Annual Report and Accounts 2000-01




1.  The House of Lords is now one of the busiest Parliamentary chambers in the world. The year 2000 was exceptionally busy. The House sat during more weeks (40) and on more days (169) than in any year on record (significantly more than the House of Commons (36 weeks and 160 days)), and for a record number of hours (1,261).

2.  The heavy legislative programme in the 1999-2000 session required the House to return after the summer recess in September 2000, four weeks before the House of Commons, for a 10 week "spillover" period. With the House of Commons not sitting, attention focussed on the work of the House: a number of important Government statements were made, including those on the fuel blockade and developments in Serbia and Sierra Leone.

3.  In view of the pressure of legislation, a proposal was put forward to move the general debate day from Wednesday to Thursday for an experimental period so as to allow the consideration of legislation to be concentrated at the beginning of the week. The proposal was defeated in the House on 23 January 2001.

4.  Statistics[1] on the business of the House and the trends in recent years are illustrated below and in Appendix C.


5.  Detailed scrutiny and revision of legislation is the most important role of the House of Lords. In 2000, 61.1% of the time of the House was taken up by the consideration of Government Bills.

6.  Session 1999-2000. As last year's Annual Report[2] suggested, the 1999-2000 session proved very heavy. Record numbers of amendments were tabled (11,020) and agreed to (4,761), exceeding the previous record set in the 1998-99 session. Four bills (the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums; the Financial Services and Markets; the Countryside and Rights of Way; and the Transport Bills) attracted well over 1,000amendments each. The congestion of the timetable meant that prorogation was delayed until 30 November, and pressure of time made the Government receptive to certain amendments brought forward by back-bench Members and opposition parties in the Lords in the latter months of the session.

7.  The House maintained its disagreement with the Commons on certain key issues which had arisen in the period covered by last year's report. Introduced in the Lords, the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill - which sought to restrict the use of jury trial - was the subject of a wrecking amendment at committee stage in the early part of the session. Re-introduced in the Commons, the Bill was rejected by the Lords at Second Reading in September 2000, and was not re-introduced in the 2000-01 session. Early in the session the Lords had struck out a provision in the Local Government Bill to repeal section 28 of the Local Government Act 1986 which prevents local authorities from promoting homosexuality. The Commons re-instated it but later in the session the Lords disagreed to the Commons amendment and the Commons did not insist upon it, as this would have resulted in the whole Bill being lost. The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, which reduced the age at which a person may consent to homo-sexual acts from 18 to 16, was re-introduced having been rejected by the Lords in the previous session. Although given a Second Reading in April, the Bill was radically amended in committee in November and received Royal Assent in the form agreed by the Commons under the Parliament Acts at the end of the session without having been further discussed.

8.  The House had a major impact on a number of other bills. An amendment to the Transport Bill sought to delay the privatisation of the National Air Traffic Service until after a General Election. This, and an amendment on employees' pension entitlements, became the subject of "ping-pong" between the Houses at the very end of the session. By way of compromise, the Government agreed to delay privatisation by at least three months and the Lords did not then insist on their original amendment. In response to Lords scrutiny, proposals to withdraw social security benefits on the basis of an unproven allegation of a breach of a community penalty were dropped from the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill; safeguards on privacy relating to e-mail interceptions were written into the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill; and undertakings were secured that the scope of the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill would be amended in the Commons so as to extend the indirect discrimination provisions of the 1976 Act to public authorities. There were many more such examples.

9.  Session 2000-01. Fewer and, for the most part, less controversial bills were introduced in the 2000-01 session. But the possibility of a General Election in the spring of 2001 and the late start of the session meant that the House continued to sit late as the legislative programme developed. Proceedings on the Hunting Bill attracted most publicity. The Bill had been introduced in the Commons in a form which allowed that House a choice between three options: a ban, self-regulation and licensed hunting of wild mammals with dogs. The Commons chose a ban and the Bill as sent to the Lords accordingly contained only that provision. Procedures were adapted at committee stage to allow the House to vote on the same three options. The Lords voted for the self-regulation option and struck out the ban. It had been intended to re-commit the bill for detailed scrutiny after the votes on the options. But the dissolution of Parliament in May brought proceedings on the Bill to an end.

10.  There were 189 divisions in the House in 2000, of which 36 were Government defeats, compared with 101 divisions and 30 defeats in 1999.

11.  Committees on Legislation. In the period covered by this report, seven bills were considered off the floor in Grand Committees which sat for 50 hours in all. In the case of the Transport Bill, the Grand Committee met to consider Government amendments only and the Bill was then re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House. There was no pre-legislative scrutiny of draft bills by select committees.

12.  The Capital Allowances Bill, the first bill to have been drafted as part of the Tax Law Rewrite Project to simplify tax legislation, was introduced in the Commons in January. It had been agreed that tax law rewrite bills would be committed to a Joint Committee appointed for the duration of the Parliament. By agreement between the Houses, in view of the fiscal nature of the legislation, the Joint Committee had a Commons majority and the Chairman had powers of selection of amendments. In the event, after three meetings conducted broadly on the same lines as those of the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, the Bill was reported without amendment. Certified as a Money Bill, the proceedings in the Lords were largely formal.

13.  There was very little Private Bill work. Only two bills were deposited in November 2000 and no petitions were deposited against bills.

14.  The new format for publishing bills and Acts of Parliament, agreed in 1999, was introduced gradually early in the 2000-01 session. Each bill was converted into the new format when it reached the second House and every Act in the statute book for 2001 will be in the new format. Alterations were designed to make navigation easier and improve readability, particularly in electronic form on the Internet, by (for example) replacing marginal notes with bold textual headings, more informative page headings and a larger typeface.

Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee

15.  The Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, which reports on the appropriateness of delegated powers in bills and on deregulation orders had its busiest year to date. It made 43 reports (compared with 29 in 1999-2000) and reported on 53 bills, a draft bill, 27 sets of Government amendments (representing a significant increase in the Committee's work), on a proposal for a deregulation order and on two draft deregulation orders.

Debates and Questions

16.  With the House principally occupied in the consideration of Government legislation for much of the early part of the year, there were fewer opportunities than usual for general debates on matters of public interest. There were very few general debates between mid-June and mid-December 2000 because Wednesdays (when these debates are usually taken) were given over to legislation. The proportion of time devoted to general debates and debates on select committee reports accordingly fell from 20% in 1999 to 14% in 2000.


17.  There was a very rapid growth in select committee activity, resulting from specific requests for the appointment of committees by Members of the House and from the first general review of committee work since 1992 carried out by the Liaison Committee. Three new sessional committees and two new ad hoc committees were appointed.

New Sessional Committees

18.  Joint Committee on Human Rights. It had been anticipated that the Committee would be set up in advance of the Human Rights Act 1998 coming into force, and a Legal Adviser to the Committee was therefore appointed in September 2000. In the event, there was a serious delay in the appointment of the Committee until January 2001. With six members from each House, the Committee appointed a Chairman from the House of Commons (Jean Corston, MP). The Joint Committee began its work with a series of hearings on the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998 and on the human rights aspects of the Criminal Justice Bill then before Parliament.

19.  Constitution Committee. The Committee was first appointed in February 2001, ìto examine the constitutional implications of all public bills before the House and to keep under review the operation of the constitutionî. Lord Norton of Louth was appointed Chairman.

20.  Economic Affairs Committee. The Committee was first appointed in March 2001. Most of its members were formerly members of the ad hoc Committee on the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, which made its final report in January 2001. Lord Peston, Chairman of the ad hoc Committee, was appointed Chairman of the new Committee.

1   Most statistics in this report relate to the calendar year 2000. In some cases they relate to the Parliamentary session 1999-2000 (November 1999 to November 2000). Financial and other statistics relate to the period 1 April 2000 to 31st March 2001. Back

2   HL Paper 104, session 1999-2000. Back

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