That the noble Baroness be no longer heard

The power to silence a peer by moving the motion ‘That the noble lord be no longer heard’ is rarely used.   Peers are reluctant to use a device for silencing a fellow member.  However, it was employed yesterday on Report stage of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.  Baroness Tonge was raising issues that were not germane to the Bill and the rules at Report stage are fairly strict.  This was pointed out to her, not least by colleagues on the Liberal Democrat benches, but she still persisted.  Lord Lucas therefore rose to move ‘That the noble Baroness be no longer’.  This was immediately put (although it is a debatable motion) and carried.  Baroness Tonge, not best pleased, immediately left the chamber.

The Hansard entry does not quite convey the significance of the occasion:

“Baroness Tonge: Nevertheless, my Lords, his is an extremely important issue that shows the general public how our Government conduct themselves. It is important that these things should be said and put on record. I am not going to be silenced on the grounds that this is Report. Many other people have talked at length on other subjects.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am very sorry, but we are on Report, and there are rules of the House. I understand the passion with which the noble Baroness is speaking, but the rules on Report are rather tight, and there are other occasions on which one can make these points. I think the sympathy of the House is limited in this respect. We need to address the amendment, and that briefly.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, this puts me in some difficulty because I wanted to contrast the way we had altered our law at the request of a foreign Government, which is how it is perceived, and how we plan-

Lord Carlile of Berriew: Order! Order!

Baroness Tonge: I am not going to give way again. I must finish. We must contrast this action with what has happened in the past couple of weeks where Raed Salah, a Palestinian-

Lord Lucas: I beg to move that the noble Baroness be no longer heard.

Motion agreed.”

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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11 Responses to That the noble Baroness be no longer heard

  1. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,
    In my normal comparative posture, this brings to mind something we few most unhappy radical reformers of a certain type call the LMAO motion because of the way it obscure the actual tone of debates and speeches as given (I leave Your Lordship to figure what this means). In the Congressional Record — which is the rough equivalent of the Hansard — a member of either House of Congress can and does request that “my following prepared and submitted remarks be entered into the record” thus allowing for points to be made and grandstanding to be done without taking up the time of the floor. In fact, Your Lordship could possibly say ” I would like my book British Polity entered here into the record” and it would be done. I feel this avoids conflicts as you describe at far too high a cost and makes the Record almost worthless.

    In our case I favor the creation of a Supplement. Thus nobody could enter anything into the Record which was not orally delivered on the floor (I know you waive the reading at readings also) except fully regular bills however one could submit whatever bombast conscience, ideology or interest demanded to the Supplement. I long ago spent many hours with the Record and seldom feel tempted to revisit it. Coming from the opposite place on the spectrum perhaps your system could benefit from a supplement as well. Although a bit of conflict is not always bad.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Frank W. Summers III: I am very much aware of the US practice of being able to read something into the record without having to speak. The way it works resulted on one occasion in a member of the House delivering a speech after he had been killed in a ‘plane crash!

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Lord Norton,

        Not the only absudity, but a very tragicomic one and memorable.

  2. Princeps Senatus says:

    A very interesting proceeding. In a way, it shows the strength of the procedure of the self-regulating nature of the Lords, in that had the Speaker in the Commons tried something remotely similar, he would have immediatly been accused of bias. This was a matter that was put to the vote and agreed to by the whole House nem. dis. (or is it nem. con.). Indeed, Lord Carlile of Berriew, a party colleague of Bns. Tonge spoke strongly on her conduct.
    The clip on the relevant passage is at

    • Chris K says:

      I’ve learnt something new there. I’m intrigued to know how you can link to a specific time in the video clip. Especially as the time in the link seems to bear no relationship to the point in the video. What’s the secret?

      • Princeps Senatus says:

        Hi Chris,
        On the Parliamentlive website, you can search for specific debates.Next to each search result, there is an option to “view links”. Clicking that option allows you to drill down proceedings by bill/question and speaker. If you click through on a specific speaker, it opens up the proceeding at the point where the speaker started speaking. The URL/Internet address contains the time (for instance 18:04:00) that that speaker started speaking.
        The beginning of Bns. Tonge’s speech was irrelevant to the point that we are discussing, so I “fast-forwarded” it in 30 second increments to get the link to the point where the clip starts.
        I hope that this explanaton answers your question in sufficient depth.
        I hope that

      • Princeps Senatus says:

        Just to add to my earlier reply, the time that the debate is taking place shows on the bottom-right hand corner of the video output if one is using the Silverlight player (which is my only choice on a Mac). The time displayed can then be used to modify the URL/Internet Address, as discussed in my earlier post.

    • Chris K says:

      Many thanks Princeps Senatus. I didn’t realise ParliamentLive was so technologically advanced. All this time I’d been using hansard and searching for key phrases to try and get to the right point in a clip!

  3. Michael says:

    Lord Norton, I’m sure you will have noticed today, during Lord Fowler’s News Corporation debate in the House, that there was some confusion amongst peers regarding the starting time of the debate. At one point Lord Birt, who said he had been misinformed about the start time, was about to proceed with his speech when Baroness O’Cathain moved “that the noble Lord be no longer heard.” Unlike yesterday though, it did not, from what I can see, go to an actual vote. I must say though that the debate itself, although with a lot of very good contributions, did seem to be rather bad-tempered on the part of some peers who were understandably annoyed at the confusion over the starting time!

    • Lord Norton says:

      Michael: There was indeed confusion. As you will have seen, a number of peers took advice as to when the debate was likely to start, but in the event the preceding business was completed quicker than expected. If one is not present at the beginning. one should witrhdraw one’s name. This led to some conflict between those who were present from the beginning and those, like Lords Birt abd Gilbert, who came in late. I noticed at the start of the debate that some of those on the speakers’ list were not present. I saw Lord Birt come into the chamber when Baroness Royall was speaking. Baroness O’Cathain did rise to move that the noble lord be no longer heard but the question itself was not put.

      All this was a shame as it got in the way of a good debate, with some eminently well-qualified people contributing to the debate.

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