Members leaving the House - Procedure Committee Contents

Fifth Report Of Session 2010-12 From The Procedure Committee

Members leaving the House

1.  The report of the Leader's Group on Members Leaving the House was published on 13 January 2011.[1] The Group made a number of recommendations, both on strengthening the existing leave of absence scheme, and on the introduction of a scheme of "voluntary retirement" from the House.

2.  On the same day as the report was published, the Leader of the House made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

"I have today published the report of the Leader's Group on Members Leaving the House. The group, chaired by Lord Hunt of Wirral, was set up in July 2010 to look into ways to identify options for allowing Members to leave the House of Lords permanently.

The report proposes a number of sensible and business-like steps that the House can take forward—without recourse to legislation—to enable Members to step down from participation. The report also endorses the Government's view that any such moves should not create additional costs to the taxpayer.

I intend to act quickly to take forward the group's key recommendations. I will therefore ask the Procedure Committee to come forward with proposals that can be put to the House so that: arrangements for leave of absence are immediately strengthened in order to encourage those who, for whatever reason, are unable to play a full part in the work of the House, to step down from active membership; and a scheme is established to allow Members to give notice of their intention to retire from membership of the House permanently on a voluntary basis."[2]

3.  This report accordingly brings forward proposals to implement the recommendations of the Leader's Group. We have not re-examined the issues underlying the Group's findings; instead we have translated the Group's recommendations into text that will, if agreed by the House, be included in future editions of the Companion to the Standing Orders (see Appendix 1). For comparison, the current Companion text on leave of absence is given in Appendix 2.

4.  We have also proposed amendments to Standing Order 22 on leave of absence (see Appendix 3). These amendments do not refer to voluntary retirement, which, as the Leader's Group described it, would be an informal scheme, designed to allow any member to "give notice of his or her wish permanently to leave the membership of the House."[3]

6.  We have not considered those elements of the Leader's Group's recommendations, such as provision to override the entitlement to a Writ of Summons, a scheme of "associate membership", or extension of the parliamentary franchise to retired Members,[4] which would require primary legislation. Nor have we considered the financial aspects of any scheme for voluntary retirement, which, were the House to agree to this report, would be a matter for the House Committee. In other words, what we propose is only the outline of what may in due course become a more formal and detailed scheme. Nevertheless, we believe that the proposals set out in the Appendices to this report are workable, and represent an important step forward for the House.

7.  We invite the House to agree the changes to the leave of absence scheme, the proposed scheme for voluntary retirement, and the amendments to Standing Order 22, set out in Appendices 1 to 3 of this report.

8.  If this report is agreed to, the proposed scheme for voluntary retirement will come into effect immediately. If the House agrees the amendments to Standing Order 22, the extension of the notice period for termination of leave of absence, from one to three months, will also take effect immediately. The new arrangements whereby the Clerk of the Parliaments writes to Members who attend the House very infrequently will in practice be implemented with effect from the start of the next session, in spring 2012.

1   HL Paper 83. The Group's Interim Report (HL Paper 48) had previously been debated in the House, on 16 November 2010 (HL Deb., cols 673-711). The Group was chaired by Lord Hunt of Wirral; the remaining members were Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Baroness Murphy, Baroness Scott of Needham Market and Baroness Sharples. Back

2   HL Deb., 13 January 2011, WS 207-208. Back

3   Report of the Leader's Group on Members Leaving the House, paragraph 31. Back

4   Ibid., paragraphs 31, 43 and 60. Back

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