The Speaker of the House of Commons and maintaining order

The request was partially successful.

Dear House of Commons,

Please supply the information requested at the bottom, taking in to account the following background events aimed to assist you with this request.

Event1: During a PMQ debate on 11 February 2015, the then leader of the opposition Ed Miliband responded to a statement by the Prime Minister (PM) David Cameron in the following manner: [1][2]

The Prime Minister cannot get away from it: he is a dodgy Prime Minister surrounded by dodgy donors. He did not just take the money—[Interruption.]

Event2: During a PMQ debate on 11 April 2016, the member of Parliament (MP) for Bolsover Mr Dennis Skinner asked the PM the following question:

Does the Prime Minister recall that in the time after he became Prime Minister in the coalition, when he was dividing the nation between strivers and scroungers, I asked him a very important question about the windfall he received when he wrote off the mortgage of the premises in Notting Hill and did not write of the mortgage of the premises the taxpayers were helping to pay for in Oxford? I did not receive a proper answer then. Maybe “Dodgy Dave” will answer it now—[Interruption]—and by the way—[Hon. Members: “Withdraw!”]
[3]

at which point the Speaker Mr John Bercow intervened by saying:

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] I do not require any assistance from some junior Minister—an absurd proposition! I invite the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the adjective he used a moment ago. He is perfectly capable of asking his question without using that word. It is up to him, but if he does not wish to withdraw it, I cannot reasonably ask the Prime Minister to answer the question. All he has to do is withdraw that word and think of another.[4]

Dennis Skinner refused to withdraw the word "dodgy" and the speaker ordered Mr Skinner to withdraw from the House for the remainder of the sitting by way of the powers vested in him under Standing Order No. 43.

Event3: During a commons debate on 25 July 2006, the then Labour MP for Livingston Jim Devine asked the then speaker of the House of commons Mr Michael Martin the following question:

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am a relative new boy, and I am inexperienced in the procedure of the House, so I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Last week at Deputy Prime Minister's questions, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister stated that the constituency party of James Duddridge had received funding from a company that wanted to build a casino. The hon. Gentleman replied that that was a lie and raised a point of order. However, I have checked his entry in the Register of Members' Interests, which includes a company called Aston Wood Properties. In August 2003, the local newspaper stated that Aston Wood Properties hoped to build a casino, along with a hotel and nightclub, on the site of the old Keddies store in the High street, which suggests that the Deputy Prime Minister was correct. How can we rectify the situation? [5]

to which Mr Martin Replied:

The House was very noisy at that Deputy Prime Minister's questions—I remember the hon. Gentleman being in the Chamber. It is not helpful to the proceedings of this House when allegations go from one side of the House to the other. If any hon. Member has any complaint about the behaviour of another hon. Member, there is a procedure, which I will not go into at the moment—I am not encouraging anyone to use the procedure. If the word "liar" was shouted, it would have been helpful if there had been less noise in the Chamber, because those hon. Members who know me well know that I would not have tolerated such language and would have called for an immediate withdrawal. However, I cannot do that if there is so much noise that I cannot hear what has been said. I would appreciate it if hon. Members listened rather than throwing in their tuppence-worth and shouting across the Chamber. [6]

Event4: During PMQ's on 13 April 2016, Angus Robertson MP asked PM David Cameron the following question:

Some 3,250 Department for Work and Pensions staff have been specifically investigating benefit fraud, while only 300 HMRC staff have been systematically investigating tax evasion. Surely we should care equally about people abusing the tax system and those abusing the benefits system. Why have this Government had 10 times more staff dealing often with the poorest in society abusing benefits than with the super-rich evading their taxes? [7]

to which the PM replied:

I will look carefully at the right hon. Gentleman’s statistics, but they sound to me entirely bogus, for this reason: ........[8]

1) Please provide information that you have available on how the speaker of the House of Commons exercises discretion:

a) consistently.
b) without bias.

2) Do rules, procedures, conventions, traditions, customs and practices:

a) relating to 'unparliamentary language' apply to all members of the house equally, irrespective of their post. e.g. Prime Minister, Leader of the opposition, Minister, or an ordinary Member of Parliament.

b) prohibit members from offering advice to the speaker on how to conduct his/her role.

c) If yes, is there a sanction attached to any breach.

3) Is there any future plans to introduce tougher penalties so that Members interrupting another member asking a question or indeed answering them will be properly sanctioned for unruly conduct. (e.g. attempting to drown out a member's question/answer, or when a member or members leave the chamber loudly, conversing loudly or indeed 'shrieking loudly in an absurd manner')

Yours faithfully,

Mr Navartne

[1] - http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?i...
[2] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl...
See video @ 2:00min.
[3] - http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?i...
[4] - http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?i...
[5] - http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?i...
[6] - http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?i...
[7] - [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?i...
[8] - [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?i...

FOI Commons, House of Commons

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Navartne,

 

Freedom of Information request F16-236

 

Thank you for your request for information dated 25 April 2016, received
by us on the same date, which is copied below.

 

We will endeavour to respond to your request promptly but in any case
within 20 working days i.e. on or before 24 May 2016.

 

If you have any queries about your request, please use the request number
quoted above.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Sarah Price

IRIS Support Officer
Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service | House of
Commons

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FOI Commons, House of Commons

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Navartne

 

 

Freedom of Information Request F16-236

 

Thank you for your request for information as copied below. You asked a
number of questions about the Speaker of the House of Commons and
maintaining order, which we have sought to answer below.

 

1)  Please provide information that you have available on how the Speaker
of the House of Commons exercises discretion:

a)  consistently

b)  without bias

 

This information is not held by the House of Commons. Mr Speaker chairs
the debates in the Chamber and carries out a number of other important
functions. How he carries out his duties is a matter for the Speaker
himself and is not documented.

 

However, you may be interested to read the Members’ Handbook which, in the
Chamber and Committees section, provide guidance on how business is
conducted, overseen by the Speaker and his office. This Handbook is
available on the parliamentary website here:
[1]http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commo....
Further information about the Speaker’s role can be found here:
[2]http://www.parliament.uk/business/common....

 

2)  Do rules, procedures, conventions, traditions, customs and practices:

a)  relating to 'unparliamentary language' apply to all members of the
house equally, irrespective of their post. e.g. Prime Minister, Leader of
the opposition, Minister, or an ordinary Member of Parliament

 

This information is held by the House of Commons. The conventions relating
to 'unparliamentary language' apply to all Members of the House equally.
Further information about practice in the Chamber can be found in a House
of Commons Library Briefing Paper here:
[3]http://researchbriefings.files.parliamen....

 

b)  prohibit members from offering advice to the Speaker on how to conduct
his/her role

and

c)   If yes, is there a sanction attached to any breach

 

This information is held by the House of Commons. There are no rules or
conventions which prohibit Members from offering advice to the Speaker on
how to conduct his role.

 

3)  Is there any future plans to introduce tougher penalties so that
Members interrupting another member asking a question or indeed answering
them will be properly sanctioned for unruly conduct

 

This information is not held by the House of Commons. The House holds no
record of any such future plans.

 

 

You may, if dissatisfied with the handling of your request, complain to
the House of Commons. Alternatively, if you are dissatisfied with the
outcome of your request you may ask the House of Commons to conduct an
internal review of any decision regarding your request. Complaints or
requests for internal review should be addressed to: Information Rights
and Information Security Service, Department of HR and Change, House of
Commons, London SW1A 0AA or [4][House of Commons request email]. Please ensure
that you specify the full reasons for your complaint or internal review
along with any arguments or points that you wish to make.

 

If you remain dissatisfied, you may appeal to the Information Commissioner
at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF,
[5]www.ico.gov.uk.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Abigail Richmond | Information Rights Manager
Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service | House of
Commons

Tel: 0207 219 2559 | Text Relay: 18001 219 2559 | Third Floor, 7 Millbank,
London, SW1P 3JA

 

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Click [7]here for information about FOI in the House of Commons,

or to see what we publish.

 

 

 

 

 

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