If you have been following the spring budget today (March 6), you might have noticed it is not Sir Lindsay Hoyle who opened the statement in the House of Commons.

Instead, it is Dame Eleanor Laing sitting in the big seat as the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt sets out the latest economic plan in the UK.

Laing is the Deputy Speaker, who is also known as Chairman of Ways and Means.

Since 2013, she has served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, and as Chairman of Ways and Means since 2020.

This made her the senior Deputy Speaker, and the first woman to hold this post.

But why didn't Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle open the spring budget?

Why does the Deputy Speaker chair the budget?

The UK parliament website explained: "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."

This doesn't mean that the Speaker can't chair the budget, which has happened in 1968 and 1989.

Who is Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing?

The UK parliament website says: "Undeterred by her [Laing] failure to secure the safe Labour seat of Paisley North in the 1987 General Election, she became Special Adviser to the then Education Secretary John MacGregor in 1989, continuing in the role when he was Leader of the House in 1990-92 and Transport Secretary in 1992-94.

"By 1997 her perseverance paid off – and she became the Conservative Member of Parliament for Epping Forest. She even fought an election while heavily pregnant in 2001 – and gave birth to her son a week after polling day."

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In February 1999, she was promoted to the post of Opposition Whip and in July 2000 became frontbench spokesman for Constitutional Affairs.

UK parliament commented: "She has also been an Education and Skills spokesman, Shadow Minister for Children and, Shadow Minister for Women. In 2005, she was promoted to Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, and in 2007-10, she was Shadow Minister for Justice"

Laing was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 2017.