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Question 15. Duties and power of the Speaker in the House of Commons.

Anybody who happened to be watching the life broadcast of Parliament on 27 April 1992 was able to witness an extraordinary spectacle: a female MP was physically dragged, apparently against her will , out of her seat on the back benches by fellow MPs and was forced to sit in the large chair in the middle of the House of Commons.

What the House of Commons was actually doing was appointing a new Speaker. The S. Is a person who chairs and controls discussion in the House, decides which MP is going to speak next and makes sure that the rules of procedure are followed. (If they are not , the S. Has the power to demand a public apology from a MP or even to ban a MP from the House for a number of days.)It is a very important position. In fact ,the S. is oficially , the second most important “commoner”(non-aristocrat) in kingdom after the Prime Minister.

The S is chosen by MPs and then is customarily reappointed to his office in each new Parliament, even if the majority in the House has changed. Although first elected to the Parliament as a party MP, a S must abandon party politics until retirement to the House of Lords and, becoming a neutral official, neither speaks nor votes other than in his official capacity( in a tied vote the S gives a casting vote without expressing his opinion but exercising his choice in such a way that it reflects established conventions).

Hundreds of years ago, it was the S’s job to communicate the decisions of the Commons to the King( that is where the title SPEAKER comes from). As the king was often very displeased with what the Commons had decided, this was not a pleasant task. As a result , nobody wanted the job. They had to be forced to take it. These days the position is much safer one, but the tradition of dragging an unwilling S to the chair has remained.

The occasion in 1992 was the first time that a woman had been appointed S, so that MPs had to get used to addressing not “Mr Speaker”, as they had always done in the past, but “Madam Speaker” instead. Once a S has been appointed, he or she agrees to give up all party politics and remains in the job for as long as he or she wants it.

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