Select Committee on Procedure of the House Third Report


Third Report from the Select Committee on Procedure of the House


TUESDAY 6 JULY 1999



  BY THE SELECT COMMITTEE on Procedure of the House

  ORDERED TO REPORT:

ELECTION OF HEREDITARY PEERS

  The Committee considered new standing orders and other proposals to give effect to the "Weatherill amendment" to the House of Lords Bill. Under this amendment, which is now in the bill as clause 2, 92 hereditary peers will retain their rights to sit and vote in the House of Lords after the end of the present session of Parliament. The government will be tabling for the third reading of the Bill amendments to provide for by-elections to fill vacancies among 90 of the 92 peers excepted from clause 1 of the bill (the two others being excepted by virtue of holding the office of Earl Marshal or Lord Great Chamberlain).[1] The Committee agreed to the following standing orders to give effect to these amendments.

New standing orders

"Hereditary Peers

    (1)  In implementation of section 2 of the House of Lords Act 1999, this Standing Order makes provision for hereditary peers who are excepted from section 1.


    (2)  The excepted hereditary peers shall consist of the following categories:

      (i)
        (a)  2 peers elected by the Labour hereditary peers;
        (b)  42 peers elected by the Conservative hereditary peers;
        (c)  3 peers elected by the Liberal Democrat hereditary peers;
        (d)  28 peers elected by the Cross-bench hereditary peers;

      (ii)  15 peers, elected by the whole House, from among those ready to serve as Deputy Speakers or in any other office as the House may require; and

      (iii)  any peer holding the office of Earl Marshal or performing the office of Lord Great Chamberlain.



    (3)  Elections shall be conducted in accordance with arrangements made by the Clerk of the Parliaments.


    (4)  In order to stand for election or qualify as an elector under paragraph (2)(i), a peer must register with the Clerk of the Parliaments, identifying the party or Cross-bench group to which he belongs. In order to stand for election under paragraph (2)(ii), a peer must register separately with the Clerk of the Parliaments. A peer may not stand for election nor vote if he has not taken the Oath or is on Leave of Absence.


    (5)  In the event of a tie between two or more candidates standing in any of the elections held in accordance with paragraph (2), the matter (if not resolved by the electoral arrangements adopted by the House) shall be decided by the drawing of lots.


    (6)  The Clerk of the Parliaments may refer any question concerning the propriety of the electoral process to the Committee for Privileges.


    (7)  In the event of a vacancy occurring at any time up to the end of the initial period through death among the peers elected in category (2)(i) or (2)(ii), the vacancy shall be filled by the nearest runner-up in the relevant election under paragraph (2) who both wishes to fill the vacancy and is otherwise available. The provisions of paragraph (5) are applicable for this purpose. If no such runner-up is available, the House shall decide how the vacancy shall be filled.


    (8)  In this Standing Order and in Standing Order (Hereditary Peers: By-elections) the end of the "initial period" is the end of the first session of the next Parliament after that in which the House of Lords Act 1999 is passed."

    "Hereditary Peers: By-elections

    (1)  In implementation of subsection (4) of section 2 of the House of Lords Act 1999, this Standing Order makes provision for by-elections to fill vacancies occurring by death among excepted hereditary peers after the end of the initial period.

    (2)  In the event of the death of a hereditary peer excepted under Standing Order (Hereditary Peers)(2)(i) only the excepted hereditary peers in the group in which the vacancy has occurred shall be entitled to vote.

    (3)  In the event of the death of a hereditary peer excepted under Standing Order (Hereditary Peers)(2)(ii) the whole House shall be entitled to vote.

    (4)  The provisions of paragraphs (2) and (3) shall apply also in the case of any subsequent by-elections.

    (5)  The Clerk of the Parliaments shall maintain, and publish annually, a register of hereditary peers (other than peers of Ireland) who wish to stand in any by-election.

    (6)  By-elections shall be conducted in accordance with arrangements made by the Clerk of the Parliaments and shall take place within three months of a vacancy occurring.

    (7)  Paragraphs (5) and (6) of Standing Order (Hereditary Peers) shall apply to by-elections under this Standing Order."

Electoral arrangements

  The Committee also agreed the following arrangements for elections and by-elections.

    (a)  The Clerk of the Parliaments will be the Returning Officer.

    (b)  Hereditary peers will be required to register, if they wish to vote for the hereditary peers in the party groups. The officers of each group will be entitled to examine the registers to ensure that they are correct. If any peer who wishes to vote is not on any party or Cross-bench list, the Clerk of the Parliaments will consult the relevant group to ensure that no hereditary peer is disenfranchised. The registers will be up-dated before by-elections are held.

    (c)  Hereditary peers who wish to stand for election in a particular group must register as candidates for that group. Hereditary peers wishing to stand in the election for Deputy Speakers and other offices must also register for such election. Any hereditary peer may stand in either, or both, elections.

    (d)  Peers who have not taken the Oath or who are on Leave of Absence shall not be qualified to stand or vote in any of the initial elections. All peers, including those on Leave of Absence and those who have not taken the Oath, will receive a House of Lords notice about arrangements for the elections not less than 6 weeks before the intended date of the elections. This will make clear to those who wish to vote, or stand for election, that they must, if necessary, terminate their Leave of Absence and take the Oath. This requirement will not apply in the case of candidates in by-elections.

    (e)  The election for Deputy Speakers and other office holders will be held before the party elections. So far as by-elections are concerned, paragraph (3) of the by-election Standing Order provides that voting for a candidate to take the place of any hereditary peer elected as a Deputy Speaker will be by the whole House. Any peer elected at a by-election will, however, not be expected to serve as a Deputy Speaker.

    (f)  The initial elections will take place in the forthcoming "spill-over".

    (g)  Peers will be invited to register in person or by post or fax during a period of two weeks, one of which may be the last week of the summer recess and the other the first week of the "spill-over". Telephone registration will not be allowed because it could result in error or omission. Registration by e-mail will not be allowed because of the problem of authentication.

    (h)  On the Monday of the week following the period of registration a list of candidates will be issued for the elections for the Deputy Speakers and other office holders. In view of the large numbers likely to vote and in order to ensure that as many who wish to vote can do so, the election will be held over two days (probably Wednesday and Thursday) and between such hours as will best suit the convenience of peers. Ample notice will be given of the dates and times. Peers will vote in person in a Committee Room designated for this purpose. The result of this election will be reported in accordance with sub-paragraph (o) below on the next sitting day.

     

    (i)  A list of candidates will then immediately be issued for the party elections, eliminating the names of any peers who were successful in the earlier election. Voting will take place in a Committee Room designated for this purpose, possibly over two days, but the numbers voting will be smaller since only hereditary peers will be voting. Again, the date and times will be announced well in advance.

    (j)  No candidate will be allowed to indicate on the ballot paper (including the ballot paper for Deputy Speakers and other office holders) any qualification or reason why he or she should be elected. The Clerk of the Parliaments will however facilitate the publication, in a form yet to be decided, of a separate paper giving electors information about each candidate.

    (k)  Postal voting will be allowed only where the Clerk of Parliaments receives a doctor's note to say that a peer is unable, for medical or incapacity reasons, to travel. Since voting in these elections will be parliamentary business, peers will be entitled to claim reimbursement of their travel and subsistence expenses.

    (l)  The electoral system will be as follows. The ballot papers for the party elections will be printed with the names of all the candidates for the relevant party/group, and voters will be required to vote for the total number of vacancies for that party/group in order of preference, marking against each name the figure 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. The figure 1 will indicate a first preference, the figure 2 a second preference and so on. It must be stressed that a voter will be required to vote for exactly the number of vacancies in the relevant party or group; failure to do so will result in the ballot paper being spoilt and not taken into account when the votes are totalled. So if there are 28 vacancies, voters must place the figures 1, 2, 3 up to 28 against 28 names and not more or less than 28 names.

    In the initial count, every vote will have equal weight and the candidates who receive the largest number of votes will be elected to the relevant vacancies. In the event of a tie, the number of first preferences received by a candidate will be taken into account, so that the candidate with the higher number of first preferences would be elected. If this does not resolve the tie, second preferences will be taken into account, and, if necessary, third preferences and so on. In the unlikely event that this did not resolve the tie, lots could be drawn.

    (m)  The ballot papers for the Deputy Speakers' etc election will be printed with the names of all registered candidates, and voters will be asked to number the candidates of their choice as above.

    (n)  The count will be undertaken by staff of the Parliament Office under the supervision of nominees from each of the parties (including the Cross-Benches). The voting papers will not be made public.

    (o)  The results of the elections will be reported to the House by the Clerk of the Parliaments. The number of votes cast for the various candidates, including the votes for unsuccessful candidates, will be published in this report. The names of the successful candidates will also be recorded in the Minutes of the House and in the Clerk of the Parliaments' certificate to the Clerk of the Crown.

    (p)  The Clerk of the Parliaments will, after consulting the party Leaders and whips and the Convenor of the Cross-benchers, issue a code of conduct for candidates and voters in the elections.

     

    If the Clerk of the Parliaments suspects, on reasonable grounds, that some material irregularity or improper conduct may have occurred in the electoral process, he may refer the matter to the Committee for Privileges for investigation.

    (q)  The ballot papers and overall votes recorded for each hereditary peer will be retained by the Clerk of the Parliaments for the purpose of deciding how subsequent vacancies occurring in the 90 hereditary peers are filled. When subsection (by elections) of Clause 2 of the House of Lords Bill becomes effective this provision will become redundant.

  To help the House to understand more fully the arguments used in the Committee to reach these conclusions, a transcript of the Committee's proceedings is appended to this report.


1   The amendments are as follows:
    1.Page 1, line 9, leave out ("no more than")
    2.Page 1, line 14, at end insert-
    ("()Standing Orders shall make provision for filling vacancies among the people excepted from section 1; and in any case where-

      (a)the vacancy arises on a death occurring after the end of the first Session of the next Parliament after that in which this Act is passed, and

      (b)the deceased person was excepted in consequence of an election, that provision shall require the holding of aby-election.")

 
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