HC Deb 15 July 1997 vol 298 cc192-3
32. Mr. Rhodri Morgan

To ask the President of the Council what proposals she has to replace Norman French with English for the endorsement of Commons Bills being sent to the other place. [6723]

Mrs. Ann Taylor


Mr. Morgan

While we are on the subject of plain English, why do we use Norman French in all communications when sending amended legislation from the House to the other place? Is it not ludicrous that, 550 years after the last speech was made in French in this place, we still do not use English, plain English, modern French or even grammatical old French for those communications? If it is considered indelicate to use the English language when endorsing Bills and returning them to the other place, why do we not use the language of heaven?

Mrs. Taylor

I must take my hon. Friend's word for it that the Norman French that is used is not even grammatical; I would not like to challenge him on that point. There is a role for traditions in the House but we should always ensure that any tradition that we maintain has a purpose. It may be that in due course the Modernisation Committee will be able to turn its mind to these issues, but I do not think that they can be a priority.

Mr. Baldry

Is not the proposal modernisation gone mad? Will the President confirm that the phrase "La Reyne n'avisera pas" was last used in the House during the reign of Queen Anne? Unless someone has a rush of blood to the head, we are unlikely ever to hear it again in our lifetime. If the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) cannot cope with one phrase in Norman French, there is a real problem with the national curriculum in Wales. Perhaps it is about time, with all this modernisation, that we started sending Cromwell's men back to their barracks.

Mrs. Taylor

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's attitude, approach and comments will be taken into account during the devolution debate.

Mr. Skinner

Would it be fair to record that during the past 18 years a great deal of modernisation took place? Successive Conservative Governments desired its introduction. Most of those who have spoken of modernisation, apart from new Members, marched into the Lobby to support so-called modernisation of the House. They removed many opportunities for Back-Bench Members by getting rid of debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. Countless other measures were taken to prevent Back Benchers from speaking. They got rid of Adjournment debates before recesses, of which there were three in any given year.

Those proposals were introduced and finalised in accordance with the Jopling recommendations, which were made in the name of a Tory Member. All that resulted in many of the things that we used to do on the Floor of the House being taken in Committee. I warned Tory Members at the time that they would rue the day that they introduced such changes. I told them that when they went into opposition—they were so arrogant that they believed that they would never return to opposition—they would find their hands and feet tied together.

Madam Speaker

Order. We heard all this yesterday. It is becoming rather tedious.

Mrs. Taylor

My hon. Friend's analysis of the attitude of Conservative Members is entirely right. Of course, the Jopling report did not deal with Norman French.