HL Deb 12 May 1970 vol 310 cc506-12

1. The proper modes of referring in debate to the various degrees of the peerage are:—

Archbishop The Most Reverend Primate (the Archbishop of)
Bishop The Right Reverend Prelate(the Bishop of)
Duke The Noble Duke (The Duke of)
Duchess The Noble Duchess (The Duchess of)
Marquess The Noble Marquess (Lord)
Marchioness The Noble Marchioness (Lady)
Earl The Noble Earl (Lord)
Countess The Noble Countess (Lady)
Viscount The Noble Viscount (Lord)
Viscountess The Noble Viscountess (Lady)
Baron The Noble Lord (Lord)
Baroness or or Lady* The Noble Baroness (Lady)
or the Noble Lady* (Lady)

* In the case of Scottish ladies of the lowest rank of the peerage, they are properly described as "Lady" rather than "Baroness".

The words in brackets above are added only when necessary for the purpose of identification and there is no need to add the name of the Lord if it is clear who is being referred to.

"Gallant" and "Learned"

2. Peers who hold the rank of Admiral of the Fleet, Field Marshal or Marshal of the Royal Air Force, are properly described as the "Noble and Gallant Lord". Their service rank should not be referred to.

The Lord Chancellor, Lords of Appeal and Peers who are Law Officers of the Crown or Judges of the Court of Appeal or the High Court are properly described as "Noble and Learned"; this description should also be applied to Peers who have held any of these offices.

"My Noble Friend" and "My Noble Kinsman"

3."My Noble Friend" may rightly be used of a fellow member of the political party to which the speaker belongs, in place of one of the descriptions listed above.

"My Noble Kinsman" and "My Noble Relative" are used between relatives; the actual relationship should not be mentioned.




The Committee have examined the present arrangement for Questions; the limit of four Starred Questions per day; the possibility of a Question Time of fixed duration and the extent of the Table's authority in advising Peers upon the form and content of the Questions which they wish to put down. Further, whether any modification is required in the practice of the House in regard to supplementary questions and Ministerial Statements.

The Committee are of opinion that there is no need to change the present limit of four Starred Questions per day; nor are they in favour of imposing a time-limit for Questions in this House.

As regards the Table's authority in advising Peers upon the form and content of Questions, they recommend that this authority should not be, extended and that the Table should continue to act in an advisory capacity only. They reaffirm the principles that the wording of a Question is the responsibility of the Peer who asks it, and that the decision whether a Question is or is not "in order" and may properly be asked is in the last resort one for the House itself.

At the same time they have noticed an increasing tendency to incorporate in the text of Starred Questions and Supplementary Questions statements of opinion or the demonstration of a point of view. They recommend that the attention of the House should be drawn to the need to discourage this practice and to the fact that, in terms of Standing Order No. 32. the essential purpose of Starred Questions and Supplementary Questions is to elicit information from the Government. They also recommend that an appropriate entry be made in the Companion to the Standing Orders.

The Committee further observe that, while the practice of the House of Lords allows considerably more latitude than that of the House of Commons, there are certain categories of Questions which are generally regarded as "not in accordance with the traditions of the House", i.e. are considered inadmissible. Such Questions are:

  1. (a) Those casting reflections on the Sovereign and Royal Family;
  2. (b) Those relating to matters sub judice;
  3. (c) Those phrased offensively.

The Committee recommend that the attention of the House should be drawn to these categories of Question and that a suitable entry should be made in the Companion to the Standing Orders.

So far as Ministerial Statements are concerned the Committee emphasise that they are for the information of the House and that when such Statements are made the occasion should not be allowed to develop into a debate.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report, except for paragraph 2, be now agreed to. In asking the House to agree to this Report, I think I should explain why I am proposing to defer asking the House to agree to paragraph 2. The House will note from paragraph 2 that the Procedure Committee invited a Sub-Committee to give further consideration to the possibility of devising, as an alternative to the Unstarred Question, some other form of short debate on a Motion at the end of a day's business. Since the publication of this First Report, some noble Lords have expressed disagreement with paragraph 2 and, in particular, with the proposal to curtail present rights of your Lordships on Unstarred Questions without proposing at the same time an alternative form of short debate. It was for this reason that the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, tabled an Amendment to leave out paragraph 2 of this Report.

The Sub-Committee who are considering this matter at the present time have already held one meeting and are due to meet again to-morrow. They have not yet reached a final conclusion on a form of Motion which might be offered as an alternative to an Unstarred Question, or upon the procedure which would govern it. But it was the unanimous view of the Sub-Committee that the House ought not at this stage to be asked to consider the "regulation" of Unstarred Questions without having before it a Report and recommendation on the possibilities of alternative forms of debate. I have therefore, with the authority and concurrence of the Procedure Committee, thought it right to bring forward the whole Report this afternoon with the exception of paragraph 2. In these circumstances I am sure that the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, for withdrawing his Amendment, and I hope that your Lordships will concur with the procedure I have suggested.

There is one further point in this Report to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. The House will observe that over half of the text of this Report consists of an Appendix which is a Report of the Sub-Committee on Observances and Customary Behaviour in the House. It is proposed that the substance of this Report in the Appendix, which has been endorsed, with minor amendments, by the Procedure Committee, should be included in a revised Companion to the Standing Orders. I hope that in the meantime, until the revised Companion has been completed, approved by your Lordships and published, this will serve as useful guidance to any noble Lords who may wish to consult it. I think that the rest of the Report is self-explanatory, but if there are any points which noble Lords would like to raise I will do my best to answer them on behalf of the Committee. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Report (except for paragraph 2) be agreed to.—(The Earl of Listowel.)


My Lords, it would be ungracious of me not to rise to support the noble Earl's Motion. This I do, and I look forward to the outcome of the Committee's further consideration of the matter of Unstarred Questions and/or of mini-debates. On the rest of the Report I have only one small comment to make, and that is on the subject of the brevity of maiden speeches, which is dealt with at the bottom of page 9. When I made my maiden speech I was put through the hoop by the late Sir Charles Hendriks, of happy memory. He pointed out to me that noble Lords ordinarily extend to a maiden speaker the courtesy of not leaving the Chamber, if that can be avoided, in the course of his speech. He added that if a maiden speech is long it is difficult for noble Lords to extend that courtesy, and they have a right to expect the return courtesy of a short speech from a maiden speaker.


My Lords, I speak with bated breath, but I should like to make reference to paragraph 4 on page 8 and to Annex A, entitled "Appellations", on the last but one page. I wonder whether we should lose any respect for each other in this House if we did not use such long appellations when we referred to each other. In another place, honourable Members are referred to by the name of their constituency rather than by their own name. In your Lordships' House the rank is always mentioned; but I have always felt, since I was fortunate enough to become a Member of this House, that the name in itself might be sufficient. In my own particular case, to say, "the noble Lord, Lord Royle" seems to be going a very long way round. Have we not now got to the time when we can refer to each other as "Lord Royle", "Lord Smith" or whoever we may be? I wonder whether the Committee on Procedure would look at that point. I know that this custom goes back for centuries, but in the second half of the 20th century it seems to me an unnecessarily long way of referring to another Member of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, may I intervene for one moment? When the noble Lord, Lord Royle, was in another place he was referred to as "the honourable Member for Salford …"—I am not sure whether it was "South-West" or "East". That strikes me as at least as long as "the noble Lord, Lord Royle". It would be possible, of course, to economise in another place by leaving out the word "honourable", to which they rightly attach some importance. None the less, it is the custom that some noble Lords occasionally drop the words "noble Lord". I must admit that I find the use of the words very valuable, for it enables me, first, to think what I am going to say, and secondly, sometimes, to recall the name of the noble Lord. This is really a device for enabling noble Lords to think a little, and although it may go against the spirit of Lord Ferrier's wish for short speeches, none the less I believe it is convenient to many of us.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier—because we were both in the first batch of Life Peers—I, too, benefited from the guidance of Sir Charles Hendriks. Indeed, in some ways the job of the Leader of the House of Lords was easier in those days, because if you did not do it right you got "told off" outside by Sir Charles Hendriks. I still remember him once, when I was a very new Member, sending me running into the Division Lobby to vote against the Government which he was supposed to be assisting. We certainly benefited from that in a way which was no doubt quite improper but was permissible to a considerable institution, and in a way which we should not expect from those who serve us so admirably to-day in the role which Sir Charles Hendriks fulfilled.

May I make one small, general point on Unstarred Questions? I fully accept that there are views on this subject. It leaves me, as Leader of the House, slightly up in the air. I conceive my role, and that of any Leader of the House, as interpreting what the "going" procedure is, and this clearly is a matter of dispute. I therefore entirely welcome the action of my noble friend the Lord Chairman in reserving this paragraph. Just to preserve it in a completely neutral position, I would quibble on the word "rights". The point at issue is whether there is a right of reply. In this matter the Companion gives no guidance at all, and so far as I am concerned I shall be happy to conform to whatever my colleagues may recommend. I appreciate that noble Lords wish to have a right of reply. I think that sometimes the value of a right of reply can be overrated. But this is for the House; and noble Lords who, like the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, attach importance to it are fully entitled to have their views taken into account.

Generally, I should like to congratulate the Committee on some of the changes they have recommended. I only hope that those of your Lordships who have not yet had time to read them will do so, because there is some very valuable advice of a kind to which the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, has drawn attention.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that, curiously enough, I am not one of those who consider that the questioner in an Unstarred Question should have a right of reply. My idea is to go in the other direction: that if any noble Lord speaks after the Minister, then the Minister, by leave of the House, should be entitled to speak again. But I felt the matter could be left to the Committee, and when they report further it might be debated.


My Lords, I am grateful to all the noble Lords who have spoken for their remarks. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Royle, that his suggestion about the mode of appellation of noble Lords being made shorter is one which the Procedure Committee will consider, because we are all anxious to save the time of the House. I was particularly grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for his intervention, because I did not perhaps make it clear what I meant when I referred to the rights of Peers on Unstarred Questions. The question of the rights of Peers in this connection is one about which there is a difference of opinion in the House, and it is a matter on which the practice of the House has varied from time to time. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, made it clear that this was still an open question; and the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, expressed one view, namely, that the asker of an Unstarred Question does not have a right of reply. My Lords, on behalf of the Procedure Committee I should again like to thank those noble Lords who have spoken for their support of this Report.

On Question, Motion agreed to.