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Procedure Of The House

Volume 357: debated on Wednesday 26 February 1975

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Moved, That the Second Report from the Select Committee be agreed to.— ( The Earl of Listowel.)

The Committee's Report was as follows:

1.—LEAVE OF ABSENCE

The Committee have considered the present Standing Order governing Leave of Absence. They agree that Leave of Absence should in principle be retained but that steps should be taken to streamline the manner in which the existing scheme is operated and to place on a more secure basis the conventions which have hitherto guided the Select Committee on Leave of Absence and Lords' Expenses in its administration.

They consider that the distinction between Leave of Absence for a Parliament and Leave of Absence for a Session should be discontinued. This would enable the scheme to be more closely associated with the Writ of Summons.

They further consider that the existing arrangements should be replaced by a procedure whereby the Lord Chancellor sends with the Writ of Summons a letter relating to Leave of Absence to all Lords with the exception of those who had in the past been excluded from the operation of the scheme by successive decisions of the Leave of Absence and Lords' Expenses Committee. This letter should invite each Lord to state in writing within a. period of eight weeks from the issue of the writs whether he wished to apply for Leave of Absence for the new Parliament or not. If Lords had not replied by the date specified in the Lord Chancellor's letter or had not attended the House except for the purpose of taking the Oath, reminder letters should be sent saying that if Lords did not indicate their wishes within a further period of two weeks they would be considered to have applied for Leave of Absence.

At the end of this two-week period, the Leave of Absence and Lords' Expenses Committee should meet to consider lists of Lords ( a) who had applied for Leave of Absence and ( b) who had failed to reply to the reminder letter. In considering the lists the Committee should be empowered, in appropriate cases, to decide that no further action should be taken. The remaining Lords on the lists would be granted Leave of Absence and so informed. A list of those granted Leave of Absence would be entered in the Minutes of Proceedings.

The Committee accordingly recommend that a new Standing Order be proposed to the House in place of S.O.22, as follows:—

"22.—(1) Lords are to attend the sittings of the House, or, if they cannot do so, obtain Leave of Absence, which the House may grant at pleasure; but this Standing Order shall not be understood as requiring a Lord who is unable to attend regularly to apply for Leave of Absence if he proposes to attend as often as he reasonably can.

(2) A Lord may apply for Leave of Absence at any time during a Parliament for the remainder of that Parliament.

(3) On the issue of writs for the calling of a new Parliament the Lord Chancellor shall in writing request every Lord to whom he issues a writ, with such exceptions as the Leave of Absence and Lords' Expenses Committee may direct, to answer within eight weeks whether he wishes to apply for Leave of Absence or not.

(4) In the case of those Lords who have not by the date specified in the Lord Chancellor's letter either—

  • (a) indicated their wishes; or
  • (b) attended the House (other than for the purpose of taking the Oath of Allegiance) reminder letters shall be sent by the Lord Chancellor stating that if they do not indicate their wishes within a further period of two weeks they will be considered to have applied for Leave of Absence.
  • (5) At the expiry of the period of two weeks the Leave of Absence and (he Lords' Expenses Committee shall meet to consider lists of Lords who had—

  • (a) applied for Leave of Absence; and
  • (b) failed to reply to the reminder letter.
  • In considering the lists the Committee may, in appropriate cases, decide that no further action should be taken. The remaining Lords on the

    lists shall be granted Leave of Absence by the House.

    (6) A Lord who has been granted Leave of Absence is expected not to attend the sittings of the House until the period for which the leave was granted has expired or the leave has sooner ended, unless it be to take the Oath of Allegiance.

    (7) If a Lord, having been granted Leave of Absence, wishes to attend during the period for which the leave was granted, he is expected to give notice to the House accordingly at least one month before the day on which he wishes to attend; and at the end of the period specified in his notice, or sooner if the House so direct, the leave shall end."

    2.—INTRODUCTIONS OF PEERS SUCCEEDING BY SPECIAL REMAINDER

    The Committee have considered the terms of Standing Order No. 4 which states that "every Peer summoned by Writ by virtue of a special limitation in remainder shall be introduced". They agree that the Standing Order which was made in 1715 no longer serves a useful purpose, given that the credentials of those Lords concerned will have been subject to careful scrutiny by the Lord Chancellor before writs are issued to them.

    The Committee accordingly recommend that Standing Order No. 4 should be repealed.

    3.—PEERAGE CLAIMS: PRINTING OF DOCUMENTS AND PROCEEDINGS

    The Committee have considered the terms of Standing Order No. 72 which requires ( a) that the documents for peerage claims should be printed and ( b) that the costs of recording and printing of the proceedings and evidence before the Committee for Privileges should be borne by the claimant.

    They consider that since the House has now abandoned, on grounds of cost, the requirement that judicial documents should be printed, the same practice should be extended to peerage cases.

    They also consider that, since the recording and printing of the proceedings and evidence are of greater benefit to the House and to the general public than to the claimant, these costs should be borne on public funds.

    The Committee accordingly recommend that Standing Order No. 72 be amended as follows:

    In paragraphs (1) and (3) the word "printed" should be left out, paragraph (4) should be repealed and in paragraph (3) at end insert, "The cost of the examination shall be borne by the claimant".

    On Question, Motion agreed to.