Skip to main content

Procedure Of The House

Volume 315: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1971

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

2.46 p.m.

Moved, That the Report be now considered.—( The Earl of Listowel.)

The Committee's Report was as follows:

1. MOTIONS EN BLOC

The Committee have reviewed the present practice of the House in regard to the taking of Business en bloc, e.g. in grouping amendments which are connected, consequential, or purely drafting. They have considered whether,

and if so under what conditions, the practice of moving, and putting the Question on, several Motions en bloc should be extended to—

  • (a) Special Orders
  • (b) Private Bills
  • (c) Provisional Order Confirmation Bills
  • Special Orders

    The Committee have taken note of two recent occasions on which Special Orders were moved, and the Question on them put to the House en bloc

  • (a) December 10. 1970: Leave was granted (on the specific Motion of the Leader of the House) to move the approval en bloc of nineteen Draft Consular Relations (Privileges and Immunities) Orders;
  • (b) December 15, 1970: Four Agricultural Grant Schemes were moved and approved together—
    • Farm Capital Grant Scheme
    • Farm Capital Grant (Scotland) Scheme
    • Plouching Grants (Variation) Scheme
    • Ploughing Grants (Scotland) (Variation) Scheme.

    The Committee agree that these Special Orders had in each case sufficient affinity to justify their being en bloc. They see no objection to such groups of Special Orders being moved and approved by the House en bloc, subject to certain safeguards. They do not attempt to define the degree of affinity which a group of Special Orders ought to have in order to qualify for en bloc procedure. This is a matter for the Minister in charge in the first instance and thereafter for each individual member of the House to consider, on every occasion when an en bloc Motion is moved.

    The Committee draw attention to the fact that Special Orders (which are Statutory Instruments requiring the Affirmative Resolution of the House) derive from a large variety of Acts, which prescribe the conditions for bringing those Instruments into effect or keeping them in force. These conditions can and do vary from Act to Act. It is the responsibility of the Minister who moves the approval of a Special Order to ensure that the terms of the parent Act have been complied with, and not least that the wording of the Motion before the House fulfils the requirements of the Act.

    The Committee recommend that en bloc Motions relating to Special Orders may be moved provided that—

  • (1) Notice of such a Motion shall appear in the Order Paper on at least two consecutive sitting days before the day on which the Motion is due to be taken;
  • (2) such a Motion may be moved only with the unanimous leave of the House; and if any single Lord objects (whether before, or at the time when, the Motion is taken in the House) the constituent parts of the Motion shall be moved separately to the extent desired;
  • (3) on the occasion of each such Motion the House shall be reminded of the right of any Lord to object.
  • The Committee have considered whether to incorporate these conditions in a Standing Order. They conclude that until the recommended procedure has been tried out and acquired a settled and accepted form, it would be better not to ask the House to bind itself to the precise terms of a Standing Order.

    Private Bills and Provisional Order Confirmation Bills

    The Committee have also considered extending the en bloc procedure to these two categories of Bill. They have decided, however, not to recommend such an extension at the present time as they are of opinion that, until the new practice has been tested in relation to Special Orders, it would be premature to consider a further extension to these types of Bill. Meanwhile, however, they recommend that—

  • (a) the Lord Chairman be given discretionary power to set down Private Bills at the end of the day's Business, as well as before Public Business, with the understanding that he will not ordinarily set down more than two per day before Public Business;
  • (b) Provisional Order Confirmation Bills be removed from their present high place in the Order of Business and be treated in future as ordinary Public Bills. This would, in effect, give discretion to the Government to set them down in an appropriate place in each day's Business.
  • 2. THE "ADDISON RULES"; MEMBERS OF PUBLIC BOARDS

    The guidance given on pages 63–64 of the Companion to Lords who are Members of Public Boards (known as the "Addison Rules") was referred by the Committee to a Sub-Committee. After considering the Report of the Sub-Committee, the Committee conclude that no change of substance is required in the guidance but recommend that the introductory paragraph should be amended to read as follows:—

    "A Lord who is a member of a public board, whether commercial or non-commercial in character, is not by reason of such membership debarred from exercising his right to speak in the House of Lords, even on matters affecting the board of which he is a member; and it is recognised that, in the last resort, only the Lord concerned can himself decide whether he can properly speak on a particular occasion.

    The following guidance (based upon that given by the then Leader of the House, Viscount Addison, on March 21, 1951, after consultation and agreement between the Parties) may be helpful to Lords who are considering whether or not to take part in a particular debate—"

    3. MANUSCRIPT AMENDMENTS

    The Committee have considered the practice of the House in regard to the moving of manuscript amendments, both in Committee and on Report, and do not favour any change in the substance of the rules, but recommend that the guidance of the Companion be redrafted as follows—

    (1) In Committee

    "Manuscript amendments, that is to say, amendments of which Notice has not been given, may be moved in Committee. This practice has great disadvantages, in that other Members of the House will not have had an opportunity of considering the terms of such amendments and may be deprived of the opportunity of moving amendments to them.

    Whenever possible, therefore, Notice should be given of any amendment. Occasionally a manuscript amendment is justified, as, for instance, in order to correct an amendment already tabled, or when an amendment under consideration is objected to, and it is clear that with slight alteration of language it would become acceptable to the Committee.

    While any Lord may move a manuscript amendment, it is for the general convenience of the House that it should seldom he done."

    (2) On Report

    "Manuscript amendments, are not out of order on Report, but the disadvantages and inconvenience referred to in the note on the moving of manuscript amendments in Committee (see page above) are even greater on Report than at the Committee stage."

    The Committee further recommend that when a manuscript amendment is moved, the text of the manuscript amendment should, unless the House otherwise directs, be read out to the House, not only by the Mover, but also by the Lord in the Chair (or on the Woolsack) in putting the Question to the House; and that this should be included in the revised Companion.

    4. DIVISIONS

    On January 13, 1971, the Chairman of Committees sought the Leave of the House to refer back section 6 (Divisions) of the First Report of the Procedure Committee for this Session, because he had received representations that not all members of the Committee were in full agreement with the wording of that section of the Report.

    The Committee have further considered and amended section 6 of the First Report, and now make the following recommendation to the House:—

    "DIVISIONS

    The proceedings in the House on the Second Reading of the Shops (Sunday Trading) Bill on Thursday, December 10, revealed an ambiguity in the wording of Standing Order 48 which does not state in terms what the procedure should be in circumstances where Tellers are not appointed before the lapse of four minutes from the calling of a Division.

    The Committee recommend that Standing Order 48 be amended to make clear that two Tellers each for the Contents and the Not-Contents must be appointed, and each Lord appointed a Teller must receive a Teller's Wand from the Clerk at the Table, by the time that four minutes have elapsed; and that if by that time either side has failed to appoint Tellers, a Division cannot take place and the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair shall, instead of again putting the Question, say the words recommended by the Second Report of the Procedure Committee on July 16, 1969, and agreed to by the House as follows—

    "My Lords, Tellers for the Contents [Not-Contents] have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order 48 and, therefore, a Division cannot take place and I declare that the Not-Contents [Contents] have it."

    The Committee recommend that this should be recorded in the revised Companion."

    5. DISCHARGE OF THE ORDER OF RE-COMMITMENT

    The Committee have reviewed the procedure under which, subject to certain safeguards, the Order of Commitment may be discharged, if no amendment has been set down to a Bill and no Notice has been given by any Lord of his intention to move a manuscript amendment or to speak to a particular clause (First Report of the Procedure Committee, agreed to by the House on May 12, 1970).

    They have considered whether the procedure should be extended to apply to Bills that are re-committed. They conclude that the procedure should be so extended, subject to the same safeguards. Accordingly, they recommend—

    (i) that Standing Order 43 be amended as follows—

    line 10, after ("commitment") insert ("(or re-commitment)"); and

    (ii) that the Lord who is to move the discharge of the Order of Re-commitment should use the following words—

    "My Lords,

    This Bill has [not] been amended by the [Joint] Select Committee on

    . I understand that no [further] amendments have been set down to the Bill, and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment, or to speak in Committee (on Re-commitment). Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the Order of Re-commitment be discharged."

    The Committee welcome the undertaking given by the Lord Chancellor that, whether or not he is moving the discharge of the Order of Re-commitment in relation to a Bill which has been referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, he will indicate the category into which the Bill falls and will draw the attention of the House to the Report of the Joint Committee.

    6. GROUP ON THE WORKING OF THE HOUSE

    The Leader of the House informed the Committee that he proposed to set up a small informal Group, drawn from all Parties and the Cross Benches, to advise him upon the working of the House.

    The Committee welcome the proposal of the Leader of the House to set up this informal Group to assist him and have agreed that it would be appropriate for such a Group to be serviced by the Clerks.

    My Lords, before the House accepts this Report, may I ask the Lord Chairman of Committees, or perhaps the noble Earl the Leader of the House, to inform us a little more deeply on the final paragraph, No. 6, of the Report? I should like to know, and perhaps some other noble Lords would like to know, a little more about this informal Group, because obviously it is to be a Committee of some importance if it is to be serviced by the Clerks. One would ask the noble Earl the. Leader of the House, or the Lord Chairman of Committees, how the selection is to take place; what size of Committee is envisaged, and what scope of advice they would give to the Leader of the House? I understand that we have the usual channels; that we have certain procedural Committees; that we have negotiations going on in the usual way between Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition, and I am a little puzzled to know why there is a need for this Committee. I am still more puzzled to know how the selection is going to be made, who are to be the personnel, and what their duties will be, particularly as they are, as it were, semi-official if they are serviced by the Clerks.

    My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this point, as it gives me an opportunity to say what is in mind here. The position is in fact very simple: it is as stated in the Report before your Lordships, but perhaps I could add just this by way of explanation. I was asked by the Procedure Committee some months ago, just before Christmas, whether I could take a number of matters on board affecting the working of your Lordships' House. I think it is clear to everyone in your Lordships' House who has had some long knowledge of it—and many of your Lordships have had much longer knowledge than I have—that although our functions have not changed in any material respect, our numbers have increased. This has thrown up certain practical problems so far as the working of your Lordships' House is concerned. I was asked by the Procedure Committee whether I could advise on a number of these matters.

    The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that all these matters were part and parcel of a somewhat larger problem so far as concerns the working of your Lordships' House in the conditions of 1971. Therefore I thought it would be helpful to me, when I reported to the Procedure Committee, if I could have the benefit of advice from a very small informal group. It will be for me to accept or reject the advice which is given to me by that group, and they are perfectly free to give me any advice they can. I think they will be consulting Members of your Lordships' House, but I should like to make it clear that it is not their responsibility; it is my responsibility. I was asked by the Procedure Committee to let them have my ideas on certain matters in connection with the working of the House and I thought that this small group would be able to help me.

    For your Lordships' information, those Members of your Lordships' House whom I have asked to form the group are in fact my noble friend Lord Aberdare, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, the noble Lord, Lord Byers—who is, I think, away at the present time—and the noble Earl, Lord Perth. This was not meant to be particularly representative; I just wanted to ask a number of noble Lords who had experience of the working of the House to give me the benefit of their advice. But the responsibility for the advice which I shall give to the Procedure Committee will be mine, and it will of course be the responsibility of the Procedure Committee to do with my advice whatever they wish. I hope that explains the situation to my noble friend.

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

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

    My Lords, I have one simple question to ask. Will the report of this Committee of four Peers be available to the Members of your Lordships' House?

    My Lords, the form that the report will take in the first place will be a report to the Procedure Committee from the noble Earl the Leader of the House, as he has explained. The Procedure Committee will then decide whether or not to approve that report. If they approve the report, then the report will come before the House in the same way as this and every other report of the Committee.

    My Lords, may I raise one point of doubt? I just wonder whether the Committee have succeeded in saying what they meant to say. The paragraph to which I allude is paragraph 4, relating to Divisions. I believe it is the intention of this paragraph to give clear directions to the occupant of the Chair (whether it is the Woolsack or the Chair), as to what to do in certain cases of Divisions, but what it says is this:

    "The Committee recommend that Standing Order 48 be amended to make clear that two Tellers each for the Contents and the Non-Contents must be appointed, and each Lord appointed a Teller must receive a Teller's Wand from the Clerk at the Table, by the time that four minutes have elapsed:"
    Nothing is said about what happens if the Teller has not received such a Wand. But the paragraph goes on:
    "and that if by that time either side has failed to appoint Tellers,"—
    then it goes on with what should happen.

    It seems to be assumed that a side will have failed to appoint a Teller if the Teller has not received a Wand, but it does not state that. The question of appointing a Teller and of the Teller's receiving a Wand are, in that paragraph, quite separate things, and, it seems to me, no certain guidance is given to the occupant of the Chair as to what he is to do in the case where a Teller has been appointed but where the Teller has not received a Wand. My Lords, I apologise for raising this matter, but the moment I read the document the point struck me. It may be that all this has been considered and the able lawyers who no doubt are advising the Committee have advised that the receiving of a Wand is part of the process of appointing a Teller. All I can say is that, simply construing the document as best I can, I do not think that that follows in the least.

    My Lords, I think the Committee will be in entire agreement with the noble Lord that a Teller is appointed only when he receives a Wand. The Committee did their best with the drafting of this Report, but their best may not haw been good enough. I can assure the noble Lord that I will look into the point very carefully and if the drafting is not satisfactory I will bring it before the Committee at their next meeting.

    On Question, Motion agreed to.