We have a rather unusual debate coming up in Parliament next week. On Wednesday it’s “a Humble Address on the occasion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s 90th birthday”.
I’m not sure what the format is for this, although I seem to vaguely recall seeing something similar since I’ve been in the House – perhaps when it was the Queen and Prince Philip’s 60th wedding anniversary in 2007? The colleagues I’ve asked ‘assume’ that David Cameron opens the tributes after Prime Minister’s questions, followed by Ed M, and then whoever wants to join in. And it will be interesting to see who does….. Alternatively it could be kicked off by the Speaker, or the Father of the House Sir Peter Tapsell (which would indeed be a wonder to behold). But consensus seems to be that it will be Cameron.
The tributes which follow will of course be glowing. I expect many fond reminiscences from new backbenchers of their participation in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. Even if we were to want to be less than effusive in our praise of the prince, we’re not actually allowed to. Parliamentary rules are clear, that no criticism of the Royals is allowed in the Chamber.
This was highlighted by Paul Flynn MP recently, who called a debate on the role of the UK Special Trade Representative – that would be Prince Andrew, the Duke of York – but then wasn’t actually allowed to talk about him. (There’s an account of it here on his very entertaining blog… and while you’re there check out some of his other posts; I don’t agree with him on all issues, but he’s always worth a read. And here’s the link to the actual debate, which the sharper-eyed amongst you will notice started at 4am… that’s because we were debating the Finance Bill beforehand, which can go on till any hour – I had the 3am speaking slot!)