Baroness D’Souza is the current Lord Speaker. She was elected in July 2011 and is the second Lord Speaker. Baroness Hayman was the first Lord Speaker, elected in July 2006.
As well as overseeing proceedings in the Lords chamber, the Lord Speaker acts as an ambassador for the Lords in the UK and abroad. She explains the work of the House of Lords and its contribution to Parliament.
Lord Speaker's duties
- presiding over business in the Lords chamber from the Woolsack
- attending and speaking at ceremonial occasions on behalf of the Lords and meeting visiting dignitaries and heads of state
- representing the Lords overseas and developing parliamentary relations in Commonwealth countries and emerging parliamentary democracies
- attending international meetings with speakers of other parliaments
- chairing the House Committee, the main supervisory body for the House of Lords Administration, with responsibility for financial matters
- taking formal responsibility for security in the Lords area of the parliamentary estate
- Promoting an outreach programme to engage the public in the work of the Lords, including the Peers in Schools programme, specifically aimed at young people.
Lord Speaker's role in the chamber
At the start of each sitting, the Lord Speaker processes into the chamber where she presides over proceedings from the Woolsack.
As the House is self-regulating, the Lord Speaker has no power to call members to order, to decide who speaks next, or to select amendments, but does collect the voices and calls for divisions (votes) when necessary.
Deputy Speakers assist the Lord Speaker and also sit on the Woolsack in the Lord Speaker’s absence. They are all members of the Lords and may continue to engage in party politics while serving as deputies.
How the Lord Speaker is elected
The Lord Speaker is elected by members of the House of Lords for a period of five years, renewable once. The first election took place on 4 July 2006 when Baroness Hayman took office.
Upon election, the successful Lord Speaker becomes unaffiliated from any party and is not expected to vote, even in the event of a tie (as the House of Lords has rules set out for resolving an equality of votes).
The post of Lord Speaker was created under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Previously, the Lord Chancellor presided over debates in the House of Lords.