Calling the DUP ‘dinosaurs’ is allowed: Commons speaker

Caroline Lucas attacking the DUP in Parliament on Wednesday
Caroline Lucas attacking the DUP in Parliament on Wednesday

The speaker of the House of Commons has decreed that the use of the term “dinosaurs” to describe the DUP was acceptable language within the rules of Parliament.

Green MP Caroline Lucas, the party’s sole MP, rose to her feet to speak during the heated first session of the new Parliament on Wednesday.

As Sammy Wilson sat behind her, puffing his cheeks and rolling his eyes, she said none of the bills proposed in the Queen’s Speech were about the environment.

She asked whether this was “because she [the Prime Minister] doesn’t care about the environment and climate change, or because she has been influenced by the DUP dinosaurs who sit beside me”.

This was likely to be a reference to Mr Wilson’s views on global warming, which have been examined in articles in the national press.

The biography section of the former environment minister’s website states that “climate change is not man-made and the myth of climate change is based on dodgy science not proven”.

After Ms Lucas made her “dinosaur” remark, Jeffrey Donaldson then got to his feet in the Commons and said: “Mr Speaker, my party was elected by the people of Northern Ireland to represent the constituents who elected us here.”

He asked if it was “parliamentary” for Ms Lucas to use the term “dinosaurs”, adding: “She does not understand the policy that my party has on the environment. She should go and read our manifesto.

“But we have the right to speak for the people of Northern Ireland. And in this parliament, we will!”

The speaker, John Bercow, told the House: “The use of the word in question is not unparliamentary.

“It’s a matter of taste as to its desirability or otherwise...

“I know how robust a character the right honourable gentleman is.

“I would simply say the word in question refers to a species which survived for many, many millions of years.”

Mr Wilson’s view runs against the long-standing scientific consensus on the subject, and in 2014 the DUP’s chief whip said he did not share his views.

A working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the international body which seeks to examine all scientific research on the subject – declared in 2013: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

It said that greenhouse gases contributed to a “global mean surface warming likely to be in the range of 0.5°C to 1.3°C” from 1951 up to 2010.

This echoed the fundamental thrust of the IPCC’s first-ever report more than two decades earlier, when it stated in summary that its authors are “certain” that “emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases,” and that this in turn was warming the planet.

Neither the DUP’s Assembly manifesto (HERE) or its General Election one (HERE) mention climate change.

Whilst the former does state that the party had “introduced an agri-enviroment scheme” – though it gives no further details – this is the only mention of the word ‘environment’ in either manifesto.

Back in 2014, DUP chief whip Peter Weir (in charge of enforcing party policy) came out against Mr Wilson’s stance on global warming. Click HERE for more details.

Mr Wilson recently criticised a decision by Queen’s University Belfast to divest from fossil fuels.

There has been a huge surge in interest in the beliefs of DUP members among Great Britain-based media in recent days as the prospect of a Conservative deal with the DUP has grown more likely (although a senior Orangeman has said that much of the material in the press has “unfairly vilified” the DUP).