House of Lords Select Committee on the Speakership of the House

Press Notice

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF THE SPEAKERSHIP OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS?

The report of the Lords Committee appointed to consider the future arrangements for the Speakership for the House of Lords is published today.

The Committee was set up, following the announcement on 12 June that the Lord Chancellor's office was to be abolished, to make recommendations on those parts of his role which relate to presiding over the proceedings of the House of Lords as Speaker.

The Lord Chancellor's complex role has evolved over hundreds of years and his duties include acting as Speaker in the self-regulating chamber of the House of Lords. Unlike the Commons Speaker, the Lord Chancellor has no power to preserve order and maintain the rules of debate. This is the responsibility of the Members of the House itself.

Recommendations include:

  • The Speaker of the House should be elected from among the existing members of the House of Lords for a period of five years (with the possibility of renewal) and be known as Lord Speaker.

  • The member elected as Lord Speaker should give up party politics for life.

  • The Speaker should be the guardian of the self-regulating ethos of the House of Lords and uphold the rules of the House of Lords as set out in the Companion to the Standing Orders, (see paragraphs 15 & 16) taking on some of the Lord Chancellor's current responsibilities and some of the current Leader's responsibilities:

  1. Representing the House abroad
  2. Receiving and entertaining overseas dignitaries;
  3. Looking after new Members
  4. Making an initial recommendation as to whether a Private Notice Question should be accepted
  5. Advising the House when difficulties arise in the House, both at Question Time and later in the day.

The report is expected to be debated early in the new session of Parliament.

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

The members of the Committee appointed on 9 July were:

Lord Alexander of Weedon (Conservative)
Lord Ampthill (Crossbencher)
Lord Carter (Labour)
Lord Desai (Labour)
Lord Freeman (Conservative)
Lord Lloyd of Berwick ( Chairman) (Crossbencher)
Lord Marsh (Crossbencher)
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (Liberal Democrat)
Lord Tordoff (Liberal Democrat)
Lord Trefgarne (Conservative)

The report is published by the Stationery Office. The Speakership of the House of Lords, Select Committee on the Speakership of the House, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 199, ISBN 0104003251, price £12.00. The full text of the report will be available on the internet via www.parliament.uk shortly after publication.

''The Companion'' referred to in the report contains the rules which govern the House of Lords. The Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords is available via www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld/ldcomp/compso.htm

The Committee received written evidence from 60 Peers and heard oral evidence from 10 Peers including: the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the late Leader of the House, Lord Williams of Mostyn, the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Strathclyde, and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Baroness Williams of Crosby. The oral evidence is published with the report.

If the House agrees to an elected Speaker the Committee recommends a system requiring only a single ballot, by means of the alternative vote. Candidates would be proposed and seconded by two members. Voters would rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate received at least half the first-preference votes then the candidates with the fewest votes would be progressively eliminated until one candidate had at least half of the remaining valid votes.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For copies of the report contact Jillian Bailey on 020 7219 8659.

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