The deputy speaker of the House of Commons chairing the budget is a long-standing tradition.
While many people might have expected to see speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle chairing the budget, it was his deputy Dame Eleanor Laing who did so.
Sir Lindsay has been critical over Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s pre-budget briefings, saying the ministerial code states important announcements of Government policy should be made to Parliament first when it is in session.
Dame Eleanor echoed that criticism during the budget meeting on Wednesday (27 October).
Here’s what you need to know about why the deputy speaker chairs the budget and who Dame Eleanor Laing is.
Why does the deputy speaker chair the budget?
The chair of the Ways and Means, who is also the principal deputy speaker, traditionally chairs the opening statement and debate of the budget.
However, this does not mean that the speaker can’t chair the budget, and there have been occasions where they have, notably in 1968 and 1989.
The office of Ways and Means stemmed historically from the need to act independently when it came to issues such as budget.
The UK Parliament website states: “Until at least the 18th century, Speakers were placed in an increasingly untenable and dangerous position: meant to represent the House’s interests to the King on the one hand, and the King’s interests to the House on the other.
“After the Restoration, in the late 17th century, the Commons resolved that whenever it was to consider the financial demands of the King, it would need to resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, chaired by its ‘own man’, rather than the Speaker, who was seen as the King’s spy.”
Who is Dame Eleanor Laing?
Dame Eleanor, who was born in Paisley, was elected as an MP in 1997 for Epping Forest, and she became deputy speaker in 2013.
Last year she became the first female to be elected to the role of Chairman of Ways and Means.
Earlier in the week as she geared up to chair the budget she hosted a Q&A on her Twitter page.
During Wednesday’s budget she showed her support for the speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle over his stance on the pre-budget briefings. She also said in a video clip on her Twitter page that such announcements being made to Parliament first was not just “some archaic rule that we adhere to for the sake of it.”
Addressing MPs in the chamber, she said: “As Mr Speaker has said and all ministers know, important policy announcements should be made first to Parliament.
“There shouldn’t be shouts of ‘resign’ over there, that’s not what we’re talking about, we’re just talking about courtesy to this House.”
She added: “I must put on record my support for Mr Speaker’s stance on this issue and express a firm hope which I believe is felt on all sides of the House that we do not find ourselves in this position again at future Budgets.”
Where is Sir Lindsay Hoyle?
Sir Lindsay Hoyle chaired business in the House of Commons earlier in the day.
Prior to the start of the budget he was chairing Prime Minister’s Questions.
At the end of PMQs he was seen to leave his seat to make way for the Deputy Speaker with the budget due to start.
Earlier in the day Sir Lindsay posed up beside Perry, the mascot for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, outside Parliament
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