First Report Contents

Appendix 1: Letter from the Leader of the House

Letter from Lord True, Leader of the House to Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Senior Deputy Speaker.

On 13 November the Prime Minister appointed the Rt Hon David Cameron as Foreign Secretary and HM King approved his appointment to this House. As such he is the first such great officer of state in the Lords since the 1980s. He will be introduced to the House and make his maiden speech this week.

I have spoken to the Foreign Secretary and he is acutely aware of his accountability to Parliament as a whole and this House in particular. After conversions in the Usual Channels I suggest a package of changes to support that accountability.

Enhanced Secretary of State questions

In 2010 the House agreed a procedure to allow the peers to regularly question Lords members of Cabinet on a Thursday with questions chosen by ballot. This process was used most recently for Lord Frost.

It is my intention to restate Secretary of State questions as soon as possible. But I propose that there should be flexibility and that the opportunity for scrutiny afforded by these questions should be expanded and enhanced by:

(a)Allowing Secretary of State questions to be held on days other than Thursdays when attendance at the House is at the highest and the widest range of members may be able to participate; and

(b)Extending the time for these questions to 40 minutes and allow four questions to be drawn and asked.

We would use these provisions to hold questions monthly on a Tuesday starting on 5 December and would alert peers to these questions once the Committee has approved these changes.

Extended statements

I anticipate that some Foreign Office statements will now be made in the Lords and repeated in the Commons when they are of sufficient import to be led by the Secretary of State. For such statements I recognise that there will be significant interest and that it will usually be appropriate to extend the time for backbench speakers to 30 minutes. Any such extended time will be agreed in and communicated by the Usual Channels in the normal way.

I am grateful to you for being willing to put these proposals to the Committee and the House on an expedited timetable and to the clerks for their work to prepare the necessary reports and change to the Companion.

20 November 2023

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