April 6, 2011

Mr Speaker will now be answering questions sent in by people at the event.

To begin with, a few from students at the Nottingham Academy.

What has been the hardest debate to manage since you became Speaker of the House of Commons?

Debate on proposed sharp increase in tuition fees.  Hardest to manage for two reasons:
– the subject inflamed passions on both sides of the discussion
– In debates of that kind, there are always more people that want to speak than there is time for.  There are inevitably people who are unhappy about not getting to speak – the Speaker doesn’t control the timetable, but can select the questions from those that are sent in before the debate.

I am part of student voice for Y9 at Nottingham Academy, where you ever involved with anything similar at your school and what was your role?I was a bit.  I stood for the School Council, but was not elected!  I did stand for election in primary school, opposing school dinners and seeking to improve them.

The experience of speaking in public, especially in terms of self-confidence, is very important for young people as they grow.  Parliament has now decided to allow the UK Youth Parliament to hold one debate per year in the House.  For MP’s to gain the respect of young people, they need to show respect for them.
What are your qualities as Speaker and what do you find most difficult in your job?

To be clearly fair, not having favourites and being impartial is vital.  Being tough in some situations and competent at the role.  Pleasing everybody is impossible, and it is sometimes difficult to ignore what is childish behaviour in the House.  Mr Bercow gives an example of an MP imitating the Irish accent, he has had to be firm in making it clear how inappropriate that was.

You are still currently a conservative MP for Buckingham, how do you remain impartial as the speaker given your own political views and values?

When the speaker becomes speaker, they resign from their party.  The Speaker sits as MP for their constituency, but not as part of a party.  Mr Bercow tells a story about how he can get much quicker replies to enquiries from his constituents from ministers in the Government.  This is, in part, in recognition of the Speakers role as he doesn’t get to speak in debates.  The Speaker can also request meetings with ministers.


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