Deputy Speakers

In the House of Lords a panel of 20 to 25 Deputy Speakers assist the Lord Speaker in presiding over debates when the Lord Speaker is not present. Unlike the Lord Speaker, Deputy Speakers may continue to participate in debates and vote in divisions, even when they are sitting on the Woolsack. Deputy Speakers are appointed by the Crown. By practice, all Deputy Speakers will also be Deputy Chairmen. The difference is that the latter are appointed by the House at the start of each session, whereas Royal Commissions occur only occasionally. Deputy Chairmen and Deputy Speakers exercise the same functions in the House. Of the panel of 20 to 25, the Chief Whip and Opposition Chief Whip are also Deputy Speakers and sit on the Woolsack if no other Deputy is present. The first of the Deputy Speakers is ex officio the Chairman of Committees. The panel also includes the Chairman of the Lords European Union Committee (who is also the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees), but whose duties with the EU Committee leave no time for sitting on the Woolsack.

In the House of Commons there are three Deputy Speakers who assist the Speaker in chairing debates in his absence. There are also specific debates which a Deputy Speaker always presides over.

The Deputy Speakers are officially known as the Chairman of Ways and Means, the First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means and the Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.  These names are from the old Committee of Ways and Means where proposals for raising taxation historically originated (since 1967 this has resided with the Chancellor of the Exchequer). 

Along with supporting the Speaker in the Chamber, the Deputy Speaker’s main responsibilities are to oversee arrangements for sittings in Westminster Hall, oversee matters connected with private bills and Chair of the Panel of Chairs with general responsibility for the work of general committees.

Further information on this subject can be found from the following links.

About Parliament: The Lord Speaker

Related glossary term: Lord Speaker

Related glossary term: Woolsack

About Parliament: Commons Deputy Speakers

Library Briefing: The election of Deputy Speakers

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