated the Speaker-elect, at the end of which Prime Minister,
Mr. Tony Blair announced Her Majesty’s pleasure that this House should present their Speaker at 11.15 P.M. in the House of Peers for Her Majesty’s Royal Approbation. The sitting of the House was accordingly suspended at 9.44 P.M. On resuming at 11.18 P.M., Mr. Speaker reported to the House of Commons about Her Majesty’s Royal Approbation and assured his entire devotion to the service of the House. The House was then adjourned.

Speaker Michael Martin: A Brief Profile

Born on 3 July 1945, Mr. Michael John Martin joined the Labour Party in 1969. He was elected Councillor for Fairfield Ward, Glasgow in 1973 and for Balornock Ward, Glasgow in 1975. Elected to the House of Commons in 1979, he served with distinction in various House Committees. Mr. Martin was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983, and a member of the Speaker’s Panel of Chairmen, 1987. He was also the Chairman, Scottish Grand Committee, 1987 and the Chairman of the Administrative Select Committee, 1992. Before his election as the Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr. Martin was the First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.

Procedure Committee of 2000-2001

Following the election of Mr. Michael Martin as Speaker and taking into consideration the issues that were raised at the time of the election, there was an enquiry by the Procedure Committee into the election procedure for the Office of the Speaker. The Procedure Committee, headed by the Conservative MP, Mr. Nicholas Winterton, in its Report, made several recommendations of far-reaching importance. As mentioned earlier, since the year 1835 when a sitting Speaker was not re-elected as Speaker of the House of Commons, no sitting Speaker has been opposed in the election to the Office. The Procedure Committee of 2000-2001 pointed out that since the middle of the 19th century, there has been a presumption that a Speaker, once elected by the House, is not subsequently challenged. The Committee felt that if it were to become accepted that a change in the composition of the House following a general election were, as a matter of course, to lead to a change in the occupancy of the Chair, there was a grave danger that the Office itself would be destabilised and in danger of becoming politicised. Equally important was that the House should not be denied the right to change its Speaker, however unlikely it may be that that right would be exercised18. The Committee, therefore, proposed that there should be no automatic ballot at the start of a new House in the circumstances where a sitting Speaker seeking re-election to the Chair had been returned to the House. Instead, a single unamendable motion should be moved, and the question put by the Presiding Member, that that person do take the Chair of this House as the Speaker. It would be open to the House in extremis to negative that motion19.

While discussing the procedure involving the election of the Speaker by the House, the Procedure Committee recommended replacing of the 1972 system of electing the Speaker with a ballot-based system20. The Committee recommended that each candidate’s nomination should receive the support of 12 other members, of whom at least three should not be members of his or her party. At a suitable interval after the nominations were closed and immediately before holding the ballot, candidates should have the opportunity to address the House in support of their candidatures. The proposers and the seconders were not to make speeches on this occasion. The Committee recommended a secret ballot and preferred the Exhaustive Ballot as the electoral system in which a candidate receiving more than 50 per cent of the votes was elected, adding that the question of whether the ballot be secret or open should be the subject of a specific and separate decision by the House. If no candidate did so, candidates polling less than 5 per cent of the total votes cast should be eliminated after the first ballot. The House would then vote again on the reduced slate of candidates and would continue doing so until one candidate received more than half of the votes or only two candidates remained in the fray. Voters could even amend their preferences in each round when they see the outcome of the previous round. In this system, candidates who had not been eliminated would be allowed to withdraw between rounds, thus shortening the process by a few rounds. The results, including the number of votes received by each candidate, would be announced by the Presiding Member.

The Committee felt that it should be possible to complete the whole process in the course of a single sitting day. The Committee also felt that using this system, the House could continue to elect Speakers who would maintain the high traditions of their Office, in particular those of complete political impartiality and devotion to the service of the House.

The Report of the Procedure Committee has since been approved by the House of Commons on 22 March 2001. Earlier, in a separate voting on that day, the House also decided by 84 to 82 votes in favour of a secret ballot for electing the Speaker.

Election of Speaker in India

In India, whenever the Office of the Speaker of Lok Sabha falls vacant, the Deputy Speaker performs the duties of the Office till a new Speaker is elected. According to the second proviso to Article 94 of the Constitution, the sitting Speaker remains in office even after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha and until immediately before the first meeting of the new House, irrespective of the fact whether or not he has been re-elected as a member. Thus, the Speaker of a dissolved House ceases to be the Speaker the moment the new House meets. When the Offices of both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker fall vacant, the duties of the Office of the Speaker are performed by such member of the Lok Sabha as the President of India may appoint for the purpose [Article 95(1)]. Normally, the senior-most member of the House is appointed and the person so appointed is known as the Speaker pro tem. He takes oath as a member before the President and later administers oath/affirmation to the newly-elected members of Lok Sabha and conducts the election of the Speaker. In contrast to the practice in the U.K. House of Commons, the Speaker pro tem in India presides from the Speaker’s Chair.

The procedure for electing the Speaker of Lok Sabha is enshrined in rule 7 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. Rule 7(1) says that the election shall be held on such date as the President may fix, and the Secretary-General, Lok Sabha, shall send to every member notice of this date. Another feature of the Indian procedure is that the names of the candidates for the Office of the Speaker are known before the election. At any time before noon on the day preceding the date so fixed for election, any member may give notice in writing, addressed to the Secretary-General, of a motion that another member be chosen as the Speaker of the House. The notice shall be seconded by a third member and shall be accompanied by a statement by the member whose name is proposed in the notice that he is willing to serve as Speaker, if elected [rule 7(2)]. All the notices of motions which are in order are entered in the List of Business in the order in which they are received in point of time. A member in whose name a motion stands on the List of Business, unless he states that he does not wish to move the motion, moves the motion when called upon to do so. In either case, he shall confine himself to a mere statement to the effect that he moves the motion or that he does not intend to move the motion [rule 7(3)]. The motions which have been moved and duly seconded are put one by one in the order in which they have been moved, and decided, if necessary, by division. If any motion is carried, the Chair, without putting later motions, declares that the member proposed in the motion which has been carried, has been chosen as the Speaker of the House [rule 7(4)].

Election of Indian Speakers, 1952-1999

Table II lists the names of Speakers of Lok Sabha since 1952, the dates of their election, party in power, party to which a Speaker belonged to at the time of election, etc.           

British and Indian systems: A Comparison

Unlike in the House of Commons, the Presiding Officer in the Lok Sabha does not call upon the proposers of a motion at his discretion. In the Lok Sabha, proposers are called upon to move the motions in the order in which they are listed in the List of Business. The proposer and seconder of a candidate also do not make any speech while proposing and seconding a candidate. The candidate also does not make a speech expressing his willingness to accept the Office.

In India, unlike in UK, it is not customary for the mover and seconder to be private members. On several occasions, the motion was moved by the Prime Minister and seconded by another Minister. In fact, objection was raised to this during the election of the Speaker of the First Lok Sabha itself. While felicitating Shri G.V. Mavalankar on his election as Speaker of the First Lok Sabha, Shri Shankar Shantaram More, who also contested the election, pointed out this departure from the British practice. Referring to the British convention of proposing and seconding the names of candidates for Speakership by back benchers, Shri More said:

…by observing this convention, a sort of assurance is given to the minority that their interests will be protected and that the Speaker will deal with the minority in an impartial manner…Unfortunately, in this House, the Hon. Leader of the House thought it fit to propose your name and another Hon. Minister thought it advisable to second it. I believe that if some back benchers – and there is no dearth of back benchers on their side – had been selected for proposing your name, there would have been the proper procedure to emphasise your impartiality21.

During the election of the Speaker of the Fourth Lok Sabha, an Opposition member, Shri Madhu Limaye also raised objection to the sponsoring of the name of Dr. N. Sanjiva Reddy for Speakership by Ministers22. The Speaker pro tem, Dr. Govind Das, said that it was clear in rule 7 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha that any member could propose the name of another member for Speakership, adding a Minister did not mean that he was not a member of the House23.

Once a candidate is declared elected as Speaker of Lok Sabha, he is conducted to the Chair by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and not by the mover and seconder as in the House of Commons. The Speaker, thereafter, conducts the proceedings as the Speaker of Lok Sabha and not as Speaker-elect and does not require recognition by any other authority as in UK where Royal Approbation is granted to the Speaker-elect.

The Speaker’s election in a newly elected Lok Sabha is held only after members are administered the oath/affirmation whereas in a newly elected House of Commons, members are administered oath after the Speaker is chosen. In fact, the Speaker of the House of Commons, standing upon the upper step of the Chair, takes the Oath of Allegiance only after his or her Royal Approbation, followed by other members. While the first business of a newly elected House of Commons is the election of the Speaker, in a newly elected Lok Sabha, the first business is the administration of oath/affirmation to the members-elect.

Ever since the constitution of the First Lok Sabha in 1952 till the present House, elections to the Office of the Speaker of Lok Sabha have been held 17 times. Barring four occasions, the elections have been unanimous. Interestingly, the very first election – to the office of the Speaker of the First Lok Sabha – held on 15 May 1952 was a contested one. Three motions proposing the name of Shri G.V. Mavalankar, Speaker of the Central Legislative Assembly, the Constituent Assembly (Legislative), and the Provisional Parliament – the predecessors of Lok Sabha – were moved in the House. Two motions proposing the name of another member, Shri Shankar Shantaram More were also moved. The first motion moved by the Prime Minister, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru and seconded by the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Shri S.N. Sinha was adopted by the House by 394 Ayes to 55 Noes24.

The second contested election was held on 17 March 1967 to elect the Speaker of the Fourth Lok Sabha. There were seven motions before the House, one proposing the name of Dr. N. Sanjiva Reddy, five proposing the name of Shri T. Viswanathan and one proposing the name of Shri R.K. Khadilkar. However, only six motions were moved. The motion proposing the name of Shri Khadilkar was not moved. The motion proposing the name of Dr. Reddy, moved by the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Dr. Ram Subhag Singh and seconded by the Minister of State of Finance, Shri K.C. Pant was adopted, after a division, by 278 to 207 votes25.

The third contested election took place on 5 January 1976 to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of the sitting Speaker Dr. G.S. Dhillon on 1 December 1975. Three motions proposing the names of Shri B.R. Bhagat, Shri Samar Guha and Shri Jagannath Rao Joshi, respectively, were included in the List of Business dated 5 January 1976. The motion proposing the name of Shri Guha was not moved, while the two other motions were moved. The motion proposing the name of Shri Bhagat moved by Prime Minister, Smt. Indira Gandhi and seconded by the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Shri K. Raghuramaiah was adopted by 351 votes in favour and 60 against it26.

The fourth and the last contested election was held on 24 March 1998 to elect the Speaker of the Twelfth Lok Sabha. While the motion proposing the name of Shri P.A. Sangma, Speaker of the Eleventh Lok Sabha, was negatived by the House, the motion proposing the name of Shri G.M.C. Balayogi – moved by the Prime Minister, Shri A.B. Vajpayee and seconded by the Minister of Home Affairs, Shri L.K. Advani – was adopted by a voice vote27.

Five Indian Speakers, namely Shri M.A. Ayyangar, Dr. N. Sanjiva Reddy, Dr. G.S. Dhillon, Dr. Bal Ram Jakhar and Shri G.M.C. Balayogi have been chosen for a second time. While four of them were chosen in successive Lok Sabhas, Dr. Reddy was elected for a second time after a gap of 10 years of his first election. Unlike the Speakers of House of Commons, many of whom have been re-elected three times or more, no Speaker of Lok Sabha in Independent India has so far been elected to the Office of Speaker for a third time.

Only on four occasions, were elections held to the Office of Speaker during the on-going life of the Lok Sabha due to death or resignation of sitting Speakers. The election to the Office of Speaker during the tenure of the First Lok Sabha was held for a second time on 8 March 1956 following the death of the sitting Speaker Shri Mavalankar. Election was held on 8 August 1969 (Fourth Lok Sabha) and again on 26 March 1977 (Sixth Lok Sabha) due to the vacancy caused by the resignation of the sitting Speaker, Dr. N. Sanjiva Reddy. On both occasions, Dr. Reddy had resigned to contest the Presidential election. While in 1969 Dr. Reddy lost the election by a narrow margin, he was elected President of India in 1977. Election was also held on 5 January 1976 to choose a successor to Dr. G.S. Dhillon who had resigned from the Speakership to be sworn in as a Cabinet Minister.

Dr. Bal Ram Jakhar was the only Speaker of Lok Sabha who had the distinction of presiding over two successive Lok Sabhas for their full term (1980-89). The second term of Dr. N. Sanjiva Reddy as the Speaker was the shortest period (3 months, 17 days). For the period 1951-2000, Speakers of the House of Commons have, on an average, held office for a period of a little over seven years, whereas in India, the figure is around four years for the period 1952-1999. Among the House of Commons Speakers since 1951, Speaker Weatherill, presiding over two full Houses, had the longest tenure of a little over 9 years, whereas the tenure of Speaker Lloyd with a little over 5 years was the shortest period.

When Shri G.M.C. Balayogi was elected Speaker of the Twelfth Lok Sabha on 24 March 1998, he was the youngest member so far (46 years) to have been elected to the high Office while Shri K.S. Hegde was the oldest member (68 years) to be elected as Speaker.

There have been 13 general elections each in India since 1952 and in UK since 1951 to constitute their popular Houses. As in the case of the Lok Sabha, in the House of Commons also, elections to the Office of Speaker have been held 17 times during this period. The number of contested elections is also four in both countries for the same period. While eight Members have been chosen to the Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons since 1951, the number is 12 in the case of India since 1952.

Speakers and General Elections

In modern times, no sitting Speaker of the House of Commons has lost his seat in a general election. In contrast, in India, there are cases of Speakers losing their seats in general elections. Dr. G.S. Dhillon, the Speaker of the Fifth Lok Sabha, had resigned from the Office on 1 December 1975 and was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister. He, however, was defeated in the 1977 general elections. Shri B.R. Bhagat, who succeeded Dr. Dhillon as the Speaker of the Fifth Lok Sabha, also lost in the general elections in 1977. Dr. Bal Ram Jakhar, the Speaker of the Seventh and the Eighth Lok Sabha was defeated in the general elections held in 1989.

In many cases, even when Speakers have been elected to succeeding Lok Sabhas, their names were not proposed as candidates for the Office of the Speaker. The names of Shri M. A. Ayyangar, Shri Rabi Ray and Shri Shivraj V. Patil were not proposed as candidates for the Office of Speaker even when they had been re-elected to the next Lok Sabha. Shri P.A. Sangma was the only Speaker (Eleventh Lok Sabha) whose name was proposed by the Opposition for Speakership of the next House. Shri Sangma was, however, not re-elected in a contested election for the Office of Speakership of the Twelfth Lok Sabha.

Till the year 1996, Speakers of Lok Sabha always hailed from the ruling party. This practice was broken in 1996 when Shri P.A. Sangma, a member of the main opposition party – Congress – was unanimously chosen as the Speaker of the House. Again, in 1998 and 1999, Shri G.M.C. Balayogi, belonging to a regional party, the Telugu Desam Party, supporting the BJP-led Government from outside, was elected as the Speaker of the Twelfth and the Thirteenth Lok Sabhas, respectively.

Unlike Speakers of the House of Commons, Indian Speakers are not made members of the other House of Parliament after they demit office. In UK, normally, a Speaker, on his retirement, is elevated to the House of Lords.           

Indian Speakers and Party Politics

The British convention of re-electing the sitting Speaker unopposed has not found much favour in India for a variety of reasons. The desirability of leaving the Speaker’s seat uncontested in a general election and getting him re-elected unopposed as the Speaker has been discussed in various Conferences of the Presiding Officers of Legislative Bodies in India held from time to time. There has been a strong feeling among the Presiding Officers that the seat from which the Speaker stands for re-election should not be contested. Simultaneously, they have also stressed that the Speaker should not take part in party politics.

In 1967, the Conference of Presiding Officers held in New Delhi decided to constitute a Committee to examine the whole gamut of the functioning of representative institutions in the country in the context of changes perceived to be taking place in the political climate. The Committee devoted a considerable time to issues relating to the office of the Speaker. The Committee was originally headed by the then Speaker of the Mysore Legislative Assembly, Shri B. Vaikunta Baliga. Shri V.S. Page, the then Chairman of the Maharashtra Legislative Council, was appointed as the Chairman of the Committee on the passing away of Shri Baliga in June 1968. The Page Committee considered it desirable that a convention should be established to the effect that the seat from which the Speaker stands for election or re-election to the House should not be contested in the elections. The Committee suggested that if the Speaker had functioned impartially and efficiently during his tenure of office, he should be continued as a matter of course. Before the general elections, the ruling party should try to seek a consensus among all political parties on the candidature of the sitting Speaker. Once there was a consensus based on majority decision, all parties should be debarred from putting up candidates against him and should agree to support him against any possible independent candidate. In the event of failing to reach a consensus before the election, all parties would be free to put up candidates for the Speaker’s seat. The existing Speaker, in that case, would be free to contest on a party ticket. Once  re-elected as member, he must not contest or otherwise become the Chief Minister or a Minister; he should, however, be eligible for election as Speaker uncontested.

A British-type convention of ‘once a Speaker, always a Speaker’, is yet to be established in India and sitting Speakers have been seeking re-election on party tickets subjecting themselves to the compulsions of party-politics. Indeed, the position of the Indian Speaker is paradoxical: he has to contest election on a party ticket but is expected to conduct himself in a non-partisan manner once elected Speaker. Thereafter, he is still dependent on his party for a ticket for contesting the next election. Furthermore, the increasing presence of a large number of political parties in the House in recent years particularly has a strenuous effect on the functioning of the Office of the Speaker as the Speaker has to assure all of them of his complete neutrality and fairness and seem to be acting in all fairness all the time. This issue was discussed at the 63rd Conference of Presiding Officers of Legislative Bodies in India held in Hyderabad in May-June 2000. As decided at the Conference, the Speaker of Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Conference of Presiding Officers of Legislative Bodies in India, Shri G.M.C. Balayogi constituted a Committee of Presiding Offic­ers under the Chairmanship of Shri P.M. Sayeed, the Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, to go into all aspects of the Office of the Speaker under the prevailing political conditions. The Committee is presently looking into the matter.

 

 

Table I

Election of Speakers of House of Commons – (1951-2000)

Sl.    Year of          Date of             Reasons for        Presiding                      Speaker              Contested/        Ruling                 Party to which

No.  General        Election           Election                                                 Officer15                         Elected                Uncontested     Party                   Speaker belonged                               Election                                                                                                                                                                      at the time of

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   election

1           2                      3                         4                              5                                 6                                 7                         8                              9             

1.     1951               31.10.51           New House            Sir Frederic                    Mr. William             Contested            Conservative       Conservative       

                                                                                       William Metcalfe,            Shepherd

                                                                                       Clerk of the                    Morrison

                                                                                       House of Commons                                    

2.     1955               7.06.55             New House            Sir Edward                     Mr. William             Re-elected           Conservative       Conservative       

                                                                                       Fellowes, Clerk              Shepherd              unanimously

                                                                                       of the House of              Morrison

                                                                                       Commons                      

3.     1959               20.10.59           New House            Sir Edward                     Sir Harry               Elected                Conservative       Conservative       

                                                                                       Fellowes, Clerk of          Braustyn               unanimously

                                                                                       the House of                  Hylton-Foster

                                                                                       Commons                                                   

4.     1964               27.10.64           New House            Sir Thomas                     Sir Harry               Re-elected           Labour                 Conservative       

                                                                                       George Barnett              Braustyn               unanimously

                                                                                       Cocks, Clerk of              Hylton-Foster

                                                                                       the House of

                                                                                       Commons                                                                                                           

5.                        26.10.65           Death of                 Sir Thomas                     Dr. Horace            Elected                Labour                 Labour

                                                        Speaker                 George                           Maybray               unanimously

                                                        Hylton-Foster         Barnett Cocks,               King

                                                        on 2.09.1965          Clerk of the

                                                                                       House of Commons

6.     1966               18.04.66           New House            Sir Thomas                     Dr. Horace            Re-elected           Labour                 Labour

                                                                                       George Barnett              Maybray               unanimously

                                                                                       Cocks, Clerk of              King

                                                                                       the House of

                                                                                       Commons                      

7.     1970               29.06.70           New House            Sir Thomas                     Dr. Horace            Re-elected           Labour                 Labour

                                                                                       George Barnett              Maybray               unanimously

                                                                                       Cocks, Clerk of              King

                                                                                       the House of

                                                                                       Commons                                                   

8.                        12.01.71           Retirement              Sir Thomas                     Mr. Selwyn           Contested            Conservative       Conservative                                                                                               of Speaker                     George Barnett     Lloyd

                                                        King                        Cocks, Clerk of

                                                                                       the House of

                                                                                       Commons                                                   

9.     1974               6.03.74             New House            Mr. George                     Mr. Selwyn           Re-elected           Labour                 Conservative

        (February)                                                             Russell Strauss,            Lloyd                     unanimously

                                                                                       Father of the

                                                                                       House                                                         

10    1974               22.10.74           New House            Mr. George                     Mr. Selwyn           Re-elected           Labour                 Conservative

        (October)                                                               Russell Strauss,            Lloyd                     unanimously

                                                                                       Father of the House      

11.                      3.02.76             Retirement              Mr. Selwyn                    Mr. George           Elected                Labour                 Labour

                                                        of Speaker             Lloyd, Speaker of          Thomas                 unanimously       

                                                        Lloyd                      the House

12.   1979               9.05.79             New House            Mr. John                         Mr. George           Re-elected           Conservative       Labour

                                                                                       Parker, Father                Thomas                 unanimously       

                                                                                       of the House                                              

 

13.   1983               15.06.83           New House            Mr. James                      Mr. Bernard          Elected                Conservative       Conservative       

                                                                                       Callaghan, Father           Weatherill              unanimously

                                                                                       of the House                                                                          

14.   1987               17.06.87           New House            Sir Bernard                    Mr. Bernard          Re-elected           Conservative       Conservative       

                                                                                       Richard Brain,                Weatherill              unanimously

                                                                                       Father of the

                                                                                       House                           

15.   1992               27.04.92           New House            Sir Edward Heath,         Miss Betty             Contested            Conservative       Labour 

                                                                                       Father of the                  Boothroyd            

                                                                                       House

16.   1997               7.05.97             New House            Sir Edward Heath,         Miss Betty             Re-elected           Conservative       Labour 

                                                                                       Father of the                  Boothroyd             unanimously

                                                                                       House

17.                      23.10.00           Retirement of         Sir Edward Heath,         Mr. Michael           Contested            Labour                 Labour

                                                        Speaker                 Father of the                  J. Martin

                                                        Boothroyd              House                           

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Table II

Election of Speakers of Lok Sabha – (1952-1999)

                                                       

Sl.    Year of          Date of             Reasons for        Presiding                     Speaker              Contested/        Ruling                 Party to which

No.  General        Election           Election                Officer                          Elected                Uncontested     Party                   Speaker belonged                               Election                                                                                                                                                                      at the time of

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   election

1           2                      3                      4                              5                                         6                      7                              8                      9     

1.     1952               15.05.52           New Lok                Sh. B. Das,                     Sh. G.V.                Contested            Congress            Congress

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Mavalankar

                                                                                                                             (died in office

                                                                                                                             on 27 February

                                                                                                                             1956)

2.                        8.03.56             Death of                 Sardar Hukam                Sh. M.A.                Elected                Congress            Congress

                                                        Speaker                 Singh, Speaker              Ayyangar             unanimously

                                                        Mavalankar            pro tem                                                        by a voice vote                              

3.     1957               11.05.57           New Lok                Dr. Govind Das,             Sh. M.A.                Re-elected           Congress            Congress

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Ayyangar             unanimously

                                                                                                                                                           by a voice vote                              

4.     1962               17.04.62           New Lok                Dr. Govind Das,             Sardar                  Elected                Congress            Congress             

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Hukam Singh         unanimously

                                                                                                                                                           by a voice vote  

5.     1967               17.03.67           New Lok                Dr. Govind Das,             Dr. N.                    Contested            Congress            Congress

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Sanjiva Reddy

                                                                                                                             (resigned on

                                                                                                                             19.07.69)                                                                     

6.                        8.08.69             Resignation of        Sh. R.K.                          Dr. G.S.                 Elected                Congress            Congress

                                                        Speaker                 Khadilkar,                       Dhillon                   unanimously

                                                        Reddy                    Dy.Speaker                                                 by a voice vote                              

7.     1971               22.03.71           New Lok                Dr. Govind Das,             Dr. G.S.                 Re-elected           Congress            Congress

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Dhillon                   unanimously

                                                                                                                             (resigned on

                                                                                                                             1.12.75)                                           

8.                        5.01.76             Resignation            Shri G.G. Swell,             Sh. B.R.                Contested            Congress            Congress             

                                                        of Speaker             Dy.Speaker                    Bhagat

                                                        Dhillon                                                          

9.     1977               26.03.77           New Lok                Shri D.N. Tiwari,             Dr. N. Sanjiva        Elected                Janata Party        Janata Party

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Reddy                   unanimously

                                                                                                                             (resigned

                                                                                                                             on 13.07.77)                                    

10.                      21.07.77           Resignation            Sh. Godey                      Sh. K.S.                Elected                Janata Party        Janata Party

                                                        of Speaker             Murahari,                        Hegde                   unanimously

                                                        Reddy                    Dy.Speaker                                                                            

11.   1980               22.01.80           New Lok                Sh. Jagjivan Ram,          Dr. Bal Ram           Elected                Congress            Congress

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Jakhar                   unanimously                                   

12.   1985               16.01.85           New Lok                Sh. Jagjivan Ram,          Dr Bal Ram            Re-elected           Congress            Congress

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Jakhar                   unanimously                                   

13.   1989               19.12.89           New Lok                Prof. N.G. Ranga,           Sh. Rabi                Elected                Janata Dal           Janata Dal

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Ray                       unanimously       

14.   1991               10.7.91             New Lok                Sh. Indrajit Gupta,          Sh. Shivraj V.       Elected                Congress            Congress

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Patil                       unanimously                                   

15.   1996               23.05.96           New Lok                Sh. Indrajit Gupta,          Sh. P.A.                Elected                BJP                      Congress

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Sangma                unanimously                                   

16.   1998               24.03.98           New Lok                Sh. Indrajit Gupta,          Sh. G.M.C.            Contested            Coalition led         Telugu

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Balayogi                                            by BJP and          Desam

                                                                                                                                                                                       supported            Party

                                                                                                                                                                                       by TDP                 (TDP)   

17.   1999               22.10.99           New Lok                Sh. Indrajit Gupta,          Sh. G.M.C.            Re-elected           NDA led               Telugu

                                                        Sabha                    Speaker pro tem            Balayogi                unanimously        by BJP                 Desam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Speaker of the House of Commons is nowadays assisted by three Deputies–the Chairman of Ways and Means, the First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means and the Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
  2. Parl.Deb. Third Series, House of Commons, Vol. 59, col. 7, 1841
  3. Speakers elected since 1835 -James Abercromby (1835-39); Charles Shaw-Lefevre (1839-57); John Evelyn Denison (1857-72); Henry Bouverie William Brand (1872-84); Arthur Wellesley Peel (1884-95); William Court Gully (1895-1905); James William Lowther (1905-21); John Henry Whitley (1921-28); Edward A. FitzRoy   (1928-43); Clifton Brown (1943-51); William Shepherd Morrison (1951-59); Harry Braustyn Hylton-Foster (1959-65); Horace Maybray King (1965-71); Selwyn Lloyd (1971-76); George Thomas (1976-83); Bernard Weatherill (1983-92); Betty Boothroyd (1992-2000); and Michael J. Martin (2000-)
  4. ee Philip Laundy, “The Speaker and His Office in the Twentieth Century” in
    S.A. Walkland (ed.) The  House of Commons in the Twentieth Century – Essays by Members of the Study of Parliamentary Group, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1979, p. 132
  5. There have been nine contested elections since the year 1800. The contested elections took place in 1817, 1833, 1835, 1839, 1895, 1951, 1971, 1992 and 2000. Charles Manners-Sutton (Tory) won the election in 1817 by 312 votes to 152 votes; re-elected for the seventh time in a contested election in 1833 by 241 to 31 votes. James Abercromby won the election in 1835 by 316 to 306 votes. Charles Shaw-Lefevre was elected in 1839 by 317 to 299 votes. William Court Gully was elected in 1895 by 285 to 274 votes. W.S. Morrison was elected in 1951 by 318 to 251 votes. Selwyn Lloyd was elected in 1971 by 294 to 55 votes. Betty Boothroyd was elected in 1992 by 372 to 238 votes. Michael Martin was elected in 2000 by 370 to 8 votes.
  6. House of Commons Deb., Vol. 493, c.16, 31.10.1951
  7. House of Commons Deb., Fifth Series, Vol. 809, c. 9, 12.01.1971
  8. Ibid., c.12
  9. House of Commons Deb., Vol. 809, col. 22, 12.01.1971
  10. Ibid., c. 22
  11. Election of a Speaker, Second Report, Procedure Committee, House of Commons, February 2000-2001
  12. For details see Election of a Speaker, First Report, Procedure Committee, House of Commons, 1971-72, Para 25
  13. House of Commons Deb., Vol. 207, c.16, 27.4.1992
  14. See G.C. Malhotra: ‘The First Woman Speaker of the British House of Commons’, Journal of Parliamentary Information, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 3, September 1993, pp. 342-44
  15.  If the retiring Speaker is still in office, he or she will normally take the Chair during the election. If there is no Speaker in post, or able to preside at thetime of the election, the practice before the early 1970s was that the Clerk of the House of Commons took the Chair. Following the review by the Procedure Committee, in 1972, it was decided that “that Member, present in the House and not being a Minister of the Crown, who has served for the longest period continuously as a Member of this House” should take the Chair.
  16. House of Commons Deb. Vol. 353, c.869, 12.7.2000
  17. W.R. McKay, (Clerk, House of Commons, UK), Commonwealth Newsletter, London, 18 December 2000, p.1
  18. Election of a Speaker, Second Report, Procedure Committee, House of Commons, February 2001, para.75
  19. bid., para 76
  20. For details of recommendations see Election of a Speaker, Second Report, Procedure Committee, House of Commons, February 2001
  21. Parliamentary Deb., House of the People, Part II, Vol.1, No.1, c. 30, 13.5.1952
  22. Lok Sabha Deb., Fourth Series, Vol.1, cc. 23-24, 17.3.1967
  23. bid, c. 27
  24. Parliamentary Debates, House of the People. Part II, Vol. 1, No. 1, cc. 21-28, 13.5.1952
  25. L.S. Deb., Fourth Series, Vol. 1, No. 1, cc. 21-54, 13.3.1967
  26. L.S. Deb., Fifth Series, Vol. LV, No. 1, cc. 25-36, 5.1.1976
  27. L.S. Deb., Twelfth Series, Vol. 1, No. 1, cc. 6-7, 24.3.1998