CHAPTER 4: CONDUCT in the house |
4.01 The House is self-regulating: the Lord Speaker
has no power to rule on matters of order. In practice this means
that the preservation of order and the maintenance of the rules
of debate are the responsibility of the House itself, that is,
of all the members who are present, and any member may draw attention
to breaches of order or failures to observe customs.
4.02 The word "undesirable" may be
used in the House of Lords as an equivalent of the expression
"out of order". If any member is in doubt about a point
of procedure, the Clerk of the Parliaments and other Clerks are
available to give advice, and members of the House are recommended
to consult them.
4.03 The Leader of the House is appointed by
the Prime Minister, is a member of the Cabinet, and is responsible
for the conduct of government business in the Lords.
Because the Lord Speaker has no powers to rule on matters of procedure,
the Leader also advises the House on procedure and order, and
has the responsibility of drawing attention to violations or abuse.
The Leader also expresses the sense of the House on formal occasions,
such as motions of thanks or congratulation. However, like the
Lord Speaker, the Leader is endowed with no formal authority.
4.04 The Leader, the Government Chief Whip and
their offices are available to assist and advise all members of
the House. Members greatly assist the effective conduct of the
House's business if they give as much notice as possible to the
Leader and the Government Whips' Office whenever they propose
to raise any matter on which the Leader's guidance might be required.
4.05 It is usual for another minister to be appointed
Deputy Leader of the House. In the Leader's absence the Deputy
Leader takes responsibility for advising the House on matters
of procedure and order. In the absence of both of them, this responsibility
falls to the senior government Whip present. The Opposition front
benches, and the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers (if present),
also have a responsibility to draw attention to transgressions
4.06 The role of assisting the House at question
time rests with the Leader of the House, not the Lord Speaker.
4.07 At other times of day the Lord on the Woolsack
or in the Chair may assist the House by reminding members of the
relevant parts of the Companion. Such assistance is limited to
procedural advice and is usually given at the start of the business
in hand, for example how time is to be divided between the front
and back benches in response to a statement, the correct procedure
at Report stage, the handling of grouped amendments, and the procedure
to be followed in the case of amendments to amendments. Assistance
may be helpful at other stages when procedural problems arise.
4.08 The Government Chief Whip advises the House
on speaking times in debates. Reinforcing such time limits is
handled by the front benches rather than the Lord Speaker, and
any member can draw such advice to the attention of the House.
Timed debates are brought to an end (if necessary) by the Lord
Speaker on an indication from the Table.
4.09 Interventions, in particular those calling
attention to the failure of an individual member to comply with
the practice of the House, for example when arguments deployed
in committee are repeated at length on report, may come from the
front benches or other members. . Such interventions would not
normally come from the Lord Speaker.
4.10 As indicated above (paragraphs 1.48-50),
the Lord Speaker's function in the House is to assist, and not
to rule. She observes the same formalities as any other member
of the House, addressing the House as a whole, and not an individual
member, and not intervening when a member is on his feet. The
House does not recognise points of order. Any advice or assistance
given by the Lord Speaker is subject to the view of the House
as a whole.
4.11 When the House is sitting, all members should
on entering the Chamber bow to the Cloth of Estate behind the
It is not the practice to do so on leaving. Members also bow to
the Mace in procession, as a symbol of the authority of the Sovereign.
All bows are made with the head and not the body.
4.12 SO 20(1) declares that members of the House
"are to keep dignity and order, and not to remove out of
their places without just cause, to the hindrance of others that
sit near them, and the disorder of the House". In practice,
this means that members:
- must not move about
the Chamber while a Question is being put from the Woolsack or
- must not pass between the Woolsack (or the Chair)
and any member who is speaking;
- must not pass between the Woolsack and the Table;
- must leave the Chamber quietly at the end of
4.13 If members wish to speak to other members
while the House is sitting, they should go to the Prince's Chamber.
Members should not hold conversations in the space behind the
4.14 Unless they are disabled, members of the
House must speak standing, except by permission of the House.
4.15 Male members of the House must speak "uncovered"
(without a hat), except by permission of the House. Women members
may wear hats without seeking permission.
4.16 Lords Spiritual wear robes of rochet and
chimere in the Chamber. They are expected to wear robes whenever
possible in the division lobby.
4.17 Lords Spiritual must speak from the Bishops'
benches, and no Lord Temporal may speak from there.
4.18 No-one may speak from the gangways in the
4.19 Members address their speech to the House
in general and not to any individual.
Thus the expressions used are: "Your Lordships", "Your
Lordships' House" and "the noble Lord", and not
4.20 Members should not bring into the Chamber:
- books and newspapers
(except for papers specifically related to the debate);
- unopened correspondence;
- briefcases and ministerial boxes.
4.21 Exhibits should not be taken into the Chamber
or produced in debate, whether to illustrate a speech or for any
USE OF ELECTRONIC DEVICES
4.22 Members and officials may use hand-held
electronic devices (not laptops) in the Chamber and Grand Committee
for any purpose, provided that they are silent and are used with
discretion. Members making speeches may refer to electronic devices
in place of paper speaking notes, subject to the existing rule
against reading speeches (see paragraph 4.40).
4.23 Members may use hand-held electronic devices
to send or receive messages for use in proceedings. They may be
used to access documents and information for use in debate.
4.24 Electronic devices may be used silently
in select committee meetings, subject to the discretion of the
Chairman of the committee on a meeting-by-meeting basis.
4.25 Debate must be relevant to the Question
before the House; and where more than one Question has been put,
for example on an amendment, the debate must be relevant to the
last Question proposed until it has been disposed of.
4.26 When two or more members rise to speak,
the House determines who is to speak. This may, if necessary,
be decided upon a motion that one of the members "be now
heard". It is customary for speakers from different parties
or parts of the House to take turns.
4.27 For most debates a list of speakers is issued
by the Government Whips' Office
and is available from that Office, and also from the Printed Paper
Office, the Prince's Chamber and Peers' Lobby. This list is drawn
up after consultation through the usual channels. Members wishing
to speak should put their names on the speakers' list at any time
before 12 noon on the day of the debate, or 6 p.m. on the previous
day if the House is sitting in the morning. Members should remove
their names from the list if they become aware in advance that
they are unlikely to be able to stay until the end of a debate
(see paragraph 4.34).
4.28 Any member whose name is not on the published
list may still take part, if time allows, by speaking "in
the gap", that is, before the winding-up speeches. They should
inform the Table of their wish to do so, and have their name added
in manuscript to the list. Any such speaker is expected to be
brief (not longer than 4 minutes),
and should not take up time allotted to the winding up speeches
(for which see paragraph 6.63). Members speaking in the gap are
subject to the same rules on attendance at debate as members whose
names are included in the speakers list.
4.29 It is not in order for a member to speak
after the mover of a motion or an amendment has exercised his
or her right of reply, except when the House is in committee.
It is not in order for members to continue the debate on a motion
or a question for short debate after the government's reply has
been given, save for questions to the minister "before the
minister sits down".
4.30 When at the end of a debate the Question
has been put, no member may speak save on a point of order.
4.31 A member of the House who is speaking may
be interrupted with a brief question for clarification. Giving
way accords with the traditions and customary courtesy of the
House. It is, however, recognised that a member may justifiably
refuse to give way, for instance, in the middle of an argument,
or to repeated interruption, or in time-limited proceedings when
time is short. Lengthy or frequent interventions should not be
made, even with the consent of the member speaking.
4.32 In the case of motions, no member may speak
more than once, except the mover in reply, or a member who has
obtained the leave of the House. Such leave may be granted only
- a member to explain
a material point of their speech, without introducing any new
- the Chairman of Committees, or in his absence
a Deputy Chairman, and the chairman of a select committee on the
report of such a committee;
- a minister of the Crown.
4.33 When the House is in committee there is
no restriction on the number of times a member may speak.
4.34 A member of the House who is taking part
in a debate (including general debates and debates on amendments
or motions) should attend the start, end and greater part of that
In addition, it is considered discourteous for members not to
be present for at least the opening speeches, the speeches before
and after their own, and for the winding-up speeches. Ministers
may decide not to answer, orally or in writing, points made by
a speaker who does not stay to hear the minister's closing speech.
Members who believe that they are unlikely to be able to stay
to the end of a debate should not seek to participate in it (and
if the debate has a speakers' list, should remove their names
from the list).
4.35 There are reasons for these customs. Members
who have missed the speeches before their own will not know what
has already been said and so points may be repeated or missed.
Members who leave soon after speaking are lacking in courtesy
to others, who may wish to question, or reply to, points they
have raised. Debate may degenerate into a series of set speeches
if speakers do not attend throughout.
4.36 It is, however, recognised that some members
may have commit-ments related to the committee work of the House
which may prevent them from being able to attend as much of the
debate as might otherwise be expected.
4.37 The House has resolved "That speeches
in this House should be shorter".
Long speeches can create boredom and tend to kill debate.
4.38 In debates where there are no formal time
limits, members opening or winding up, from either side, are expected
to keep within 20 minutes. Other speakers are expected to keep
within 15 minutes. These are only guidelines and, on occasion,
a speech of outstanding importance, or a ministerial speech winding
up an exceptionally long debate, may exceed these limits.
For length of speeches in time-limited proceedings see paragraph
6.63; in questions for short debate see paragraph 6.47.
4.39 Clocks are installed under the galleries
to time the length of speeches. The clocks are used principally
- the length of speeches
in all debates except debates on amendments and in Committee of
the whole House;
- the time taken on amendments at all stages and,
in Committee of the whole House, on debates on the Question that
a clause or Schedule stand part of the bill;
- the total time taken for oral questions and debates
on delegated legislation;
- for ministerial statements, the length of the
statement itself, the frontbench exchanges and the backbench exchanges.
4.40 The House has resolved that the reading
of speeches is "alien to the custom of this House, and injurious
to the traditional conduct of its debates".
It is acknowledged, however, that on some occasions, for example
ministerial statements, it is necessary to read from a prepared
text. In practice, some speakers may wish to have "extended
notes" from which to speak, but it is not in the interests
of good debate that they should follow them closely.
4.41 Languages other than English should not
be used in debate, except where necessary. The use of the Welsh
language is permitted for the purpose of committee proceedings
held in Wales.
4.42 Visitors should not be referred to, whether
in the public gallery or in any other part of the Chamber, except
for the purpose of a motion for the withdrawal of all visitors.
4.43 When speaking in the House, members speak
for themselves and not on behalf of outside interests. They may
indicate that an outside body agrees with the substance of their
views but they should not read out extended briefing material
from such bodies.
REFERENCES TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AND ITS MEMBERS
4.44 The House of Commons may be referred to
by name, rather than as "the other place" or "another
4.45 Members of the House of Commons are referred
to by their names, and not by reference to their constituencies.
Ministers may be referred to by their ministerial titles. Additional
descriptions such as "Right Honourable", "Honourable"
and "Learned" are not used, except when referring to
ministerial or party colleagues in the House of Commons as "Right
Honourable" or "Honourable" friends.
PERSONAL CRITICISM OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
4.46 No member of the House of Commons should
be mentioned by name, or otherwise identified, for the purpose
of criticism of a personal, rather than a political, nature. Public
activities by members of the House of Commons outside their parliamentary
duties may be referred to.
CRITICISM OF COMMONS PROCEEDINGS
4.47 Criticism of proceedings in the House of
Commons or of Commons Speaker's rulings is out of order, but criticism
may be made of the institutional structure of Parliament or the
role and function of the House of Commons (see also paragraphs
6.20 and 6.22, in relation to the wording of questions).
4.48 It is usual for a member making a maiden
speech not to be interrupted and to be congratulated by the next
speaker only, on behalf of the whole House, plus the front benches
if they wish.
It is therefore expected that a member making a maiden speech
will do so in a debate with a speakers' list, so that the House
may know that the conventional courtesies apply. In return the
maiden speaker is expected to be short (less than 10 minutes)
and uncontroversial. The maiden speaker should not take advantage
of the indulgence of the House to express views in terms that
would ordinarily provoke interruption.
4.49 Members of the House who have not yet made
their maiden speeches may not table oral questions or questions
for short debate, but may table questions for written answer.
CONDUCT IN THE HOUSE DURING MAIDEN SPEECHES
4.50 When a maiden speech is being made, and
during the following speaker's congratulations, members of the
House are expected to remain in their seats and not leave the
Chamber. Those entering the Chamber are expected to remain by
the steps of the Throne or below the Bar.
4.51 The proper ways of referring to other members
of the House in debate are given in the table on pages 71-72.
4.52 When any Peer who has a higher title than
that by virtue of which he or she sits in Parliament is named
in any record of proceedings of the House or of a committee, the
higher title alone is used. When such a Peer takes the oath of
allegiance, the title or dignity by which he or she sits in Parliament
is added in brackets.
|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
||"the noble Duke, the Duke of
||"the noble Marquess, Lord
||"the noble Earl, Lord
||"the noble Countess, Lady
||"the noble Viscount, Lord
||"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, members who have held the office of Chief of the Defence Staff, and holders of the Victoria or George Cross
||"the noble and gallant
" (service rank is not referred to)
|Law Officers of the Crown, Judges of superior courts in the United Kingdom (High Court and above), former holders of these offices or former Lords of Appeal
||"the noble and learned
|Archbishops of other Churches who are members of the House
||"the noble and most reverend Lord
|Bishops of other Churches who are members of the House
||"the noble and right reverend Lord
|Former Archbishops or Bishops who are 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)
||"my noble kinsman
" or "my noble relative
" (precise relationship is not mentioned)
4.53 When debate becomes heated, it is open to
any member of the House to move "that the Standing Order
on Asperity of Speech be read by the Clerk". Standing Order
32 can be read only on a motion agreed to by the House, and this
motion is debatable.
4.54 If in a speech a member is thought to be
seriously transgressing the practice of the House, it is open
to another member to move "that the noble Lord be no longer
heard". This motion however is very rare; it is debatable
and seldom needs to be decided on Question since members generally
conform to the sense of the House as soon as this sense becomes
4.55 The effect of agreeing to this motion is
to prohibit the member in question from speaking further on the
substantive motion, but not on any subsequent motion.
4.56 A member who does not wish the House to
record an opinion on a motion that has been moved may, at any
time during the course of the debate, move "That the House
do proceed to the next business".
It is helpful if a member who intends to move this motion gives
4.57 A Next Business motion supersedes the original
motion before the House and, if it is agreed to, the Question
on the original motion is not put, and the debate ends. If it
is disagreed to, the debate on the original motion is resumed
and the Question is put in the usual way.
4.58 The Next Business motion is debatable and,
since it cannot be debated without reference to the original motion,
the subject matter of both motions may be debated together.
4.59 The Next Business motion is not allowed
on an amendment; although, after an amendment has been agreed
to, it may be moved on the original motion as amended. It may
not be moved in any committee of the House.
4.60 The Closure, that is, the motion "that
the Question be now put", is not debatable and so requires
an immediate conclusion. If carried, it compels the House at once
to come to a decision on the original motion. It is a most exceptional
procedure, so when a member seeks to move the Closure, the Lord
on the Woolsack or in the Chair draws attention to its exceptional
nature, and gives the member concerned the opportunity to reconsider,
by reading the following paragraph to the House before the Question
[To be read slowly] "I am instructed by order
of the House to say that the motion "That the Question be
now put" is considered to be a most exceptional procedure
and the House will not accept it save in circumstances where it
is felt to be the only means of ensuring the proper conduct of
the business of the House; further, if a member who seeks to move
it persists in his intention, the practice of the House is that
the Question on the motion is put without debate."
4.61 If the member of the House who is seeking
to move the Closure persists, the Lord on the Woolsack or in the
Chair must put and complete the Question forthwith without debate,
in the following terms: "The Question is that the Question
be now put."
4.62 If the Closure is carried:
(a) the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair
remains standing after announcing the result and immediately puts
and completes the original Question without further debate;
(b) the original Question cannot be withdrawn
because the House has decided that the Question be now put; and
(c) the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair
may not put any other Question until the original Question has
been disposed of.
4.63 The privilege of freedom of speech in Parliament
places a corresponding duty on members to use the freedom responsibly.
This is the basis of the sub judice rule. Under the rule
both Houses abstain from discussing the merits of disputes about
to be tried and decided in the courts of law.
4.64 The House of Lords adopted a resolution
on sub judice on 11 May 2000. The resolution, as amended,
is as follows:
"That, subject to the discretion of the Lord
and to the right of the House to legislate on any matter or to
discuss any delegated legislation, the House in all its proceedings
(including proceedings of committees of the House) shall apply
the following rules on matters sub judice:
(1) Cases in which proceedings are active in
United Kingdom courts shall not be referred to in any motion,
debate or question.
(a) (i) Criminal proceedings are active
when a charge has been made or a summons to appear has been issued,
or, in Scotland, a warrant to cite has been granted.
(ii) Criminal proceedings cease to be active
when they are concluded by a verdict and sentence or discontinuance,
or, in cases dealt with by courts martial, after the conclusion
of the mandatory post-trial review.
(b) (i) Civil proceedings are active when
arrangements for the hearing, such as setting down a case for
trial, have been made, until the proceedings are ended by judgment
(ii) Any application made in or for the
purposes of any civil proceedings shall be treated as a distinct
(c) Appellate proceedings, whether criminal or
civil, are active from the time when they are commenced by application
for leave to appeal or by notice of appeal until ended by judgment
But where a ministerial decision is in question,
or in the opinion of the Lord Speaker a case concerns issues of
national importance such as the economy, public order or the essential
services, reference to the issues or the case may be made in motions,
debates or questions.
(2) Specific matters which the House has expressly
referred to any judicial body for decision and report shall not
be referred to in any motion, debate or question, from the time
when the Resolution of the House is passed, until the report is
laid before the House.
(3) For the purposes of this Resolution
(a) Matters before Coroners Courts or Fatal Accident
Inquiries shall be treated as matters within paragraph (1)(a);
(b) "Question" includes a supplementary
4.65 The House has agreed that the practice governing
motions and questions relating to matters sub judice should
be similar in both Houses of Parliament.
It is desirable that each House should be in the same position
to debate a sub judice matter when the circumstances warrant
4.66 The rules governing sub judice do
not apply to bills, Measures or delegated legislation or to proceedings
on them. Nor do they apply to matters being considered by departmental
inquiries and the like; but it is recognised that Parliament should
not generally intervene in matters where the decision has been
delegated to others by Parliament itself.
4.67 The Lord Speaker must be given at least
24 hours' notice of any proposal to refer to a matter which is
sub judice. The exercise of the Speaker's discretion may
not be challenged in the House.
4.68 The House has resolved that, in the opinion
of this House, the following principles should govern the conduct
of ministers of the Crown in relation to Parliament:
(1) Ministers have a duty to Parliament to account,
and be held to account, for the policies, decisions and actions
of their departments and executive agencies;
(2) It is of paramount importance that ministers
should give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting
any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who
knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation
to the Prime Minister;
(3) Ministers should be as open as possible
with Parliament, refusing to provide information only when disclosure
would not be in the public interest;
(4) Ministers should require civil servants who
give evidence before parliamentary committees on their behalf
and under their directions to be as helpful as possible in providing
accurate, truthful and full information;
(5) The interpretation of "public interest"
in paragraph (3) shall be decided in accordance with statute and
the government's Code of Practice on Access to Government Information;
and compliance with the duty in paragraph (4) shall be in accordance
with the duties and responsibilities of civil servants set out
in the Civil Service Code.
4.69 Members of the House of Lords who are members
of or employed by public boards, executive agencies or other public
bodies, whether commercial or non-commercial in character, are
not by reason of such membership debarred from exercising their
right to speak in the House of Lords, even on matters affecting
the boards of which they are members; and it is recognised that,
in the last resort, only the members concerned can decide whether
they can properly speak on a particular occasion.
Such members are subject to the normal rules on registration and
declaration of interests.
4.70 The following guidance (known as the "Addison
Rules"), based upon that given in 1951 by the then Leader
of the House, Viscount Addison, after consultation and agreement
between the parties, may be helpful to members of the House who
are considering whether or not to take part in a particular debate:
(a) when questions affecting public boards arise
in Parliament, the government alone are responsible to Parliament.
The duty of reply cannot devolve upon members of public boards
who happen to be members of the House of Lords;
(b) it is important that, except where otherwise
provided, public boards should be free to conduct their day-to-day
administration without the intervention of Parliament or ministers.
If board members who happen also to be members of the House of
Lords were to give the House information about the day-to-day
operations of the board or to answer criticism respecting it,
the House would in fact be exercising a measure of parliamentary
supervision over matters of management. It would also be difficult
for the responsible minister not to give similar information to
the House of Commons;
(c) there is no duty upon board members to speak
in any debate or to answer questions put to them in debate. Nor
should the fact that a member spoke in a particular debate be
regarded as a precedent for that member or any other member to
speak in any other debate;
(d) the foregoing applies only to debates relating
to public boards. Experience acquired as a member of a public
board will often be relevant to general debates in which the same
considerations do not arise, and the contributions of board members
who are members of the House may be all the more valuable because
of that experience.
130 Procedure 2nd Rpt 1981-82. Back
Procedure 2nd Rpt 1981-82, 1st Rpt 1987-88. Back
Report of the Select Committee on the Speakership of the House,
2005-06, paragraph 17. Back
Procedure 3rd Rpt 2005-06. Back
SO 20(2). Back
Procedure 3rd Rpt 1995-96. Back
SO 21. Back
SO 26. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1965-66, SO 26. Back
Procedure 3rd Rpt 1990-91. Back
See paragraph 1.64. Back
SO 27. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1969-70. Back
Administration and Works 2nd Rpt 2010-12. Back
SO 28. Back
Procedure 2nd Rpt 1966-67, 2nd Rpt 1971-72. Back
Procedure 3rd Rpt 1995-96. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1978-79. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1977-78. Back
SO 29. Back
SO 30. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1969-70; 1st Rpt 1987-88; 3rd Rpt 1995-96; 1st
Rpt 1998-99; 1st Rpt 2002-03. Back
LJ (1964-65) 386. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1987-88. Back
Procedure 6th Rpt 1971-72, 1st Rpt 1982-83. Back
LJ (1935-36) 241. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1969-70, 4th Rpt 1992-93. Back
Procedure 2nd Rpt 2008-09. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1980-81. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1969-70, 4th Rpt 1992-93. Back
Procedure 2nd Rpt 1991-92, 1st Rpt 1992-93. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1969-70. Back
Procedure 2nd Rpt 2006-07. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1969-70. Back
SO 7. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1969-70, 2nd Rpt 1988-89. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1964-65, 1st Rpt 1969-70. Back
As defined in the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876. The Act was
repealed with effect from 1 October 2009, but Members who formerly
fell within the definition of "Lord of Appeal" under
that Act remain entitled to the appellation "noble and learned".
Procedure 1st Rpt 1974-75. Back
Procedure 5th Rpt 1971-72. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1960-61, 6th Rpt 1970-71. Back
Procedure 2nd Rpt 2006-07. Back
LJ (1999-2000) 389. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1963-64. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1994-95, Report of the Select Committee on the
Speakership of the House of Lords, HL Paper 92 2005-06. Back
This Code was completely superseded by the Freedom of Information Act 2000,
and had no effect after 1 January 2005. Back
HL Deb. 20 March 1997 cols 1055-62; LJ (1996-97) 404. Back
Procedure 2nd Rpt 1970-71. Back
HL Deb. 21 March 1951, col. 1241. Back