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

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.#####centoff#####


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.

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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