Guide: Who is the Speaker of the House of Commons?
- 10 April 2014
The Speaker of the House of Commons is one of the biggest jobs in British politics.
But what does the Speaker do? Read our guide to the role, how the Speaker is chosen, and the history of the job.
What is the Speaker's job?
The Speaker of the House of Commons chairs debates between Members of Parliament (MPs). They keep order and call up MPs to speak.
The Speaker also represents the House of Commons to the Queen, the House of Lords and other authorities.
They have three deputies.
How is the Speaker chosen?
The role of the Speaker goes to an MP who is decided in a secret vote of their fellow MPs.
They are elected on the first day a new parliament comes together, or after a Speaker has resigned.
The Speaker must remain impartial at all times - that means they cannot take sides.
When elected, they must resign from their political party and stay separate from political issues - even after they retire.
What powers does the Speaker have?
The Speaker has a powerful role in the House of Commons.
They can ask an MP to withdraw remarks if they think it's inappropriate, and tell MPs to be quiet so opinions can be heard.
They can also suspend MPs who misbehave - or even call off a session if things get really out of hand.
Why is it such a tough job?
Debates in the House of Commons can get very heated, especially during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) - when the prime minister answers questions from MPs on Wednesdays.
MPs will often shout and jeer at each other and call each other names.
With more than 600 MPs to control, it can be hard work keeping things running smoothly.
Who is the Speaker at the moment?
The current Speaker is John Bercow. He was elected on 22 June 2009.
He is the 157th Speaker of the House of Commons.
He was elected MP for Buckingham in 1997 as a member of the Conservative Party.
History of the Speaker
The Speaker role is more than 600 years old.
The first Speaker, Sir Thomas Hungerford, was appointed in 1377, but earlier versions of the role date back to 1258.
Until the 17th Century, the Speaker was seen as working for the king or queen. But the Speaker was often blamed if they brought news from Parliament that the monarch did not like.
Due to this, seven Speakers were executed between 1394 and 1535!