Monday, January 17, 2011

Strangers

• A person present in parliament who is neither a member of Parliament or a parliamentary official is known as a “stranger”.

• It used to be the case in the British Parliament that if MPs wanted to have a secret session, one of them would point to the gallery from which the public watch (known as the “Strangers Gallery”) and call "I spy strangers!", whereupon the House voted "that the strangers do withdraw."

• The procedure has now been modernised, with the “I spy strangers” having been dropped in 1998.

• In 2004 the Modernisation Committee of the British Parliament recommended that visitors to the House of Commons should no longer be referred to as “Strangers”, instead being referred to either as “member of the public” or “the public”.

In support of the above, the Leader of the House said:
“I believe that our visitors, voters and citizens are entitled to view our debates, and that they should not be shunted into a pigeonhole labelled 'Strangers'.

As the Modernisation Committee said, ‘this is the last impression we should be wanting to give to people who exercise their democratic right to visit us.’

The earliest reference to a ‘stranger’ in the Commons Journal appears to be on 13 February 1575. Let us make 26 October 2004 the last.”
The motion was carried on division 242 votes to 167.

• The NSW Parliament still contains a Strangers Function Room and a Strangers Lounge, available for booking by members of the public.

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