Companion to the Standing Orders and guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords


Code of Conduct

4.74  The declaration and registration of interests is governed by a Code of Conduct. The full text of the Code is set out in Appendix A (page 206). The purpose of the Code, which applies to all members of the House who have not taken leave of absence, is:

Personal conduct

4.75  Members of the House:

Register of Interests

4.76  A register of interests is maintained under the authority of the Clerk of the Parliaments by a Registrar appointed by him. The register is published annually. An up-to-date register is available in loose-leaf form for inspection by members at the Table of the House, in the Table Office and in the Library and by the public in the Search Room of the Parliamentary Archives. It is also available on the parliamentary website at

Registration and declaration of relevant interests

4.77  Members of the House must:

What is a relevant interest?

4.78  The test of relevance is whether the interest might reasonably be thought by the public to affect the way in which a member of the House of Lords discharges his parliamentary duties. The test of relevant interest is therefore not whether a member's actions in Parliament will be influenced by the interest, but whether the public might reasonably think that this might be the case.

4.79  Relevant interests include both financial and non-financial interests. The Code of Conduct lists (in paragraphs 12 and 15) a range of financial and non-financial interests which are always relevant, and (in paragraphs 13 and 16) other financial and non-financial interests which may be relevant.

4.80  Members of the House should be especially cautious in deciding whether to speak or vote in relation to interests that are direct, pecuniary and shared by few others.[160]


4.81  The operation of the register is overseen by the Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests of the Committee for Privileges and the Registrar consults the Sub-Committee when necessary. The Registrar is available to advise members of the House. A member who acts on the advice of the Registrar in determining what is a relevant interest satisfies fully the requirements of the Code of Conduct.

Enforcement of the Code of Conduct

4.82  Allegations from members of the House of non-compliance with the Code are dealt with as follows:

Members of public boards (The Addison Rules)

4.83  Members of the House of Lords who are members of public boards, 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. By custom, members should inform the House of their interests if they decide to speak.[161]

4.84  The following guidance, 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:[162]

    (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 the board member to speak in any debate or to answer questions put to him 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.

Employees of public boards

4.85  Members of the House of Lords employed by public boards or nationalised undertakings are not thereby debarred from exercising their rights of speech in the House, even when the subjects under discussion affect the particular boards in whose employment they are engaged. If members so employed should entertain a view different from that of the boards to which they belong, they should not speak at all during debates in the House relating to those boards. In conformity with accepted custom, members should inform the House of their interests if they wish to intervene during such debates.[163]

160   Procedure 2nd Rpt 2003-04; Privileges 1st Rpt 2003-04. Back

161   Procedure 2nd Rpt 1970-71. Back

162   HL Deb. 21 March 1951, col. 1241. Back

163   HL Deb. 6 May 1947, col. 373. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007