§ 3.14 p.m.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF LISTOWEL)
My Lords, I beg to move that the First Report from the Committee on Procedure of the House be now considered.
§ Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ The Committee's Report was as follows:
§ 1. SELECT COMMITTEES ON PUBLIC BILLS
§ The Committee have considered the experiment of last summer in referring the Gaming Bill to a Select Committee instead of committing it to a Committee of the whole House. The Committee are of opinion that the experiment was successful and recommended that suitable Public Bills should in future be referred to similar Select Committees.
§ 2. PUBLIC PETITIONS
§ The Committee have considered the proceeding in the House on Public Petitions. They recommend that such Petitions should be presented only by a member of the House and that in doing so the Peer presenting a Petition should confine himself to reading out the Prayer and stating the number of Petitioners who have signed the Petition. They further recommend that such a Petition should not be printed unless a member of the House puts down a motion to debate it for a particular day; in which case the Petition will be ordered to be printed for the convenience of the House.
§ 3. UNSTARRED QUESTIONS
§ The Committee have had their attention drawn to the increase in the number of Unstarred Questions, and particularly those coming on at a late hour. They have considered whether to recommend any limitation, either of time, or of the number of Unstarred Questions allowed on any one day.
§ While at this stage the Committee would be reluctant to recommend restrictions of this kind by Standing Order, which might unduly interfere with the flexibility of the House's procedure, they are of opinion that it is undesirable, as a general rule, for a second Unstarred Question to be taken after 8 o'clock unless there are special circumstances. They, therefore, recommend that Peers should only put down a second Unstarred Question on a day when the business appeared to be light; and if subsequently the pressure of business increased so that it appeared after all that such a Question would come on late, the Peer concerned should be prepared to postpone his Unstarred Question to a more convenient date, subject only to the convenience of the House and of other Peers who might wish to speak upon the particular Question.
§ The Committee recommend that an appropriate entry should be made in the Companion to the Standing Orders.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be agreed 1270 to. In asking your Lordships to agree to the Report, I should like to make a few brief comments on two of its paragraphs. First of all, I would say a few words to expand and correct paragraph 1. In this paragraph, which deals with Select Committees on Public Bills, the Report is misleading when it says:… the experiment of last summer in referring the Gaming Bill to a Select Committee instead of committing it to a Committee of the Whole House.The House will recall that the Bill was referred to a Select Committee whose procedure was as similar as possible to that of a Committee of the Whole House and was then recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House. That was in fact what occurred.
I should also like to draw the attention of the House to the proposal regarding Unstarred Questions set out in paragraph 3. The effect of this proposal, while it points out that it is usually undesirable to take Unstarred Questions after eight o'clock in the evening, is to continue to rely on the good judgment of Members of the House to decide whether to ask a second Unstarred Question after eight o'clock on a particular day. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Report be agreed to.—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, perhaps I could support the noble Earl, the Lord Chairman of Committees. This question of applying some limitation to Unstarred Questions could raise very delicate issues, and we considered—in-deed, we twice considered—whether or not to introduce something a little more rigid. We were all agreed that it was most undesirable to introduce rigidity into our arrangements if we could avoid it. It is one of the enormous advantages of our procedure in this House that we are much freer to take business at convenient moments and in ways that are generally acceptable to the House, and therefore we thought it undesirable to introduce specific limits in this matter. On the other hand this puts a particular responsibility on the good sense of Members of your Lordships' House, and I have no doubt that the Report of the Committee will be taken to heart by all noble Lords.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.