Select Committee on Procedure of the House First Report


  65. Enforcement of rules within a system of self-regulation is a delicate business. All Lords have a role to play, as do the Clerks.

Enforcement by members

  66. The role of the Leader of the House in articulating the sense of the House on matters of procedure is, we believe, well understood and respected by the whole House. More difficult in some ways is the role of the "duty Whip" on the Government front bench, who is responsible when the Leader is not present (Companion page 15). We recommend that, especially when the duty Whip is less experienced, Opposition front-benchers and senior back-benchers should be ready to come to his or her aid.

  67. As the Companion says, "Any Lord may call attention to breaches of order or to any laxity in observing traditional customs" (page 63). However this is not always best done by loud cries of "Order!" In some situations, e.g. when Lords move about during a maiden speech or the putting of the Question, such cries can be more disruptive than the behaviour at which they are directed. We recommend that Lords consider in such situations whether a quiet word afterwards with the Lord concerned, or with their Whip, might be more helpful.

  68. We strongly believe that all Whips should be more forward in drawing the conventions of the House to the attention of members of their own party, however senior; and that this is usually best done off the floor of the House.

Advice of the Clerks

  69. Our attention has been drawn to an occasion last year when an amendment was defeated on Report, and retabled for Third Reading against the advice of the Clerks. In the event, the Leader intervened, and the amendment was withdrawn. Nonetheless, this incident clearly shows the limits of self-regulation, and the need for restraint. The rule on Third Reading amendments, like many of our rules, is not a Standing Order, but only a recommendation of the Procedure Committee, agreed to by the House (in 1977) and enshrined in the Companion. The Clerks had no option but to give way, in the end, to a Lord who insisted on doing what the House had agreed was "undesirable".

  70. A freedom which cannot be exercised is no freedom. "Undesirable" does not mean the same as "out of order", and circumstances might arise in which such action would be justifiable. However we see no justification in this case; we urge all Lords to take the Clerks' advice in such situations.

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