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I come to the second point on which I have some reservations. I was encouraged by the fact that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds agreed with me. He did not understand why Lords spiritual were excluded from the code of conduct. I do not either. We may be coming at this from different points of view. I hope he will not take offence at this, as Members took offence when I even hinted that the Clerks might come up with suggestions, which they do from time to time. However, I would have thought that there is probably no purer example of paid advocacy in this House than the Bishops of the Church of England. They are an absolutely perfect example. They come along and argue their case. The debates and votes that they participate in are on matters that have direct relevance to the teachings, work and actions of the Church of England. With the single exception of the retired generals, they are probably the most eager advocates of their case. I hope that in the reply we will get an explanation of why the Lords spiritual are excluded from this.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I will be quick because I want to refer only to three paragraphs of the Privileges Committee's report. I played no part in the preparation of these documents, so I can be objective in congratulating all those who have been involved. However, I was involved more than 10 years ago in the Griffiths committee on the code of conduct. I disagreed profoundly with our conclusion then that we should retain this phrase in paragraph 15 of the code of conduct:

"Members of the House should ... be especially cautious in deciding whether to speak or vote in relation to interests that are direct, pecuniary and shared by few others".

The phrase,

is of ancient origin. It was devised by a committee chaired by Lord Greenwood of Rossendale in the 1960s or 1970s. It ought at that time-and ever since-to have been an unequivocal exclusion from acting in this House, just as it would be in any local authority. Yet we have, frankly, three paragraphs of equivocation. If Members have interests which are,

they should not be acting in Parliament-period.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, drew attention to the fact that I had not spoken this afternoon. The reason I have not

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spoken up to now is to see how many people would get up on this point. I am glad to say that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, got up on the point and made a very good case as to why this onerous chapter has appeared in the guidance. I thought very closely about this matter when I saw the final report and saw that there had been no alteration. I was considering putting down another amendment but decided not to do so because this House has been under pressure lately and I did not want to put it under further pressure. However, I continue to believe that the recommendation for a signature to be appended to the swearing-in ceremony that you will obey the code of conduct-which you would be expected to do anyway-may have unfortunate consequences at a later date. I can see that the House has no great objection to it and, as I welcome and support the rest of the report, we shall just have to see how it goes. However, I wanted to put on record that I still believe that such a document is unnecessary and will in time be seen to be unfortunate, and perhaps will eventually be withdrawn.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this fascinating and wide-ranging debate. However, I hope noble Lords will agree that it is time for me to try to answer the points that have been made. Although I cannot guarantee to answer every point, I shall certainly write to those whose points I have not managed to answer this afternoon.

We are most grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, for his speech. I again thank him for the report that he has produced. I agree with the noble and right reverend Lord that any investigations of noble Lords must be scrupulously fair and consistent with natural justice. The noble and right reverend Lord was dealing with the investigative process at that stage. The sub-committee will keep the guide under review and I am sure that it will bear representation in mind.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, asked me a number of questions. His first suggestion was that the guide and the code should be a single document. The Leader's Group took the view that a problem with the existing code was that it was not always self-evident what constituted a rule and what constituted advice. Therefore that group, the sub-committee and the Privileges Committee all supported the introduction of separate documents. Indeed, the House did so when we debated the report back in November.

The noble Lord was also worried about what he called the "remit creep" of the commissioner. In fact, the job description and remit have been pretty tightly drawn. If the noble Lord has not seen the job description, I can certainly let him have sight of it. He also took the view that non-parliamentary activities should be reviewed by the commissioner. They can be reviewed, but the Leader's Group report was clear that the commissioner should bite only on the code. As for the number of times that one has to declare an interest during the Committee stage of a Bill, paragraph 90 of the guide states that there may be circumstances when a noble Lord may declare more often, but this issue was dealt with back in 2008 in a Privileges Committee report agreed by the House, by the group of the noble and

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right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and by the sub-committee, whereby it would be necessary to declare an interest only once at each stage of a Bill. That matter has been dealt with. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said also that the commissioner should vet the Ministerial Code, but that goes straight against the guide and the report of the noble and right reverend Lord.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked about paragraph 29 of the guide. However, this refers to the bishops' stipend and that is why they and Ministers are specifically dealt with differently in that paragraph. It is only one paragraph of the guide.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, asked whether domicility should be included in the code. As noble Lords are only too well aware, there are currently no rules on this. They would be a matter for legislation; they may even be a matter for legislation; but if they become law they could be included in the code. At the moment, they are not included.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Does my noble friend accept that a resolution of the House would be an alternative to legislation in the event that legislation were to be delayed?

The Chairman of Committees: I am dealing with the guide to the code before us this afternoon. On those grounds, it would probably be a mistake for me to speculate. I am trying to answer as many questions as I can.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, asked about putting a register of staff in the Register of Interests. That has been done. I shall have to come back to the noble Lord with more detail on that, but we can and indeed will look at improving its accessibility and visibility.

The noble Lord also asked how individuals could give feedback on the operation of the code and the guide. The sub-committee on Lords' conduct is, as I have said, charged with keeping the guide under regular review. Therefore, I suggest that the noble Lord approaches the chairman of the sub-committee with any suggestions. He also asked about the role of the Appointments Commission and the undertaking. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, confirmed in a letter that I received from him today that the Appointments Commission will inform new Members about the code of conduct, but it would not be right to insist at that stage that the appointee should have to agree to accept the code. That will happen when the noble Lord takes his or her seat.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who is not in his place, said that this was a sad day for the House. I would make just one point in reply. We have had a code of conduct for many years; this is only a revision. I agree that the guide is new, but there is nothing new about having the code of conduct.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, referred to the investigative procedure outlined in paragraph 129. It is different because it takes account of the existence of the commissioner, and not just the sub-committee, the main committee and the House. There is an additional layer, if I may put it like that.

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The noble Lord, Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, suggested that the SSRB should follow a similar process to this. That, I am glad to say, is a matter for another day. Noble Lords will be aware that its recommendations are currently under consideration by an ad hoc group of Members chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, which will in due course report to the House Committee. There will be ample opportunity to consider the matter. One step in that direction will be debated next Monday: we will leave consideration of the issue until then.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hart of Chilton, for his support for the revisions to the guide that the sub-committee and the Committee for Privileges have made to the original recommendations from the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames. I am sure that noble Lords will agree with him.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, raised the question of financial interests that are direct, pecuniary and shared by others. He also made the point that these had been around for a long time. The only difference now is that in the guide we give some additional explanation of what these are. The noble Lord will have seen that we define "direct" as meaning that the Member could personally benefit as a result of the proceedings. "Shared by a few others" means that the Member is one of a small group of people in society who would benefit. We believe that this is a workable definition that brings clarity to this long-standing principle. The noble Lord may disagree with the definition.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not disagree with the definition, but there should be an automatic exclusion from taking part in parliamentary activities. It is perfectly clear.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I am glad that the noble Lord says that it is perfectly clear. Throughout the proceedings, we have tried to strike a balance between not discouraging noble Lords who have experience and expertise in these matters and know what they are talking about from speaking, and at the same time dealing with the matters to which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred. I believe that we have found the right balance.

Lastly, I turn to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, which was followed by that of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, and concerned the signing of the undertaking. As the noble Lord said, this was dealt with when we debated the report of the Leader's Group on 30 November and agreed the code of conduct. The undertaking is an integral part of the code of conduct that was debated at the time. As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, said in his speech, the symbolism of the signing is as important as the signing. It means reference can be made to a Member having signed on such and such a date. That is now rather an old argument. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked why we did not take any notice of those who objected to signing the undertaking. The reason is that the vast majority of people did not object to it; in fact, today a number of speakers have said how important it is that noble Lords sign the undertaking at the same time as they take the oath. I think that the opportunity for changing that has now long passed and that therefore that battle is lost from the noble Lord's point of view.

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Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: The battle but not the war.

The Chairman of Committees: We'll see, my Lords. The noble Lord also asked-this is probably the last question that I have to answer-why the Lords spiritual were dealt with differently. As I pointed out to the right reverend Prelate, that is the case only regarding the stipend, and this applies only to paragraphs 8(c) and 8(d) of the code. In every other aspect of the code, the Lords spiritual are treated exactly the same as any other noble Lord.

I am sure that I have not answered all the questions as well as I should have done but I shall certainly write to noble Lords if that is the case. I am grateful to all those who have spoken this afternoon and, again, I commend the report to the House.

Motion agreed.

House Committee

Rules Governing the Use of Facilities

Motion to Agree

4.36 pm

Moved by The Chairman of Committees

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I have already spoken to this Motion and I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Procedure Committee: Second Report

Motion to Agree

4.36 pm

Moved by The Chairman of Committees

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, in speaking to this Motion, I shall speak also to the second Motion in my name relating to the committee's 3rd Report.

The bulk of these two reports is taken up with proposals arising out of the Lisbon treaty, which came into force on 1 December 2009, and out of government commitments made during the passage of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008.

Noble Lords will be delighted to hear that I do not propose to explain the Lisbon treaty provisions and the resulting new procedures in detail-in fact, I can see that noble Lords are voting with their feet. Indeed, as far as the Lisbon treaty is concerned, I do not feel qualified to do so, but I am delighted to see that the

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noble Lord, Lord Roper, is in his place, as he may be able to help me out if I get into difficulty. However, I will give a brief summary.

In outline, the Lisbon treaty conferred certain powers upon national Parliaments to submit so-called "reasoned opinions" to the European institutions in respect of legislative proposals which breach the principle of subsidiarity. That principle means that EU action is appropriate only if,

The treaty also established a process whereby national Parliaments may, through their national Governments, challenge recently adopted legislative Acts before the European Court of Justice, also on subsidiarity grounds.

It is not for me to comment on the merits or likely impact of these treaty provisions. The duty placed on your Lordships' Procedure Committee was simply to propose a mechanism by which the House could make effective use of these new powers. This we have done.

We expect that in the normal course of events subsidiarity questions will come before the House following a report by the European Union Committee. It will, however, be open to any Member of the House to make use of the same procedure by tabling a free-standing resolution incorporating a reasoned opinion. Noble Lords should be aware, however, that the Leader made it clear to the committee that the usual channels would decide whether to provide time to debate such free-standing Motions on a case-by-case basis, and there can be no presumption that a debate will be facilitated in every case.

The other procedures described in this report relate to parliamentary approval for the proposed use of passerelle clauses-I shall not attempt to explain these but they are described in the report-and to scrutiny by the European Union Committees of the two Houses of possible decisions by the United Kingdom to opt in to proposals in the field of justice and home affairs. The latter proposals arise out of commitments made on behalf of the Government by the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton of Upholland, in June 2008.

I do not intend to say more about these Lisbon-related proposals at this stage, other than to assure noble Lords that the powers described in the 2nd report may be exercised by each House wholly independently. This House may play its "yellow" or "red" card, irrespective of what the other place does. Similarly, the approval of this House, as well as the other place, is required before the United Kingdom may support a passerelle decision within the European Council.

It may be helpful if I now turn briefly to the 3rd report. This proposes new terms of reference for the EU Committee, a revised scrutiny reserve resolution, and a wholly new resolution covering scrutiny of opt-in decisions. The changes to the terms of reference and the scrutiny reserve resolution are largely technical in nature, but are necessary to bring them into line with the revised treaties.

I now turn to the other matters covered in the two reports. The points in the 2nd report most likely to be of interest to noble Lords are the committee's recommendations on Private Notice Questions, and the revised guidance on Motions and Questions, which

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we have adopted with a view to its inclusion in the forthcoming new edition of the Companion. On PNQs, we have recommended that the Lord Speaker's decision in respect of the admissibility of PNQs henceforth be made final. The present procedure for an appeal to the House against the Lord Speaker's decision, which replicates the procedure that used to apply when the Leader of the House made the preliminary decision, is, frankly, unworkable. The Lord Speaker is unable to defend her decision on the Floor of the House, and there is no one who appropriately can speak on her behalf, nor is there any way in which the House can, formally, make its views known.

As the report states, there was no consensus on how to address these problems. However, the majority view of the Committee was that the Lord Speaker's decision should be made final. We have a Lord Speaker; she has certain duties assigned to her by the House, and most Members of the Committee felt that on this particular issue, which creates real difficulty for her in performing those duties, we should trust her to get on with it without second-guessing her decision. That is the essence of our recommendation.

Turning to the guidance on Motions and Questions, we were particularly grateful to the Clerk of the Parliaments for bringing forward this major revision and consolidation of all the available rules and guidance. We believe that this new guidance, once incorporated in the new edition of the Companion, which is almost ready for publication, will be of enormous assistance to noble Lords, their researchers and assistants and staff of the House. I emphasise that there is nothing new in the guidance. It is a summary of existing rules and conventions, but set out in a much more comprehensive, coherent and helpful way. The new guidance does not affect the fundamental principle that noble Lords will remain responsible for the content of their Questions, subject to the sense of the House.

Finally, I wish to touch briefly on the second item covered in our 3rd report-our recommendation that the time limit within which Questions for Written Answer are expected to be answered should be changed from the present fortnight to 10 working days. This is a small but significant change that will not affect the vast majority of QWAs, but which will help Government departments to produce timely answers on those occasions-chiefly the Christmas and New Year holidays and perhaps, to a lesser extent the Easter Recess, when two or more bank holidays fall close together.

Lord Roper: My Lords, I had not intended to speak but on behalf of the European Union Committee, I thank the Procedure Committee and the Leader of the House for all the work that they have put in to bring these proposals forward. That has required a lot of work and a number of meetings, which will enable our committee to do our task of scrutiny more effectively in future.

The Chairman of Committees: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Roper, and I am grateful that he was here just in case anybody else should have asked questions about the Lisbon treaty, with which I have to say I am not particularly familiar. I beg to move.

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The Earl of Sandwich: I draw attention to paragraph 5.18 on page 12 regarding the guidance on Questions, which states:

"Questions do not ask about the internal affairs of another country".

I am very daunted by the footnote, which refers to Erskine May, 23rd edition, because this is clearly derived from a previous decision. I put it to the Chairman of Committees that there are a large number of Questions concerning the internal affairs of other countries. The Table Office has reminded me on occasion that Her Majesty's Government are not responsible for those internal affairs. On the other hand, Her Majesty's Government intervene in the internal affairs of other countries. The rubric regarding human rights and international conventions seems to me insufficient. I urge the Chairman of Committees and the committee to look at that again.

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