These new arrangements had been in place for only 18 sitting
weeks at the end of the period covered by this report. Six Bills
were considered in Grand Committees lasting a total of 44 hours.
This represented an increase on most previous years, but there
was a much greater increase in the use of these committees in
the months immediately following the end of the reporting year
(see paragraph 15).
In practice, with a busy legislative programme, the House
has not always adjourned by 10 pm on Monday to Wednesday and
business (other than unstarred questions) has not always been
completed by 7.30 pm on Thursdays. On 21 occasions the House
sat after 10 pm for a total of 16 hours, while on six Thursdays
business (other than unstarred questions) ran beyond 7.30 pm
for a total of 21/4 hours.
As agreed, the new arrangements will be reviewed towards the
end of the two session trial period. One particular aspect
the lunchtime adjournment of the House on Thursdays may
be subject to earlier review.
3. In view of these important changes in working practices
and the radical restructuring of the domestic Committees of
the House (see paragraph 20), a new edition of the Companion
to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House
was published in February 2003.
4. The House of Lords is one of the busiest Parliamentary
chambers in the world. It sat on 156 days in 2002, six more
than the House of Commons; and the average length of each daily
sitting in the Chamber was just under seven hours. This does
not include work in committee.
5. The proportion of time devoted to general debates
and debates on select committee reports (21%) was higher than
in some recent years. Amongst important debates was that on
the Report of the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform,
held over two days in January 2003, in which 95 Members took
part. A series of debates was held on the situation in Iraq,
one of which was in September for which the House was recalled.
6. A new procedure was established to consider Northern
Ireland Orders which come before the House for affirmative resolution
while devolved government in Northern Ireland is suspended.
These orders were referred to, and debated in, Northern Ireland
Orders Grand Committees.
7. There were 120 divisions in the House in 2002, of
which 35 resulted in Government defeats.
8. Statistics on the business of the House and the trends
in recent years are illustrated below and in Appendix D.
9. Detailed scrutiny and revision of legislation is the
most important role of the House of Lords. The House spent 52.8%
of its time on legislation and there was a high level of activity
throughout the year. 36 bills received Royal Assent and 8,457
amendments were dealt with by the House (compared with 3,433
10. Thirteen public bills received Royal Assent on the
last day of the 2001-02 session in November 2002. The four most
controversial bills were still being debated by the two Houses
just days, and in two cases only hours, before the end of the
11. The debate on the Adoption and Children Bill centred
on whether same-sex couples should have the right to adopt.
In the end, the Commons' view that they should
prevailed. Following Lords' scrutiny of the Animal Health Bill,
provisions about adjusted compensation payments were omitted;
the Secretary of State was required to publish guidelines concerning
the exercise of the power of preventative slaughter; and provisions
about biosecurity guidance, the development of a national contingency
plan and reviews of import controls were added to the Bill.
Further compromises were reached over the Enterprise Bill and
the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill (which, in October
2002, was recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House for
further detailed scrutiny because of the large number of Government
amendments tabled to the Bill).
12. Seven private members' bills received Royal Assent
between April and November 2002. Two of these had been introduced
in the House of Lords: the National Heritage Bill and the Tobacco
Advertising and Promotion Bill. The latter was, unusually, taken
up by the Government when it reached the Commons. Both Bills
reproduced in whole or in part Government Bills which had been
lost at the dissolution of Parliament in 2001.
13. In the 2002-03 session, seven major Government bills
were introduced in the Lords, including the Licensing Bill.
This Bill implements a fundamental revision of the licensing
laws covering both entertainments and the sale of alcohol. The
proposal to require a licence for any secular entertainments
(concerts, plays, etc.) provided in places of public religious
worship was heavily criticised both at Second Reading and in
Committee, and an amendment was agreed at Report to remove this
requirement. A Government defeat at Report exempted from regulation
live music in pubs and clubs if the audience was under 200 and
the performance was over by 11.30 pm.
14. Other bills introduced in the Lords included the
Sexual Offences Bill, to which almost 600 amendments had been
tabled by the start of the Committee stage in March 2003.
15. From April to November 2002, four bills were considered
in Grand Committees over a total of 17 days. Following the changes
in working practices which took effect from the new session
in November 2002 and included the intention to make greater
use of Grand Committee procedure, a further six bills were considered
in this way by the end of March 2003. Ten bills were therefore
considered in Grand Committees during the year for a total of
98 hours significantly more than in any previous year.
From April 2003, their use increased still further.
16. Private Bill activity, though low, was marginally
higher than in 2001-02, with two bills being committed to select
committees. The City of London (Ward Elections) Bill, which
had a protracted passage through the House of Commons over three
sessions, contained controversial proposals to reform the business
franchise in the City of London Ward Elections. Following a
week-long select committee hearing, the Bill was reported without
amendment, and received Royal Assent at the end of the 2002-03
session. Only three Private Bills were introduced in November
2002, and it is anticipated that there will be little Private
Bill activity for the foreseeable future.
Delegated Powers and
Regulatory Reform Committee
17. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee
reports on the appropriateness of delegated powers in bills
and regulatory reform orders. Statistics on the work of the
Committee, including the number of reports published and the
number of bills and regulatory reform orders considered, are
set out in the report of the Legislation Office (page 52). In
addition to its usual reports, the Committee published a Special
Report on Henry VIII powers4
to make incidental, consequential and similar provision. This
had been prompted by the concern expressed in the House following
the late introduction by the Government of a significant Henry
VIII power at the Third Reading of the Nationality, Immigration
and Asylum Bill (allowing the Government to amend primary legislation
by means of a statutory instrument which could be debated but
not amended by Parliament). The Special Report was debated in
the House on
14 January 2003.