Indian-born Lord Meghnad Desai, a renowned economist and member of the Labor Party, is in the contest for the post of the Speaker of Britain’s House of Lords. The election, in which only peers can vote begins at 1000 GMT (3.30 p.m. IST) and runs all day.
Lord Meghnad Desai is contesting for the post of Speaker of House of Lords. Above, a file photo.
The results will be announced on July 18 and the newly-elected Speaker will take charge from September.
The 70-year old Lord Desai, who has lived in Britain for almost half a century, entered the House of Lords in 1991 after being appointed a member of it by the Queen. Since then, he has participated in political activities and headed various government committees. He is in the race for the top post along with five other candidates who include the present deputy speaker, former dentist Anthony Hamilton-Smith, who is addressed as Lord Colwyn. Lord Colwyn, who is from the Conservative party, entered the House of Lords in 1967.
If elected, Lord Desai would become the first Indian Speaker of the House of Lords, although it has had an Indian-origin deputy speaker, Lord Swraj Paul. Lord Paul resigned last year after being suspended temporarily in connection with a House expenses scandal.
India Real Time interviewed Lord Desai about the Speaker’s contest via email. Edited excerpts:
IRT: Why did you decide to contest election for the Speaker of the House of Lords?
Lord Desai: I decided last September when I was asked by the present Speaker Baroness Helene Hayman to represent her at the G20 conference of Speakers in Canada. I enjoyed the experience and thought this was something I would like to do. This is only the second time an election for the post of Speaker is being held. Before 2006, the House of Lords was presided over by the chancellor who was the head of the judiciary and member of the Cabinet.
IRT: How significant is this for Britain’s Asians?
Lord Desai: My being a PIO [Person of Indian Origin] is not an important part of my campaign. I am not contesting as an Asian candidate but someone who has been a member of the House of Lords for 20 years and knows the place well. There are around 20 peers or members who are of South Asian origin.
IRT: What does the House of Lords Speaker do?
Lord Desai: The House of Lords is a self-regulating body and the duties of the Lord Speaker in the chamber are minimal. The Speaker has to read out amendments to be tabled and announce a vote if there is one. There are also a lot of committees in the House and the Speaker chairs many of them. He is also in-charge of the estate of the House of Lords, looks after staff and explains the role of the House of Lords to the outside world.
IRT: How would you handle the job?
Lord Desai: Very well indeed. Though, if I am elected as the Speaker, my opinions with regard to the reform of the House of Lords will not be taken into consideration [Lord Desai believes members of the House of Lords should be directly elected for a fixed term and not appointed by the Queen in consultation with the Prime Minister as is presently done—India Real Time.] You have to be absolutely non-partisan.
Via: India Real Time