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9 Things You Can’t Do In Parliament

Some of the House of Commons rules seem strange and many date back hundreds of years. Here are 9 things you can’t do in Parliament

Use anyone’s names


This rule sounds like part of a bad drinking game, but it’s true. MPs are not allowed to refer to each other by name and instead always refer to “the honourable member for…” the place they were elected to. If you can’t remember where someone is MP for you can refer to them as “the honourable gentleman” or “the honourable lady”. If you’re talking about someone from the same party they can be referred to as “my honourable friend”, while members of the privy council – usually ministers –are “the right honourable”. The exception to this is the Speaker, who can refer to anyone he likes by name.

Talk to anyone except the Speaker


MPs are only allowed to speak to one person in the House of Commons: the Speaker. Nobody else is ever directly addressed. This is why politicians talk in the way that they do, beginning their sentences with “Mr Speaker”, and referring to “he” or “she” instead of “you” when making points about their opponents or friends in a debate. In reality, MPs do chat and whisper to each other on the back-benches, though this isn’t part of the debate.

Take photos








No one is allowed to take photos or shoot videos in the chamber apart from the fixed TV cameras we’re used to seeing debates through. This is one of the reasons why the BBC’s recent documentary, Inside The Commons, was so striking – it brought the place to life with angles we don’t normally see. In that case, the film makers received special permission that had never before been granted. Photography is also banned in most of the Palace of Westminster for security reasons and restricted to the public areas of Westminster Hall, St Stephen’s Hall, New Palace Yard – as well as private rooms.

Call someone a liar


Parliament has strict rules on “unparliamentary language” isn’t allowed in. One banned word in particular stands out: ‘liar’. MPs who who accuse each other of lying are usually asked to withdraw the remarks by the Speaker, or face a suspension.

Call someone a hypocrite


You’re also not allowed to call a fellow MP a ‘hypocrite’ – another word which many voters would probably consider useful in a room full of politicians. This may be related to the conventions of Cabinet government. Under cabinet collective responsibility, ministers must publicly support every decision the government makes or face the sack. In reality, nobody really supports every decision every government makes and thus hypocrisy is practically built into the system.

Use any number of bizarre archaic insults








Many of Parliament’s banned words are incredibly archaic. On the banned list you will find “pipsqueak”, “swine”, “rat”, “blackguard” and “tart”. A “blackguard” originally referred to a lowly servant but came to mean ‘scoundrel’.

Wear a T-shirt


Parliament has a very strict dress code – men are expected to wear a shirt and tie, while women are expected to dress in business-like clothing. T-shirts wearing slogans are not allowed. MPs won’t be barred from entering the chamber, but tend not to ‘catch the eye’ of the Speaker to participate in debates. Both Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour MP Harriet Harman have worn feminist slogan t-shirts in the Commons in recent years. Ms Lucas spoke in Westminster Hall wearing one and was admonished, while Ms Harman was apparently not noticed.

Wear armour in the chamber


It has been illegal to wear a suit of armour in the House of Commons for just over 700 years. This stems from a 1313 statute passed under King Edward II named Statutum de Defensione portandi Arma (Statute Forbidding the wearing of Weapons) Before this, armour was fine. The bill was apparently passed because “certain persons” had disrupted debates. Swords in the chamber are also banned by the same statute, and MPs are to this day given a loop next to their coat hook to hang their swords in the cloakroom.

 Speak in Welsh


The United Kingdom’s regions promote a number of languages: Most notably, Welsh has half a million speakers, Scots tens of thousands, and a similar number Irish. Unfortunately for speakers of these languages, speeches in the House of Commons can only be made in English. Quotations in other languages are allowed, however. Unlike in the European Parliament there are no live translation services available for members.

You can find the original article here in The Independent 

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Getting Selected: Free Public Event to Examine the Changing Role of Women in Parliament

In 1918, following the passing of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act women were allowed to stand for Parliament for the first time. In 1921 the Lincolnshire constituency of Louth elected Margaret Wintringham as their MP, and she was the second woman ever in the House of Commons.

‘Getting Selected’ will be a lively roundtable discussion chaired by Professor Krista Cowman from the University of Lincoln, and will consider how the process of being selected as Parliamentary candidate has changed since Margaret Wintringham was elected in the 1920s. Participants will include Lesley Abdela, co-founder of The 300 Group, an all-party campaign for women in parliament, politics and public life; Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender at Birkbeck, University of London; playwright Hannah Davies; local MP and former City Councillor Karen Lee; Dolly Theis from the 50:50 Parliament and #AskHerToStand campaign; and Nicola Waterworth from The Parliament Project, which empowers women to run for political office.

MP for Lincoln Karen Lee said “Next year marks 100 years of the Acts of Parliament which gave women the vote and allowed them to stand as MPs. I am delighted to take part in this event, which will celebrate these key milestones and examine their impact on our democracy past and present.”

To book your free place for this event, which is taking place on the 17th November, visit

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Lincoln MP Karen Lee to Hold Staff and Student Surgery at the University of Lincoln


On Friday 13th October, the University will welcome the MP for Lincoln Karen Lee to the Brayford Pool campus as part of her constituency surgery.

The visit is an opportunity for both staff and students to meet and engage with Karen Lee, and discuss with her the issues that matter to them.

She will be on campus from 1pm until 4pm, however, meetings are by appointment only. To book your slot, email or calling 01522 420067.

Early booking is advisable as places are limited.

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Professor Jacqui Briggs’ Inaugural Lecture on Young People and Political Participation


We will be hosting our next Professorial Inaugural Lecture on Wednesday 8th March with Professor Jacqui Briggs, who will be speaking on ‘Shaping politics or shaking politics? Young people and political participation’.

Is the political landscape changing? Are young people becoming more active? What is the reason behind that activity? Professor Jacqui Briggs’ inaugural lecture will focus upon the extent to which young people are becoming politicised – be that on an informal or a formal basis. How do they shape and impact upon the political scenario? On the other hand, do they pose a potential threat or challenge to the political system as we know it; are they shaking it up?

Jacqui Briggs begins by providing a brief autobiographical background in terms of her ‘journey’ regarding her research profile and career trajectory. She then proceeds to examine young people and politics per se before looking specifically at the topical issue of whether or not the voting age should be lowered to 16 years. This then turns to a focus upon the concept of citizenship and political education.

Next, and particularly apposite given the fortuitous timing of international women’s day (8th March), Jacqui discusses the topic of young women and political participation. Could/should young women become a potent political force? Finally, Jacqui postulates as to what the future holds in terms of young people and political participation.

The lecture will take place in the Minerva Building, MB0312 Co-op Lecture Theatre, at the University of Lincoln. Arrival is from 5.30pm for a 6pm start. The presentation will conclude at 7pm with a drinks reception and an opportunity for networking and to continue any discussions arising from the lecture.

The lecture is free to attend but booking is required. To book your place please email

Lincoln Academic selected for House of Commons Fellowship Scheme


The House of Commons Academic Fellowship Scheme is run by the House of Commons in partnership with the Political Studies Association (PSA) for senior political and social scientists currently researching or wishing to study the work of Parliament. Dr Catherine Bochel from the University of Lincoln’s School of Social & Political Sciences is one of only five researchers selected for the new role and will be granted rare access to Parliament to examine the relationship between the British public and the processes which shape political decision-making.

Her research will see her working alongside politicians and staff to explore how effectively the public are engaged in the decision-making process and to examine whether the concept of ‘procedural justice’ or ‘fair process’ has been followed.

Dr Bochel said: “Parliament is keen to encourage the public to get involved in politics, and people can now do this in a variety of ways. However, it is important that when they come into contact with Parliament their experience of the process is as positive as possible. This is for a number of reasons. In a liberal democratic system people may not get everything they ask for, so their treatment by the system and experience of it is very important; in such systems final decisions are made by elected representatives, so the public must be able to see that the decision-making process is fair and transparent. Their experience may not only affect how they feel about the individual elements of public engagement with which they have contact, but also wider political and governmental processes. If the processes underpinning participatory initiatives are clearly explained, this may contribute to improved public understanding of Parliament and enhance its work.”

Through her Fellowship, Dr Bochel hopes to improve processes through which Parliament engages the public in political decision-making, particularly in respect of managing expectations, outcomes and feedback to members of the public who get involved.

The College would like to congratulate Dr Bochel and wish her the very best of luck in her research.

You can read the full article on the University of Lincoln website

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