MPs returning to the House of Commons this week following the summer recess have been instructed to smarten up their appearance, in a reminder that the days of Zooming in to parliament are over.
Speaker of the house Sir Lindsay Hoyle has updated the guidance, Rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons, informing MPs that items such as jeans and chinos will no longer be allowed.
The advice represents a toughening up of the rules compared to the approach of the previous speaker, John Bercow, under whose guidance there was “no exact dress code” and typical business attire was considered merely a suggestion.
Sir Lindsay’s new rules, which could perhaps be a bid to nip in the bud any slackening of standards following a prolonged period of working from home, states that MPs’ appearance “should demonstrate respect for your constituents, for the house, and for the institution of parliament in the life of the nation”.
“Members are expected to wear business attire in and around the chamber,” it says.
“Jeans, chinos, sportswear or any other casual trousers are not appropriate. T-shirts and sleeveless tops are not business attire.
“Smart/business shoes are expected to be worn. Casual shoes and trainers are not appropriate. Men are encouraged to wear a tie, and jackets must be worn.
“It is a privilege to serve as a member of parliament and your dress, language and conduct should reflect this.”
The crackdown comes after a number of incidents in which parliamentary fashion made headlines, both during and prior to the pandemic.
In December, Sir Lindsay told former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt that he was not dressed smartly enough during a debate in the Commons on Covid-19.
And MP Tracy Brabin found herself at the centre of a storm for wearing an off-the-shoulder black dress in the chamber in February 2020 – a garment she later auctioned off for charity, raising £20,000 in the process.
Sir Lindsay has also moved to clamp down on rowdiness in the chamber.
Singing is to be banned, potentially averting a repeat of the scenes that accompanied Boris Johnson’s proroguing of parliament in September 2019, when opposition MPs protested by singing songs including “The Red Flag” and “Scots Wha Hae”.
The new rules state that “singing and chanting are not permitted in the chamber”, and that “clapping is also not allowed as it eats into the time available for debate”.
MPs have also been told to pay attention: “When listening to a debate you should not read books or newspapers or obviously devote yourself to your phone or other electronic device.”
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