Select Committee on Procedure of the House Sixth Report

SIXTH Report of Session 2005-06 from the Procedure Committee


1.  We have considered the system of allocating Unstarred Questions. The Companion says only that an Unstarred Question "may be put down on the Order Paper for any day on which the House is sitting. It is usual for a Member to consult the Government Whips' Office to agree upon a suitable date" (paragraph 4.108).

2.  The system is operated fairly but flexibly by the Government Whips' Office, and we recommend no major change. However, to improve transparency, we recommend that Lords should table their Unstarred Question before seeking a date from the Whips' Office.

3.  The Committee has already recommended in our 5th Report (HL Paper 197) that from the start of next Session Unstarred Questions will be known as Questions for Short Debate, and will be listed separately in House of Lords Business, the successor to the Minutes of Proceedings. We remind the House that since 2004 it has been possible to take an Unstarred Question in Grand Committee.


4.  The House agreed on 24 March 2005 that "the general debate day should be moved to Thursday for an experimental period of one session". On 23 January 2006 the House agreed that, "as part of the experiment, the normal sitting time of the House on Wednesday should be put back from 2.30pm to 3pm". The time has come to review this experiment.

5.  The choice facing the House is as follows. First, the House can make the experiment permanent. This would mean:

(a) Motions continue to have precedence over legislation on Thursdays, as currently prescribed by Standing Order 41.

(b) On Wednesdays, the normal sitting time remains 3pm, and the target rising time 10pm.

(c) On Wednesdays, the normal sitting time of Grand Committee remains 3.45-7.45pm

6.  Secondly, the House can terminate the experiment. This would mean:

(a) Motions revert to having precedence over legislation on Wednesdays, but not on Thursdays. Amendments made to Standing Order 41 on 5 April 2005 would need to be undone.

(b) On Wednesdays, the normal sitting time reverts to 2.30pm. The target rising time remains 10pm.

(c) On Wednesdays, the normal sitting time of Grand Committee reverts to 3.30-7.30pm

7.  We recommend that the House should make the experiment permanent, as described in paragraph 5.

8.  The sitting pattern on Thursdays (the House sits at 11am, the target rising time is 7pm, Grand Committee normally sits 2-6pm) predates this experiment, and is not affected by it.

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