1.At present, certain proceedings in the House can be unclear to those participating and watching, particularly when items of business begin without being announced. Consequently, we have considered whether the Lord Speaker, and the deputy speakers, could take on two sign-posting roles:
2.The clerks at the Table currently call on the business that is printed on the Order Paper. Sometimes this can require them to assist the House in bringing one piece of business to a close and calling on the next. For example, during oral questions the Clerk of the Parliaments calls on the member in whose name an oral question has been tabled, and calls on the member who tabled the next question when the time allotted has elapsed or there are no further supplementary questions. This may require the Clerk to call the next question even when members are still trying to ask supplementary questions relating to the previous question. There have been instances when members have overridden the Clerk of the Parliaments when he has attempted to call on the next speaker.
3.The Lord Speaker would need to make the same judgements which the Clerk of the Parliaments currently makes about when to bring one question to a close and call the next. Should the Lord Speaker or one of the deputies perform this duty, we believe that their judgement would be less open to challenge.
4.We recommend that the Lord Speaker and the deputy speakers should call on the business on the Order Paper and take on the role of the clerks at the Table in calling on the next business within the time limits set out in the Companion. This would apply in the Chamber and in Grand Committee.
5.The Lord Speaker would need to know how many seconds had elapsed to judge when to call on the next question. We therefore make these recommendations in conjunction with our recommendation below on the use of clocks in the Chamber and Grand Committee.
6.The timing of PNQs, UQ repeats and oral statements is advertised on the annunciators and Today’s List but they do not appear on the Order Paper and they are not formally called on by anybody in the Chamber. It is not always clear to the public why a debate is being interrupted by, for example, a Government minister who suddenly stands up to make a statement without anyone signalling that is about to happen. Calling on this business would aid those watching proceedings on television, streaming them online or observing from the public galleries and would improve public understanding of the procedures and work of the House.
7.We recommend that the Lord Speaker and the deputy speakers should call on PNQs, UQ repeats and oral statements.
8.We recommend that these two changes be reviewed after six sitting months to ensure they are operating smoothly. We suggest the changes commence at the start of July.
9.In considering these changes we were mindful that the House continues to be proud of its self-regulating nature. As described in the Companion to the Standing Orders, “the preservation of order and the maintenance of the rules of debate are the responsibility of the House itself, that is, of all the members who are present” (paragraph 4.01). We believe that the proposals we make here respect self-regulation.