Business of

23rd August, 2020

in the #House of Commons
← Return to index ←

Motion to Honour the Reverend Wilbert Awdry

Mr. Speaker (Sir Nicholas Clack OOBC MR) (Milton Keynes)

First item on the agenda!

M046 - Motion to Honour the Reverend Wilbert Awdry

This House recognizes that:

This House, therefore, calls upon the government to:

This motion was written by His Grace Alex Lambton OBE MR, Leader of the Opposition, Duke of Richmond, MP for the North.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Charles Gladstone) (N. Ireland) (SDP)

Reverend Awdry’s somewhat mysterious connections to far right ideology, especially in the spirit of compliance his works try to foster, means I have determined this is an inappropriate course of action.

Charles Gladstone // https://www.newyorker.com/culture/rabbit-holes/the-repressive-authoritarian-soul-of-thomas-the-tank-engine-and-friends

Arthur Haigh // wtf???

Charles Gladstone // I was surprised but read the article

Nigel Bagshaw // oh

Arthur Haigh // holy shit

Charles Gladstone // https://slate.com/culture/2011/07/thomas-the-tank-engine-the-popular-children-s-show-is-sadly-nostalgic-for-british-imperialism.html

The Prime Minister (Arthur Haigh) (Penrith and the Border) (Lab)

As strange as it may seem — and as strange as this motion may seem — I have to agree with the right honourable chancellor of the exchequer. His series is morally dubious, and does not teach children any lessons that would be acceptable in a modern learning environment.

Nigel Bagshaw // they had us in the first half ngl

Charles Gladstone

Mr Speaker, I quote from a Slate article on the subject: On the Island of Sodor, the sun has not yet set on the British Empire, and the consequences of defiance are illustrated in parables like “Hiro Helps Out.” Hiro, Asian immigrant (he is voiced by Japanese actor Togo Igawa, and the images of his island home mirror traditional ukiyo-e woodcuttings) and onetime “Master of the Rails,” here oversteps his authority. In an effort to assist Sir Topham Hatt, the “controller of the rails,” who is oddly discombobulated, Hiro decides to give the other trains their orders himself. But initiative is not a virtue on the Island of Sodor, and stepping above one’s station is a serious offense. When Sir Topham Hatt finds that Hiro has appointed himself middle-manager, he is furious (“I am controller of the railway!”).

Hiro apologizes profusely, almost tearfully (“I thought I was master of the rails, but I am only master of the muddle”), but that is not enough. Hiro must go to each individual train to prostrate himself and explain that only Sir Topham Hatt gives orders. He apologizes to each train for giving them instruction, saying “I was wrong. Sir Topham Hatt didn’t want that at all.” Once he has completed his shame tour (one half-expects Hiro to commit hara-kiri than face the depth of his dishonor), Hiro chugs back to Sir Topham Hatt’s side, where the benevolent master tells him he is “helpful,” which in turn makes Hero “happier than he had ever been.” To say this is a little conservative is like saying that Animal Farm is a little allegorical.

Arthur Haigh // i genuinely cannot believe that a motion about Thomas the fucking Tank Engine is actually controversial and has split the government and opposition

Sir Felix Guest-Lyons KOBC (Mole Valley) (Con)

Mr. Speaker, the works of Reverend Wilbert Awdry have brought joy to millions of children the world over. The Thomas the Tank Engine series is an enduring element of British culture. The idea that such important and harmless contributions to our country can be forgotten and erased due to some dubious assertions of “connections to right-wing ideology” is nothing short of thought policing. I am dismayed and insulted, though perhaps not surprised, that government would attempt so petty of an act as to deny a celebrated children’s author the recognition they deserve.

Arthur Haigh // is this actually happening

Charles Gladstone

Mr Speaker, would the shadow chancellor say that the above passage is acceptable and isn’t racist?

Sir Nicholas Clack // I put this up first because I thought “oh this will be a quick thing”

Sir Nicholas Clack // Apparently not.

Sir Felix Guest-Lyons

Mr. Speaker, the Chancellor, and the author of this article, are reading extreme political meaning where none exist. The passage mentioned does not denigrate or stereotype any ethnicity, culture, or nationality and I am baffled that the Chancellor believes that it does. The use of a heavily biased article to make such an issue out of simply recognising the contributions made by a famous children’s author is disgusting and the Chancellor and the government should feel ashamed for their attempt on Reverend Awdry’s character, though I know they won’t, Mr. Speaker, as they have displayed absolutely no capacity for shame or self-reflection for any of their more grievous errors in the past.

The Prime Minister

Is this the kind of thing we really want to show our children? That a small misgiving leads to a life-long punishment? The series’s undertones are incredibly authoritarian and nostalgic for the old empire. How the shadow chancellor can excuse this is beyond me, and really exemplifies the Conservative Party’s complete failure to get with the times, and outright refusal to re-analyse something that may have seemed harmless before.

Yes, there are certainly more pressing matters, of course, but something that might seem so innocuous as a children’s series absolutely has the capability to teach our children something very wrongly indeed; in fact, I would argue that its innocuousness is what leads to people thinking that there could never be anything wrong with it.

Sir Felix Guest-Lyons

For goodness’ sake, Mr. Speaker, this is a children's book — we do not need to hold it to such exacting standards. It’s not fascist propaganda — it’s the silly tales of anthropomorphised steam trains! The Prime Minister seems to think he is a censor, the protector of public morality. If the Railway series is so horrific does he intend to censor it? Remove the books from the shelves and end the screening of the television program?

Charles Gladstone

Mr Speaker, these books in previous even contained the n word. This isn’t about censorship; the motion wants us to bestow honours to the author. Is this what a modern Britain should be doing to someone who held clear racist sentiments?

The Prime Minister

Does a man like that deserve a posthumous CBE?! This government did not intend to do anything about Thomas the Tank Engine, the Leader of the Opposition submitted this motion. If he had done his research he would have very much realised why he does not deserve a CBE. Even as a product of its time, it’s not the kind of thing that merits a CBE with such authoritarian undertones. The member for Mole Valley must realise that it is his opposition that tabled this motion, in wanting to bestow honours upon someone with clearly racist and out-of-touch views. It is not the kind of thing to be merited in a modern Britain.

Sir Felix Guest-Lyons

The “n-word”, Mr. Speaker, was removed from the work and to my knowledge Reverend Awdry never held nor expressed any racial prejudice during his lifetime. This is a fabrication - a character assassination made up whole cloth. The Prime Minister accuses me and the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition of being “out of touch” but he and the United Left have their head so far up... their own ideology that they feel the need to destroy the public reputation of a man who did nothing more than like steam trains and write whimsical books for children. They have no regard for reality, they have no regard for facts and what is actually important to the people of Britain, they only have eyes for blind ideological correctitude and enforcing petty political correctness. There is nothing more to be said, Mr. Speaker, I will not argue with so uncritical debators on such a basic principle any longer.

The Prime Minister

The Opposition insist on wasting the Government’s time with this, and we are not going to back down from our principles just because they find it “basic” and unarguable. We did not intend to bring any motion to do with such an obscure and niche part of society, but we have been stifled by the Opposition’s continued dedication to frustrate the Government. If the member does not wish to debate on this, then I cannot force him, but being critical on something that might seem so innocuous is how things get done, and how inequality is realised. If this bill passes, so be it, I will not move the government to push any further on this. We will spend our time crafting bills and making choices to improve the quality of life for the people of Britain.

Sir Felix Guest-Lyons

One last point, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister should really stop referring to motions as bills. He’s meant to be leading the country, but cannot get this basic fact straight.

The Prime Minister

[Under his breath] Bloody hell…

Zach Henderson // M048 motion to call a snap election

Alex Lambton OBE MR (N. England) (LD)

Mr. Speaker, I apologise for my tardiness. Yes, the Reverend Awdry had many faults. However, haven’t many other members of the Order of the British Empire? And, Mr. Speaker, the updated television series has many lessons using the Reverend’s characters. He should be honoured further, and this motion seeks to do this.

Charles Gladstone

Mr Speaker, does the member for Mole Valley believe it is acceptable for children’s books to say that Asians should be subservient to the white population, as the passage heavily implies that I quoted?

Sir Felix Guest-Lyons

Mr. Speaker, the Chancellor may imagine any meaning he likes, it does not make it real.

Alex Lambton

And, Mr. Speaker, the introduction of Hiro and other characters from outside of England happened after the Reverend’s passing. Yes, Mr. Speaker, some of the things that the writers of the television series have written are wrong. However, their actions should not detract from the work of the Reverend.

Zach Henderson // we’re one hour in and we still haven’t reached agenda item 2

Mr. Speaker

Next item, please.

Charles Gladstone


British National (Overseas) Bill

Mr. Speaker

LB007 - British National (Overseas) Bill @ third reading

A bill to amend the British National (Overseas) Act 2019 to reform the eligibility requirements for the acquisition of British National (Overseas) passports.


This Bill was authored by the Rt. Hon. Dustin Crowe PC, 3rd Baron Strathclyde, as a Private Member’s Bill.

Arthur Haigh // mr. speaker i don’t care anymore *starts drinking from a bottle of vodka*

Charles Gladstone // Mr Speaker, this isn’t about Thomas the Tank, so I don’t care 😛

Alex Lambton

Mr. Speaker, I hope that everyone in this house is able to agree on this Act. Making it easier for Hong Kongers to come to our nation in this time of great political turmoil. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that my fellow members will vote in favour of this act.

Charles Gladstone

Mr Speaker, this is an actually important and crucial piece of legislation to help protect Hong Kongers from Chinese occupation. It enjoys my full support.

The Prime Minister

I support this bill too, we will continue on our path to safeguard Hong Kongese citizens and ensure that the policy as written down in the 1997 agreement is upheld.

Sophia Guelders // mr speaker theres a typo in the bill it says is there is instead of if there is

Arthur Haigh // Sophie shut up

Anti-Semitism Prevention Bill

Mr. Speaker

B039.2 - Anti-Semitism Prevention Bill @ second reading

A bill to counter and prevent antisemitism, both on- and offline in the United Kingdom.


This bill was authored by the Rt. Hon. Sir Zach Henderson OOBC MR MP, and the Rt Hon. Charles A. Gladstone MP as a Private Member’s Bill.

Charles Gladstone

This requires amending to make it meaningful again, but we should vote this bill which still contains good measures through to the next stage.

The Prime Minister

I will also support this bill, and definite amending is certainly required.

Felix Guest-Lyons

Mr. Speaker, may I enquire as to what the Chancellor means by “meaningful”? Does he mean making specific provision to cancel [checks written note] “pyoo-dee-pai”?

Charles Gladstone

No I do not. I mean the provisions on enforcing hate speech laws online.

Sir Dafydd Llwyd OOBC (Wales) (Con)

There already exists a law that criminalises the posting of grossly offensive content online, and there is precedent for its enforcement. If the Right Honourable member is concerned that it is not enforced frequently enough, he should know that making it doubly illegal will not solve this.