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Parliamentary Language

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

3.36 pm

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. May I raise a matter of which I gave your office notice, namely, the use of language in the Chamber? It will be within your recollection that, a fortnight ago, I was expelled from the House for five days for having made an extremely specific accusation about the action of a parliamentary colleague in relation to a specific event—Westland. I did not use generalised abuse. It was a specific point at issue, and it will be within the recollection of the House.

May I draw your attention—the attention of your office has been drawn to it — to column 1124 of the previous Thursday's Hansard? It will be within your recollection, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) used an extremely abusive word that was not withdrawn, namely, "twerp", in referring to my right hon. Friend—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

If some of us are to be expelled for being wholly courteous when making a political charge, we want to know what the general rules are in this regard. I realise that you are in a difficult position, Mr. Speaker, and that there are times when you should turn the Nelson eye. However, the hon. Member for Northampton, North was, in a sense, far more generally abusive of the Leader of the Opposition than I was about the Prime Minister. I wonder whether you have any reflections on this matter?

Order. The hon. Member said that he intended to raise this matter, but I thought that he intended to do so last week. At the moment when, regrettably, I had to name the hon. Member, he had the Floor of the House and, in a calculated way, he used an un-parliamentary expression. I think that the hon. Member accepts that. I have to confess that I did not hear what happened on Thursday because there was a great deal of noise. The comment was made from a sedentary position, and it was not until I read Hansard on Friday morning that I saw exactly what had been said. I must say to the hon. Members for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) that had I heard the remark at the time I would, of course, have had it withdrawn. But I did not hear it.