Tonge storms out of Lords after Israel rant refused

Jenny Tonge

Jenny Tonge

Baroness Jenny Tonge stormed out of the House of Lords during a recent debate on the reform of universal jurisdiction legislation.

The Lords were debating an amendment to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, during which three Liberal Democrat peers mounted an unsuccessful attempt to derail the measures. They proposed amending the bill to limit the discretion of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Baroness Tonge, a prominent anti-Israel activist, accused those who supported the bill of destroying a safeguard against political interference by the Government. She denied that the current rules on magistrates issuing arrest warrants for foreign dignitaries, which prompted Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni to cancel a trip to Britain in 2009, had ever been abused in the past.

The Liberal Democrat peer then used the opportunity to complain about Ms Livni, at which point another of the party's peer, Lord Carlisle, noted: "What my noble friend is saying is out of order, inappropriate and not related to the amendment. She is having a rant at Mrs Livni."

His complaint was supported by Lord Wallace, who said he comments were ranging from the subject "much more widely than is normal".

Baroness Tonge responded that she refused "to be silenced", and when Lord Wallace repeated the fact that she was going off topic, she interrupted him again. Lord Carlisle called for order but she persisted: "I am not going to give way again. I must finish."

She was only silenced when another peer moved to demand that she no longer be heard. When the motion was agreed, she ran out of the chamber.

Lord Carlisle called her behaviour "quite shocking" and expressed his hope that nobody else in the chamber would behave in such a way. "I am sorry that my noble friend Lady Tonge has chosen to disobey the normal rules of the House and has stormed out in a way which is not appropriate to noble Lords and noble Baronesses in this House."

It was another instance of controversial behaviour from the peer, who was responsible for getting cleric Raed Salah into parliament earlier this month even though he had been banned from Britain by the Home Secretary.

Last updated: 1:54pm, July 22 2011