§ 3 p.m.
§ The Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff)
My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
There has been considerable worry about late Written Answers, which has been taken seriously by the committee. At the end of the day, there is not much that we can do if departments refuse to answer. We suggest that there may be a way around some of the confusion, where there has been a certain amount of pass-the-parcel from department to department. We hope that the system that is being implemented will be of some assistance.
The comments on appellations simply repeat what is in the Companion. If I may say so, the habits of the House have been in decline for some time and that section of the report is an attempt by the committee to 350 get people back into line. I do wish that Members would stop referring to "the noble Minister" when they should refer to "the noble Lord the Minister".
Moved, That the third report from the Select Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 137).—(The Chairman of Committees.)
§ Lord Strabolgi
My Lords, I welcome the inclusion of the paragraph about appellations and will add to the noble Lord Chairman's remarks. I hope that the appellation "the noble Lord X" will also be dropped. The correct term is "the noble Lord, Lord X". Also, while the table of appellations has been taken from the Companion, is it correct in the case of marquesses? The appellation shown is "the noble Marquess (the Marquess of…)". Surely that should be "the noble Marquess, Lord X". If I am wrong, perhaps the noble Lord will say so.
§ Earl Ferrers
My Lords, I was delighted to see that the Select Committee has reaffirmed that correct appellations should be used. Too often one hears a Member refer to "the noble Lord, Earl so and so", "the noble Earl so and so" or "the noble Minister"—which, as the noble Lord Chairman said, is a mistake. We all get into muddles and make mistakes, which is understandable—provided that it is a mistake and not done on purpose. One member of the Government Front Bench perpetually seems to leave out the appellation "the noble Lord". One might think that he does so on purpose. I refer to a very distinguished noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms. I mean, the noble Lord the Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard.
§ Earl Ferrers
My Lords, I am so grateful to the noble Lord for correcting me. It is odd that the noble Lord so often leaves out the word "noble". As we get older, we get befuddled and make mistakes. Perhaps the noble Lord is entering that territory. I somehow doubt it. It rather looks like a private campaign. As the noble Lord is so concerned that I should refer to him correctly as the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, I hope that he will observe the niceties and refer to your Lordships as "the noble Lord" or "the noble Earl" as appropriate. If not, perhaps the noble Lord the Leader of the House will correct the noble Lord the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, tow him into line and say, "You may be having a campaign of your own, but while you are on the Government Front Bench, you must abide by the Government's views".
My Lords, as we accord to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet, Field Marshal or Marshal of the Royal Air Force the appellation of "noble and gallant", is it not to be regretted, if and when the senior military officer in this country—the Chief of the 351 Defence Staff—may be invited to join the House, that he should not also be referred to as a noble and gallant Lord?
§ Baroness Nicol
My Lords, I too welcome the section on forms of address. Is the committee likely to take on board the need to remind Members that when the Lord Chancellor, Deputy Speaker or Deputy Chairman is on his or her feet, other noble Lords are required to remain seated? That convention seems largely to have been forgotten.
§ Lord Roper
My Lords, my understanding was that the committee has already reported on the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. We have before us the Companion as it stands, without the amendment that the committee has already made.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, the noble Lord is correct. I had spotted that point myself. As the noble says, the committee has agreed that former Chiefs of the Defence Staff shall be referred to in your Lordships' House as "noble and gallant".
I will not enter into debate on the point put by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. That matter is for the person involved. It is not the job of the Chairman of Committees to correct individuals.
As to references to "the noble Marquess", that is the appellation in the Companion as it stands at the moment. We fear that there was an error in the latest edition because previous editions have it exactly as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, would wish. I may say in passing that I have not seen many Marquesses around recently.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Following is the report referred to:
1. Late answers to Questions for Written Answer
The Companion to Standing Orders stipulates that questions for written answer are expected to be answered within a fortnight (paragraph 4.108). In recent sessions many written questions have remained unanswered after three weeks and some have remained unanswered for over five months. It appears that one reason for the delays in answering is disagreement among some government departments about who is responsible for answering written questions since they are addressed to "Her Majesty's Government" and not to any particular minister or department.
In order to improve this situation we recommend the following new procedure.
Questions will continue to be addressed to Her Majesty's Government but on receipt of a written question the clerks will make a provisional allocation to a government department. The department will have 24 hours in which to ask for the question to be reallocated on the ground that another department accepts responsibility for it. Thereafter, in the composite list of questions for written answer published daily on the Internet and weekly in paper form with the House of Lords Minutes, the department to which the question has been allocated will be indicated by initials printed alongside the question.
The present practice is to reprint daily in the House of Lords Minute, 21 days after a question has been tabled, those questions on which answers are overdue. If the above recommendation is agreed to, the initials of the departments would be printed alongside the question and this would make public the identity of departments that are late in answering.
There has been an increasing failure by members of the House to observe the conventions when referring to other members of the House in debate. The Committee reminds the House that the correct forms of address are set out in paragraph 4.39 of the Companion as follows:
|Archbishop of the Church of England||"the most reverend Primate (the Archbishop of…)"|
|Bishop of the Church of England||"the right reverend Prelate (the Bishop of…)"|
|Duke||"the noble Duke (the Duke of…)"|
|Marquess||"the noble Marquess (the Marquess of…)"|
|Earl||"the noble Earl (Lord…)"|
|Countess||"the noble Countess (Lady…)"|
|Viscount||"the noble Viscount (Lord…)"|
|Baron||"the noble Lord (Lord…)"|
|Baroness or Lady||"the noble Baroness (Lady …)" or "the noble Lady (Lady…)"|
|Members with rank of Admiral of the Fleet, Field Marshal or Marshal of the Royal Air Force, and holders of the Victoria or George Cross||"the noble and gallant…" (service rank is not referred to)|
|Lord Chancellor, Lords of Appeal, Law Officers of the Crown, Judges of superior courts in the United Kingdom or former holder of these offices||"the noble and learned …"|
|Archbishops and Bishops of other Churches who are Members of the House||"the noble and right reverend Lord"|
|Former Archbishops or Bishops subsequently made Members of the House||"the noble and right reverend Lord …"|
|Fellow member of a political party||"my noble friend" (instead of one of the above descriptions)|
|Relatives||"my noble kinsman …" or "my noble relative…" (precise relationship is not mentioned)|
3. Application of the rotation rule and of Standing Order 64
All of the House's sessional committees are subject to a rotation rule whereby committee members retire after either three or four sessions' service. Such members are eligible for reappointment after the lapse of one session. We recommend that a four-session rotation rule should apply to the two new select committees appointed by the House in February and March 2001, namely, the Constitution Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee.
If this recommendation is agreed to, a transitional arrangement will be needed to avoid the simultaneous retirement of all members of both committees, except the chairmen, in 2004. We recommend therefore that four members of each committee should be rotated off by the end of session 2002–03 and four more at the end of session 2003–04. The normal rotation rule should then operate from the end of session 2004–05.
Standing Order 64 allows those sessional committees to which it applies (and their sub-committees) to continue to meet at the start of a new session pending appointment of the new committee.
We recommend that the Constitution Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee be added to the list of committees in Standing Order 64.
4. Amendments to standing orders on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee
We recommend the following changes to standing orders to take account of recent legislation and changes made by the House of Commons to their standing orders, as notified to this House in the Commons Message of 20th May.
Standing Order 40 (arrangement of the order paper)
In paragraph (6) leave out "on a draft order laid under section, 1 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 or
This amendment is needed because no further orders will be brought forward under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and this reference is therefore unnecessary.
Standing Order 64 (sessional committees)
Leave out "Deregulation" and insert "Regulatory Reform
This amendment is consequential on the change in the name of this Committee to Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, following the coming into force of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001.
Standing Order 72 (affirmative instruments)
For Standing Order 72(1) substitute:
72.—(1) No Motion for a resolution of the House to approve an Affirmative Instrument shall be moved until:
Provided that the report is laid
(d) in the case of a Hybrid Instrument, the proceedings under Private Business Standing Order 216 or 216A have been terminated.
This amended version of SO 72(1) reflects the fact that the Northern Ireland Act 2000 supersedes the Northern Ireland Act 1974 and that no further orders will be brought forward under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. The reference to "any subordinate provisions order made or proposed to be made under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001" is inserted to ensure that the standing orders of the House of Lords relating to affirmative instruments are in line with similar standing orders of the House of Commons.
Standing Order 73 (joint committee on statutory instruments)
In paragraph (1) leave out "Northern Ireland Act 1974" and insert "Northern Ireland Act 2000.
This amendment is needed because the Northern Ireland Act 2000 supersedes the Northern Ireland Act 1974.
In paragraph (1) leave out "and any draft order proposed to be made under section 1 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994".
This amendment reflects the fact that no further orders will be brought forward under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994.
In paragraph (1) after "Human Rights Act 1998" insert "and any draft order proposed to be made under section 1 of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, or any subordinate provisions order made or proposed to be made under that Act".
This amendment is needed because any draft order made under section 1 of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 is considered by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee and not by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.
5. Terms of reference of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee
The terms of reference of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee also need to be updated in the light of the expiry for practical purposes of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. We recommend the following revised terms of reference:
To report whether the provisions of any bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of legislative power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny; to report on documents and draft orders laid before Parliament under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001; and to perform, in respect of such documents and orders and subordinate provisions orders laid under that Act, the functions performed in respect of other instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.