MPs urged to take up new lessons in etiquette

MPS are to be given a guide to House of Commons etiquette after a series of lapses of parliamentary p's and q's.

The Speaker, Michael Martin, said yesterday he would issue a new guide to MPs after concerns that they were not observing the House courtesies.

Mr Martin said some MPs had ignored a letter he sent them last year reminding them of the conventions of the Commons chamber. The Speaker has frequently had to remind MPs not to shout. Discourtesies included forgetting to nod to the Speaker before leaving the chamber, moving across the line of sight between the Speaker and a minister, and reading speeches.

Mr Martin said: "At the beginning of this Parliament, I issued to all members, old and new, guidance on the conventions and the courtesies of the House. It may have been that some members have forgotten what was contained in my letter. It is therefore my intention to issue a revised and expanded version of this letter to all members within the next few weeks. I hope you all will read its contents with care."

A number of MPs had complained about traditions of the House being "degraded". But Michael Fabricant, Tory MP for Lichfield, said the erosion of conventions was because of an influx of new MPs since 1997.

"I think the reason why they do this is not meant as a discourtesy to you," he told the Speaker. "There hasn't been an opportunity to explain to people what ought or ought not to be done in the House."

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