Setting a precedent?

The House discussed an important Private Member’s Bill last Friday – Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill.  In responding, Justice Minister Lord McNally made an important statement.  However, his opening words also caught my eye:

“The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, there were once two cows looking over a fence when a tanker passed by. On it was written, “Drink Co-op milk-pasteurised, sterilised, homogenised”. One cow turned to the other and said, “Makes you feel plumb inadequate, doesn’t it?”. [Laughter]”

This may be significant for the simple reason it is the first time that I have noticed Lords Hansard acknowledge laughter as such.  When peers laugh at a joke, the laughter is either ignored or, if it is really loud,  is recorded as ‘Noble Lords: Oh!’   It will be interesting to see if more laughter is recorded as such in the future.  Not sure if my speeches will benefit or not…

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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7 Responses to Setting a precedent?

  1. Dave H says:

    Doesn’t that depend on whether the type of laughter gets recorded:


    • Lord Norton says:

      Dave H: I did wonder if the laughter was so hysterical that Hansard thought it required treating differently to all other occasions of spontaneous laughter. Then again, the joke, though not bad….

  2. Jonathan says:

    If they are going to extend this to the Commons and record exactly the noise the MPs make during the debate, we could be in for trouble!

  3. Carl.H says:

    I think [Laughter] is possibly the best way for any future generation who may not understand the joke. I`m sure looking back over previous accounts of Lords debates, a few centuries ago, see`s us miss amusing anecdotes and wondering what on earth they are stating. Laughter at least gives a clue.

    Who knows Cows maybe banned in future due to greenhouse gas emissions.

  4. Croft says:

    I’m struck by the irony that you can’t safely attack the judiciary for the way libel law has been created and applied due to the way the libel law has been created and applied!

  5. The Duke of Waltham says:

    Perhaps Hansard recognises Their Lordships as more human than ever before?

    I do have to ask, though: other than loud laughter, what other sounds are recorded as “oh”? Silly question, I know, but considering the lack of intuitiveness that appears to distinguish the system…

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