Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Unparliamentary Language

Earlier editions of Erskine May (the authoritative handbook of Parliamentary Procedure - new editions are published every few years and written by the Clerk of the House of Commons) used to include a list of word ruled to be "unparliamentary". Sadly the current issue doesn't have such a list. Last week there was the following exchange -

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): In the light of today's Daily Mirror report, and that of The Independent last week, about the buying of influence in the Caribbean and in Britain, can we have an early debate on that monster from the Caribbean deep, namely Lord Ashcroft, and his influence on politics- [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. I say very gently to the right hon. Gentleman, who is an immensely experienced parliamentarian, that moderation in the use of language in the Chamber is always desirable. Whatever he thinks about the noble Lord, he should not call him a monster.

Mr. MacShane: If "monster" is now an unparliamentary term, Mr. Speaker, then we are limiting our vocabulary. May we have an early debate on this gentlemen, who forces right hon. Members on the Opposition Benches to dissemble on his tax status and uses gagging writs to intimidate newspapers. It is only in the House of Commons that this man's corroding and, I believe, corrupt influence on Caribbean and British politics can be debated and explored. [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman has put his views very firmly on the record, but I urge him not to use the word "corrupt"-I do not like it.