I Spy Strangers

Anyone who isn’t an MP or a parliamentary official is known as a stranger. Nowadays, strangers can watch debates, and can sit in the Strangers’ Gallery. Historically, strangers were not allowed in and Parliament still has the right to debate in Private. Any stranger causing a disturbance can be thrown out, or even taken into custody by the Serjeant at Arms. As the House of Commons rarely goes into private session (not since the Second World War), an attempt to exclude strangers is usually only employed as a device to disrupt or delay the House’s proceedings. An MP wishing to interrupt a debate shouts: ‘I Spy Strangers’. The Speaker must then immediately put the motion ‘That strangers do now withdraw’. If the motion is carried the galleries -including the press gallery- are cleared and the business continues in private. In the 1870s an Irish Nationalist MP caused the Prince of Wales to be removed by using this method.

contributed by user Callum Wood.