Standing Order No. 14

The resolution passed by the House on Monday 25 March to set aside Standing Order No. 14(1) for certain specified debates, and its successor, the business of the House motion passed on 27 March have been widely interpreted as Parliament ‘taking back control’ of its own proceedings from the government; in some quarters they have… Continue reading Standing Order No. 14



A regular, usually weekly, constituency surgery is these days an inescapable element of the routine of any Member of Parliament, and one which most regard as of central importance to the way they do their job. Commentators often find it remarkable to find politicians, far from being out-of-touch and distant figures, not only engaging with individual constituents, but lavishing time and energy on listening to and trying to help people with complex and intractable problems.

Eligibility for Parliament

Mohammad Sarwar’s recent decision to renounce British citizenship in order to take office as Governor of Punjab province in his native Pakistan is another remarkable step in the career of a man who was the first Muslim Member of Parliament, and the first to take the oaths on the Koran. References to Mr Sarwar’s renunciation… Continue reading Eligibility for Parliament

The first budget? Walpole’s bag of tricks and the origins of the chancellor’s great secret

The word is often said to be derived from the old french word for a little bag or purse. But there is more to it than that. As the Oxford English Dictionary points out, the phrase 'to open one's budget' was being used in the sixteenth century to mean that someone was revealing something which… Continue reading The first budget? Walpole’s bag of tricks and the origins of the chancellor’s great secret

The House of Lords and financial privilege in the 1670s

Recent debates in the House of Lords concerning the Welfare Reform Bill have turned especially on the extent to which the Lords might make amendments to bills which involve increased public expenditure. The modern procedure and practice on the issue is dealt with in a note by the Clerk of the House of Commons and… Continue reading The House of Lords and financial privilege in the 1670s

Hats and Mrs Thatcher

A scene in the Meryl Streep film about Margaret Thatcher shows her addressing the House of Commons from the despatch box, wearing a small (pillbox?) hat. Should she be? Is it in order to wear a hat in the House of Commons? Was it in the 1970s? As so often, Parliament's procedural manual, Erskine May,… Continue reading Hats and Mrs Thatcher

Hats and procedure

Hats have many uses. Apart from being a means of keeping one's head warm, and sometimes fashionable, they can be used to indicate status and deference; as a result they can be used to signal respect and roles. In the seventeenth century, the wearing of hats helped to signal the respect (or the limits to… Continue reading Hats and procedure