Office and role of the Deputy Speaker

Three Deputy Speakers are elected by the House of Commons. The principal Deputy Speaker is the Chairman of Ways and Means. 

The other two Deputy Speakers are Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means and are known respectively as First and Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.

Once elected, the Chairman of Ways and Means and the two Deputy Chairmen all withdraw from an active political role.

Chairman of Ways and Means

The Chairman of Ways and Means is the principal Deputy Speaker and began to formally deputise from 1853. In the absence of the Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means may exercise all the authority of the Speaker, under the Deputy Speakers Act 1855.

The Chairman of Ways and Means is elected from the opposite side of the House from which the Speaker was elected.

The main role of the Chairman of Ways and Means is to take the Chair during unavoidable absence or absence by leave of the House of the Speaker, and perform his or her duties in relation to all proceedings in the House. 

The Chairman of Ways and Means is also chairman of any committee of the whole House.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has three distinct roles from the Speaker:

  1. Supervision of arrangements for sittings in Westminster Hall
  2. General oversight of matters connected with private bills
  3. Chair of the Panel of Chairs with general responsibility for the work of general committees.

Between 1641 and 1967, the Chairman of Ways and Means presided over the Committee of Ways and Means.  Proposals for raising taxation originated in the Committee of Ways and Means but since 1967 (when the Committee was abolished), all fiscal matters, including taxation, now reside with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

Although the Speaker has presided over the Budget debate, in 1968 and 1989 for example, it is usually the Chairman of Ways and Means that takes the Chair as the financial measures contained in the Chancellor’s Budget are brought in on Ways and Means Resolutions.

Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means

There are two Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means; First Deputy Chairman and Second Deputy Chairman.  They may take the Chair in the absence of the Chairmen of Ways and Means either in the Commons Chamber or in Westminster Hall, and exercise all the authority of the Speaker.

In Committee of the whole House, the Chair will be taken by a Deputy Chairman in the absence of the Chairman of Ways and Means.

The election rules for the Deputy Speakers state that the First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means is elected from the same side of the House as the Speaker.  The Second Chairman of Ways and Means is elected from the opposite side of the House from which the Speaker was elected.

Related information

Topics: Speaker

Recent parliamentary material on the Speaker of the House of Commons. This includes briefing papers produced by the parliamentary research services, and the latest Early Day Motions put down by MPs.