The Speaker, John Bercow, was in Hull today to deliver a Parliamentary Studies Lecture on ‘Why Parliament Matters’. The University is one of twenty accredited for the delivery of such lectures by clerks of both Houses and the Speaker’s was the last of this semester’s lectures. Addressing a packed lecture theatre, he argued the case for strengthening the House of Commons in relation to the executive as well as making the membership more representative of those it sought to serve.
He noted that before he became Speaker in 2009, it was rare for Speakers to grant an Urgent Question. Since his election, he has granted 460, designed to bring ministers to account on the pressing issues of the day. He welcomed reforms of recent years, not least the election by the whole House of select committee chairs, the election by the parties of members of the committees, and the creation and work of the Backbench Business Committee. He also advocated government business being scheduled by a business committee and favoured reform of the way in which Private Members’ Bills were considered, allowing the House to vote on them rather than being talked out. He was open to the idea of proxy voting.
He also emphasised the importance of education – he was instrumental in achieving the building of the Education Centre near the House of Lords, in Victoria Tower Gardens – and the value of outreach. He enjoyed visiting universities and saw such visits as an important part of his job.
For the Speaker, this was a return visit to the University, having previously been the guest speaker at the Politics Department’s 50th anniversary celebration. On both occasions, he drew attention to the fact that as an undergraduate he drew on the work of a particular Hull academic…
Photographs by Mike Park.