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Procedure Committee

Volume 802: debated on Tuesday 17 March 2020

Motion to Agree

Moved by

That the Report from the Select Committee Appointment of Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body Spokesperson and Sponsor Body members; General and balloted debates for the new parliamentary session; Committee statements; Privileges Committee: consequences of establishing the Conduct Committee; Terms of reference of the European Union Committee (1st Report, HL Paper 29) be agreed to.

My Lords, the first report from the Procedure Committee covers five areas. The reasons for each proposed change are set out clearly in the report published last week, but I will say a few words about each.

First, the report proposes arrangements for a Lords spokesperson to speak and answer parliamentary questions on behalf of the restoration and renewal sponsor body. Under arrangements proposed in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the report, the spokesperson would answer Written and Oral Questions, take part in relevant debates, make Written Statements and move any resolutions required. The spokesperson would not make Oral Statements or ask Private Notice Questions, topical Oral Questions or topical Questions for Short Debate. That would be inadmissible. If agreed, the changes would require amendments in due course to the Companion.

Secondly, the report seeks to address the practical implications of the current parliamentary Session starting last December rather than the usual springtime, and recommends that on Thursdays, the following items of business shall all run until the end of September this year: general debates, balloted debates and topical Questions for Short Debate.

Thirdly, the report takes forward a proposal made by the Liaison Committee, to highlight important committee work on the Floor of the House. We propose that for a trial period running until the Summer Recess, 10 minutes should be set aside each Thursday after Oral Questions, for committee statements. I am sure noble Lords will welcome this as an opportunity for chairs of Select Committees to make short statements to promote recently published committee reports. Paragraph 13 of the report sets out how the committee statements trial would operate.

Fourthly, as a consequence of the appointment of the appointment of the new Conduct Committee, we recommend that the functions of the former Committee for Privileges and Conduct relating to matters of privilege are carried out by the current Procedure Committee, with amended terms of reference. The Procedure Committee will be renamed the Procedure and Privileges Committee. The renamed committee will be required to co-opt two Members of the House who are former holders of high judicial office when considering issues of privilege. We also recommend that in the now rare event of having to consider a peerage claim, an individual committee to consider the claim should be set up when necessary. Any such committee would be appointed with four Lords Members and three holders of high judicial office, who would have the same speaking rights and voting rights as Lords members of the committee. We also recommend a change to the House’s Standing Orders, to allow a report from the Conduct Committee, as well as the Finance and Services Committee, to be given the same precedence in the Order of Business as the business of the Chairman of Committees.

Finally, the report recommends changes to the terms of reference of the European Union Committee, as proposed by the Liaison Committee. The new terms of reference reflect the UK’s changed status since 31 January and the committee’s role during the transition period and allow it to establish a sub-committee responsible for scrutinising treaties or international agreements.

Noble Lords will no doubt have noticed the second Motion in my name on today’s Order Paper, immediately following this one. That seeks the House’s agreement to changes to the Standing Orders which are consequential on the recommendations in this report. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.