New Forest East



[Michael Fabricant: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week there were a couple of understandable occasions when people in the Chamber – Members of Parliament – broke into applause. This can be quite awkward for some of us – Conservative Members and Opposition Members – who know about the conventions of the House, because we feel unable to join in the applause. Could you give guidance about what is the current practice? If you uphold the tradition that we do not have applause – although I do not wish to pre-empt your view on this – could you let it be known more generally to Members of the House of Commons whether we should break into applause, or not, on occasion?

Mr Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and his great courtesy in raising it in the way that he did. The short answer is that it is the long-established convention of this House that we do not applaud. For what it is worth, to the best of my recollection, I have never myself done so. If he is asking me whether I would prefer it to remain that way, the short answer is that I would. I think that the convention that we do not applaud but register our approval in other ways is a valuable one. All I would say to the hon. Gentleman, who has raised his point in an extremely polite way, is that as far as the Chair is concerned, each situation has to be judged on its merits. I am very conscious that I am the servant of the House. If, spontaneously, a large group of Members bursts into applause, sometimes the most prudent approach is to let it take its course. However, I would much prefer it if it did not happen, unless the House consciously wills a change, and I am not aware that the House as a whole has done so. In that respect, I sense that the hon. Gentleman and I, not for the first time and hopefully not for the last, are on the same side.]

Dr Julian Lewis: Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. In fairness to the Members, usually newer Members, who occasionally do this, it is worth pointing out that it usually tends to happen on a particular, spontaneous, unusual occasion, and not routinely. If it did happen routinely, we would end up with organised cheering of the sort that we sometimes get on the more downmarket versions of talent shows on TV. That would not be the direction in which we would want to go.

[Mr Speaker: That would be thoroughly undesirable. The more unusual, or even occasional, the better. For it to become the norm would, I think, be deprecated by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), deprecated by the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), and deprecated by the Chair. The hon. Member for Lichfield asked me to find a way of communicating more widely my view on this matter, and I hope I have just taken that opportunity. There is no slight directed at any individual, nor any adverse comment on any particular occasion, but usually our traditions are for a reason, and to find that we elide or morph into a new situation as a result of inactivity or happenstance is undesirable. If the House wants consciously to change things, then let it, but as far as I am concerned it has not yet done so. I hope that is helpful.]