On Members’ attire

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): I pay tribute to all the public sector workers we rely on time and time again, and in particular those in Staffordshire. Over many months, I have had letters from serving police officers concerned about the Winsor report and the knock-on effect on morale, and about A19 and losing senior officers. Now they are concerned about the fact that having been called on at our time of need—out on the streets, putting themselves in the firing line—they are having their leave cancelled and having to give up holidays due to overtime requirements. It was an hour and a half before we heard the words “Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary”, and we have heard nothing about […]

On giving way

In the Canadian House of Commons, during any debate, each Member of Parliament (MP) who rises to speak does so uninterrupted for a pre-determined length of time, normally 10 or 20 minutes. During that time, a Member may only interrupt another Member for very specific, procedural reasons, for example, to: call attention to a point of order; call attention to a matter of privilege suddenly arising; call attention to the lack of a quorum. etc. Beyond these procedural reasons, however, no Member may interrupt a Member who has the floor to question some aspect of the remarks the speaking Member is making. In the UK House of Commons (and in the New Zealand House of Representatives), however, the Member who […]

What’s what in Parliament: the Bar of the House

On April 17, 2002, angry with the outcome of a vote on his private Member’s bill, a Canadian Member of Parliament grabbed hold of the Mace. This action was considered to be in contempt of the House and a prima facie breach of privilege was found. A week later, the House adopted a motion calling not only for the Member to appear at the Bar of the House, but also to apologize for his actions. The next day, the Member appeared at the Bar and apologized to the House. What is the Bar of the House? It is, quite literally, a barrier at the entrance into the Chamber which marks its boundaries. In the UK, the Bar is actually a […]

You can’t say that!

While parliamentary privilege grants Members of Parliament the right to exercise of freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings, there are still certain rules in place that curtail what an MP can say and how they can say it. Some of these restrictions are age-old parliamentary conventions and exist in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc., while others are country-specific. Here is a quick overview. In general, the following rules governing the content of speeches exist in most Westminster-style parliamentary parliaments. Members cannot refer to each other by their names. They must refer to another Member by their title, position or constituency name. The purpose of this rule is to make debate less personal and avoid the direct confrontation of […]

Keyword post: How does the Prime Minister end up Prime Minister?

It seems a few readers have been looking for information on the procedure for electing a Prime Minister. In a parliamentary system such as we have in Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc., the Prime Minister is not directly elected by the voters. They are a Member of the legislative body in question, and so elected as the representative of whichever constituency they run in. They are also the leader of a political party. They only become Prime Minister if their party ends up forming the government, either on its own or as part of a coalition or other arrangement.They do not have to be the leader of the party which has the most seats in the legislature – […]

What’s what in Parliament: The Mace

If you’ve ever watched the proceedings in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom or Canada, any provincial legislature, or the Houses of Representatives of Australia or New Zealand, to name but a few legislative bodies, you may have noticed the ceremonial Mace resting on the Table, or perhaps being carried into or out of the Chamber. The Mace today is the symbol of the Speaker’s authority. Its origins date back to the Middle Ages, when maces were an officer’s weapon used to break through chain-mail or plate armour. The Sergeants-at-Arms of the King’s Bodyguard were equipped with maces, which were stamped with the Royal Arms and carried by the Sergeants in the exercise of their powers of arrest […]