Monday, 23 December 2013

Bad Behaviour in the Commons

The House of Commons recently held a debate on the rise in the number of Foodbanks. The debate was provoked by a petition calling on the House of Commons to debate hunger and the rise in Foodbanks. Incredibly, the petition managed to get over 100,000 signatures (the number required to get debated in Parliament) in just two days.

This was not a debate on some arcane aspect of law. This was a debate demanded by the British public, on a topic of urgent humanitarian concern.

It was, in short, important - and people were watching.

So one would expect MP's to:
a) be present and
b) be on their best behaviour.

Neither of these things happened.

The Government side of the House in particular was very sparsely populated and some measure the behaviour of the MP's can be gained by the fact that Eleanor Laing the Deputy Speaker of the House, had to intervene some 14 times in the first hour of the debate alone, as shown below :

1) Order. I must warn hon. Members that if everybody takes four minutes, plus the time allowed for interventions, only about a third of those who wish to speak will be able to do so. One would hope that Members, out of consideration for others, might take less than four minutes where at all possible.

2) Order.

3) Order. The hon. Gentleman should make a brief intervention, but it must be heard by the House. He may now make his intervention, but briefly.

4) Order. I cannot hear the shadow Minister, but she is speaking perfectly clearly. There is too much noise in the Chamber. Members should have the courtesy to listen to the hon. Lady moving the motion

5) Order. I do not understand why there are conversations going on all around the Chamber. [Interruption.] I can see where they are taking place. If Members are here to take part in the debate, they must listen to the hon. Lady who is proposing the motion.

6) Order. This is not a football match. Do not shout at the Minister. She will give way when she is ready.

7) Order. There is no point in having a debate if nobody listens to the person who is speaking. Be quiet.

8) Order. There are too many people standing up. The Minister is not taking interventions at this point. Allow her to make her speech.

9) Order. We cannot hear the Minister.

10) Order. [Interruption.] Order. The House should pause for a moment, calm down and listen to the Minister. Everyone will have a turn to make their point in due course. [Interruption.] Order. I call the Minister.

11) Order. If hon. Members do not keep quiet and listen to the Minister, she will have to repeat her speech over and over again—[Interruption.] Order. If the House keeps interrupting me, I will call order again and again, and very few hon. Members will have the chance to make the speeches they have prepared. Let us have silence. I call the Minister.

12) Order. Members must not shout at the Minister. It is clear that she does not intend to give way, and she is not going to give way if you shout at her. Please be quiet, allow the Minister to finish her speech and then everyone will have a chance to make their contribution.

13) Order. The hon. Lady must be brief, but she must be heard.

14) Order. Hon. Members will allow the Minister to conclude her speech.

Interventions by the Deputy Speaker during
the first hour of the Foodbank Debate 18 Dec 2013

BFTF asked No3 Son (10yrs old) what he thought of the behaviour of the MP's and his comments were:

"Not a good example...worse than children...they should show respect to each other...Say "If I may" instead of shouting...Shouting is the look of their behaviour they shouldn't be running the country...they shouldn't say anything about children's behaviour until they have sorted out their own behaviour."
BFTF wonders whether MP's ever feel, frankly, ashamed at their behaviour in Parliament and poor impression it gives of their ability to run the country.

Commons attendance during the Foodbank Debate 18 Dec 2013

Links updated Jan 2019.