65. Enforcement of rules within a system of
self-regulation is a delicate business. All Lords have a role
to play, as do the Clerks.
Enforcement by members
66. The role of the Leader of the House in articulating
the sense of the House on matters of procedure is, we believe,
well understood and respected by the whole House. More difficult
in some ways is the role of the "duty Whip" on the Government
front bench, who is responsible when the Leader is not present
(Companion page 15). We recommend that, especially when
the duty Whip is less experienced, Opposition front-benchers and
senior back-benchers should be ready to come to his or her aid.
67. As the Companion says, "Any
Lord may call attention to breaches of order or to any laxity
in observing traditional customs" (page 63). However this
is not always best done by loud cries of "Order!" In
some situations, e.g. when Lords move about during a maiden speech
or the putting of the Question, such cries can be more disruptive
than the behaviour at which they are directed. We recommend that
Lords consider in such situations whether a quiet word afterwards
with the Lord concerned, or with their Whip, might be more helpful.
68. We strongly believe that all Whips should
be more forward in drawing the conventions of the House to the
attention of members of their own party, however senior; and that
this is usually best done off the floor of the House.
Advice of the Clerks
69. Our attention has been drawn to an occasion
last year when an amendment was defeated on Report, and retabled
for Third Reading against the advice of the Clerks. In the event,
the Leader intervened, and the amendment was withdrawn. Nonetheless,
this incident clearly shows the limits of self-regulation, and
the need for restraint. The rule on Third Reading amendments,
like many of our rules, is not a Standing Order, but only a recommendation
of the Procedure Committee, agreed to by the House (in 1977) and
enshrined in the Companion. The Clerks had no option but
to give way, in the end, to a Lord who insisted on doing what
the House had agreed was "undesirable".
70. A freedom which cannot be exercised is no
freedom. "Undesirable" does not mean the same as "out
of order", and circumstances might arise in which such action
would be justifiable. However we see no justification in this
case; we urge all Lords to take the Clerks' advice in such situations.