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Friday 19 September 2014

Lord Speaker D'Souza does a Bercow

Published 19/06/2014 | 12:22

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Lord Speaker Baroness D'Souza became exasperated by Labour peers talking during a question

Lord Speaker Baroness D'Souza took the unprecedented step today of telling Labour peers to shut up.

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While her House of Commons counterpart, John Bercow, is forever in action attempting to keep order among MPs, Lady D'Souza holds a largely ceremonial role.

She is not required to call peers to speak or tell them when their time is up.

The House is meant to be self-regulating, with peers responsible for giving way to each other and following the rules, with Government whips intervening in case of disputes.

But during question time, Lady D'Souza, who was an independent cross-bench peer before her election as Lord Speaker in 2011, became exasperated by Labour peers talking during a question on Royal Mail.

And in what is thought to be the first such intervention since the role of Lord Speaker was established in 2006, she stood up from her seat on the Woolsack and said: "I hesitate to interrupt the proceedings, but I am having some difficulty following the proceedings due to the continuing conversations coming from the benches on my left."

Her intervention - although a first - is backed up by the standing orders of the Lords, which cites a resolution of 1670 that Lords are "not to converse whilst the House is upon business".

The modern standing order reads: "If any Lord has occasion to speak with another Lord while the House is sitting, they are to retire to the Prince's Chamber and not converse in the space behind the Woolsack; or else the Lord Speaker is to call them to order, and, if necessary, to stop the business in agitation."

The job of telling peers to be quiet would previously have been carried out by the Lord Chancellor, who sat on the Woolsack before the role was radically overhauled and the post of Lord Speaker created by Tony Blair's government.

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