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
4.02 The word
"undesirable" is 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.
of the Leader of the House, Whips and Lord Speaker
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
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 of order.
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
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 1.52-56), the Lord
Speaker's function in the House is to assist, and not to rule. He 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
their 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
in the House
4.11 When the House is sitting, all members should on
entering the Chamber bow to the Cloth of Estate behind the Throne. 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 the Chair;
· 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 question time.
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 Woolsack.
4.14 Unless they are disabled, members of the House
must speak standing, except by permission of the House.
4.15 Lords Spiritual wear robes of rochet and chimere
in the Chamber, except if sitting on the steps of the Throne. They are expected
to wear robes whenever possible in the division lobby.
4.16 Lords Spiritual must speak from the Bishops'
benches, and no Lord Temporal may speak from there.
4.17 No-one may speak from the gangways in the House.
4.18 Members address their speech to the House in
general and not to any individual.
Thus the expressions used are:
"Your Lordships' House" and
"the noble Lord", and not
4.19 Members should not bring into the Chamber:
· books and
newspapers (except for papers specifically related to the debate);
· briefcases and
4.20 Exhibits should not be taken into the Chamber or
produced in debate, whether to illustrate a speech or for any other purpose.
Use of electronic devices
4.21 Members and officials may use small electronic
devices 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 rule against reading speeches (see paragraph
4.22 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.
4.23 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.
4.24 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.
4.25 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 as well as online and via the HousePapers
app. 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 6 p.m. on the previous weekday (4 p.m. if that day is a Friday). If a
speakers' list has been open for less than a sitting day the list closes at 12
noon on the day of the debate.
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
4.26 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 6.66). 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.
4.27 It is not in order for a member to speak after the
mover of a motion or an amendment has exercised their 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".
4.28 When at the end of a debate the Question has been
put, no member may speak save to raise a procedural issue.
Interruption of speeches
4.29 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.
more than once
4.30 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 to:
· a member to
explain a material point of their speech, without introducing any new subject
· the Senior
Deputy Speaker, or in his absence a Deputy Chairman, and the chairman of a
select committee on the report of such a committee;
· a minister of
4.31 When the House is in committee there is no restriction
on the number of times a member may speak.
4.32 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 debate. 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).
4.33 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.
4.34 It is, however, recognised that some members may
have commitments 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
4.35 The House has resolved "That speeches in this House should be
Long speeches can create boredom and tend to kill debate.
4.36 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
For length of speeches in time-limited proceedings see paragraph 6.66; in
questions for short debate see paragraph 6.50.
4.37 Clocks are installed under the galleries to time
the length of speeches. The clocks are used principally to record:
· the length of
speeches in all debates except debates on amendments, debates on delegated
legislation where there is no speakers list and in Committee of the whole
· 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 where there is no
ministerial statements, the length of the statement itself, the frontbench
exchanges and the backbench exchanges.
4.38 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.
other than English
4.39 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. Committees may
take oral evidence in another language, or in British Sign Language (BSL),
through interpretation; and accept written evidence originating in another
language or BSL, if accompanied by a translation into English. Such an
approach should be adopted only when the alternative would be to lose the
opportunity to hear key evidence.
4.40 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.
on behalf of outside interests
4.41 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.
in debate to the House of Commons
References to the House of Commons and its members
4.42 The House of Commons may be referred to by name,
rather than as "the
other place" or "another
4.43 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"
Personal criticism of members of the House of Commons
4.44 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
4.45 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
4.46 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 (within the
advisory speaking time or, if there is none, 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. Maiden speeches are marked as such in the Official Report.
4.47 Members of the House who have not yet made their
maiden speech may not table oral questions or questions for short debate, but
may table questions for written answer.
Conduct in the House during maiden speeches
4.48 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.
4.49 A member who has given written notice of their
resignation under section 1 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 may make a
valedictory speech before the resignation takes effect. Such speeches are
subject to the same guidance, and attract the same courtesies, as maiden
speeches. Valedictory speeches are marked in the Official Report.
4.50 The proper ways of referring to other members of
the House in debate are given in the table below.
4.51 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
most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of ..."
Bishop of the Church of England
right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of ..."
noble Duke, the Duke of ..."
noble Marquess, Lord ..."
noble Earl, Lord ..."
noble Countess, Lady ..."
noble Viscount, Lord ..."
noble Lord, Lord ..."
Baroness or Lady
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
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
noble and learned ..."
Archbishops of other churches who are members of the House
noble and most reverend Lord ..."
Bishops of other churches who are members of the House
noble and right reverend Lord ..."
Former Archbishops or Bishops who are members of the House
noble and right reverend Lord ..."
Fellow member of a political party
noble friend" (instead of one of the above descriptions)
noble kinsman ..." or
"my noble relative ..." (precise relationship is not
of speech (SO 32)
4.52 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. The motion is rare and has no procedural effect.
"That the noble Lord be no longer heard"
4.53 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
4.54 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.
Next Business motion
4.55 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". Use of this
motion is very rare and any member who intends to move it is encouraged to give
4.56 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.
4.57 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.
4.58 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
4.59 The Closure, that is, the
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."
4.60 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."
4.61 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.
4.62 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.
4.63 The House of Lords adopted a resolution on sub
judice on 11 May 2000. The resolution, as amended, is as follows:
subject to the discretion of the Lord Speaker,
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
(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
(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 or discontinuance.
(ii) Any application made in or for the purposes of
any civil proceedings shall be treated as a distinct proceeding.
(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 or discontinuance.
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); and
includes a supplementary question."
4.64 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 it.
4.65 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.
4.66 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 Lord Speaker's discretion may not be challenged
in the House.
4.67 The House has resolved that the following
principles should govern the conduct of ministers of the Crown in relation to
(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
(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.
and employees of public boards
4.68 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.
4.69 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
(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.