Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords - Contents


3.01  The House usually sits for public business on Mondays and Tuesdays at 2.30 p.m., on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. and on Thursdays at 11 a.m. The House also sits on Fridays at 10 a.m. when pressure of business makes it necessary. It is a firm convention that the House normally rises by about 10 p.m. on Mondays to Wednesdays, [82] by about 7 p.m. on Thursdays, and by about 3 p.m. on Fridays. The time of meeting of the House can be varied to meet the convenience of the House. In exceptional circumstances the House has met on Saturday and on Sunday.[83]

3.02  The length of a session within a Parliament is at the discretion of the Government. Since 2010 sessions have started and ended in the late spring.

3.03  The House breaks for recesses as follows:

  • over Christmas and New Year (usually two weeks);
  • sometimes in late February (up to one week);
  • at Easter (one or two weeks);
  • over the Spring Bank Holiday (one week); and
  • in the summer (usually between late July and early October).


3.04  Before each day's sitting the Lord Speaker walks in procession from her room to the Chamber, preceded by the Mace.[84] During the procession, doorkeepers and security staff ensure that the route is unobstructed. The procession crosses the Prince's Chamber and moves down the Not-content Lobby, entering the Chamber from below Bar on the temporal side. The Lord Speaker continues up the temporal side of the House to the Woolsack. After the Bishop has read the Psalm, the Lord Speaker and other members present kneel or stand for prayers. When these have been read, the Lord Speaker takes her seat on the Woolsack.

3.05  If the Lord Speaker is absent at the beginning of the sitting, the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms (the Yeoman Usher), alone, takes the Mace by way of the Library Corridor to meet the Deputy Speaker and Black Rod in the Peers' Lobby.


3.06  Prayers are read at the beginning of each sitting. Ordinarily prayers are read by one of the Bishops, who take a week each in turn.[85] In the absence of a Bishop, a member of the House who is an ordained minister of the Church of England may read prayers. If no such member is present, the Lord on the Woolsack reads prayers. The prayers are printed in appendix J (page 273). During prayers the doors and galleries of the House are closed and visitors are excluded.


3.07  The quorum of the House is three, including the Lord Speaker or Deputy Speaker. There is however a quorum of 30 for divisions on bills and on any motion to approve or disapprove delegated legislation.[86]


3.08  During the course of business the Lord Speaker may be replaced on the Woolsack by a Deputy Speaker. When one Lord takes the place of another on the Woolsack, there is no interruption of business. The Lord who is to preside stands at the side of the Woolsack, on the spiritual side. The Lord on the Woolsack rises and moves to the temporal side. They bow to each other. The Lord previously on the Woolsack withdraws and the replacement sits down on the Woolsack.


3.09  At the end of business a member of the government moves "That the House do now adjourn." The Lord Speaker puts the Question, but does not collect the voices because this Question is not usually debated. If any member of the House wishes to debate it, the Lord Speaker should be informed beforehand.

3.10  As soon as the Lord Speaker has put the Question for the adjournment she leaves the Chamber by the temporal side and the Bar, preceded by the Mace, and returns in procession to her room via the Law Lords' and Library Corridors.

3.11  If a Deputy Speaker is on the Woolsack when the House adjourns, the above ceremony is observed, but the Deputy Speaker leaves the procession in the Peers' Lobby.


3.12  If the House wishes to meet in secret, a motion of which notice is not required is made to that effect.[87] When an order for a secret sitting is made, the Chamber is cleared of everyone except members of the House, the Clerks at the Table and Black Rod. Members of the House of Commons are not required to withdraw


3.13  Certain types of business may take place in Grand Committee. The procedure in a Grand Committee is the same for each type of business as the procedure would have been in the House when such business is considered, except that divisions may not take place in Grand Committee.[88]

3.14  A Grand Committee is a committee of unlimited membership. Any member of the House may participate in it. Only one Grand Committee sits on any one day. The place of meeting is usually the Moses Room.

3.15  The following types of business may take place in Grand Committee:

(a)  Committee stages of public bills (only one bill per day—see paragraph 8.101)

(b)  Motions to consider affirmative instruments (see paragraph 10.17)

(c)  Motions to consider negative instruments (see paragraph 10.10)

(d)  Motions to take note of reports of select committees (see paragraph 11.37), or of the Intelligence and Security Committee (see paragraph 11.79)

(e)  General motions for debate (see paragraph 6.57)

(f)  Questions for short debate (see paragraph 6.46)

(g)  Debates on proposals for National Policy Statements, laid before Parliament under the Planning Act 2008 (see paragraph 10.58).[89]

3.16  In addition, second reading debates on Law Commission bills may take place in a "Second Reading Committee" in the Moses Room, though this is not formally a Grand Committee (see paragraph 8.43).

3.17  Grand Committees sit for times agreed in advance, irrespective of the rising of the House.[90] Notice of the proceedings is given in House of Lords Business. The normal sitting times[91] of Grand Committee are:

  • Monday, Tuesday 3.30-7.30 p.m.
  • Wednesday 3.45-7.45 p.m.
  • Thursday 2-6 p.m.

3.18  Committee proceedings begin at the appointed time without any preliminary motion. Members speak standing and, so far as they can, observe the same degree of formality as in the Chamber. Forms of words used in Grand Committee are the same as in Committee of the whole House. The committee adjourns for 10 minutes for a division in the House. If the committee is to break (e.g. for a division or a statement in the Chamber), and when it adjourns at the end of the day's proceedings, the committee is simply adjourned without Question put. The verbatim report of the Grand Committee's proceedings is published, and the minutes are published as an appendix to the Minutes of Proceedings.


3.19  The leave of the House is required before certain procedures or items of business can proceed. Similar rules apply in Committees of the whole House.

3.20  In certain cases where leave is sought, it is granted by majority and the objection of a single member of the House is not sufficient to withhold leave. Leave is granted by majority:

(a)  to ask questions;

(b)  to make ministerial or personal statements;

(c)  to take business not on the order paper of which notice is not required;

(d)  to speak more than once to a motion.

3.21  In other cases leave must be unanimous, notably in those cases where, if leave were granted, the House or committee would be deprived of having a Question put.[92] Leave is withheld if a single member of the House objects to:

(a)  withdrawal of an amendment or a motion which is before the House;

(b)  moving motions, amendments and clauses en bloc (see paragraph 3.49);

(c)  moving a motion that the order of commitment or recommitment of a bill be discharged;

(d)  moving a motion or asking a question when the mover or questioner is absent, unless the authority of the member named on the order paper has been given;

(e)  postponing business without notice till later the same day.[93]

3.22  Leave is usually obtained without putting the Question; but if necessary, the Question "that leave be given" could be divided upon in a case where leave may be granted by a majority decision. However, this would be exceptional, as a member who requests leave usually tests the feeling of the House and, if there is opposition to leave being granted, the request is generally withdrawn.


3.23  SO 86 provides that no motion shall be agreed to for making a new standing order, or for dispensing with a standing order, unless notice has been given on the order paper. Consequently, when it is desired that a standing order should be suspended for a specific period, or dispensed with for a particular purpose, notice of a motion, customarily in the name of the Leader of the House, is inserted on the order paper under the heading "Business of the House". Such motions are taken before other notices relating to public business. SOs 40 (arrangement of the order paper) and 46 (no two stages of a bill to be taken on one day) are sometimes suspended when pressure of business increases before a recess or prorogation, to enable the government to arrange the order of business and to take more than one stage of a bill at a sitting.


3.24  The House publishes three core documents giving information about the business that the House has done and the business it expects to do:

  • House of Lords Business, a single document containing future business and the Minutes of Proceedings, the daily record of business transacted;
  • the white order paper (the agenda for the day);
  • Hansard (the official report of what is said in debate).

3.25  On sitting days, copies of the order paper are available from the Printed Paper Office, from the desks in the Peers' Entrance, and from the desks adjacent to the Chamber in the Prince's Chamber and Peers' Lobby.


3.26  House of Lords Business is printed after each sitting day and is also published on the Internet. It shows future business to be taken in the House, so far as it has been tabled or definitely arranged.[94] It also includes:

(a)  business of which notice has been given but for which no day has been named. This business is grouped under five headings:

(i)  Motions for balloted debates;

(ii)  Select committee reports for debate (with the date on which the report was published);

(iii)  Other motions for debate;

(iv)  Motions relating to delegated legislation;

(v)  Questions for short debate;

(b)  a list of questions for written answer tabled that day, together with a table showing any written questions which remain unanswered after 10 working days. A cumulative list of all unanswered written questions is published on the parliamentary website[95] after each sitting day;

(c)  lists of bills, Measures and various types of delegated legislation in progress, showing the stage reached by each and the next date on which they will be taken, if known;

(d)  notices of committee sittings.

3.27  The Minutes of Proceedings of the House are also contained in House of Lords Business. They are issued under the authority and signature of the Clerk of the Parliaments. The Minutes record actions or decisions of the House rather than what is said in the Chamber. For this reason some "silent" entries are included which happen off the floor.

3.28  The Minutes of Proceedings are compiled in the following order:

(a)  preliminary matters, such as prayers, introductions, members taking the oath, messages from the Queen and matters relating to leave of absence;

(b)  select committee report printing orders;

(c)  private business (except where such business is taken part-way through public business);

(d)  public business, in the order in which it is taken in the House;

(e)  minutes of proceedings of Grand Committees, Second Reading Committees and public bill committees;

(f)  papers laid before the House.



3.29  The Government Chief Whip is responsible for the detailed arrangement of government business and the business of individual sittings. The smooth running of the House depends largely on the Whips of the main political parties. They agree the arrangement of business through the "usual channels". The usual channels consist of the Leaders and Whips of the three main political parties. For certain purposes the usual channels include the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers.


3.30  Motions or questions may be handed in to the House of Lords Table Office on sitting days between 10 a.m. and House Up; the Table Office may also be contacted during these hours by telephone (020 7219 3036). Motions or questions may also be sent at any time by post, email or fax to the House of Lords Table Office (fax 020 7219 3887; email In addition, while the House is sitting they may be handed in at the Table. At other times (e.g. non-sitting Fridays or recesses) business may be handed in between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., either to the Table Office or to the Duty Clerk, using the same contact details.

3.31  Whenever any new notice is put down in House of Lords Business, or any material alteration is made to the text of an existing motion or question, it is marked with a dagger (†) to draw attention to it.[96]

3.32  Business may be tabled any length of time in advance, up to the end of the session, except:

  • oral questions, which may be tabled up to four weeks in advance including recesses;[97]
  • motions and questions for short debate, which may be tabled up to four weeks in advance excluding recesses.[98]

3.33  A member of the House who wishes a notice to appear in House of Lords Business before a specific date has been fixed for it may enter it under either "Motions for Debate", "Questions for Short Debate" or "Motions relating to Delegated Legislation". There is no strictly formulated rule against anticipation; but:

(a)  a member should not put down for a specific date a question or subject for debate which already appears in the name of another member under any of the undated headings without first consulting that member; and

(b)  it is not in the interests of good order and courtesy that a member should table for an earlier day a question or motion similar to one that has already been tabled for a particular day.

3.34  Italic notes are often used to give the House advance notice of business that is not yet in a position to be tabled.[99]

3.35  Notices may be withdrawn or put down for a later date by the member of the House in whose name they stand.[100] Oral questions and questions for short debate may be brought forward to an earlier day without leave, at the request of the member asking the question. Other notices can only be brought forward by leave of the House obtained on a motion, of which notice must be given. Such a motion is generally moved by the Leader of the House.[101]

3.36  Business of which notice is required (see paragraph 3.38) must first be called before it can proceed. Questions and motions are called by the Clerk, in the order in which they appear on the order paper.[102] Amendments to bills are called by the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair, in the order of the marshalled list. Amendments to motions are called by the Lord on the Woolsack.

3.37  If a member of the House is absent when a motion or question standing in his or her name is called and has authorised another member to act on his or her behalf, that member may do so, explaining the situation. Otherwise, the motion or question cannot be proceeded with on that day unless unanimous leave is granted by the House.[103] In that case, when the Clerk has called the motion or question, a member may ask for leave to move the motion or ask the question standing in the name of the absent member. If there is a single dissenting voice, the House passes on to the next business. Notice must be given before business not proceeded with can be taken on a subsequent date. This paragraph does not apply to government motions, which may be moved by any member of the government without leave, or to amendments to bills (see paragraph 8.64).


3.38  Business of which notice is required must appear at least on the white order paper of the day on which it is to be taken, and wherever possible also in House of Lords Business.[104] Notice must be given of oral questions, questions for short debate and all motions except those which the House customarily allows to be moved without notice. The following list, which is not exhaustive, shows what business the House in practice allows to be taken without notice:[105]

(a)  business which does not involve a decision of the House:

(i)  Royal Assent;

(ii)  obituary tributes and personal statements;

(iii)  ministerial statements and private notice questions;

(iv)  statements or questions on business, procedure and privilege;

(v)  oaths of allegiance;

(vi)  presentation of public petitions;

(b)  manuscript amendments to bills and motions;

(c)  business expressly exempted from the need to give notice,[106] namely:

(i)  messages from the Crown;

(ii)  introduction of bills;

(iii)  messages from the Commons and first reading of Commons bills;

(iv)  consideration of Commons amendments and reasons, though reasonable notice should be given when possible;[107]

(d)  motions relating to the way in which the House conducts its business, for example:

(i)  motions for the adjournment of a debate, or of the House;

(ii)  the motion to go into Committee of the whole House for more freedom of debate on a motion;[108]

(iii)  in Committee of the whole House, motions to adjourn debate on an amendment, or to resume the House;

(iv)  the motion that leave be not given to ask a question;

(v)  the motion that the noble Lord be no longer heard (see paragraph 4.54);

(vi)  the Closure (see paragraph 4.60);

(vii)  the Next Business motion (see paragraph 4.56);

(viii)  the motion that the Lord X be appointed Lord Speaker pro tempore;

(ix)  the motion that the House should meet in secret (see paragraph 3.12).


3.39  The House proceeds with the business of each day in the order in which it stands on the order paper.[109] Business is entered on the order paper in the order in which it is received at the Table, subject to the following main conditions laid down in SO 40:

(a)  oral questions are placed first;

(b)  private business is, subject to the Chairman of Committees' discretion, placed before public business;

(c)  business of the House motions and, if he so desires, the Chairman of Committees' business (for example, consideration of reports from domestic committees) are placed before other public business;

(d)  on all days except Thursdays,[110] public bills, Measures, affirmative instruments and reports from select committees of the House have precedence over other public business. On Thursdays, the general debate day,[111] motions have precedence over public bills, Measures and delegated legislation;

(e)  any motion relating to a report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on a draft order laid under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, or a subordinate provisions order made or proposed to be made under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, is placed before a motion to approve that order;[112]

(f)  any motion relating to a report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights on a remedial order or draft remedial order laid under Schedule 2 to the Human Rights Act 1998 is placed before a motion to approve that order or draft order;[113]

(g)  questions for short debate are placed last, even when it is known that they will be taken in the lunch or dinner break.

3.40  Royal Assent is frequently notified before oral questions, but may be notified between any two items of business or at the end of business, if necessary after an adjournment.

3.41  Private bills are entered on the order paper after oral questions.[114] But if a private bill is likely to be debated on second or third reading it may be entered at a later point on the order paper. Similarly, if a debate unexpectedly arises upon a private bill, the Chairman of Committees may propose the postponement or adjournment of that stage of the bill either to a time later in the same day, or to another day. Members intending to debate any stage of a private bill should accordingly give notice of their intention to the Chairman of Committees. Private bills may also be entered at a later point on the order paper at the discretion of the Chairman of Committees.

3.42  The order in which business is usually taken is as follows:

(a)  prayers;

(b)  introductions;

(c)  oaths of allegiance (or at the end of business);

(d)  the Lord Speaker's leave of absence;

(e)  messages and answers from the Crown;

(f)  Royal Assent (or at any convenient time during the sitting);

(g)  Addresses of congratulation or sympathy to the Crown;[115]

(h)  notification of death and obituary tributes;

(i)  personal statements;

(j)  oral questions;

(k)  private notice questions;

(l)  presentation of public petitions;

(m)  questions of privilege;

(n)  statements on business;

(o)  ministerial statements (or at the first convenient moment);

(p)  presentation of new Lords bills (or at the end of business);[116]

(q)  messages from the Commons (or at any convenient time during the sitting);

(r)  private bills, at the discretion of the Chairman of Committees;

(s)  business of the House motions;

(t)  motions to amend Standing Orders;

(u)  motions relating to the Chairman of Committees' business, if he so desires;

(v)  motions for the appointment of select committees;

(w)  public business;

(x)  questions for short debate.


3.43  Under SO 40(8) the order of notices relating to public bills, Measures, affirmative instruments and reports from select committees can be varied by agreement of the members in whose names the notices stand. Such variations are subject to SO 40(4) and (5) so that on Thursdays notices relating to public bills, Measures and delegated legislation may not be advanced before notices relating to motions, even with the consent of those affected. In such cases a formal motion is required to vary the order of business.

3.44  Where it is wished to vary the order of business beyond the terms of SO 40(4) and (5), a "business of the House" motion may be put down to suspend or dispense with SO 40. The Standing Order is sometimes suspended so far as is necessary to give the government power to arrange the order of business.

3.45  Business may be postponed until later the same day without notice, with the unanimous leave of the House.[117] When the Clerk has called the business, the Lord in charge of the business says, "Unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that X be postponed until after Y". If this is agreed to, the House proceeds to the next business on the order paper.

3.46  If business is adjourned, the House may without notice make an order for the adjourned business to be taken later on the same day or taken first on some specified future day,[118] subject to the rules governing the order in which categories of business may be taken.


3.47  The main business of the day is often interrupted, usually around 7.30 p.m., for other business to be taken during the dinner break. On days when the House sits in the morning there may be a lunch break at around 1.30 p.m. Lunch or dinner break business is marked as such in House of Lords Business. Interruptions of this sort may also be announced after oral questions by means of a business statement. At the desired time a motion is moved that the proceedings be adjourned or, if the House is in committee, that the House be resumed. It is usual at this point for an indication to be given that the main business will not be resumed before a certain time. The House then proceeds to consider the next business on the order paper. If this is disposed of before the time indicated for the resumption of business, the House adjourns "during pleasure"[119] until that time.

3.48  If the intention is simply to interrupt the proceedings for a period without taking any other business, a motion is moved that the House do adjourn during pleasure until a stated time. If the House is in committee, however, the proceedings may, with the consent of the committee, be interrupted without any Question being put. If such an interruption is proposed, and no member of the House objects, the Lord in the Chair announces:

"The committee stands adjourned until -".


3.49  Certain categories of motion may be moved en bloc when they are not expected to be debated. This means that a single Question is put and decided. The categories are as follows:

(a)  Motions to approve affirmative instruments (see paragraph 10.16);

(b)  Motions to reappoint or to fill casual vacancies on select committees (see paragraphs 11.06 and 11.10);

(c)  Stages of consolidation bills (see paragraph 8.211);

(d)  Motions to carry over private bills[120].

3.50  Moving other categories of motion en bloc may be authorised by business of the House motion.

3.51  The following rules apply:

  • Notice must be given, by means of an italic note in House of Lords Business.
  • If a single member objects, the motions must be moved separately to the extent desired.

3.52  For moving amendments and clauses en bloc, see paragraphs, 8.72, 8.134 and 8.167.


3.53  The Official Report, or Hansard, is the substantially verbatim record of debates and proceedings in the House and Grand Committee. It also comprises:

(a)  the text of written statements and of replies to questions for written answer.[121] Statements or answers that are excessively lengthy are normally placed in the Library rather than being printed (see paragraph 6.42);

(b)  proceedings in public bill committees;

(c)  certain items not spoken in the Chamber that are the subject of formal minute entries, relating to the progress of Bills;

(d)  a hyperlink (in the online version) to the electronic texts of various relevant documents, including reports from domestic or select committees, copies of Bills or Statutory Instruments, and other official documents of direct relevance to the debate;

(e)  texts of amendments moved;

(f)  division lists.

3.54  Hansard is produced by an Editor and staff who are accountable to the Clerk of the Parliaments. It is published online in draft form throughout the day, approximately three hours behind real time. This is replaced the following morning by the completed online daily transcripts, at the same time as the printed version is produced. If the House sits after 2.30 a.m., a cut-off time on material printed may be imposed, with the remaining business from that sitting appearing in the next daily part and a draft copy of the text to be printed being made available in the Library. Corrections are made to the online text once published to ensure that it remains accurate and authoritative. A small number of bound volumes are also printed some months after the period covered.


3.55  When correcting their speeches, members should not attempt to alter the sense of words spoken by them in debate. Corrections are accepted only when the words that were actually spoken have been incorrectly reported. The procedure for suggesting corrections to be included in the bound volumes is printed on the inside cover of each daily part.[122]


3.56  The Journals are the permanent official record of the proceedings of the House, compiled from the Minutes of Proceedings. The Journals differ from the Minutes in that they include a daily record of members present, most reports of the domestic committees of the House, the letters patent of peers on introduction, and an index. All copies of the Journals of either House are admitted as evidence by the courts and others.[123] If required in evidence, a copy or extract of the Journals, authenticated by the Clerk of the Parliaments, may be supplied on payment of a fee.



3.57  The Minutes of Proceedings record each day the titles of various documents, or "papers", presented or laid in the House on that day and also those laid since the last sitting. These papers fall into two main categories:

(a)  papers presented by command of Her Majesty on the initiative of a minister of the Crown. These are known as "Command papers". The majority are published in a numbered series currently labelled "Cm". Command papers may be presented at any time during the existence of a Parliament, including non-sitting days, recesses and prorogation;

(b)  papers laid before the House pursuant to an Act, statutory instrument or Measure. These are known as "Act papers". They may be of either a legislative or an executive character, and they may be either subject to a degree of parliamentary control (depending on the provisions of the parent statute) or purely informative.

3.58  Papers may also be laid as Returns to an Order of the House, for example in response to a motion for papers, though this is now rare.

3.59  Certain statutory instruments can be laid when the House is not sitting for public business, namely those instruments (apart from special procedure orders) which are required to be laid before Parliament after being made, but which do not require to be approved by resolution or lie before Parliament for any period before they come into operation.[124] The times when such instruments may be deposited are those shown in the table.

3.60  No papers of any type may be laid during a dissolution of Parliament.

3.61  If it is necessary to bring a statutory instrument into operation before it has been laid before Parliament, the responsible department must submit a notification and explanation to the Lord Speaker.[125] Their receipt is recorded in the minutes of the next sitting day's proceedings.


3.62  Papers may be laid on the days and times set out in the table.

Papers may not be laid

Earliest Latest
House sitting for public business 9.30 a.m. (or start of business if earlier) 5 p.m. (or rising of the House if later)
Non-sitting day (Monday to Friday) 11 a.m. 3 p.m.[126]
Prorogation 11 a.m. 3 p.m.

3.63  Departments wishing to lay Command papers or statutory instruments outside these hours must make special arrangements for their receipt with the Printed Paper Office


3.64  Members of the House are entitled to obtain free of charge from the Printed Paper Office such current parliamentary papers and other publications as they clearly require to discharge their current parliamentary duties.[127] These include:

  • Command papers;
  • Act papers;
  • statutory instruments;
  • Acts and Measures;
  • any document printed pursuant to an order of either House;
  • other working papers of the House, including bills, explanatory notes on bills, amendments, House of Lords Business and Hansard (Lords and Commons);
  • papers relating to the work of the European Union.

3.65  Members are entitled to one copy of these papers. If they have spoken in a debate, they are entitled to collect up to six copies of the Lords Hansard in which their speech is reported.

3.66  Members of the House may also obtain, free of charge, government publications up to a price limit.[128] Papers above the price limit are available for consultation in the Library of the House. Any publication referred to in a motion or question for short debate which has been set down for a named day in House of Lords Business will be supplied free to any member on request. Other publications will also be supplied free of charge, provided that they are required for the discharge of the member's current parliamentary duties. Historical, technical, scientific or reference and similar classes of publications will not generally be supplied to members free of charge, unless specially authorised by the Clerk of the Parliaments. Further details can be found in the Handbook on facilities and services for Members.

3.67  Members of the House may order through the Printed Paper Office any government publications which are not available to them free of charge, and also extra copies of papers above their basic entitlement. These papers are sent to members together with an invoice.

3.68  In order to enable the Printed Paper Office to provide a prompt service to all members of the House, members should first consult the Library when the identification of a paper is in doubt, or when they wish to find answers to specific questions from published sources.


3.69  Members of the public may petition the House of Lords, but only a member of the House may present a petition. Members of the House should give the following guidance to members of the public who ask them to present petitions on their behalf.

3.70  Petitions to the House of Lords begin:

"To the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, The humble Petition of [names or designation of petitioners] sheweth".

3.71  The general allegations of the petition follow. The petition ends with what is called a "prayer", setting out what the petitioners desire the House to do. After the prayer are added the words "And your Petitioners will ever pray &c." followed by the signatures. The petition may be written, printed or typed on paper. At least one signature must be on the same sheet as the petition. The signatures must not be stuck on to the paper. The petition of a corporation should be under its common seal, which must be affixed to the first sheet.

3.72  Members of the House presenting petitions should sign them, and either send them to the Clerk of the Parliaments or hand them in at the Table.[129] In either case, having notified the Table in advance, they rise in their place after oral questions and say:

"My Lords, I beg to present a petition from [names or designation], which prays that this House will [the prayer is read out]."

3.73  They may add:

"The petition bears X signatures."

but no speech may be made and no debate follows.

3.74  Petitions relating to a public bill may be presented at any time during its passage through the House. A petition relating to a bill which has not been before the House, or which has already been rejected by it, cannot be presented.

3.75  The presentation of a petition is recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings, and the petition is retained in the Parliamentary Archives for one year. However, no order is made for the petition to be printed unless a member of the House puts down a motion to debate it for a designated day; otherwise no action follows.

3.76  A member proposing to present a petition should consult the Journal Office at an early stage.


3.77  A message is the means of formal communication between the two Houses. It is used for sending bills from one House to the other, for informing one House of the agreement or disagreement of the other to bills or amendments, for requesting the attendance of staff of either House as witnesses, for the exchange of documents, for the setting up of joint committees, to obtain agreement to the suspension of proceedings on legislation from one session to the next, and for other matters on which the two Houses wish to communicate.

3.78  Messages to the Commons are taken by a Lords Clerk and handed to the Serjeant at Arms. Messages from the Commons are brought by a Commons Clerk to the Bar of the House and presented to the Clerk at the Table. There is no special ceremony for the arrival of a message, and the business of the House proceeds without interruption.


82   Procedure 5th Rpt 2001-02. Back

83   e.g. the House sat on a Saturday and a Sunday at the outbreak of the Second World War and in 1982 met on a Saturday to discuss the situation in the Falkland Islands: LJ (1938-39) 383-4, (1981-82) 216. The House attended the State Funeral for Sir Winston Churchill in St Paul's Cathedral on Saturday 30 January 1965. Back

84   The procession consists of a Doorkeeper, followed by the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms (the Yeoman Usher) or Principal Doorkeeper bearing the Mace, followed by the Lord Speaker. In the Prince's Chamber, Black Rod joins the end of the procession. Procedure 4th Rpt 2005-06. Back

85   The two Archbishops and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester do not take part in this rota. Back

86   SO 57. Back

87   SO 15. Back

88   Report to the Leader from the Group on sittings of the House: HL Paper (1993-94) 83, paragraph 20; Procedure 1st Rpt 2005-06. Back

89   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2008-09. Back

90   Procedure 3rd Rpt 2003-04. Back

91   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2005-06. Back

92   SO 31. Back

93   SO 42(3). Back

94   Each week the Government Whips' Office publishes a separate document entitled 'Forthcoming Business', which informally advertises business for the following week and that provisionally proposed for subsequent weeks. Back

95   The list is published at  Back

96   Procedure 1st Rpt 1969-70. Back

97   See paragraph 6.26 for a full explanation of the times at which oral questions may be tabled. Back

98   SO 43. Back

99   Procedure 5th Rpt 1966-67. Back

100   SO 42(1). Back

101   Procedure 5th Rpt 1966-67, 1st Rpt 1975-76. Back

102   SO 39. Back

103   Procedure 2nd Rpt 1992-93. Back

104   SO 36, Procedure 5th Rpt 1970-71. Back

105   Procedure 5th Rpt 1970-71. Back

106   SO 41. Back

107   Procedure 1st Rpt 1987-88. Back

108   SO 62, HL Deb. 16 June 1958 col. 892. Back

109   SOs 39, 40. Back

110   Procedure 6th Rpt 2005-06. Back

111   See paragraph 6.49. Back

112   SO 40(6). Back

113   SO 40(7). Back

114   Procedure 2nd Rpt 1958-59. Back

115   Procedure 4th Rpt 1964-65. Back

116   SO 41(3). Back

117   SO 42(3). Back

118   SO 45. Back

119   Adjournments "during pleasure" are breaks in a sitting for specified or unspecified periods. Back

120   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2006-07. Back

121   SO 44. Back

122   Procedure 1st Rpt 1969-70. Back

123   Evidence Act 1845, s. 3. The Act does not extend to Scotland. Back

124   SO 70. Back

125   Statutory Instruments Act 1946, s. 4, as amended by Sch. 6 to the Constitutional Reform Act 2005; SO 71. Back

126   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2006-07. Back

127   Offices 4th Rpt 1966-67. Back

128   Currently £50: see the Handbook on facilities and services for Members (May 2010). Back

129   SO 74. Back

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