On theyworkforyou.com (see: example 1 or example 2), one can see that many MPs are using the exact form of words to express that 'It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship'. Are they strongly expected to do this, or is there some other reason?

  • Tradition is very important in the UK parliament
    – user19831
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 17:57
  • 1
    Note that this only tends to be used in debates in Westminster Hall, and not in the Commons chamber itself. Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 21:27
  • There may be an additional reason why this is used in Westminster Hall in particular: there are a lot of people eligible to chair debates there (currently 38, excluding the Deputy Speakers), so it may be that they take it in turns to such an extent that it's almost a novelty to see any particular person in the chair. Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 8:50

1 Answer 1


Yes, this form of words is the expected formula to recognise the chair.

The use of formulaic speech is part of the decorum of debate. As is well known, debate in Westminster can be pretty cut-and-thrust. These fixed expressions help remind everyone to be polite, to address the chair (not the opponent) and remember that it is a debate, not a brawl.

Formulae also are like having a uniform: you don't need to think of your own way of recognising the chair, you just repeat the formula. Nobody is seen as being rude by not saying enough; nobody is seen to be brown-nosing by saying too much. Having a uniform phrase keeps things simple.

I'm sure that someone could decide not to thank the chair, but it would upset the propiety of debate, for little purpose.

  • Causing upsets for little purpose is en Vogue currently. See for example the recent turning their backs of the Brexit party MEPs in the EU Parliament. Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 18:54
  • Another reason to break with conventions could be simply the unwillingness to yield to traditions. This was especially popular in the 1960s. A simple "I respect the chair." might be sufficient to keep the debate peaceful. Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 18:57

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