Select Committee on Procedure of the House Fourth Report



BY THE SELECT COMMITTEE on Procedure of the House


1.  Hereditary peers: by-elections

  Standing Order 10 which was agreed to in July 1999 provides that after the end of an "initial period" by-elections will be held to fill any vacancies occurring by death among the 90 elected hereditary peers excepted from the provisions of the House of Lords Act 1999. Standing Order 10(5) requires the Clerk of the Parliaments to maintain and publish a register of hereditary peers (other than peers of Ireland) who wish to stand in any by-election. The Committee recommends that a procedure should be devised to ensure that the register is accurate and that those who are included in it have the right to be registered. The Committee does not believe that hereditary peers who were members of the House before the enactment of the 1999 Act need take any steps to establish their right to be included in the register. But the successors of such hereditary peers should be required to do so.

  Accordingly, the Committee recommends that the House adopt the following new Standing Order:

Register of hereditary peers Any hereditary peer, not previously in receipt of a writ of summons, who wishes to be included in the register maintained by the Clerk of the Parliaments pursuant to Standing Order 10(5) shall petition the House and any such petition shall be referred to the Lord Chancellor to consider and report upon whether such peer has established his right to be included in the register.

2.  Tax simplification bills

  Tax simplification bills are a new form of legislation proposed by the Tax Law Rewrite Project. They are intended to make the language of tax law simpler, but they preserve the effect of the existing law, subject to any minor changes which may be desirable. Such bills will normally be introduced into the House of Commons, and it is expected that the Speaker will certify them as money bills. It is proposed that a joint committee of the two Houses should consider the bills after second reading in the Commons and that the joint committee's report should be laid before both Houses.

  Given the subject matter of tax simplification bills, the Committee recommends that when the House deals with such bills:

    —  procedure in the joint committee should follow the procedure of select committees of the Commons when such procedure differs from that of select committees in the Lords, and the chairman of the joint committee should have power to select amendments to the bill;

    —  the committee stage of a tax simplification bill, being a money bill, should normally be negatived.

  It is intended that the first tax simplification bill should be introduced early next session. The Committee therefore recommends that the Joint Committee on Tax Simplification Bills should have the following orders of reference:

Joint Committee on Tax Simplification Bills
(1)That a select Committee be appointed to join with a committee appointed by the Commons as the Joint Committee on Tax Simplification Bills to consider tax simplification bills, and in particular to consider whether each bill committed to it preserves the effect of the existing law, subject to any minor changes which may be desirable;
(2)That the quorum of the committee shall be two;
(3)That the committee have leave to report from time to time;
(4)That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;
(5)That the minutes of evidence taken before the committee shall, if the committee think fit, be printed and delivered out; and
(6)That the procedure of the Joint Committee shall follow the procedure of select committees of the House of Commons when such procedure differs from that of select committees of this House, and shall include the power of the chairman to select amendments.

3.  Northern Ireland Assembly legislation

  The Northern Ireland Assembly legislates on transferred or devolved matters, and the United Kingdom Parliament has no part to play in the enactment of such legislation. However, certain matters such as policing and criminal justice, taxation and international relations, are excepted or reserved for legislation by the United Kingdom Parliament. The Northern Ireland Assembly can legislate on excepted and reserved matters with the consent of the Secretary of State.

  In such circumstances, which may be very rare, section 15 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 provides that the Secretary of State may not submit for Royal Assent a bill of the Northern Ireland Assembly touching on an excepted or reserved matter unless he has laid the bill before the United Kingdom Parliament. In an urgent case, the Secretary of State may submit the bill for immediate Royal Assent; but he must then lay the Act before both Houses at Westminster. Either way, when such a bill or Act has been laid at Westminster, each House has 20 sitting days within which a motion to oppose the bill or Act may be tabled.

  Under the Act, any such motion must be signed by at least 20 Members of the House. This is contrary to the present rules of the House which provide that "motions are tabled on the Order Paper in the name of one Member only. It is not the practice to add names of other Members in support of a motion" (Companion, paragraph 4.115). In view of the statutory requirement for at least 20 names to appear on motions opposing Northern Ireland Assembly bills and Acts, the Committee recommends that the House's usual practice should not apply to such motions. This departure from present practice would be strictly limited to motions on Northern Ireland Assembly legislation touching on excepted or reserved matters.

  The Committee recommends the following mechanism for handling these motions:

    —  when a Northern Ireland Assembly bill or Act is laid before the House, its arrival will be recorded in the Minutes, and in a new table analogous to Bills in Progress. This table will show the expiry date of the 20-day statutory period. If 20 sitting days pass and no motion is put down, the table will disappear and the House's involvement will be at an end.

    —  if within the 20 days a Member of the House tables a motion to oppose the bill or Act, the motion will be printed in No Day Named, under the following rubric:




[Signatures may be added in the Minute Room or the Public Bill Office. Under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, a motion requires 20 signatures within 20 sitting days of the laying of the Bill/Act.]

    —  signatories to the motion will, exceptionally, be listed in No Day Named. If further Members of the House add their names, they will be added to the list. Once 20 have signed, the list will be replaced with a total number.

  The following rules should apply:

    —  A signature will be required, either on a copy of the motion, or on a note clearly indicating the Lord's wish to be associated with the motion. Fax, e-mail and phone will not be acceptable.

    —  The master copy of the motion, with a consolidated list of signatures, will be kept in the Minute Room, and will be open for inspection without restriction.

    —  A Lord may withdraw his signature at any time, by giving written authority.

  If, on the 20th day, the number of signatories has not reached 20, the motion will be ineffective. If it has reached 20, the motion may be put down for a day and debated in the usual way. When the motion is put down for a day, only the name of the person who originally tabled the motion will appear on the Order Paper as the person who is to move the motion. The total number of signatures which the motion has attracted will be indicated.

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