Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

MP suspended after mace protest

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Labour MP in Commons mace protest

A Labour MP has been suspended from the House of Commons for five days after angry exchanges over the decision to approve a new Heathrow runway.

John McDonnell was sanctioned after he picked up the mace, the ornamental club which represents the royal authority of Parliament, in a breach of protocol.

The Hayes and Harlington MP said the decision not to hold a vote on the runway was a "national disgrace".

Anyone manhandling the mace is considered in contempt of Parliament.

'Disgrace'

During a statement by Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon on Heathrow Mr McDonnell left his seat, grabbed the mace - which dates from the reign of Charles II - and put it down on an empty bench on the Labour side of the House.

While doing so, he shouted: "It's a disgrace to the democracy of this country."

This is about asserting the right of MPs to decide the policies of this country and not having them bulldozed through without a vote in the House of Commons
John McDonnell

He was immediately "named" by the deputy speaker of the House, a move which effectively suspended Mr McDonnell from the House for five days.

Mr McDonnell, whose constituency includes Heathrow airport, then left the chamber.

Later he told the BBC that he would not apologise for his actions because he was representing his constituents and their rights to have their voices heard.

By doing what he did, he said he was asserting the values of "democracy and the sovereignty of Parliament" stemming back "to the days of Cromwell".

"This is about asserting the right of MPs to decide the policies of this country and not having them bulldozed through without a vote in the House of Commons."

Several MPs have been banished from the Commons in the past for wielding the mace, including former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine in 1976.



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SEE ALSO
Go-ahead for new Heathrow runway
15 Jan 09 |  UK Politics
Mace - Commons
09 Oct 08 |  UK Politics

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