House of Lords back to business on 5 January
4 January 2021
The House of Lords returns on Tuesday 5 January. The House continues to operate in Hybrid Proceedings, with members participating in person or online. Votes continue to take place online.
This week in the House of Lords
Friday 8 January
Debate on the trade and cooperation agreement reached between the UK and the EU.
Monday 11 January
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill: further check (report stage, day one)
Wednesday 13 January
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill: further check (report stage, day two)
The House will also continue scrutiny of the Fire Safety Bill, the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill, the High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill and other legislation.
View Lords business in the what's on calendar.
Some Lords committees are currently asking for interested people or organisations to give their views or information ('call for evidence').
- Communications and Digital Committee: freedom of expression online
- EU International Agreements Sub-Committee: UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand trade negotiations
- National Plan for Sport and Recreation Committee
- Risk Assessment and Risk Planning Committee: risk assessment and risk planning in the context of disruptive national hazards.
House of Lords 2020
2020 was a busy year for the House of Lords. Just like workplaces across the UK, the House has changed the way it works to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions: the Procedure and Privileges Committee has issued seven sets of guidance for the new ways of carrying out the House’s business.
The Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Conservative), announced the Christmas recess in the chamber, with the House due to return on Tuesday 5 January. Subsequently, the Lord Speaker recalled the House of Lords on 30 December for consideration of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act.
New ways of working
The House responded rapidly to the pandemic. To enable members to participate remotely from across the UK, it set up:
- ‘hybrid proceedings’ in the chamber – members attend in person and digitally
- online committee meetings
- the online voting system – votes are cast digitally, members no longer walk through the voting lobbies.
This has allowed the House’s crucial work checking draft laws and challenging government action to continue. In the first three months of hybrid proceedings, the chamber met for more than 300 hours, pressing government with almost 250 questions.
Since the new systems were set up:
- 118 ‘sittings’ (chamber meetings) have taken place
- 88 members on average have contributed remotely in each meeting
- 95 divisions (votes) have taken place, and 45,518 votes cast on changes to key legislation.
In July, the House set up the new COVID-19 Committee to look at the long-term implications of the pandemic on the economic and societal wellbeing of the UK. Committees considering International Agreements, Common Frameworks, Sport and Recreation, and Risk and Risk Planning have also been formed.
Checking the details
In September, the House set up hybrid proceedings in Grand Committee: work away from the chamber, where a significant amount of consideration of regulations (statutory intruments) takes place. For example, COVID-19 rules and restrictions.
In November, the House also launched its first podcast. Listen to the House of Lords Podcast to hear first-hand from members and staff about how the Lords has responded to COVID-19, how the Legislation Office works, and the work of members including Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, Baroness Grey-Thompson and Lord Teverson.
Legislation in 2020
Members completed detailed checks of these key bills during the pandemic:
- Agriculture Bill
- Coronavirus Bill
- Fisheries Bill
- Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
- Parliamentary Constituencies Bill
- Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill
- UK Internal Market Bill
They have received Royal Assent and made law (acts).
Committee work in 2020
Committees looking into the different policy areas of the pandemic:
- The Constitution Committee is investigating the constitutional implications of COVID-19, including the use of emergency powers and the operation of the courts.
- The COVID-19 Committee held discussion groups as part of its work to understand the possible long-term impacts of the pandemic. It's also considering what increasingly digital lives will mean for wellbeing.
- The Economic Affairs Committee completed its investigation into the impact on jobs. Its Employment and COVID-19 report is out now.
- The International Relations and Defence Committee launched a short inquiry to consider the role of the World Health Organisation in co-ordinating global health responses.
- The Public Services Committee launched its first report, Lessons from COVID-19.
- As part of its science and COVID-19 inquiry, the Science and Technology Committee wrote to the Prime Minister in July. It urged the government to undertake significant preparations to reduce the likelihood of a winter resurgence. The inquiry continues.
The EU Committee continued to scrutinise the many different implications of Brexit for the UK. The Common Frameworks Committee is looking into powers returning to the UK and devolved governments after Brexit.
Image: copyright House of Lords 2020 / Photography by Roger Harris