HL Deb 25 May 1976 vol 371 cc122-5

2.49 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask the Chairman of Committees what decision has been reached on the proposal that men who are not wearing ties should be admitted to the seats for strangers below the Bar.

The CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (The Earl of Listowel)

My Lords, the Administration Committee have considered this matter, as I promised in answer to a Question from the noble Lord on 12th April. The Committee decided to recommend no change in the present practice.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend this question: while this matter may seem to be trivial, is it not of great symbolic significance? Is he aware that guests of Peers otherwise entitled to take these seats are not allowed to do so although they are well dressed, even smartly dressed, because, in accordance with the present-day accepted custom, they are without ties? Does not this suggest that we are applying a rule which is absolutely obsolete in present habits?


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House a question on a point of order? This Committee which considered this matter is a sub-committee of the Offices Committee. Surely this Committee should report to the Offices Committee before anything is said on the Floor of this House?


My Lords, is the noble Earl the Lord Chairman aware that those of us who visit foreign Parliaments comply willingly with the customs of foreign Parliaments, and see no reason why visitors to our Parliament should not comply with the customs of the British Parliament?

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, I shall look into the point that the noble Earl has put to me. As the noble Earl is well aware, as to what Question is put down is entirely in the hand of your Lordships' House. My noble friend had raised this matter, and quite legitimately has sought to pursue it. I shall look into the procedure, but unless one wishes to put certain restraints on what goes down on the Order Paper, which I should not have thought to be a possibility, I personally would prefer to leave matters as they now are.


My Lords, with respect, I think that the noble Lord the Leader of the House does not quite understand what my noble friend is saying. This Committee is a sub-committee of the Offices Committee, and therefore I think that the Answer should properly have been that this matter is still under discussion, because after all the Offices Committee could reject the proposals made by this Committee.


My Lords, I shall look at this matter. The Question was put down, the Chairman of Committees replied to it, and I must admit that I had not had any sight of the Answer he gave. I think that this is a matter that the House might leave to myself and the Chairman of Committees.


My Lords, as distinguished visitors from abroad may inadvertently transgress the rules of this House, could not a supply of suitable ties be made available through the attendants, in case of emergency?


My Lords, might I suggest to my noble friend and other noble Lords who may be interested in this matter, that their representations are made to the appropriate Committee.


My Lords, may I ask the Leader of the House this question: is it not a matter for the Committee of Procedure whether it has to report to another Committee? Is there any reason to criticise me for having put down this Question when I was informed that this was the correct procedure to follow?


My Lords, my advice to the House is that a sub-committee reports to the main Committee. I am not aware of any exceptions to that rule.


My Lords, I hope that if any recommendation is made by the Committee it will not include any recommendation as to colour, whether worn or not.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, may be encouraged by the fact that some of us are already admitted into this House without wearing ties?


My Lords, I am also conscious of the passage of time.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House about the women Have they considered the kind of dress that will be allowed in order to have a seat in the Visitors' Gallery? Supposing a woman came with a plunging neckline, would she have a seat in the Tower, or at least one of the towers?


My Lords, any question concerning plunging necklines I think had better be dealt with in Committee.