A legislative tradition of addressing friends and foes as "honorable" gentlemen and ladies has come under attack from opposition lawmakers who want their colleagues to speak "plain English."
Three left-wing members of the Labor Party submitted a motion in the House of Commons on Friday challenging the "archaic" forms of address and urging members to use surnames.The motion said the use of names will be especially important when the 650-member House of Commons allows television cameras to film debates for the first time as part of a six-month experiment starting in October.
By tradition, only the Speaker of the Commons is allowed to address members by their names. The rest of the members must use various "honorable" forms of address, depending on the person.
Members of the same party are "honorable friends." Opponents are "honorable gentlemen" or "honorable ladies."
Members of the Privy Council, who serve as senior advisers to Queen Elizabeth II, are "right honorable" gentlemen or ladies. Members who are Queen's Counselors, the most senior lawyers, are "honorable and learned," and those with distinguished military service are "honorable and gallant."
John Hughes, one of the Labor lawmakers who sponsored the motion, said, "The way things are now done, people watching television wouldn't have the faintest idea what is going on and who is being referred to. We should call each other by our real names."
But Conservative lawmakers denounced the idea as "claptrap," arguing that without such courtesies, civilized debate in the Commons would disappear.
"This is one of the fascinations of the place and would appeal to TV viewers as it does to everyone else," said Conservative John Browne.