Thursday 24 August 2017

Speaker John Bercow addressed the not-so-urgent question of male MPs wearing ties in the Commons

MPs are expected to dress in “businesslike attire”.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow (PA/PA Wire)
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow (PA/PA Wire)

By Isabel Togoh

The House of Commons may have been in the midst of a Queen’s Speech debate but there was still time to cover one pressing question: should male MPs wear a tie in the Commons chamber?

Tory backbencher Peter Bone remarked that Lib Dem MP Tom Brake had asked a question in the Commons on Wednesday, without a tie around his neck.

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Tory MP Peter Bone wears a hat while praising the work of a local charity, Crazy Hats (PA/PA Archive)

“I’m not really one to talk about dress sense, but I noticed yesterday, sir, that a member was allowed to ask a question in the chamber without wearing a tie”, Bone told speaker John Bercow, while sporting diagonally striped royal blue and yellow neckwear.

He then asked: “I have no particular view on that, but have the rules changed, sir?”

Twitter pointed out that there were bigger issues on the table.

The Speaker, breaking tradition, said ties were not necessary.

“The general expectation is that members should dress in businesslike attire”, Bercow said.

He continued: “Am I minded not to call a member simply because he is not wearing a tie? No.

“Members shouldn’t behave in a way that is disrespectful to their colleagues or to the institution, but do I think it’s essential that a member wears a tie? No.”

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The House of Commons (PA/PA Wire)

Parliament’s 173-year-old rule book, Erskine May, states that the custom is for male members to wear jackets and ties.

However, the traditions of Parliament state that, on occasion, the Speaker has “taken exception to informal clothing, including the non-wearing of jackets and ties by men”.

Bercow did point out that the choice of tie was a matter of personal judgement: “Opinions on the honourable gentleman’s choice of ties do tend to vary and, it has to be said, the same can be said of my own.”

He also noted: “There is no obligation of female members not to wear ties, if they so choose”.

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