The election was presided over by the Father of the House, Sir Edward Heath, and was conducted by means of a conventional parliamentary motion, originally to elect Peter Brooke. He was proposed and seconded by Conservative MPs Sir Michael Neubert and Sir Tom Arnold respectively. When Brooke had made his own speech submitting his candidacy, Conservative MP John Biffen moved an amendment to the original motion to elect Betty Boothroyd, who was then seconded by Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody. Boothroyd then gave her own speech submitting her candidacy.
MPs then voted on the amendment to the original motion, that Betty Boothroyd take the Chair as Speaker, which was approved by 372 votes to 238. Boothroyd was thus conducted to the Speaker's Chair by Biffen and Dunwoody, to unprecedented scenes of spontaneous and sustained applause. Clapping was and remains disorderly in the House of Commons, but it has since been tolerated in subsequent elections of Speaker.