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Peer blocked from parliamentary debate after ‘falling asleep’ in House of Lords

A peer was blocked from speaking in a parliamentary debate after he was accused of falling asleep in the House of Lords.

Lord Young of Norwood Green attempted on Monday to voice his thoughts on a bill allowing the UK to diverge from EU laws governing the genetic modification of crops.

Standing to speak, he began: “I wanted to take part in this debate because I stake my position as somebody who is a Remainer, but if there’s two things that I welcome in coming out of the common market, one is the [EU’s common agricultural policy] CAP and this particular gene editing…”

But the Labour peer was interrupted by government whip Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist, who intervened to say: “I am sorry, but the noble lord was fast asleep for the entire duration of the minister’s speech.

“He really should not participate in this debate having failed to take advantage of the ability to hear him.”

Lord Young, a former union boss who has also served as a BBC governor, replied: “Sorry?”, to which the government frontbencher repeated: “I am afraid the noble lord was fast asleep for the entirety of the minister’s opening speech.”

When the 79-year-old Lord Young responded that he was “not now” asleep, Lady Bloomfield retorted: “Well I had to send a note to you in order to wake you up, by the doorkeeper.”

The draft Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022 debated by peers on Monday would allow greater freedom for the practice of gene editing plants in the UK.

Environment minister Lord Benyon said the post-Brexit regulations would allow the UK to “remain at the forefront” of research into GM crops.

Lord Young is far from the first parliamentarian to sit accused of falling asleep in either chamber.

Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne said in January 2018 that he was embarrassed and “annoyed” at himself for having fallen asleep during a speech by colleague Ken Clarke on Brexit, adding that it been a “very long day” because he had gone for an early-morning swim.

The image of him with his head on his shoulder, which he described to the BBC as “horrible”, was followed 18 months later by the infamous incident in which then House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg was seen sprawled across the front bench with his eyes closed.


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