Why in UK Parliament did they say "I refer the right honourable gentleman to the answer I gave a moment ago"?

And why don't they do it any more?

Update:

I mean specifically, the phrase "I refer .. to the answer I gave a moment ago". This whole phrase used to be used a lot in Prime Minister's Questions. Talking about an answer that was given a moment ago seemed to be part of the weekly protocol that I never understood and can't seem to find an explanation on the internet.

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  • 9 years ago
    Best answer

    What is going on is that if an MP tries to ask a specific question to the Prime Minister, the PM will avoid answering the question by just saying it's the responsibility of some other Minister. This is a truthful answer and is permissible as the PM has no specific responsibilities of his own. So to avoid Prime Minister's Questions being a total waste of time, the practice developed of asking him what his engagements are for today. This is taken as an "open question" and the standard answer is "This morning I had meetings with Ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I will be having further such meetings later today."

    So that when the MP stands up again to ask his supplementary question, it can be about anything, and the PM can't avoid it. A supplementary is always allowed in questions to Ministers. And the Speaker can pick an MP who didn't put down in advance to ask a supplementary question if he wants to.

    So what you get is that the entire list of questions put down in advance will almost certainly all be asking about the PM's engagements, and the second or later time this is asked, you can see that a sensible answer is "I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago". It has now evolved to the point where they have dropped this fiction that an MP actually DOES want to know what's in his diary and just save wasting time by getting straight to the MP's real question, so they don't say that any more.

    Another tactic that is sometimes used will be like the question I remember being asked to Margaret Thatcher "When does the Prime Minister next plan to visit Pratt's Bottom?" (I'm not joking - Pratt's Bottom is in Kent.) Of course she answered that she has no plans to go there, and the supplementary was "Well if she did she would find that the people of Pratt's Bottom are worried about..." What often then happens is an MP who is picked on by the Speaker to ask the next supplementary forgets the original question wasn't an engagements question, and gets ruled out of order for not mentioning Pratt's Bottom.

    Edit - as other answerers bring it up, the "honourable gentleman/lady", or "right honourable gentleman/lady" if the person is a member of the Privy Council (anyone who's ever been a Cabinet Minister) is not sarcasm, it's just Parliamentary protocol. It is the rules that MPs can't refer to each other by name and it's supposed to tone things down when they get heated by preventing them from being rude about each other. Variations on this are that they will refer to members of the same party as "my honourable friend", MPs who are lawyers are "the honourable and learned gentleman", and MPs who have served in the armed forces are "the honourable and gallant gentleman".

  • 9 years ago

    It is because MPs ask a standard question (e.g. What are the Prime Minister's official engagements this week?) purely so they can get on the list of MPs who can put a question to the Prime Minister that week. They don't want to know the answer to their original question but, because it has been asked, the Prime Minister has to answer it the first time. The reason they do it is that, having been selected to ask their question, they can ask a supplementary question and THIS is the one they want an answer to or, just as often, that they simply want to bring to public attention. They don't always know what their supplementary question will be until the actual day arrives but the standard question enables them to get a slot.

    Rather than repeatedly answering the original pointless question that may have been asked by a dozen MPs, the standard response is "I refer the right honourable gentleman to the answer I gave a moment ago". Then the questioner can ask their REAL question which is often intended to make a political point rather than soliciting information.

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.

    RE:

    Why in UK Parliament did they say "I refer the right honourable gentleman to the answer I gave a moment ago"?

    And why don't they do it any more?

    Source(s): uk parliament quot refer honourable gentleman answer gave moment quot: https://biturl.im/147uv
  • thieme
    Lv 4
    3 years ago

    Right Honourable

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  • Bob B
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    The term was intended to mean that a member's criticism or question had already been answered in statements he had already made. This avoids having to repeat the statement (or say it at all in some cases), and makes the critic look stupid for not understanding what had already been said.

    Although it is still used, part of the reason it's fallen a bit out of fashion is because it doesn't necessarily answer the question properly, and if the answer was never actually given, it makes them look dishonest (if they'd already answered it before, they should have no trouble repeating the answer again).

  • Greg
    Lv 6
    9 years ago

    They do it in Prime Ministers Questions and "right honourable gentleman" is respecting the person and referring to an earlier answer given my the Prime Minister

  • Tracey
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    The clock is ticking It's a dodge to waste time

  • 9 years ago

    Whenever they want to insult somebody they call him right honourable gentleman. It's more acceptable than saying "I refer to that jerk over there!" But you can tell that's what they're thinking. lol :-)

  • 9 years ago

    It wasn't what they meant which is more like the 'Right Charlie'

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    They do still say it.They use the word honourable because they are obviously being sarcastic unless they just do not know the meaning of the word.

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