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
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
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:
(a) The Induction Course should be expanded
into two modules, offered on a rolling programme throughout the
year, and every effort should be made to encourage both new and
established members to attend.
The first module should be delivered by a group of experienced
members, who would give a general introduction to customs and
practices, and advise on such matters as maiden speeches and Question
Time. It would include a comprehensive tour of the Palace, covering
history, works of art, and refreshment and other facilities, to
help new Lords to feel at home. The second module should go into
more detail on procedure, including legislation, and should also
deal with Select Committees, sources of information, and administrative
matters; this would be delivered by staff. The expanded course
might also cover aspects of the constitutional context of the
work of the House.
(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.
(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
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