Amendment to the Motion (2J)

Business of the House - Motion on Standing Orders – in the House of Lords at 12:00 am on 4th September 2019.

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Baroness Noakes:

Moved by Baroness Noakes

Leave out paragraph (1) and insert—

“(1) Standing Order 40(4) to 40(9) (Arrangements of the Order Paper) be dispensed with in relation to any bill sent from the House of Commons relating to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.”

Photo of Baroness Noakes Baroness Noakes Conservative

My noble friend Lord True is detained elsewhere at the moment, but I will not disappoint noble Lords by not allowing the House to hear about Amendment 2J. We are moving on to amendments to paragraph (1) of the Motion in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, so noble Lords may wish to note that we are making progress—we have got past the initial preamble to the Motion and are now on paragraph (1).

Paragraph (1) of the Motion provides that,

“Standing Order 40(3) to 40(9) … be dispensed with”,

to allow proceedings on the Bill to be handled. Amendment 2J suggests removing only Standing Order 40(4) to 40(9), leaving Standing Order 40(3) extant. The purpose of tabling the amendment is to explore with the mover of the Motion why the quite draconian suspension of Standing Orders, which have served this House very well, is needed in this case. Standing Order 40 has been in our Standing Orders since 1954.

Standing Order 40(3) says:

“Subject to paragraph (1), notices relating to the Business of the House and to the Chairman of Committees’ Business, if he so desires, shall have priority over other Public Business”.

Standing Order 40(1) says:

Oral Questions shall be entered before other business”.

The Motion in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, would remove the provision about notices relating to private business and the Chairman of Committees, if he so desired, being entered before public business—in other words, before handling any Bill that came. We do not think that a case has been made for removing this important part of our Standing Orders—certainly, no argument has been put for any part of the Motion.

We believe that the Standing Orders are an important part of the way this House operates and has operated well over many years. We have them to ensure that we know how business will be conducted, so any suggestion that we should remove or suspend any part of our Standing Orders should be taken seriously by your Lordships’ House, because we would be overturning many years of tradition. The purpose of the amendment is, as I said, to reinstate Standing Order 40(3), because we believe that it is important. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Lexden Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

I should inform the House that if any of Amendments 2J to 2Q are agreed I cannot call Amendments 3 to 27 by reason of pre-emption.

Photo of Lord Mancroft Lord Mancroft Conservative

My Lords, my noble friend has made an important, useful and helpful point to the House, which needs addressing. When noble Lords introduce Motions or move amendments in your Lordships’ House, the normal course of events is that they explain their purpose—what wrong they are trying to right and what purposes and effects they will have. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, in moving her Motion talked generally about its effect, and we understand that, but she did not mention this at all.

This is a significant change and it is not quite clear why it is necessary. This area of the Standing Orders—the arrangement of business—is quite an old one and the reason why it has not been changed is that it works very well. It is, as my noble friend said, a tradition, but that is probably not its most important point. Standing Orders are practicalities, there for the practical purposes and workings of the House so that we all know how business is arranged, how it is conducted and why it is set out. There is a helpful little book, which I am sure all your Lordships have read—the Companion to the Standing Orders—which explains why those things are and how they work.

If we are suddenly going to change Standing Orders, it is not unreasonable that the House should have it explained why this change is necessary, what effect it might have and what the advantages and disadvantages are. That has not yet been done. It is not unreasonable that that should be done now. The House should have it explained why this change is required, as it would be deeply inconvenient to have changes where none of us really understood what they were for or why they were needed without having them explained. We should be reasonably confident that they are for the better management of business in this House and not to the detriment of it.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith Lord Goldsmith Labour 12:45 pm, 4th September 2019

My Lords, when my noble friend Lady Smith introduced the Business Motion this morning, she explained that the purpose behind it was to ensure that the House would have adequate time to consider the Bill, which has now arrived from the other place. To do that, certain things needed to be done, including making sure that other business could not be slotted in to displace your Lordships’ consideration of the Bill.

Time, as we all know, is short. The reason it is short is that we have Prorogation hanging over us. We believe that we cannot afford to find a situation in which this House cannot complete its consideration of the Bill, which has come today from the other place. To do that, the Bill needs to take priority over other business. We need to make sure that we can get through the different stages. Amendments are put down and there needs to be time. To ensure that that can happen, one thing that has to be done is making, for the purposes of this Bill and in these circumstances, these changes to the Standing Orders. That is the purpose behind the Motion. I hope that that helps the noble Lord and the House.

Photo of Lord Cavendish of Furness Lord Cavendish of Furness Conservative

My Lords, I regret to say that I feel the noble and learned Lord has been negligent, and not for the first time today. Surely, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft has said, it is only reasonable to explain the rationale for a part of the process. Again, the noble and learned Lord has failed to do so, so the House needs to look for a proper explanation of this part of the Motion.

Photo of Baroness Noakes Baroness Noakes Conservative

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken, in particular my noble friends Lord Mancroft and Lord Cavendish. I do not think that we have heard a good reason why Standing Order 40(3) should be removed so that notices relating to the business of the House and the Chairman of Committee’s business should not be allowed to take priority over other public business. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 69, Noes 241.

Division number 16 Business of the House - Motion on Standing Orders — Amendment to the Motion (2J)

Aye: 67 Members of the House of Lords

No: 239 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Baroness Noakes’s amendment to the Motion (2J) disagreed.