The Times reports that the newly installed Speaker of the House of Commons, the 46 year old Conservative, John Bercow, is “poised to scrap the age-old practice of addressing MPs by the title ‘the honourable member’, (instead) MPs will be referred to by their first name and surname.”
The article also reports that the new Speaker “has already come under fire for deciding to abandon the traditional Speaker’s uniform in favour of a lounge suit and academic gown.”
Federal Parliament has thankfully done away with wigs and gowns for the Speaker in the House of Representatives and the President in the Senate. But the title of Honourable is still widely used.
At federal level, an MP normally has to have been a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary to get the formal title of “The Honourable”, although my understanding is that at least some state Parliaments bestow it on every MP. Either way, I think the pomposity of such titles is just asking for the standard jibes about politicians generally being seen as a dishonourable group of people.
Still, while I think it would be good to use such pompous sounding titles far less often, it is just a matter of labelling.
I’m much more interested in a far more worthwhile reform which is reportedly also being considered in Britain, namely “banning ministers from making statements to the House if their plans had already been leaked to the media.”
Once upon a time, government Ministers recognised the importance of announcing major statements in the Parliament first. But over the last decade of more, it has become exceedingly rare for this to occur, with many Ministerial Statements being released via a press conference or arranging a pre-emptive media story, with the Statement being tabled later in the Parliament almost as an afterthought.
I know talking about maintaining proper recognition of the role of Parliament is about as old fashioned as the Speaker wearing a wig and gown, but it is unfortunate that the more meaningful and important purposes of Parliament are consistently being degraded, even when a façade often remains. Who knows, perhaps even Question Time once served a genuine purpose as a mechanism to obtain information and scrutinise the government.
(story found via www.breakfastpolitics.com)