Friday, May 29, 2009

How should MPs address ‘dishonourable’ members?

It appears that, for financial reasons, disgraced and discredited members of the House of Commons intend to retain their seats until the next General Election – which may be a up to a year away. In the meantime, in accordance with parliamentary convention, they shall continue to be styled ‘honourable’ and ‘right honourable’ members, despite their sullied reputations, despite having brought Parliament into disrepute, and despite their manifest unworthiness of being accorded such distinction and respect.

There has been an attempt on the ‘Number 10’ website to create a petition to address the issue of having to refer to thieves and liars as ‘honourable’ members. It was worded: ‘We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to request Parliament to instruct The Speaker to stop referring to MPs as "The Honourable Member for" and start calling them "The Current Member for".

The reason, says the petitioner, is that: ‘The age old tradition of assuming all MPs to be "Honourable" is clearly outdated and incorrect. Calling them "The Current Member for" would remind them that their position is dependent on their electorate.’

But the petition has been rejected on the grounds that it is ‘outside the remit or power of the Prime Minister and Government.’

Cranmer is puzzled by this.

Surely it is within the power of the Prime Minister to ask Parliament to debate any matter. And, since the Speaker is a servant of the House, surely Parliament may instruct the Speaker to alter convention, otherwise the Speaker would be accountable to no-one. God knows, New Labour has meddled in far more serious traditions and conventions than the relatively trivial issue of how MPs address one another. This being the case, what is it which places Mr Webber’s petition ‘outside the remit or power of the Prime Minister’?

Over at Three Line Whip, James Kirkup draws our attention to a little recent history.

In 1947, one Garry Allighan MP was found guilty of breaking privilege, and the House debated his punishment. During the debate, Herbert Morrison (grandfather of Lord Mandelson) argued that Mr Allighan should be suspended for six months. But other members felt that this ‘would leave his constituents disenfranchised and they should be given the immediate right to chose another MP at a by-election’. An amendment demanding expulsion was moved by Quintin Hogg (father of Douglas Hogg).

Yet Douglas Hogg is one of those MPs now insisting on remaining an MP for the next 12 months despite accepting that public anger of his moat-cleaning claims is such that he must resign.

During the debate, Sir Winston Churchill argued that having been declared ‘dishonourable’, it would be impossible for Mr Allighan to resume his place as an ‘honourable’ member without being re-elected. The outcome was that the Commons passed a motion: ‘That Mr. Allighan, for his gross contempts of the House and for his misconduct, be expelled from this House.’

Mr Kirkup is right to ask: ‘Any resonance for current members, who have tacitly admitted unacceptable conduct but plan to remain in the House?’

Perhaps petitioners ought to petition Number 10 to admit Mr Webber's petition.


Anonymous Andrew K said...

That would be Quintin Hogg, not Quentin.

29 May 2009 at 15:27  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Apologies, Mr Andrew K, and corrected.

Perhaps, if you having nothing better to do, you would pop over to The Telegraph and correct Mr Kirkup.

29 May 2009 at 15:30  
Anonymous Andrew K said...

Sadly I have nothing better to do at the moment, but the Telegraph requires registration, which I am not prepared to do.

Is it age that makes me remember the Telegraph as a far better paper? It is certainly age which enables me to remember the correct spelling.

29 May 2009 at 15:44  
Anonymous hereward said...

Is it not the case anyway that the Speaker refers to members by name (or office, if applicable)? It is the members themselves who address each other in the third person with reference to consituency. They could simply drop the 'honourable' and say only 'the member for'; it is only a convention, not a rule. But it is not for the Prime Minister to 'request' Parliament to do anything. So the petition as worded is rightly rejected, it seems to me.

29 May 2009 at 15:58  
Anonymous TBF said...


Isn't it up to the Executive to decide the business of the HoC? Is it just 'request' that's wrong? Are you saying the Leader of the House should determine what the HoC *will" debate?

29 May 2009 at 16:05  
Anonymous oiznop said...

I'm not sure Parliament can instruct the Speaker. He is the guardian of the rights and privileges of the House of Commons. You could end up with a situation whereby MPs could 'instruct' the Speaker to efectively not do his job.

If Parliament is sovereign, it is effectively because the Speaker is guardian of that sovereignty (or is supposed to).

29 May 2009 at 16:23  
Anonymous TBF said...


MPs can instruct the Speaker. They effectively did when they got rid of Martin.

29 May 2009 at 16:25  
Blogger ZZMike said...

Are members of the House of Lords appointed? This is a quaint custom, though not entirely without merit.

(Didn't Mr Blair severely restrict the powers of that august body?)

It makes one wonder, though, that an MP - especially one found in flagrante financial delicto - might soon be addressed as "my Lord" (or mentioned in scandal sheets as "Lord ________").

(Is "m'Lud" reserved for barristers?)

Mr Allighan's transgressions seem mild compared to those of today's schemers. And at least the other expelled MP, Charles Bradlaugh (1880) acted on principle (misguided though it was), and got back into that club 6 years later.

29 May 2009 at 16:39  
Anonymous M said...

"It's A Sin"

(Twenty seconds and counting...
T minus fifteen seconds, guidance is okay)
When I look back upon my life
It's always with a sense of shame
I've always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin
It's a sin
Everything I've ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I've ever been
Everywhere I'm going to
It's a sin

At school they taught me how to be
So pure in thought and word and deed
They didn't quite succeed
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin
It's a sin
Everything I've ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I've ever been
Everywhere I'm going to
It's a sin

Father, forgive me, I tried not to do it
Turned over a new leaf, then tore right through it
Whatever you taught me, I didn't believe it
Father, you fought me, 'cause I didn't care
And I still don't understand

So I look back upon my life
Forever with a sense of shame
I've always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin
It's a sin
Everything I've ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I've ever been
Everywhere I'm going to - it's a sin
It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin
It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin

(Confiteor Deo omnipotenti vobis fratres, quia peccavi nimis cogitatione,
verbo, opere et omissione, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa)
[trans. "I confess to almighty god,
and to you my brothers,
that I have sinned exceedingly
in thought, word, act and omission,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault"]


30 May 2009 at 00:08  
Anonymous not a machine said...

not impressed with Nick Cleggs soundbite as it seems more of local gun to head plot , possibly aimed at marginals post general election .

I keep imagining a petion being organised every week to gain a by election. precisely the reason we have the system we do .

some mps are clearly doing very little for there wages , the delay in adressing the problem with a general election only makes the voter loath the incumbants even more .

however there has to somthing to address to an mp puttting two fingers up , when they have done somthing fraudulently or blatantly wrong . the solution i think is not a bye election , but for the invidual to be removed , there pay cease and for a sort of emergency reciever to move in to manage the office and correspondence , but not vote or debate in the house . that way the party is punished for its lack of probity and the political advantage is removed from the scene and additional by election expenses avoided .

the lib dems outlining of the threat of public uprisings to put fear into mps , would work against many of there mps , he is niavely assuming his party do not have any rubbish mps .

but in moran vs the people , they want more sumerly justice , this should include a rapid removal of slary and in expenses fraud a way of paying it back .

no one has yet addresed , the problem of if an mp knows they are doomed in 12 months how you would do anything about more wrong doing as they wring out there exit pension .

its not a tricky question , gross misconduct must have a public office consequence , the more rapid the better , but it musnt be a service for politics to develope into a snipeing and smear machine , that would be boring and birth a low level war and still miss serving the public .

30 May 2009 at 02:27  
Blogger ENGLISHMAN said...

As your article shows,parliament has been dominated by the same families/vested interests for decades which stiffles any political progress regarding the mass of ordinary people.The situation we see today is only the tip of a very large ice-burg,and we should demand full disclosure,not just this years fraudulent reciepts,but all the way back to the begining of bliars election,and beyond,as in the past decade we the taxpayer have provided several impressive property portfolios for the exclusive use of these criminals.They are leeches upon the public purse and if they had any "honour",they would resign immediately,but will use thier final year to screw as much money from us as possible.

30 May 2009 at 10:12  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Talking about dishonourable members I was walking my dog yesterday morning and saw Lord Taylor of Blackburn tidying up the garden in his weekend home (just five minutes walk from where I live). He was hailing passers-by with cheerful Good mornings despite the fact he's in the process of selling us all down the river for cash (as a "non-Parliamentary advisor" - yeah right!) to a company called Cannatxx who want to plant a two million tonnes pressurised bomb in our midst. We've seen Canatxx off once already and now they're back again.

So what do I call Taylor? Apart from dirty dealing, coniving, corrupt bastard? Look what the unconscionable &$#@ is advising Canatxx to do to us:

I'm supposed to feel sorry for trash like Taylor and his grasping, greddy ilk?

30 May 2009 at 10:39  
Blogger Jabba the Cat said...

The interim form of address should reflect the outgoing members status, eg. The Right Honourable Trougher Michael Ancram should do the trick, or The Right Honourable Pigglets Sir and Lady Winterton.

31 May 2009 at 12:18  
Anonymous eeyore said...

Honourable Members are so called not because they are honourable in any common meaning of the term, but because of the position they occupy in the Table of Precedence. All it means is that an MP is entitled to claim parity with the sons or daughters of a baron, or the younger sons or daughters of a viscount, earl, marquess or duke.

Again, Right Hons (ie Privy Councillors) are not finer and nobler characters than mere common MPs, but simply entitled to sit a bit nearer the corpse at a State funeral.

Sorry. I'll get my coat now.

2 June 2009 at 15:18  

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