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Procedure Of The House

Volume 417: debated on Tuesday 10 February 1981

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2.51 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the First Report of the Select Committee on the Procedure of the House be agreed to. I should like to draw your Lordships' particular attention to this report because it contains three matters which have been recently discussed on the Floor of the House. The first is the question of amendments on Third Reading, which was specifically referred to the Committee and which the Committee have recommended should be treated by revising the Companion to the Standing Orders. The revision is on the Order Paper. One new paragraph defines the principal purposes for which amendments are put down at Third Reading and another paragraph repeats the present advice that,

"It is considered undesirable that an issue which has been fully debated and decided upon a previous stage of the Bill should be re-opened on Third Reading".
Considerable discussion took place on whether the word "undesirable" should be strengthened: but in the event it was felt that since it is a word used throughout the Companion to the Standing Orders it would be better to retain it but to emphasise (as also appears in the report) that in the context of a House where there is no Speaker with power to rule on matters of order, the word as used in this House is equivalent to the term "out of order" in the context of the House of Commons.

The other two matters raised in the report are on congratulations to maiden speakers speeches and reference to strangers. These, I think, are self-explanatory. I beg to move.

Moved, That the First Report from the Select Committee be agreed to.—( Lord Aberdare.)

The report read as follows:

1. AMENDMENTS ON THIRD READING

The Committee have considered the question of Third Reading amendments following two recent incidents when the practice of the House has been disputed. The first of these was on 1st August, 1980, when an amendment was moved which was substantially the same as an amendment which had been rejected by the House at Report stage. The second was on 5th November, 1980, when a series of amendments to leave out 26 clauses of a Bill were tabled at Third Reading.

The Committee recommend that the practice of the House, as set out in the Companion to the Standing Orders, should be revised in the light of these incidents to read as follows:

"Amendments may be moved after the Third Reading has been agreed to and before the Motion 'that this Bill do now pass'. Notice must be given of them not later than the day preceding that on which they are to be moved (except in the case of privilege amendments) in sufficient time to enable them to be printed and circulated in the form in which it is proposed to move them.
The principal purposes of amendments on Third Reading are to clarify any remaining uncertainties, to improve the drafting and to enable the Government to fulfil undertakings given at earlier stages of the Bill.
It is considered undesirable that an issue which has been fully debated and decided upon at a previous stage of a Bill should be reopened on Third Reading.
The guidance applicable to amendments to leave out a clause or schedule on Report applies also to such amendments on Third Reading."
The Committee wish to draw particular attention to the use of the word "undesirable" and to remind Lords that in the context of a House where there is no Speaker with power to rule on matters of order, the word as used in this House is equivalent to the expression "out of order" in the context of the House of Commons.

2. CONGRATULATIONS TO MAIDEN SPEAKERS

The Committee have considered the growing practice of successive speakers in a debate congratulating a maiden speaker. They draw attention to the convention of the House, as set out in the Companion to the Standing Orders, that a maiden speaker should be congratulated by the next following speaker. The next following speaker is assumed to speak on behalf of the whole House.

3. REFERENCE TO STRANGERS

The Committee have considered the practice of the House on the reference in debate to Strangers in the Galleries. The Committee is of the opinion that the practice of the House of Lords is similar to that of the House of Commons. The Committee, therefore, recommend that the practice of the House should be set out in the Companion to the Standing Orders as follows:—
"It is undesirable to refer to persons in the Galleries (except generally for the purpose of an order for their withdrawal)."

My Lords, I listened to all that the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees has said, but would ask whether this proposal with regard to amendments on Third Reading refers also to Government amendments?—because very often a Government amendment is put down on Third Reading as a result of long deliberation during the Committee and Report stages. Very often the department concerned may not have time to table it until the very last stage. There is one later this afternoon on the Energy Conservation Bill which concerns a most useful concession given by the Government as a result of pressure from noble Lords behind the Front Bench and supported by Members from all sides of the House.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I thought possibly he might have read the report before I moved it, but the fact is it does say:

"The principal purposes of amendments on Third Reading are to clarify any remaining uncertainties, to remove the drafting and to enable the Government to fulfil undertakings given at earlier stages of the Bill".
Therefore I think he can be reassured that it does apply to Government amendments as well as others.

My Lords, it has been pointed out to me, I need hardly say by my friends, that if all noble Lords were to read this report in conjunction with the Companion to the Standing Orders it might go some way to curtailing that tiresome habit I have of interrupting on matters of order!

On Question, Motion agreed to.