59. As noted above, self-regulation and the
freedoms of the House depend to a high degree on courtesy and
self-restraint. These are likely to come under particular strain
at a time of change. At the start of the debate on The Queen's
Speech, the then Leader of the Opposition put it thus: "Emotions
will run high, and the measured judgment in great matters that
the public have come to expect of this House will require an extra
effort of will on the part of us all".
The following recommendations are intended to help.
60. First, especially in the context of reform
of the House, Lords should be careful how they refer to one another,
and should refrain from making disparaging remarks about holders
of particular types of peerage.
61. Secondly, the system of "appellations",
i.e. how Lords refer to one another in the Chamber, is time-honoured;
but it is complicated. We propose no radical changes in advance
of reform. However we recommend that Lords should be tolerant
of members, especially new members, who, despite their best efforts,
get appellations wrong. In particular:
(a) A Lord referring to another of a degree
above Baron, who cannot remember his degree, should be allowed
to refer to "the noble Lord, Lord X" without rebuke;
(b) A Lord referring to Lord X of Y should
similarly be allowed to refer to him as "the noble Lord,
Lord X"; and
(c) It should be acceptable (although not
desirable) to omit the appellations "learned" and "gallant".
Omitting them is better than using them inappropriately; for instance,
"learned" should not be applied to a QC or circuit judge
(unless he is or has been a Law Officer, e.g. Attorney General).
62. Thirdly, the sight of front-benchers putting
their feet on the Table gives a poor impression to other members
and to the public. We recommend that this practice should cease.
63. Finally, too many Lords have taken to conducting
background conversations in the Chamber. This should be strongly
discouraged; and we recommend that, as a last resort, the Lord
on the Woolsack or in the Chair should use his power under Standing
Order 19 to "stop the business in agitation".
Lords should also try to avoid doing business with the Clerk at
the Table when a Lord is speaking from the Despatch Box or nearby.
64. There are other courtesies of the House
of which some Lords need reminding. In particular:
(a) Lords should bow to the Cloth of Estate
on entering the Chamber, though not on leaving (SO 17(2)). Lords
should also bow when the Mace passes.
(b) "A Lord who is taking part in a
debate is expected to attend the greater part of that debate.
It is considered discourteous for him not to be present for the
opening speeches, for at least the speech before and that following
his own, and for the winding-up speeches. Ministers cannot be
expected to answer, orally or in writing, points made by a speaker
who does not stay to hear the Minister's closing speech. A Lord
who becomes aware in advance that he is unlikely to be able to
stay until the end of a debate should normally remove his name
from the list of speakers."
Putting it another way, a Lord who expects the House to listen
to what he has to say should extend the same courtesy to others.
(c) "Reading of speeches is alien to
the custom of the House . . . In practice, some speakers may wish
to have "extended notes" from which to speak, but it
is not in the interests of good debate that they should follow
them too closely" (Companion page 68).
(d) Lords should never address one another
in debate as "you". As one of our correspondents put
it, "Speeches are not private conversations".
(e) Lords should refer to "the noble
Lord, the Minister", or simply "the Minister",
but NOT "the noble Minister".
(f) The Lord who follows a maiden speaker
(and ONLY that Lord) should congratulate him on behalf
of the whole House. Other Lords should not leave the Chamber while
this takes place.
(g) Lords should not pass between the Lord
who is speaking and the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair (SO
(h) "Lords should not move about the
Chamber while a Question is being put from the Woolsack or the
Chair" (Companion page 63). This does not of course
apply when the Lord Chancellor is speaking as a Minister, whether
from beside the Woolsack or from the front bench.
(i) Lords should not bring books or newspapers
into the Chamber, except for reference in debate (Companion
30 Hansard 24 November 1998, col. 15. Back
31 The only Lords who should ever be referred to as "learned"
are Lord Chancellors, Lords of Appeal, Law Officers, judges of
the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Court of Session in
Scotland, and former holders of these offices. "Gallant"
is reserved for Admirals of the Fleet, Field Marshals, Marshals
of the RAF, and holders of the VC or GC (Companion p. 76). Back
32 If it is thought necessary, SO 19 should be amended to make it
clear that the power is not confined to conversations behind the
Woolsack, and can be exercised by Deputy Speakers and Deputy Chairmen. Back
33 The bow is to the Mace, not to the Lord Chancellor. Back
34 Companion p. 67, as amplified in the Procedure Committee's
1st Report 1994-95 and 2nd Report 1997-98. Back
35 Companion p. 75, as amplified in the Procedure Committee's
1st Report 1994-95 and 3rd Report 1995-96. Back