It’s on the record

If you speak in the House, or in a committee, your words are recorded, either in Hansard (for the chamber or Grand Committee) or in the committee proceedings.  Your words are then in print permanently, available to be read by anyone.  I console myself that if I ever make a bad speech or a less than lucid comment, then the chances are that hardly anyone will read it anyway.  The bad news is that the same probably applies to my good speeches as well. 

The fact that you are on the record, and cannot unsay what is said, was illustrated recently in the Constitution Committee when we took evidence from Lord Hennessy on the draft Cabinet manual.  He was asked if he agreed with a former Cabinet Secretary that a quote from Nick Clegg, embodied in a footnote, should not be included.  He responded:

Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield:  It should not be there.  I suspect it is there because he is chairing the Home Affairs Cabinet Committee which did the work on this.  I do not want to be unkind to him, but he is not Dicey on stilts, is he?  I take that back.  I know you can’t expunge it from the record, but that footnote stands out in a very odd way – if I can put it tactfully.  It would be better if it were not there.”

I think Lord Hennessy was not intending to lose any sleep over his observation.  I must keep an eye open for other such comments…. 


About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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4 Responses to It’s on the record

  1. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,

    The foibles and quirks of hard-working daily language is a a legacywhich may be looked kindly upon in many a history written after our two voices are no longer rasied in new speech. Scholars in the year of Our Lord 5789 and writng in Hindi-Icelandic for the Solar System Historical Review may footnote your bad speeches as practical and your good ones as keen. Criticism often falls on an overwrought and misplaced eloquence. The North Africa where St. Augustine once practiced Law was known for an overblown style of legal oratory. The reply given by a peer of Augustine’s to a speech made demonizing a civil defendant suing his “piratical” neighbor has been translated into English by a rhyming wag,
    “This suit ,we beg the court to note ,
    concerns a trespass by a goat.”

    History has remembered those doubtless talented minds as having made themselves ridiculous.

  2. Carl.H says:

    Can’t be easy where every word is under the microscope, but it’s great for us picking out how politicians really think. Dave has made much of how the Labour party got us in debt but Nick Clegg let down his guard when he stated for the last 25 years Government has been building debt and living on credit.

  3. tory boy says:

    Is Prince Charles a member of the House of Lords see the attached clip of him taking the oath. Was he thrown out with the rest of the hereditary peers in the 1999 House of Lords act?
    The link to clip is:

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