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House of Lords Reform Act 2014, Recess tabling of written questions, Legislative Consent Motions - Procedure of the House Committee Contents


1st Report from the Procedure Committee


House of Lords Reform Act 2014: consequential changes to the procedures of the House

1.  The House of Lords Reform Act received Royal Assent on 14 May 2014. There are various consequential changes that need to be made to the procedures of the House to reflect the provisions of the Act.

RETIREMENT

2.  Section 1 of the Act, which comes into force on 14 August, provides that a member may retire or resign from the House by giving notice in writing to the Clerk of the Parliaments. Resignation may not be rescinded. The recommendations of the Leader's Group on Members Leaving the House, taken forward in the 5th report of the Procedure Committee 2010-12, established a voluntary retirement scheme. The voluntary retirement scheme was not underpinned by legislation so members who retire will continue to receive a writ of summons at the beginning of every Parliament, theoretically allowing them to return to the House if they wished. It was widely suggested at the time when that informal scheme was introduced that it was a temporary measure until legislation could put such a scheme on a formal footing.

3.  We recommend that the informal retirement scheme set out in paragraphs 1.32 to 1.37 of the Companion to Standing Orders should be discontinued and that those members who have taken advantage of the informal scheme should be invited to consider whether they wish to retire under the new statutory provisions.

NON-ATTENDANCE

4.  Section 2(1) of the Act states that "a member of the House of Lords who is a peer and does not attend the House of Lords during a Session ceases to be a member of the House at the beginning of the following session." This section of the Act comes into force on 14 August and applies from the following session, i.e. a peer who does not attend during the first session of the new Parliament will cease to be a member at the beginning of the second session. Members who have taken Leave of Absence or are disqualified from attending are excluded from this provision.

5.  There are currently few members who do not attend the House at least once in a session who have not taken Leave of Absence. This is in large part due to the system set out in paragraph 1.28 of the Companion to Standing Orders whereby the Clerk of the Parliaments, having consulted a sub-committee of this Committee comprising the Chairman of Committees, the Chief Whips and the Convenor, writes to those peers who attended very infrequently in the previous session, inviting them to apply for leave of absence.

6.  We recommend that at the start of each session the Clerk of the Parliaments should continue to write to members who attended infrequently in the previous session inviting those members to take Leave of Absence. This system should be used to ensure that all members are aware of the provisions of section 2 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014.

HEREDITARY BY-ELECTIONS

7.  Section 4(7) of the Act states that Standing Orders of the House must make provision requiring the holding of a by-election to fill any vacancy which arises if an elected hereditary member leaves the House under any of the provisions of the Act. Since Standing Order 10, which governs by-elections, refers only to filling "vacancies occurring by death", the Standing Orders need to be amended so that a by-election is held if a peer resigns or is excluded under the provisions of the Act.

8.  We recommend that Standing Order 10 should be amended as follows:

10(1): after "death" insert ", or resignation or expulsion from the House under the House of Lords Reform Act 2014,"

10(2) and 10(3): after "death" insert "or resignation or expulsion".

Tabling Questions for Written Answer in recesses

9.  Questions for Written Answer (QWAs) may not be tabled during recesses, except for two days during the summer recess: normally the first Monday in September and the first Monday in October. The two tabling days in the summer recess were first introduced in 2006 and echoed a similar move in the House of Commons, where three September tabling days were introduced explicitly to compensate MPs for the decision to stop sitting in September after several years of doing so.

10.  In 2007, this House agreed to the Procedure Committee's recommendation that the two tabling days should become a permanent fixture, subject to the Leader of the House being given "discretion to vary the standard pattern of dates, by agreement through the Usual Channels, in case of exceptional recess dates". The House of Commons reintroduced September sittings in 2010 and accordingly they no longer have any recess tabling days.

11.  We have considered whether there is a case for increasing the number of tabling days during summer recesses and concluded that there should be one tabling day in each week that the House of Commons sits but the House of Lords does not.

12.  We recommend that with immediate effect, there should be one tabling day for Questions for Written Answers for every week when the House of Commons sits but the House of Lords does not, in addition to retaining the tabling day on the first Monday of October. The Leader should retain discretion to vary the pattern of dates, by agreement of the Usual Channels, in case of exceptional recess dates.

Legislative Consent Motions

13.  Legislative Consent Motions are the mechanism by which the devolved assemblies indicate their consent to certain categories of legislation that are being considered by the UK Parliament but affect Scotland, Wales and/or Northern Ireland. When a Legislative Consent Motion has been agreed by a devolved assembly this is indicated next to the bill it relates to in the Bills in Progress section of the House of Lords Business. There is however no system of making the House aware when a devolved assembly has rejected a Legislative Consent Motion. In these circumstances it is up to the relevant Secretary of State to inform Parliament.

14.  The House has received representations from the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales asking whether we would review our procedures so that Members are informed through the Order Paper when a Legislative Consent Motion has been rejected by a devolved legislature. The Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly support such a change.

15.  We recommend that the House should be informed through a note in the House of Lords Business document when a devolved assembly has rejected a Legislative Consent Motion relating to legislation under consideration by this House.


 
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