Procedure Committee - Motion to Agree

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 21st May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Empey Lord Empey UUP 3:15 pm, 21st May 2019

My Lords, I thank the committee for its work. I support the recommendations before the House, but I strongly support what previous speakers said about the Chair’s role. Of course, that applies not just to the Lord Speaker but to all the others who take that position. Therefore a lot of people will quite rightly be involved.

Since I have been here I have found two things most difficult to cope with. The first is the squealing match that goes on every day when people are trying to be called to speak, which is a very undignified business. What people think about it when they look in I do not know. Today was relatively modest, with only a couple of incidents, but on some occasions it is much more brutal. It is very undignified and inefficient. The Chair could, at the very least, identify the group from which the speaker should come, even if we do not go the whole hog and identify the Member, as they do in the other place. As the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, said, physically in the Chamber a third of the House is behind the clerks and half is behind the Front Bench. Obviously the current approach does not make sense.

The other thing I would like the committee to look at if it has not already done so is how Oral Questions are identified. We have a situation where people have to sit for hours outside the Table Office. If we were to accumulate the number of person hours per annum wasted sitting there to table a Question, it would be most off-putting to a lot of Members. We would get a greater number of Members tabling Questions if we were to look at that. Personally, I would eliminate it and have ballots for all Questions, but if we were to take it in stages we could encourage more Members to participate in Oral Questions. Not everybody is prepared to sit twiddling their thumbs for an hour or an hour and a half outside the Table Office to table an Oral Question. We should look at those two items. Nevertheless, I welcome the report as far as it goes and fully support it.