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Leader’s Group on Working Practices

Volume 728: debated on Tuesday 7 June 2011


Asked by

To ask the Leader of the House when he expects to respond to the recommendations of the Leader’s Group on Working Practices.

My Lords, I will be leading a debate on the report prepared by the Leader’s Group and chaired by my noble friend Lord Goodlad later this month, following which I plan to invite the relevant committees of the House to take forward specific recommendations.

My Lords, I am sure that many Members of the House will welcome that positive response from my noble friend, but can he assure us that there will be an opportunity for the House as a whole to debate and decide some of these matters, some of which are not only timely but very urgent? The work that has been done by this group is, I think, broadly welcomed across the House—it has done a very good job—but some of it is, as I say, very urgent. Notably, there is the question of the role of the Lord Speaker, which is a matter that I hope will be determined by the House as a whole before the new Lord Speaker is elected. Can my noble friend give us an assurance that there will be a speedy timetable for discussion and decision on these matters?

Yes, my Lords. Of course, the final decisions on these matters will be entirely in the hands of the House, which is entirely appropriate. In particular, I confirm to my noble friend that there is no reason why decisions cannot be taken immensely speedily after the debate and when we have taken the views of the House into account and sent them to the respective committees.

As for the role of the Lord Speaker, the Leader’s Group concluded that successive Leaders of the House had acted with complete impartiality in their role of advising the House on matters of procedure and order, including at Question Time. None the less, I am conscious that some in the House wish to see a far greater role for the Chair—notably at Question Time—and that the Leader’s Group has made proposals in this area, to which I intend to give prompt and serious consideration once Members have had the opportunity to have their say.

My Lords, the report will be differently received as regards different paragraphs by different Members of this House. What is the procedure by which we shall be able to pick and choose that which we wish and that which we shall not wish?

That is a good question. The purpose of the debate is a bit like a Second Reading speech; it is for different noble Lords to use their speeches to look at different parts of the report. After that, it will be dissected by the usual channels and the clerks and sent to the respective committees. Their reports can then be debated and approved by the House as a whole.

My Lords, I think that noble Lords will welcome what my noble friend has just said. Will he bear in mind that there is considerable disquiet in many parts of the House about the proposal that we should sit at 2 o’clock? Would he also bear in mind that there is considerable support for the proposal that we should have more Joint Committees? It is therefore essential that we have the opportunity to vote individually on these various recommendations.

My Lords, I am aware of that and that is the point of the proposal that I laid out: namely, that the House will be able to take a view on individual recommendations, subject to the reports that emanate from the committees of this House.

My Lords, I know that following the Question from the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, many Members of this House are anxious that some of the proposals at least should be implemented in the near future. May I therefore suggest to the noble Lord the Leader that perhaps the meetings of the relevant committees could be arranged for July in order that the House may take a view at the earliest opportunity? Perhaps some elements of the report could be implemented in September.

My Lords, that, of course, will be a decision for the Chairman of Committees, but no doubt he will be listening to this exchange and will wish to take that into regard while he decides on the dates of the meetings of the relevant committees.