i spy strangers

March 10, 2009 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

The House of Commons nowadays allows members of the public to be present at its debates, though not at prayers.

This, however, was not always the case and the right to debate a matter in private is maintained.

Should it be desired to conduct a debate in private, a Member moves “That this House sit in private”, the Speaker, or whoever is in the Chair, must then put the motion “That this House sit in private” without debate.

The House last sat in private on the 4 December 2001 when it was debating the Anti Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill.

Once in private session, no verbatim, sound or television record of that session can be made.

Previously, a Member could achieve the same end by declaring I Spy Strangers, strangers being anyone not a Member or Officer of the House, but as Members tended to use this as a device, much deprecated by the Chair, of expressing political indignation on a subject or to delay proceedings, the Modernisation Select Committee recommended its abolition.

In previous times a Member “spying strangers” meant that they had to withdraw automatically ‐ there was no division.

On one famous occasion in the 1880s, Mr Biggar, an Irish Nationalist Member, caused the Prince of Wales to be removed by use of this device.



Entry filed under: Commons, History, Procedure. Tags: , .

Press Gazette reports on i spy strangers

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