Saturday, 5th April 2014

by Joshua Gaskell

In A Treatise upon the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and Usage of Parliament (1844), the definitive guide to parliamentary practice, Erskine May wrote the following:

Members must not disturb a Member who is speaking by hissing, chanting, clapping, booing, exclamations or other interruption. […] when not uttered till the end of a sentence, the cry of ‘hear, hear,’ offers no interruption of the speech.

“Behaviour When Not Speaking” in the Modernisation of the House of Commons – Fourth Report (1998) adds,

There is a danger that [the practice of spontaneous clapping] might be open to abuse and could lead in certain circumstances to orchestration of what would amount to standing ovations with the success or failure of a speech being judged not by its content but by the relative length of the ovation at the end. This might not disrupt an individual speech, but would disrupt the tenor of the debate.

Having just watched Thursday’s Question Time, it occurs to me it might benefit from adopting similar practices. All those who agree, hear-hear now.