Timing of Debates
That until 21 May 2020:
(1) debates on statutory instruments taken in a Virtual Proceeding shall be time-limited to 1½ hours; and
(2) this time limit may be varied by the unanimous agreement of the members taking part in any such Virtual Proceeding at the commencement of proceedings.
My Lords, this time last week, the House agreed that certain types of business could be taken in a Virtual Proceeding. So far, we have had virtual Oral Questions, debates, Statement repeats and PMQs and, generally, they have worked well. From next week, we will begin taking legislation in this way. Following discussions through the usual channels, my noble friend the Chief Whip has scheduled a small number of debates on statutory instruments to take place virtually. The House has already agreed in principle to doing so.
Today’s Motion will, until Whitsun, time-limit the SI debates that we take virtually to one and a half hours each. This will make timings more predicable for Members taking part and the IT professionals who will support them, and we thank them all for their hard work in helping us get this far.
All the virtual business that we have taken so far has been time-limited in some way. This time limit is identical to that which routinely applies to SI debates in the House of Commons. The Motion also provides a mechanism by which the time limit can be adjusted for specific debates should that be required. Noble Lords will need to sign up to speak in these debates. While this is not our normal practice for SIs, it is necessary so that the Parliamentary Digital Service knows which Members to admit to the Virtual Proceedings. Of course, any noble Lord is able to sign up to speak in them.
I should make it clear that these Virtual Proceedings are not empowered to approve SIs on behalf of the House as a whole. Those SIs debated virtually will need to come to the Floor of the House for approval in a similar way to how SIs are debated in the Moses Room before being decided in the Chamber at a later date.
I am pleased to say that our Virtual Proceedings will be broadcast to the general public via Parliament TV from today in the same way as are our physical proceedings. This is one week earlier than was anticipated. I put on record our thanks to all those who have worked so hard to make that happen. I beg to move.