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Procedure of the House: Select Committee Report

Volume 684: debated on Monday 17 July 2006

rose to move, That the fifth report from the Select Committee be agreed to.

The report can be found at

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Members have expressed a wish for the Minutes of Proceedings to be more helpful, both on paper and online. We have responded with a new design to appear in the new Session. I hope it will be welcome.

I should draw attention to one aspect. From the new Session, Starred Questions will be renamed “Oral Questions” and Unstarred Questions will be renamed “Questions for Short Debate”. We believe that that will be clearer to Members and to the public. Oral Questions will continue to be identified with a star on the Order Paper. None of the changes proposed has any effect on procedure. I beg to move.

Moved, That the fifth report from the Select Committee be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

My Lords, while commending the committee for the decision to change Unstarred Questions into Questions for Short Debate, is there any reason why those short debates should not be tabled as Motions rather than Questions, because they are short debates? Furthermore, as those debates take place over one or one and a half hours, either in the dinner break or after other business, and as there is a long waiting list, would it be possible to consider having an occasional day set aside when we might have six or seven?

My Lords, if there is any spare time left at the end of the 30 minutes, could we give way to Members who wanted to speak on previous Questions?

My Lords, the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Foulkes of Cumnock would be a matter for the Procedure Committee at some date way in the future.

On the question of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, the proposal is merely to change the name of Unstarred Questions to Questions for Short Debate. As I said, an Unstarred Question is a fairly opaque term for some Members of the House and for those outside. Turning Unstarred Questions into “Motions for Debate” has many complications and implications: not only would a right of reply be given, but their place in the Order Paper would change, they would become amendable and divisible and their relationship to other forms of Motion would need to be considered. It would be possible for the Procedure Committee to consider those matters, but I would advise against it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.