Page last updated at 12:03 GMT, Friday, 24 June 2011 13:03 UK
Circuses, Jamie's Dream, Lords reform: Pick of the week

Not been paying attention to Parliament this week? Well, never fear. Here are the best speeches... and a few of the lighter moments

1) Animals being mistreated (part 1)

MP says No 10 'threatened' him over animal circus ban

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard had a few things to get off his chest as he began his debate calling for the government to ban wild animals from circuses in the UK. Whips of the government kind were his target as he said he had initially been offered a "pretty trivial job" if he agreed either to drop the Commons motion calling for a ban, to amend it or not to press for a vote. On the eve of the debate, he said he had been contacted by No 10 directly and threatened. He was defiant: "I may just be a little council house lad from a very poor background but that background gives me a backbone, it gives me a thick skin and I am not going to be kowtowed by the whips or even the prime minister of my country on an issue that I feel passionately about, that I have conviction about."

1) Animals being mistreated (part 2)

Bob Stewart

During the debate, which ended with MPs agreeing to the motion without a vote, Bob Stewart provided one of the lighter moments, recalling the mistreated animal he helped rescue from no man's land.

The then Colonel apparently found that even honey had failed to persuade the poor, starving bear to leave its cage, although in the end the story he told about it did have a happy ending.

2) Must try harder
Jamie's Dream School teachers

In an unusual education committee hearing on Tuesday, MPs heard from the stars of the recent reality TV show Jamie's Dream School.

Questioned by Lib Dem MP and former teacher Tessa Munt, one of the programme's pupils, Angelique, relayed (in rather colourful terms) her newfound respect for the teaching profession, and her deep regret that she had made one of her past teachers cry.

She also regretted having been rude to one of the guest teachers on the show, former No. 10 communications chief Alastair Campbell. Judging by his quipped response, one MP - believed to be committee chairman and Tory MP Graham Stuart - did seem to share her regret on the latter, although for slightly different reasons.

3) Catching grenades

Backbencher's ringtone reveals an appreciation of the work of Bruno Mars

Don't you just hate it when your ringtone interrupts you during a big speech. Labour's John McDonnell managed to get a laugh out of it happening to him, noting that his mobile had inadvertently provided a "bizarrely appropriate" musical accompaniment to the Westminster Hall debate on conflict prevention on Tuesday. While he might not have been too sure how to turn it off, he was able to let his parliamentary colleagues know it was a song by Bruno Mars featuring the lyrics, "I'd catch a grenade for you; throw my hand on a blade for you."

4) Sorry, I haven't a clue
Ed Balls, having fun during his exchanges with the chancellor over the Labour policy re the euro

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls had fun appearing to suggest that he does not know what his own party's position on joining the euro is.

Goaded by Chancellor George Osborne during a heated opposition-day debate on the economy on Wednesday, Mr Balls' "I know nothing" response was revealed by a reaction shot, filmed from over Mr Osborne's head.

Analysis of the video evidence does not prove conclusively either way whether the shadow chancellor's tongue was in cheek at the time.

5) Kim Il-Boothroyd

Meanwhile, their lordships have been prompted to return to their favourite subject, Lords reform, by a new bid to evict them from the upper house.

Baroness Boothroyd
Baroness Boothroyd

During a marathon two-day debate, former Commons Speaker Baroness Boothroyd won plaudits across the chamber for setting out her opposition to coalition's plans in a characteristically powerful manner.

But former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown presented the contrary view in a soaring piece of oratory, comparing opponents of reform to those who spoke against expanding the franchise and the abolition of rotten boroughs in the 19th century.

Winding up the debate, justice minister Lord McNally dismissed his critics, prompting incredulous gasps by likening veteran Conservative parliamentarian Lord Cormack to - horrors! - a car salesman and memorably drawing a parallel between Lady Boothroyd and North Korea's former "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung.

"Is there anybody I have not insulted yet?" the minister asked the group of over 100 peers who had spoken in the debate. "Please form an orderly queue."

6) From Northern Ireland

At Stormont, the DUP's Peter Weir led the tributes to young Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy following his "prodigious victory" at the US Open championships.

Alliance party MLA Chris Lyttle admitted he was a junior member at the same golf club as Mr McIlroy and had lessons from the same coach - but with rather less success.

On a more serious note, the riots which broke out between nationalist and loyalist crowds in east Belfast in which two people were reportedly shot, was the subject of debate in the assembly.

7) From Scotland

We learned at First Minister Alex Salmond's question session on Thursday that Holyrood's bid to stamp out sectarianism in football is being delayed by six months to allay fears that it was being rushed through the Scottish Parliament.

The first minister told MSPs he wanted time to achieve consensus just two hours after Holyrood heard in its first debate on the legislation that the offences should be in place for the next football season.

8) Other highlights

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke was on top form as he declared that the government's revised plans on sentencing do not constitute a U-turn.

Prime Minister David Cameron faced MPs at his weekly Commons question session, rejecting suggestions from Labour leader Ed Miliband that the government's policy on DNA retention would reduce the rate of conviction in rape cases.

The Welsh Assembly Government came under fire for its decision to put the badger cull on hold and, at first minister's questions, for failing to outline its programme for the new assembly term.

Compiled by Democracy Live's Ed Lowther.

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