Select Committee on Procedure of the House First Report

Training for members

  71. The House as such provides the following procedural training for new members: a meeting with the Clerk of the Parliaments; a pack of papers (the "new peer's kit"), including the Standing Orders, the Companion and the Brief Guide; and a half-day Induction Course.

  72. Everything else is left to the parties (or, in the case of cross-benchers, the Convenor), and to Lords' own initiative. The parties have different approaches to induction of new members: for instance, the Labour peers have recently introduced a scheme of mentors, while the Convenor offers new cross-benchers help with maiden speeches, and a briefing note which we found particularly good.

  73. Procedural changes are brought to members' attention by reports of the Procedure Committee, which are debated before being agreed to, and are printed in Hansard. Alert members notice them, but others may not. Apart from this, the House has no effective system for keeping members up to date on procedural matters. Invitations to the Induction Course were at one time circulated to established members via the Whips; but this was discontinued because take-up from such members was low.

  74. The Clerk Assistant recently held a short seminar for junior Government Whips on aspects of procedure. No training is provided for new Deputy Chairmen or Deputy Speakers; the Deputy Speakers' Guide has not been reissued since 1995.

  75. The basic procedural manual of the House is the Companion to the Standing Orders, produced by the Clerk of the Parliaments with the authority of the Procedure Committee. There is also the Brief Guide, which is intended to be more user-friendly than the Companion. Neither has been reissued in book form since 1994, though an up-to-date text of the Companion is available on the PDVN. More recently, the Public Bill Office has produced two short guides to procedure on bills; and information sheets on various aspects of the work of the House are available from the Information Office.

  76. We believe that the House should do better than this, especially at this time of change, and of significant intake of new members. We recommend that:

    (b)  A training video should be produced, using footage of actual proceedings to show best practice. There is a video for new MPs on the House of Commons service, which we thought was excellent.[37]

    (c)  A training audiotape should be produced.

    (d)  The Companion should be reissued in up-to-date form.

    (e)  The Brief Guide should be replaced with a series of short booklets or sheets, in the styles of the new Public Bill Office and Information Office publications, so as to create a comprehensive set of handy guides to the various procedures of the House.

    (f)  All available procedural guides should be drawn to Lords' attention, and made available for ready reference, by being placed in the pigeon-holes in the Prince's Chamber.

    (g)  Training in procedure should be devised for Whips of all parties so that they can more confidently guide the House and members of their party.

    (h)  Better means should be found to notify Lords of procedural changes arising (mostly) from reports of the Procedure Committee. An annual notice, for circulation by the Whips, might be helpful.

    (i)  The Clerk of the Parliaments should give an experienced Officer of the House the task of putting all these measures in place within one year, with the necessary resources to do it.

  77. Our Chairman is willing to oversee the implementation of these recommendations on behalf of peers, if called upon to do so.

  78. Of course, Lords cannot be compelled to undertake training of this kind. The value of this project will therefore depend on the commitment of individual members. This in turn will depend very much on the example and encouragement of the Whips and the Convenor. The responsible Officer should maintain close contact with the Whips' Offices, to let them know what training is on offer and to ensure that it meets members' needs. We suggest that the Whips should encourage new members to undertake initial training, and to sit through some proceedings in the Chamber, before making their maiden speech.

36  We note with surprise that, of those Lords invited to the Induction Course, not much over half attend. Back
37  The video on the House of Commons service provides a good precedent. However it is different from what we have in mind; it deals with the departments of the House, rather than with procedure in the Chamber. The House of Lords might even produce two videos for new members: one on procedure, and another on services. Back

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