Select Committee on Procedure of the House Report


By the Select Committee on the Procedure of the House

Ordered to Report:


  On 27th February, during the second reading debate on the Succession to the Crown Bill, Lord Williams of Mostyn, the Home Office Minister, informed the House that The Queen had no objection to the bill. Several Lords argued that this disclosure was contrary to the rule in Erskine May that the irregular use of The Queen's name to influence a decision of the House was unconstitutional and inconsistent with the independence of Parliament (p 382). On 2nd March the Leader of the House, after having consulted the clerks, advised the House that on a bill which was so fundamentally personal to The Queen it was only sensible for Her Majesty's views to be made known to the House. He also said that procedural rules should always be applied with commonsense and with due regard to all the circumstances.

  The Committee has considered the exchanges of 27th February and the Leader of the House's statement of 2nd March.

  The Committee believes that Erskine May correctly states the rule, which should continue to be observed by the House. However, the Committee recognises that exceptional circumstances may arise, such as the Succession to the Crown Bill, which make it desirable to depart from the strict application of the rule. The Committee does not recommend that the rule should be regarded as absolute.


  On 19th November 1997 the Committee considered a proposal made by the Commons Modernisation Committee[1], and endorsed by the House of Commons[2], that it should be possible for Government bills to be "carried over" from one parliamentary session to the next in the same way as hybrid and private bills. The Committee accepted that there was a case for the carry-over of some Government bills in certain circumstances; and asked the Clerk of the Parliaments to prepare, with the Clerk of the House of Commons, a memorandum in which the practical details and any necessary safeguards would be examined. The Committee has now considered this memorandum.

  The Committee recommends that the principle of carry-over should be endorsed by the House and that—

    (a)  only Government bills should be eligible for carry-over;

    (b)  carry-over should be restricted to bills which have not yet left the House in which they originated;

    (c)  the eligibility of bills for carry-over should be settled by informal discussion through the usual channels;

    (d)  bills should be carried over by ad hoc motions, at least initially;

    (e)  a Commons bill carried over before it reaches the Lords should not be treated differently from other bills when it reaches the Lords;

    (f)  no procedure should be agreed at this stage to carry over Lords bills still in the Lords when the session ends.


  The present rule is that it is undesirable (i.e. out of order) in the House of Lords to quote from a speech made in the House of Commons in the current session, unless it is the speech of a Minister in relation to Government policy. A similar rule applies in the House of Commons. The Commons Modernisation Committee has reported (Fourth Report, 1997-98, HC 600) that the rule seems to them to be neither logical nor necessary , and that it is difficult to enforce since by the time the facts have been established it is generally too late to prevent a breach of the rule. The Committee agrees with the analysis of the Modernisation Committee and recommends that the rule relating to Commons' speeches should be abolished in the House of Lords.


  The Committee is concerned about the conduct of Starred Questions and the number of occasions recently when the Leader of the House has had to intervene. The Committee reminds the House of the guidance in the Companion:

  The Committee also wishes to stress the following points:

    —  supplementary questions should not be read, and should be short; and ministerial replies as short as possible, consistent with answering the question;

    —  Lords should give way to each other promptly;

    —  shorter, sharper questions and answers will allow more Lords a chance to take part.


  The Committee reminds the House that—

    (b)  Lords should not pass between the Woolsack (or the Chair) and any Lord who is speaking, but if they have to do so, they should bend down as they pass;

    (c)  Lords should not speak with their hands in their pockets;

    (d)  the correct way to refer to a Minister is "The noble Lord, the Minister"; it is not correct to refer to "The noble Minister";

    (e)  the correct way to address the House is "My Lords", or, where appropriate, to use the expressions "Your Lordships" or "Your Lordships' House".

First Report 1997-98: The Legislative Process (HC 190). Back

2   On 13th November 1997. Back

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