Procedure of the House (Proposal 1) — Motion to Resolve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 8th November 2011.

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Photo of Lord Wakeham Lord Wakeham Conservative 3:15 pm, 8th November 2011

If I may resume, the first point that I was making was that the Leader of the House does not direct the House but it offers advice. The second point is that the proposal before us today deals only with which party or group the Leader thinks should have the next turn; it does not deal with the question of two Peers rising from the same Benches.

The third point on this matter, and in my view the most crucial, is that the working party committee completely omitted what is very clear in both the Companion and Erskine May: that the Leader of the Opposition and the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers have a role to play in the order in the House. That is very important. In my view, in the circumstances when two people from the same party or two Cross-Benchers get up, it should be for the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the government party or the Convenor to advise the House which of the noble Lords he thinks the House should most like to hear. It is these failures to implement self-regulation over recent years that have got us into our present difficulty, and the sooner that we get back to proper self-regulation, the better. In my day, the Leaders of the opposition parties, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, who is not here, and the late Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, were both very helpful to the House over matters of order.

Secondly, this proposal is unfair on the Lord Speaker. When we set up the office of Lord Speaker, the House had the benefit of three separate Select Committees manned by some of our most experienced parliamentarians, taking evidence from virtually all the other experienced parliamentarians who were not members of the Select Committee. Those reports were very strong in saying that our unique system of self-regulation needed to be preserved and those conclusions from such an authoritative source should not be overthrown from a report which was based on misconceptions and did not in any case consider many of the issues, nor as far as I can see took any evidence from those with the appropriate experience.

The recommendations that the role of the Leader should be taken over by the Lord Speaker poses this problem for self-regulation: will the advice of the Lord Speaker be capable of challenge as is the advice of the Leader? It is not a comfortable thought. It would be disastrous if it were and the end of self-regulation if it were not. It would produce a regime for this House which is more restrictive than even the House of Commons which deals with these matters by points of order. So we need to think very carefully.

Secondly, we are asking the Lord Speaker to assume responsibilities not just from the Leader but also from the Leader of the Opposition and Convenor that are not even written down or clearly defined. There are also some very practical matters to be considered. I just wonder whether the lonely Woolsack is the right place for a Lord Speaker with these roles. When I was the Leader of the House sitting here, it was the nods and the winks from the Leaders of the other parties, plus, if I may say so, the mutterings of the Clerk, which were very valuable in making sure that I did not make mistakes. Even if we pass this Motion, the Lord Speaker stuck up there will not be in a position to administer it in any fair way. Therefore, my advice to the House is not to pass this Motion, and, secondly, to go back to self-regulation as it should be, because I do not believe that there are many people in this House who properly understand what self-regulation is.


Richard Taylor
Posted on 1 Dec 2011 11:08 pm (Report this annotation)

The relevant section of Erskine May, p515 states:

"When two Lords rise at the same time, unless one immediately gives way, the House calls upon one of them to speak; if each persists, precedence may be decided upon division. If the Leader of the House rises to address the House, it is customary to give him precedence over other Lords who may rise at the same time."

While the book states: "The opposition front benches and the Convenor of the Cross bench Peers also have a responsibility to draw attention to transgressions of order." this is not directly related to resolving questions of which member gets to speak next.


Richard Taylor