Select Committee on Procedure of the House First Report

First Report from the Select Committee on Procedure of the House




1.  The general debate day

  The Committee considered a proposal to move the general debate day from Wednesday to Thursday for an experimental period from February 2001 to the end of the present parliamentary session. There would also be, subject to agreement in the usual channels, general debates on important issues on a few Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

  Certain members of the Committee were opposed to the proposal. They reported opposition among backbenchers they had consulted.

  The Committee noted that there was opposition to the proposal, but decided that it was proper that the House itself should debate and decide the issue. If the Committee rejected the proposal, there would be no report from the Committee for the House to debate. For this reason, the Committee recommends the proposal to the House so that the House may decide.

2.  Ministerial statements

  In March 1999 the Committee recommended that "while there will be exceptions, the time for the two Opposition front benches and the reply to them should be limited to 20 minutes, as for the back benches."[1] It is difficult in practice to define the exceptions, and the reference to exceptions has been omitted from the Companion to the Standing Orders. On some recent occasions, when long statements have led to long contributions from the Opposition front bench spokesmen, the rule has led to ministers cutting short their answers to the spokesmen, in order to comply with the 20 minute limit. The Committee approves the practice of the House that statements should not be made the occasion for immediate debate. However, the Committee recommends that ministers should not cut short their replies, even if this means going beyond the 20 minute limit.

3.  En bloc appointment of sessional select committees

  The Committee recommends that the Chairman of Committees should, at the beginning of a new session, be entitled to move en bloc the motions appointing select committees, deputy chairmen and any other bodies nominated by the Committee of Selection, without the need for a Business of the House motion. There should instead be an italic notice on the Order Paper of the day informing the House that the Chairman of Committees will, unless any Lord objects, move the motions of appointment en bloc.

1   First Report (1998-99), HL Paper 33. Back

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