Leave of Absence Sub-Committee Motions relating to negative instruments Balloted Thursday debates - Procedure of the House Committee Contents

Sixth report of session 2010-12 from the procedure committee

Leave of Absence Sub-Committee

1.  Further to the House's agreement to the Committee's Fifth Report on Members Leaving the House, on 27 June 2011, we have appointed a Leave of Absence Sub-Committee. The Sub-Committee will be chaired by the Chairman of Committees, and made up of those holding the offices of Chief Whip of the three main parties and Convenor of the Crossbench Peers. The first Members of the Sub-Committee are therefore as follows:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Lord Bassam of Brighton

Lord Brabazon of Tara (Chairman)

Baroness D'Souza

Lord Shutt of Greetland

Motions relating to negative instruments


2.  We have considered a letter from Lord Knight of Weymouth to the Chairman of Committees, suggesting that it should in future be permissible to add "reasons" to a prayer to annul a negative instrument.

3.  Lord Knight draws attention to a comment in the report of the Joint Committee on Conventions in 2006, that "the most constructive way for the Lords, as the revising Chamber, to reject an SI is by motion (or amendment) incorporating a reason, making it clear both before and after the debate what the issue is." The Joint Committee also remarked in a footnote that while such reasons could, in the case of an affirmative instrument, be set out in an amendment to the motion to approve the instrument, appending such a reason to a prayer to annul a negative instrument would be "novel".[1]

4.  We believe that it would be helpful to Members and to the Government if reasons could be appended to prayers to annul negative instruments. However, we emphasise that it is for ministers to decide how to exercise powers delegated to them by Parliament, subject to whatever form of parliamentary control is set out in the primary legislation. A prayer to annul a negative instrument, if agreed to, is final and irreversible. The reasons added to such a motion should be just that—reasons explaining why it has been tabled. It would be undesirable, and indeed constitutionally inappropriate, for further conditions or requirements to be added to the motion, for instance calls that the Government should take certain steps before re-laying the instrument.

5.  We therefore propose that such "reasoned prayers" should typically take the following form: "Lord [name] to move that a Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the [title] Regulations 2011, laid before the House on [date], be annulled, on the grounds that [insert reasons]." The Clerks would be authorised to refuse to table motions which did not follow this form.

6.  We recommend that in future Members should be permitted to add reasons to prayers to annul negative instruments. Such motions should be in the form set out in paragraph 5 above.


7.  At present motions relating to negative instruments are, in accordance with Standing Order 40, required to be "entered in the Order Paper in the order in which they are received at the Table." Until recently this caused little difficulty, as such motions were relatively rare. However, in a recent case, on 22 March 2011, three motions were tabled on one instrument. The first was non-fatal (a motion of regret), the second fatal (a prayer to annul) and the third non-fatal (another motion of regret). This does not make sense: a fatal motion, if agreed to, would normally pre-empt non-fatal motions. It should therefore be decided upon first.

8.  The simplest way to allow greater flexibility is to add negative instruments be added to those categories of business listed in Standing Order 40(8), whose precedence may be varied "if the convenience of the House so requires." This would allow some adjustment to be made to the ordering of multiple motions on a single negative instrument. We do not propose that negative instruments be added to those categories of business listed in Standing Order 40(4), which have precedence over other types of business on all sitting days except Thursdays. Thus on those days motions on negative instruments will continue to be placed on the Order Paper after Public Bills, Measures, Affirmative instruments and reports from Select Committees.

9.  We therefore recommend that the words ", negative instruments" should be added, after "affirmative instruments", in Standing Order 40(8). The effect of this change will be that a prayer to annul a negative instrument will normally be entered in the Order Paper before other motions relating to the same instrument.

Balloted Thursday debates

10.  In its Third Report of this session the Committee recommended as follows:

  • 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.

11.  These recommendations were agreed by the House on 16 December 2010. As a result, the list of Motions for balloted debate was withdrawn from House of Lords Business on 4 April, after the final balloted debates covering the period up to the end of May were drawn.

12.  We have now decided that the list of motions for balloted debate should be reopened on Monday 5 September. The date for the first balloted debates, which will fall in October, has yet to be agreed, but will be published when the list is opened.

13.  We have also considered the timetable for balloted Thursday debates for the remainder of this session and for future sessions. Prior to the House's decision last December, and to the change in the sessional timetable, the rule was that in a normal full session every Thursday from the beginning of the session until the end of June was set aside for general debates; one Thursday in each month up to the Whitsun recess was set aside for two balloted debates. With a view to replicating a similar pattern, we recommend that in the current and in future sessions one Thursday in each month up to the end of December should be set aside for two balloted debates.

1   Report of the Joint Committee on Conventions, Session 2005-06 (HL Paper 265-I), p 63. Back

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