Peers line up to be first elected House of Lords Speaker

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Indy Politics

Since 605, a Lord Chancellor has presided over the business of the House of Lords chamber. But this week 1,400 years of tradition are set to be swept aside as peers vote to replace the historic role with an elected Speaker.

The new Lord Speaker, who will be elected by peers, will ditch the wig and stockings that have been so closely identified with the role of Lord Chancellor.

Although he or she will sit on the Woolsack, the House of Lords Speaker will wear a gown - and ermine parliamentary robes on ceremonial occasions.

Already, peers from all sides of the House of Lords have begun jockeying to take on the new role, which will include a personal staff, elegant rooms currently occupied by the Lord Chancellor and a healthy salary.

The House of Lords Speaker will preside over the business of the house and have an ambassadorial role, which will include representing the House of Lords overseas and at official functions. He or she will also take on the historic role, now held by the Lord Chancellor, as one of the official "key-holders" of Westminster Hall, the medieval part of the Palace of Westminster, along with the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Even ahead of this week's vote peers were expressing their interest in taking on the role. Lord Steel, the former Liberal Democrat leader, has told colleagues he would be interested in running for election as Speaker. The vote will take place in June or July. And former Commons speakers Baroness Boothroyd and Lord Weatherill are being tipped as possible contenders.

But some peers believe the high-profile position should be filled by a non-partisan figure from the independent benches.