Motions to fill Select Committee vacancies en bloc Thursday debates Marine Policy Statement Introductions Topical oral questions Oral statements - Procedure of the House Committee Contents

Third Report Of Session 2010-11 From The Procedure Committee

Motions to fill Select Committee vacancies en bloc

1.  The Chairman of Committees is already authorised to move motions to reappoint Select Committees at the start of a new session en bloc. The normal rules regarding the taking of motions en bloc apply: two sitting days' notice must be given, by means of an italic note in House of Lords Business; and if any Member objects, the motions are moved separately to the extent desired.

2.  We recommend that the same procedure, and the same safeguards, be applied to motions to fill casual vacancies on Select Committees. This will remove the need for a series of motions to be taken one at a time, as has happened on two occasions (on 22 July and 15 November) in the present session.

Thursday debates

3.  In light of the current two-year session, which will run until around Easter 2012, and the Government's plans to run annual sessions thereafter from spring to spring, the Leader of the House has proposed the following changes to the arrangements for Thursday debates:

·  That general debate days in the current session should run from the start of the session (May 2010) to the end of May 2011, and from the return of the House in October 2011 until the end of January 2012;

·  That in future sessions general debate days on Thursdays should run from the start of the session until the end of January the following year.

4.  The Clerk of the Parliaments has provided data on Thursday debates in previous one-year sessions, along with projections for the current session. These show that, allowing for unavoidable uncertainties regarding recess dates, the Leader's proposals will provide the same number of general debate days on Thursdays as the current rules:
SessionNumber of Thursday debate days Number of Government Thursdays
2006-0724 7
2007-0824 10
2008-0921 8
2010-12 (projection) 46[1] 8 (June-Sept 2011)

8[2] (Feb-March 2012)

5.  We therefore support the Leader's proposals, as set out in paragraph 3 above, and recommend them to the House.

Marine Policy Statement

6.  We have agreed that the same procedure as that applying to National Policy Statements should be applied in respect of the draft United Kingdom Marine Policy Statement, which was laid before the House on 21 July. The procedure was set out in full in our Second Report of 2008-09,[3] and is summarised in the Companion, paragraphs 10.72-10.73. It is not expected that there will be any further Marine Policy Statements.


7.  Earlier this year, following the announcement on 28 May of 56 new Peers, the House agreed that up to three introductions should be allowed on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in order to allow these new Peers to be introduced before the summer recess.[4]

8.  On Friday 19 November the Prime Minister announced a further 54 new Peers. In order to assist their timely introduction, we recommend that the House again make use of the flexibility allowed for in exceptional circumstances by paragraph 1.13 the Companion, to increase the maximum number of introductions each week to 11. This would mean a maximum of three introductions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and two on Wednesdays. We recommend that this increase in the rate of introductions should run until the House rises for the February half term recess, at which point the usual arrangements would resume.

9.  In order to minimise the impact on business, we further propose that on days where there are three introductions planned, the House should sit 15 minutes earlier than the usual sitting time (in other words, at 2.15pm on a Monday or Tuesday, and at 10.45am on a Thursday). There will be no change to Wednesday sitting times.

Topical oral questions

10.  We have considered a proposal from the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Chief Whip to increase, for the duration of the current two-year session, the limit on the number of balloted topical oral questions allowed for each Member.

11.  The limit is currently set at four topical questions per Member per session (Companion, paragraph 6.31). This limit was raised from two in 2002 when, for a trial period, the number of topical questions was increased to five per week. Even though the trial was not a success, and the number of topical questions was cut to three per week in 2004, the limit of four per member per session remained in place. The limit applies regardless of the length of the session: the same limit applied in the long 2005-06 session as in the short 2009-10 session.

12.  We agree that, in light of the exceptionally long session now under way, there should be a one-off increase in the limit. However, we are aware that, with many new Members joining the House, there is a growing pool of Members who may wish to enter the ballot for topical questions.

13.  We therefore recommend that, for the duration of the current session, the limit on the number of balloted topical oral questions should be increased to five per Member.

Oral statements

14.  We have considered a letter from Lord Jopling to the Chairman of Committees, in which he points out that the guidance in paragraph 4.32 of the Companion regarding attendance at debates (namely that it is "considered discourteous for a member not to be present for the opening speeches") does not apply to oral statements. As a result, Members of the House may come into the Chamber while a statement is being read out, and then ask questions, to the detriment of those Members who have been present throughout.

15.  We are persuaded that this is an anomaly, which should be rectified. We therefore invite the House to agree the following provision, to take effect immediately and to be incorporated in the next edition of the Companion after the present paragraph 6.07:

"As a matter of courtesy, Members who wish to ask questions on an oral statement should be present to hear the whole of the statement read out."

16.  We are conscious that the new provision will have to be applied with a degree of flexibility, given that the timing of repeated oral statements is often uncertain. We look to the front benches in particular to ensure that the new provision is applied sensitively, and in accordance with the spirit of self-regulation.

1   This assumes that no Thursdays will be required for emergency Government business. Back

2   Estimated figure, as recess dates are not known. For the purpose of making the estimate it is assumed that one Thursday will be lost for a February recess, and that prorogation will take place on Wednesday 4 April 2012 (Easter falls on Sunday 8 April). Back

3   HL Paper 165. Back

4   See Procedure Committee, First Report, session 2010-11 (HL Paper 10), agreed on 24 June 2010. Back

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