Loosen Up

Andrea Vance reports:

A row has broken out over school children being allowed to sit in MPs’ chairs.

Speaker Lockwood Smith wrote to all political parties yesterday saying there had been complaints about unruly behaviour during private tours. MPs often show school children and other guests around the debating chamber when is not sitting.

In the edict, Dr Smith said he had “a number of issues and concerns raised by the Parliamentary Service about the behaviour of members’ guests”.

He wants party whips to remind MPs: “No staff, members’ guests or visitors are to sit in the seats in the chamber at any time . . . desk phones are not to be used and guests should not handle the microphone.”

But Labour whip Chris Hipkins has hit back, saying the ban was “unnecessarily draconian”.

I agree with Chris. Since I was a child, kids and others have been unofficially allowed to sit on MPs Chairs – so long as they are respectful. I recall the thrill at sitting in the PM’s Chair, and even trying the Speaker’s Chair out for size. And when many years later I was a staffer and did private tours, I would allow guests to do the same – again so long as they were respectful.

Strictly speaking, the rules say guests should not sit in MPs’ chairs. But Mr Hipkins said: “It’s a nice thing to be able to do.

Yeah it is officially against the rules, and Lockie is just reinforcing the rules. But it would be a good rule to loosen up, or in the interim turn a but of a blind eye to – unless there is some serious harm being caused.

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