Traditions of Parliament

A number of traditions are involved in the working of Parliament. Below are some examples.

Dragging the Speaker of the House of Commons
When a new Speaker of the House of Commons is elected, the successful candidate is physically dragged to the Chair by other MPs.

This custom has its roots in the Speaker's function to communicate the Commons' opinions to the monarch. Historically, if the monarch didn't agree with the message being communicated then the early death of the Speaker could follow. Therefore, as you can imagine, previous Speakers required some gentle persuasion to accept the post.

Voting
When MPs vote in the Commons they say 'aye' or 'no'. In the Lords, Members vote saying 'content' or 'not content'.

Prayers
Each sitting in both Houses begins with prayers that follow the Christian faith. In the Commons, the Speaker's Chaplain usually reads the prayers. In the Lords, a senior bishop (Lord Spiritual) who sits in the Lords usually reads the prayers.

Catching the Speaker's eye
To participate in a debate in the House of Commons or at question time, MPs have to be called by the Speaker. MPs usually rise or half-rise from their seats in a bid to get the Speaker's attention — this is known as 'catching the Speaker's eye'.

The Woolsack in the House of Lords
The Woolsack is the seat of the Lord Speaker in the House of Lords Chamber. The Woolsack is a large, wool-stuffed cushion or seat covered with red cloth.

The Lord Speaker on the Woolsack
The Lord Speaker presides over debates in the House of Lords, but does not control them like the Speaker in the Commons, as Members of the Lords regulate their own discussions.

If a Deputy Speaker presides in the absence of the Lord Speaker, then that individual uses the Woolsack.

When the House of Lords is sitting, the Mace is placed on the rear of the Woolsack, behind the Lord Speaker.

Judges' Woolsack
In front of the Woolsack in the House of Lords Chamber is a larger cushion known as the Judges' Woolsack. During the State Opening of Parliament, the Judges' Woolsack is occupied by senior judges. This is a reminder of mediaeval Parliaments, when judges attended to offer legal advice. During normal sittings of the House, any Member of the Lords may sit on it.

 
 
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