Interview with the former Lord Speaker

The House of Lords elected Baroness Hayman as its first Lord Speaker on 4 July 2006. Here she explained her role and responsibilities and the importance of the House of Lords.

Why was the role of Lord Speaker created?

It was created as part of a much wider constitutional reform affecting the position of the Lord Chancellor where it was decided that it was not appropriate for the Lord Chancellor to be head of the judiciary, a member of the government and the Speaker of the House of Lords.

A House of Lords select committee recommended having an elected Lord Speaker holding office for five years. The Lord Speaker would give up party membership, be independent of government and party and represent the House as a whole.

What are your responsibilities?

I have responsibilities in the chamber for presiding over debate, I chair the House Committee and I sit on the Procedure Committee. I am also in a position to represent the House. I am developing what we call the "outreach role", which is about making Parliament more easily understood and accessible to people, and engaging people with Parliament.

How does your role differ from what the Lord Chancellor did, and the Speaker of the House of Commons?

Unlike the Lord Chancellor, I have absolutely no executive responsibilities. I'm not a member of the government, and I have no responsibility for the legal system or the judiciary.

This is a self-regulating House, so my role is very different from the Speaker of the House of Commons: I don't call people to order or decide who speaks in debates. I have a formal role in putting motions and amendments to the House - so it's a limited role in the chamber.

What is the role and importance of the House of Lords today?

I would not have been an active participant in the House of Lords for the last ten years if I didn't think there was an important role for the second chamber. The Lords scrutinises a lot of legislation, not only domestic legislation but European legislation; I think there's a lot of work to be done and probably room for two chambers to do it.

I believe in two chambers that are complementary rather than rivals. I think that having a House that adds value, that has a distinctive flavour, that does something different, but is additional to the first chamber is very important.

What plans do you have to promote this message?

I'm hoping that over time the Parliamentary website is going to be quite an important way of doing that.

I speak to various audiences outside about the House of Lords and I'm very anxious that we do more work with schools and with the citizenship curriculum.

I also take the opportunity to talk to the media about the role of the House whenever I can.

Read part two of this interview

Related information

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Interview with the Lord Speaker - extended

Read an extended version of our interview with the Lord Speaker in PDF format.

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