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Point of Order

Volume 650: debated on Wednesday 5 December 2018

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. When you quite properly point out a citizen of this country who has done a remarkably courageous thing, as Sammy Woodhouse has done, we all want to support her and to applaud. The only reason why there was no applause from Members on these Benches—there was applause from people in the Public Gallery—was because of the conventions of this House. May I suggest that we really do need to sort this out? I say that because this was not a sign of disrespect or of a lack of support here; it was merely the convention. That needs to be recorded and as a House we need to sort this out.

I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady for her point of order. I had not known that that was what she was intending to raise—I could not have done, because, whatever other merits I may have, I am not psychic. But I do now know what she has in mind and my response is to say that I have sought to exhibit flexibility in this matter. In other words, when it is obviously a spontaneous reaction in the House, particularly one of a non-partisan character, the Chair is very much inclined to be accommodating of that. When a political party engages in what might be called orchestrated clapping, in defiance of the convention of the House and really in celebration of a party point, that is inappropriate and the Chair deprecates it. I think it would have been different in this situation. This Speaker has not exactly been a slave to convention, as I think the right hon. Lady will agree. All sorts of conventions have been adjusted, and situations evolve in accordance with changing mores in this House, and this Speaker would seek to be flexible. She has registered the fact that Members on the Government Benches wish to extend a very warm welcome to Sammy Woodhouse, as did people on the Opposition Benches. As far as I can tell, that feeling was universally exhibited across the House.