Annual Report and Accounts 1998-99

Annual Report 1998-99

Part I - Review of the Year


1.  This Annual Report for the period 1 April 1998 to 31 March 1999 covers the work of the House of Lords as well as the administration of the House which supports that work.

2.  Part I describes some of the more significant events of the year: the business conducted in the Chamber and in Committees; changes in the membership of the House; important aspects of the administration of the House; and how the House managed and spent the money voted for it.

3.  Part II describes the purpose and organisation of each of the offices which contribute to the administration of the House, their main activities over the year and their financial performance.

4.  Appendices B to G provide comprehensive statistics and other information on the business and composition of the House over the year and on the staff complement.

5.  Pages 47 to 75 set out the five House of Lords Accounts for the year ended 31 March 1999. Significant financial developments and trends are summarised in paragraphs 56 to 69.

6.  The Report was approved by the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee of the House of Lords Offices Committee, one of four Sub-Committees which oversee and are responsible for the domestic affairs of the House-such as expenditure, accommodation and the upkeep of the Palace of Westminster, staffing levels, salaries and conditions of service. The Offices Committee, which oversees the administration of the House, is presided over by the Chairman of Committees, Lord Boston of Faversham. The Sub- Committees and their Chairmen are set out in Appendix A.

Business of the House


7.  The House of Lords was exceptionally busy in 1998 and in the early months of 1999. The House sat on more days (163 compared to only 125 in 1997 (an election year)) and for longer hours (1,211 compared to 816 in 1997) than in any 12 month period in its history 1 .

8.  The House sat on 12 Fridays in 1998 (7 in 1997) and on 89 days until after 10 pm (47 in 1997). The average length of each day's sitting rose to 7 hours 26 minutes. This too broke all previous records. These statistics and the trends in recent years are illustrated below.


9.  Consideration of Government bills dominated the business of the House. They occupied 670 hours in 1998 (330 hours in 1997-an election year), representing 55 per cent (40 per cent in 1997) of the time of the House. 5,106 amendments were tabled to bills brought from the Commons, of which 2,019 were agreed by the House. 2,658 amendments were tabled to bills introduced in the Lords, of which 953 were agreed.

10.  In the last few months of the long 1997-98 session, the House considered a number of complex and important bills, notably those to establish the Scottish Parliament and the Assemblies in Northern Ireland and Wales, which attracted 1,130, 750 and 712 amendments respectively, and the School Standards and Framework Bill, to which almost 1,000 amendments were tabled. The lengthy consideration of these and other bills in the summer of 1998 led to a long spillover period in the autumn and a correspondingly late start to the 1998-99 session.

11.  There were two particularly controversial bills, the Teaching and Higher Education and European Parliamentary Elections Bills. The passage of each of these bills through Parliament ended in a protracted series of disagreements between the Houses (``ping pong''). In the case of the former a compromise was eventually arrived at. In the case of the latter no agreement was reached before the end of the 1997-98 session and the Bill was lost. When it was reintroduced in the 1998-99 session the Bill was defeated on second reading and was subsequently enacted under the Parliament Acts. This was the first time a bill had been enacted in this way since 1991 and only the fifth time the Parliament Act procedure had been used since 1911.

12.  The House was recalled on 3 September 1998 to consider all stages of the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill following the terrorist incident in Omagh in August. The bill was debated for some 11 hours.

13.  In the new session (1998-99) among the important bills to begin in the Lords were the Access to Justice and Health Bills. At the end of the period covered by this report, the House of Lords Bill, which ends membership of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage, completed its passage through the Commons. 180 Lords took part in the Second Reading debate on 29 and 30 March which lasted some 24 hours-the highest number of speakers and the longest debate recorded.

14.  There were 29 Government defeats on public legislation during the period (16 in 1997-98)-a significantly higher figure than in recent years.

15.  Despite the pressure of business, little use was made of committees on legislation off the floor of the House; only 2 bills were considered in a Grand Committee, and none in any other form of committee.

16.  There was once again little private bill work. Although 10 bills were deposited in November 1998, only 3 petitions were deposited against them, and a select committee was appointed to consider only one opposed bill (the Tamar Bridge Bill).

Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee

17.  The Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, which reports on the appropriateness of delegated powers in bills and which has no parallel in the House of Commons, had an exceptionally busy year, despite the fact that few draft deregulation orders were laid before Parliament. The Committee made 30 reports to the House. Its recommendations are almost always accepted by all sides of the House. During the year the Committee's work developed in response to specific requests from members of the House: it issued reports on amendments tabled by the Government and submitted evidence to the Joint Committee on the draft Financial Services and Markets Bill. The House has subsequently agreed to the Committee's involvement in pre-legislative scrutiny of delegated powers in draft bills.

Debates and Questions

18.  Given the amount of legislation before the House, the proportion of time devoted to general debates and debates on Select Committee reports declined markedly from 24 per cent in 1997 to 16 per cent in 1998. There were, however, some important and lengthy debates. A two day debate on the Government's proposals for reform of the House was held in October attracting 108 speakers and lasting for 14 hours. In November, during the debate on the Queens Speech, a further day was set aside for constitutional and legal affairs and this attracted 36 speakers. Following publication of the Government's White Paper, Modernising Parliament: Reforming the House of Lords (Cmnd 4183), in January 1999, a further two day debate was held in February which attracted 99 speakers and lasted for 15 hours.

19.  The time spent debating unstarred questions continued to grow (99 hours in 1998 compared to 75 hours in 1997). This procedure enables Lords to probe Government policy on a wide range of issues. There was also a 56 per cent increase in the number of written questions tabled. 4,149 were tabled in 1998 (compared with 2,653 in 1997) and the number has continued to grow in 1999. The rapid growth in these questions in recent years is illustrated below.


20.  The growth in the number of investigative select committees since June 1997 continued throughout the period.

21.  The European Communities Committee, with six Sub-Committees on which some 70 Lords serve, made 19 reports on important proposals and areas of European Union policy. Those entitled ``The European Central Bank: will it work?'' and ``Future Financing of the EU: who pays and how?'' attracted much interest in the House and in the United Kingdom press and in Brussels. The Committee joined the House of Commons European Legislation Committee in hosting the twice yearly Conference of European Affairs Committees. This was held in Church House, Westminster, and was attended by 22 committees from the 15 EU Member States, as well as representatives from the 11 applicant countries.

22.  The Science and Technology Committee made five reports to the House, two of which-those on Cannabis: the scientific and medical evidence and the Management of nuclear waste-attracted much interest. Lord Winston succeeded Lord Phillips of Ellesmere as Chairman.

23.  Two ad hoc committees were appointed: one on the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, chaired by Lord Peston; the second, a Joint Committee on the draft Financial Services and Markets Bill. The Joint Committee, which appointed Lord Burns as Chairman, marked the first involvement of the House in pre-legislative scrutiny. It was appointed on 1 March 1999 and was required to report by the end of April. Subsequently, the timetable was extended and the Committee was required to report on certain parts of the draft bill by the end of May. Thereafter, the Bill was introduced into the House of Commons in June.

24.  The Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, appointed in June 1997 to establish what privileges and immunities were needed to enable Parliament to discharge its functions in the 21st century, made its final report in March 1999.

25.  Increased committee activity has placed heavy demands on the staff of the Committee Office, and a review of the Office concluded that a significant increase in staff, from 23 to 31 posts at various grades, was desirable. Work is in hand to implement these recommendations.


26.  Amongst the issues considered by the Procedure Committee was the question of whether the disclosure by a Minister that the Queen had no objection to the Succession to the Crown Bill was contrary to the rule that the use of the Queen's name to influence a debate in the House was inconsistent with the independence of Parliament. The Committee held that the rule should continue to be observed; but exceptional circumstances, such as the Bill in question, could make it desirable to depart from the application of the rule. The Committee also followed the Commons' Modernisation Committee in recommending that the rule prohibiting quotation in one House of speeches made in the other in the current session should be dropped.

27.  After prolonged debate both in the Committee and subsequently on the floor of the House, it was agreed that the Lord Chancellor should be able to speak from the Government Front Bench instead of the Woolsack when speaking as a Government Minister and that he might make certain changes to his formal dress.

28.  The Procedure Committee also agreed to a proposal of the Leader of the House that a Working Group should be appointed to consider how the procedures of the House could be improved within the existing framework of self regulation. This followed complaints that conduct in the House and adherence to its procedures had deteriorated. The Group, chaired by Baroness Hilton of Eggardon, reported in February 1999 and made a wide range of recommendations. Amongst those subsequently agreed by the Procedure Committee were:

-  There should be a second topical question each week; and Lords should be limited to one Starred (oral) Question on the Order Paper at any one time.

-  Marshalled lists of amendments and lists of groupings of amendments should be made available on the day before debate in the Chamber.

-  Time for divisions should be extended from six minutes to eight.

The Committee also endorsed the Working Group's reminders of the various courtesies which should be observed in the House.

Judicial Business

29.  There continued to be 12 Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. Lord Browne-Wilkinson succeeded Lord Goff of Chieveley as senior Law Lord. The Law Lords heard 75 appeals and determined 273 petitions during the year, in both cases an increase on the previous year. Further statistics are given in Part II (page 25).

30.  In April 1998 the Clerk of the Parliaments referred to an Appeal Committee the matter of the taxation of costs in certain appeals where the appellants were in receipt of criminal legal aid. In the reference the Clerk of the Parliaments invited the Committee to consider, inter alia, what was the measure by reference to which counsel's fees payable out of public funds in criminal matters should be assessed; what was fair and reasonable remuneration for the work done; and whether the fees charged by counsel in these appeals were proper and, if not, at what figure each should be taxed. The issue attracted much media interest. The matter was heard in June by an Appeal Committee consisting of five Lords of Appeal. The Bar Council, the Law Society and the Lord Chancellor's Department were represented in addition to the individual counsel involved. The Committee's report set out a number of significant new criteria for the guidance of the Taxing Officer which have been incorporated in a new practice direction.

31.  The media-both in the UK and worldwide-showed unprecedented interest in the Crown's appeal in the case of Senator Pinochet on the interpretation and scope of immunity enjoyed by a former head of state from arrest and extradition (see paragraph 49). Uniquely, the House vacated its first judgment following a hearing into the complaint by Senator Pinochet's lawyers that one of the members of the Appellate Committee ought not to have sat because of his connection with one of the interveners. Following this, the appeal was referred for re-hearing before a differently constituted Appellate Committee of seven Law Lords. The relevant Committee reports are available on the Internet, as are all House of Lords judgments.

Register of Interests

32.  The Register of Lords' Interests was republished in February 1999. The continuously up-dated Register is available for consultation in the House and on the Internet. The Government decided that it was appropriate for Ministers to make entries in the Register in addition to their obligation to abide by the rules set out in the Ministerial Code. It was also agreed that Ministers who wished to place on record such matters as visits or gifts should do so by means of a letter to the Registrar, which would be available for public inspection. Lord Nolan replaced Lord Griffiths as Chairman of the Sub-Committee of the Committee for Privileges on Lords' Interests, but the Sub-Committee did not meet since no allegation of failure or of breach of the rules was put to it.

Overseas Relations and International Assemblies

33.  The recent growth in contacts between the House and overseas parliaments and international assemblies continued.

34.  The Lord Chancellor was represented by Lord Tordoff, Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, at the annual meeting of European Speakers, held in Stockholm in June 1998. Visits from overseas parliaments included those by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee from Victoria, Australia, and the Chairman and other Members of the Czech Senate.

35.  Members of the House continued to serve on the UK delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and to other assemblies. In November 1998 the Annual Session of the North Atlantic Assembly was held in Edinburgh. In January 1999 Lord Russell-Johnston was elected President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

36.  At official level, the Clerk of the Parliaments continued as President of the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments and attended meetings in Namibia and Moscow. Officials joined with Commons' officials in the development of a British Parliamentary Co-operation programme for staff of the two Houses of the Russian Parliament and an exchange of views between personnel and training officers took place.


37.  Thirty-six Life Peers were created and the total number of those entitled to sit rose from 1,273 to 1,290. The percentage of Peers by succession as a total of the House has declined from 63 per cent in 1997 to 58 per cent in 1999. (See Appendix C for full details.)

38.  The average daily attendance at the House continued to rise significantly. In 1998 it was 428; and between January to March 1999 it increased to 458. These figures and recent trend are illustrated below.

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