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3. Sittings and documents of the House

Lord Speaker’s procession and the Mace
Prayers
Quorum
Change of Speaker
Adjournment
Secret sittings
Grand Committee
Leave of the House
Suspension or amendment of standing orders
House publications
Arrangement of business
Official Report
Journals
Parliamentary papers
Public petitions
Messages between the two Houses
Footnotes

3.1 The House usually sits for public business on Mondays and Tuesdays at 2.30pm, on Wednesdays at 3pm and on Thursdays at 11am. The House also sits on some Fridays at 10am. It is a firm convention that the House normally rises by about 10pm on Mondays to Wednesdays,(1) by about 7pm on Thursdays, and by about 3pm on Fridays. The time of meeting of the House can be varied to meet the convenience of the House. In exceptional circumstances the House has met on Saturday and on Sunday.(2)

3.2 The length of a session within a Parliament is at the discretion of the Government.

3.3 The House usually breaks for substantial recesses as follows:

  • over Christmas and New Year (usually two weeks);
  • sometimes in mid-February (up to one week);
  • at Easter (one or two weeks);
  • over the Spring Bank Holiday (one week); and
  • in the summer (usually between late July and early September, and again from the end of the second week in September to the end of the first week in October). 

Lord Speaker’s procession and the Mace

3.4 Before each day’s sitting, the Lord Speaker walks in procession from their room to the Chamber, preceded by the Mace.(3) During the procession, doorkeepers and security staff ensure that the route is unobstructed. The procession crosses the Prince’s Chamber and moves down the Not-content Lobby, entering the Chamber from below Bar on the temporal side. The Lord Speaker continues up the temporal side of the House to the Woolsack. After the bishop has read the Psalm, the Lord Speaker and other members present kneel or stand for prayers. When these have been read, the Lord Speaker takes their seat on the Woolsack.

3.5 If the Lord Speaker is absent at the beginning of the sitting, the Deputy Serjeant at Arms (the Yeoman Usher), alone, takes the Mace by way of the Library Corridor to meet the Senior Deputy Speaker or other Deputy Speaker and Black Rod in Peers’ Lobby.

Prayers

3.6 Prayers are read at the beginning of each sitting. Ordinarily prayers are read by one of the bishops, who take a week each in turn.(4) In the absence of a bishop, a member of the House who is an ordained minister of the Church of England may read prayers. If no such member is present, the Lord on the Woolsack reads prayers. The prayers are set out in appendix I. During prayers, the doors and galleries of the House are closed and visitors are excluded.

Quorum

3.7 The quorum of the House or Grand Committee is three, including the Lord Speaker or Deputy Speaker. There is, however, a quorum of 30 for divisions on bills and on any motion to approve or disapprove delegated legislation.(5)

Change of Speaker

3.8 During the course of business, the Lord Speaker may be replaced on the Woolsack by a Deputy Speaker. When one member takes the place of another on the Woolsack, there is no interruption of business. The member who is to preside stands at the side of the Woolsack, on the spiritual side. The member on the Woolsack rises and moves to the temporal side. They bow to each other. The member previously on the Woolsack withdraws and the replacement sits down on the Woolsack.

Adjournment

3.9 At the end of business, a member of the Government moves “That the House do now adjourn.” The Lord Speaker puts the Question, but does not collect the voices because this Question is not usually debated. If any member of the House wishes to debate it, the Lord Speaker should be informed beforehand.

3.10 As soon as the Lord Speaker has put the Question for the adjournment, they leave the Chamber by the temporal side and the Bar, preceded by the Mace, and return in procession to their room via the Law Lords’ and Library Corridors.

3.11 If a Deputy Speaker is on the Woolsack when the House adjourns, the above ceremony is observed, but the Deputy Speaker leaves the procession in Peers’ Lobby.

Secret sittings

3.12 If the House wishes to meet in secret, a motion of which notice is not required is made to that effect.(6) When an order for a secret sitting is made, the Chamber is cleared of everyone except members of the House, the Clerks at the Table and Black Rod. Members of the House of Commons are not required to withdraw.

Grand Committee

3.13 Certain types of business may take place in Grand Committee. The procedure in Grand Committee is the same for each type of business as the procedure would have been in the House when such business is considered, except that divisions may not take place in Grand Committee.(7)

3.14 A Grand Committee is of unlimited membership. Any member of the House may participate in it. Only one Grand Committee sits on any one day. The place of meeting is usually the Moses Room. Setting up an unplanned Grand Committee at very short notice may be impossible in practical terms.

3.15 The following types of business may take place in Grand Committee:

(a) committee stages of public bills (normally only one bill per day—see paragraph 8.111);

(b) motions to consider affirmative instruments (see paragraph 10.17);

(c) motions to consider negative instruments (see paragraph 10.10);

(d) motions to take note of reports of select committees (see paragraph 11.42) or of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (see paragraph 11.97);

(e) general motions for debate (see paragraph 6.62);

(f) questions for short debate (see paragraph 6.48);

(g) debates on bills before second reading (see paragraph 8.50); and

(h) debates on proposals for National Policy Statements, laid before Parliament under the Planning Act 2008 (see paragraph 10.50).(8)

3.16 In addition, second reading debates on Law Commission bills may take place in a ‘second reading committee’ in the Moses Room, although this is not formally a Grand Committee (see paragraph 8.49).

3.17 Grand Committees sit for times agreed in advance, irrespective of the rising of the House.(9) Notice of the proceedings is given in House of Lords Business. The normal start times(10) for the Grand Committee are:

  • Monday, Tuesday 3.45pm
  • Wednesday 4.15pm
  • Thursday 1pm

3.18 The Grand Committee normally sits for up to four hours, but may sit for a maximum of five hours, though this is the exception, not the rule, and should be agreed in advance.(11) In such cases the start time may be varied to accommodate the extended sitting:

  • Monday, Tuesday 3.30–8.30pm
  • Wednesday 3.45–8.45pm
  • Thursday 1–6pm

3.19 Committee proceedings begin at the appointed time without any preliminary motion. Members speak standing and, so far as they can, observe the same degree of formality as in the Chamber. Forms of words used in Grand Committee are the same as in Committee of the whole House. The Committee adjourns for 10 minutes for a division in the Chamber. If the Committee is to break (e.g. for a division or a statement in the Chamber), and when it adjourns at the end of the day’s proceedings, the Committee is simply adjourned without a Question being put. The verbatim report of the Grand Committee’s proceedings is published, and the minutes are published as an appendix to the Minutes of Proceedings.

3.1 The House usually sits for public business on Mondays and Tuesdays at 2.30pm, on Wednesdays at 3pm and on Thursdays at 11am. The House also sits on some Fridays at 10am. It is a firm convention that the House normally rises by about 10pm on Mondays to Wednesdays,(1) by about 7pm on Thursdays, and by about 3pm on Fridays. The time of meeting of the House can be varied to meet the convenience of the House. In exceptional circumstances the House has met on Saturday and on Sunday.(2)

3.2 The length of a session within a Parliament is at the discretion of the Government.

3.3 The House usually breaks for substantial recesses as follows: 

  • over Christmas and New Year (usually two weeks);
  • sometimes in mid-February (up to one week);
  • at Easter (one or two weeks);
  • over the Spring Bank Holiday (one week); and
  • in the summer (usually between late July and early September, and again from the end of the second week in September to the end of the first week in October). 

Lord Speaker’s procession and the Mace

3.4 Before each day’s sitting, the Lord Speaker walks in procession from their room to the Chamber, preceded by the Mace.(3) During the procession, doorkeepers and security staff ensure that the route is unobstructed. The procession crosses the Prince’s Chamber and moves down the Not-content Lobby, entering the Chamber from below Bar on the temporal side. The Lord Speaker continues up the temporal side of the House to the Woolsack. After the bishop has read the Psalm, the Lord Speaker and other members present kneel or stand for prayers. When these have been read, the Lord Speaker takes their seat on the Woolsack.

3.5 If the Lord Speaker is absent at the beginning of the sitting, the Deputy Serjeant at Arms (the Yeoman Usher), alone, takes the Mace by way of the Library Corridor to meet the Senior Deputy Speaker or other Deputy Speaker and Black Rod in Peers’ Lobby.

Prayers

3.6 Prayers are read at the beginning of each sitting. Ordinarily prayers are read by one of the bishops, who take a week each in turn.(4) In the absence of a bishop, a member of the House who is an ordained minister of the Church of England may read prayers. If no such member is present, the Lord on the Woolsack reads prayers. The prayers are set out in appendix I. During prayers, the doors and galleries of the House are closed and visitors are excluded.

Quorum

3.7 The quorum of the House or Grand Committee is three, including the Lord Speaker or Deputy Speaker. There is, however, a quorum of 30 for divisions on bills and on any motion to approve or disapprove delegated legislation.(5)

Change of Speaker

3.8 During the course of business, the Lord Speaker may be replaced on the Woolsack by a Deputy Speaker. When one member takes the place of another on the Woolsack, there is no interruption of business. The member who is to preside stands at the side of the Woolsack, on the spiritual side. The member on the Woolsack rises and moves to the temporal side. They bow to each other. The member previously on the Woolsack withdraws and the replacement sits down on the Woolsack.

Adjournment

3.9 At the end of business, a member of the Government moves “That the House do now adjourn.” The Lord Speaker puts the Question, but does not collect the voices because this Question is not usually debated. If any member of the House wishes to debate it, the Lord Speaker should be informed beforehand.

3.10 As soon as the Lord Speaker has put the Question for the adjournment, they leave the Chamber by the temporal side and the Bar, preceded by the Mace, and return in procession to their room via the Law Lords’ and Library Corridors.

3.11 If a Deputy Speaker is on the Woolsack when the House adjourns, the above ceremony is observed, but the Deputy Speaker leaves the procession in Peers’ Lobby.

Secret sittings

3.12 If the House wishes to meet in secret, a motion of which notice is not required is made to that effect.(6) When an order for a secret sitting is made, the Chamber is cleared of everyone except members of the House, the Clerks at the Table and Black Rod. Members of the House of Commons are not required to withdraw.

Grand Committee

3.13 Certain types of business may take place in Grand Committee. The procedure in Grand Committee is the same for each type of business as the procedure would have been in the House when such business is considered, except that divisions may not take place in Grand Committee.(7)

3.14 A Grand Committee is of unlimited membership. Any member of the House may participate in it. Only one Grand Committee sits on any one day. The place of meeting is usually the Moses Room. Setting up an unplanned Grand Committee at very short notice may be impossible in practical terms.

3.15 The following types of business may take place in Grand Committee:

(a) committee stages of public bills (normally only one bill per day—see paragraph 8.111);

(b) motions to consider affirmative instruments (see paragraph 10.17);

(c) motions to consider negative instruments (see paragraph 10.10);

(d) motions to take note of reports of select committees (see paragraph 11.42) or of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (see paragraph 11.97);

(e) general motions for debate (see paragraph 6.62);

(f) questions for short debate (see paragraph 6.48);

(g) debates on bills before second reading (see paragraph 8.50); and

(h) debates on proposals for National Policy Statements, laid before Parliament under the Planning Act 2008 (see paragraph 10.50).(8)

3.16 In addition, second reading debates on Law Commission bills may take place in a ‘second reading committee’ in the Moses Room, although this is not formally a Grand Committee (see paragraph 8.49).

3.17 Grand Committees sit for times agreed in advance, irrespective of the rising of the House.(9) Notice of the proceedings is given in House of Lords Business. The normal start times(10) for the Grand Committee are:

  • Monday, Tuesday 3.45pm
  • Wednesday 4.15pm
  • Thursday 1pm

3.18 The Grand Committee normally sits for up to four hours, but may sit for a maximum of five hours, though this is the exception, not the rule, and should be agreed in advance.(11) In such cases the start time may be varied to accommodate the extended sitting:

  • Monday, Tuesday 3.30–8.30pm
  • Wednesday 3.45–8.45pm
  • Thursday 1–6pm

3.19 Committee proceedings begin at the appointed time without any preliminary motion. Members speak standing and, so far as they can, observe the same degree of formality as in the Chamber. Forms of words used in Grand Committee are the same as in Committee of the whole House. The Committee adjourns for 10 minutes for a division in the Chamber. If the Committee is to break (e.g. for a division or a statement in the Chamber), and when it adjourns at the end of the day’s proceedings, the Committee is simply adjourned without a Question being put. The verbatim report of the Grand Committee’s proceedings is published, and the minutes are published as an appendix to the Minutes of Proceedings.

House publications

3.27 There are three core publications giving information about the business that the House has done and the business it expects to do:

  • House of Lords Business, a single publication containing future business and the Minutes of Proceedings (the daily record of business transacted);
  • the order paper (the agenda for the day); and
  • Hansard (the official report of what was said in debate).

3.28 On sitting days, the order paper is available online and from the Printed Paper Office, from the desks at the Peers’ Entrance, and from the desks adjacent to the Chamber in the Prince’s Chamber and Peers’ Lobby. The HousePapers app is available on digital devices and provides access to all papers for any given sitting.(15)

House of Lords Business

3.29 House of Lords Business is published after each sitting day. As well as the Minutes of Proceedings of the last sitting day, it shows future business to be taken in the House, so far as it has been tabled or definitely arranged.(16) It also includes:

(a) business of which notice has been given but for which no day has been named. This business is grouped under six headings:

(i) motions for balloted debate;

(ii) select committee reports for debate (with the date on which the report was published);

(iii) other motions for debate (only on the day they are tabled);

(iv) motions relating to delegated legislation;

(v) motions relating to treaties; and

(vi) questions for short debate (drawn from the previous ballot, and entries for the next ballot);

(b) a list of questions for written answer tabled that day, together with a table showing any written questions which remain unanswered after 10 working days;

(c) lists of bills, Measures and various types of delegated legislation in progress, showing the stage reached by each and the next date on which they will be taken, if known; and

(d) notices of committee sittings.

3.30 The Minutes of Proceedings of the House are issued under the authority and name of the Clerk of the Parliaments. The Minutes record actions or decisions of the House rather than what is said in the Chamber. Some ‘silent’ entries are included which happen off the floor.

3.31 The Minutes of Proceedings are compiled in the following order:

(a) preliminary matters, such as prayers, introductions, members taking the oath, messages from the Queen and matters relating to leave of absence;

(b) select committee reports;

(c) private business (except where such business is taken part-way through public business);

(d) public business, in the order in which it is taken in the House;

(e) Grand Committees, second reading committees and special public bill committees; and

(f) papers laid before the House.

Arrangement of business

The usual channels

3.32 The Government Chief Whip is responsible for the detailed arrangement of government business and the business of individual sittings. The smooth running of the House depends largely on the whips of the main political parties. They agree the arrangement of business through the ‘usual channels’. The usual channels consist of the leaders and whips of the three main political parties. For certain purposes the usual channels include the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers.

Notices

3.33 Motions or questions may be handed in or sent to the House of Lords Table Office on sitting days between 10am and House Up; the Table Office may also be contacted during these hours (020 7219 3036, holtableoffice@parliament.uk).(17) Motions or questions will appear in the following day’s House of Lords Business if submitted by 5pm or the rise of the House (whichever is the earlier). At other times (e.g. non-sitting Fridays or recesses) business may be handed in between 10am and 5pm, either to the Table Office or to the duty clerk, using the same contact details.

3.34 Whenever any new notice is put down in House of Lords Business, or any material alteration is made to the text of an existing motion or question, it is marked with a dagger (†) to draw attention to it.(18)

3.35 Business may be tabled any length of time in advance, up to the end of the session, except:

  • oral questions, which may be tabled up to four weeks in advance including recesses;(19) and
  • motions and questions for short debate, which may be tabled up to four weeks in advance excluding recesses.(20)

3.36 A member of the House who wishes a notice to appear in House of Lords Business before a specific date has been fixed for it may enter it under either “Other Motions for Debate”, “Motions relating to Delegated Legislation” or “Motions relating to Treaties”. It may also be entered into the ballot for a “Question for Short Debate” or a “Motion for Balloted Debate”. There is no strictly formulated rule against anticipation; but:

(a) a member should not put down for a specific date a question or subject for debate which already appears in the name of another member under any of the undated headings without first consulting that member; and

(b) it is not in the interests of good order and courtesy that a member should table for an earlier day a question (other than a topical question) or motion similar to one that has already been tabled for a particular day.

3.37 Italic notes are often used to give the House advance notice of business that is not yet in a position to be tabled.(21)

3.38 Notices may be withdrawn or put down for a later date by the member of the House in whose name they stand.(22) Oral questions and questions for short debate may be brought forward to an earlier day without leave, at the request of the member asking the question. Other notices can only be brought forward by leave of the House obtained on a motion, of which notice must be given. Such a motion is generally moved by the Leader of the House.(23)

3.39 Business of which notice is required (see paragraph 3.42) must first be called before it can proceed. Questions, motions and amendments to motions are called by the member on the Woolsack, in the order in which they appear on the order paper.(24) Amendments to bills are called by the member on the Woolsack or in the Chair, in the order of the marshalled list.

3.40 If a member of the House is absent when a motion or question standing in their name is called and has authorised another member to act on their behalf, that member may do so, explaining the situation.

3.41 If authority has not been given by the member in whose name the question or motion stands, the motion or question cannot be proceeded with on that day unless unanimous leave is granted by the House.(25) In that case, when the member on the Woolsack has called the motion or question, a member may ask for leave to move the motion or ask the question standing in the name of the absent member. If there is a single dissenting voice, the House passes on to the next business.(26) Notice must be given before business not proceeded with can be taken on a subsequent date. This paragraph does not apply to government motions, which may be moved by any member of the Government without leave, or to amendments to bills (see paragraph 8.76).

Business of which notice is required or not required

3.42 Business of which notice is required must appear at least on the order paper of the day on which it is to be taken, and wherever possible also in House of Lords Business.(27) Notice must be given of oral questions, questions for short debate and all motions except those which the House customarily allows to be moved without notice. The following list, which is not exhaustive, shows what business the House in practice allows to be taken without notice:(28)

(a) business which does not involve a decision of the House:

(i) Royal Assent;

(ii) obituary tributes and personal statements;

(iii) ministerial statements and private notice questions;

(iv) statements or questions on business, procedure and privilege;

(v) oaths of allegiance; and

(vi) presentation of public petitions;

(b) manuscript amendments to bills and motions;

(c) business expressly exempted from the need to give notice,(29) namely:

(i) messages from the Crown;

(ii) introduction of bills;

(iii) messages from the Commons and first reading of Commons bills; and

(iv) consideration of Commons amendments and reasons, though reasonable notice should be given when possible;(30) and

(d) motions relating to the way in which the House conducts its business, for example:

(i) motions for the adjournment of a debate, or of the House;(31)

(ii) the motion to go into Committee of the whole House for more freedom of debate on a motion;(32)

(iii) in Committee of the whole House, motions to adjourn debate on an amendment, or to resume the House;

(iv) the motion that leave be not given to ask a question;

(v) the motion that the noble Lord be no longer heard (see paragraph 4.59);

(vi) the Closure (see paragraph 4.60);

(vii) the next business motion (see paragraph 4.61);

(viii) the motion that the Lord X be appointed Lord Speaker pro tempore; and

(ix) the motion that the House should meet in secret (see paragraph 3.12).

Order of business

3.43 The House proceeds with the business of each day in the order in which it stands on the order paper.(33) Business is entered on the order paper in the order in which it is received at the Table, subject to the following main conditions laid down in SO 38:

(a) oral questions are placed first;

(b) private business is, subject to the Senior Deputy Speaker’s discretion, placed before public business;

(c) business of the House motions and, if the mover so desires, the Senior Deputy Speaker’s business and the business of the Conduct, Finance and Services Committees are placed before other public business;

(d) on all days except Thursdays,(34) public bills, Measures, affirmative instruments and reports from select committees of the House have precedence over other public business. On Thursdays, the general debate day,(35) motions have precedence over public bills, Measures and delegated legislation;(36)

(e) any motion relating to a report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on a draft order laid under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, or a subordinate provisions order made or proposed to be made under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, is placed before a motion to approve that order;(37)

(f) any motion relating to a report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights on a remedial order or draft remedial order laid under Schedule 2 to the Human Rights Act 1998 is placed before a motion to approve that order or draft order;(38) and

(g) questions for short debate are placed last, even when it is known that they will be taken in the lunch or dinner break, except for topical questions for short debate on Thursdays (which are placed after the first motion for general debate).

3.44 Royal Assent is frequently notified before oral questions, but may be notified between any two items of business or at the end of business, if necessary after an adjournment.

3.45 Private bills are entered on the order paper after oral questions.(39) But if a private bill is likely to be debated on second or third reading it may be entered at a later point on the order paper. Similarly, if a debate unexpectedly arises upon a private bill, the Senior Deputy Speaker may propose the postponement or adjournment of that stage of the bill either to a time later in the same day, or to another day. Members intending to debate any stage of a private bill should accordingly give notice of their intention to the Senior Deputy Speaker. Private bills may also be entered at a later point on the order paper at the discretion of the Senior Deputy Speaker.

3.46 The order in which business is usually taken is as follows:

(a) prayers;

(b) introductions;

(c) oaths of allegiance (or at the end of business);

(d) statements from the Woolsack;

(e) messages and answers from the Crown;

(f) Royal Assent (or at any convenient time during the sitting);

(g) Addresses of congratulation or sympathy to the Crown;(40)

(h) notification of death, retirement or exclusion;

(i) messages to, and answers from, members of the Royal Family (excluding the Crown);

(j) obituary tributes;

(k) personal statements;

(l) oral questions;

(m) private notice questions;

(n) announcement of results of hereditary peer by-elections;

(o) presentation of public petitions;

(p) questions of privilege;

(q) statements on business;

(r) ministerial statements (or at the first convenient moment);(41)

(s) presentation of new Lords bills (or at the end of public business);(42)

(t) messages from the Commons (or at any convenient time during the sitting);

(u) private bills, at the discretion of the Senior Deputy Speaker;

(v) business of the House motions;

(w) motions to amend standing orders;

(x) motions relating to the Senior Deputy Speaker’s business or the Chairs of the Conduct, Finance and Services Committeesʼ business, if they so desire;

(y) motions for the appointment of select committees;

(z) public business; and

(aa) questions for short debate.

Variation of order of business

3.47 Under SO 38(8) the order of notices relating to public bills, Measures, affirmative instruments and reports from select committees can be varied by agreement of the members in whose names the notices stand. Such variations are subject to SO 38(4) and (5) so that on Thursdays notices relating to public bills, Measures and delegated legislation may not be advanced before notices relating to motions, even with the consent of those affected. In such cases, a formal motion is required to vary the order of business.

3.48 Where it is wished to vary the order of business beyond the terms of SO 38(4) and (5), a business of the House motion may be put down to suspend or dispense with SO 38. The Standing Order is sometimes suspended so far as is necessary to give the Government power to arrange the order of business.

3.49 Business may be postponed until later the same day without notice, with the unanimous leave of the House.(43) When the member on the Woolsack has called the business, the Lord in charge of the business says: “Unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that X be postponed until after Y”. If this is agreed to, the House proceeds to the next business on the order paper.

3.50 If business is adjourned, the House may without notice make an order for the adjourned business to be taken later on the same day or taken first on some specified future day,(44) subject to the rules governing the order in which categories of business may be taken.

Lunch and dinner breaks

3.51 The main business of the day is often interrupted, usually around 7.30pm, for other business to be taken during the dinner break. On days when the House sits in the morning there may be a lunch break at around 1.30pm Lunch or dinner break business is marked as such in House of Lords Business. Interruptions of this sort may also be announced after oral questions by means of a business statement. At the desired time, a motion is moved that the proceedings be adjourned or, if the House is in committee, that the House be resumed. It is usual at this point for an indication to be given that the main business will not be resumed before a certain time. The House then proceeds to consider the next business on the order paper. If this is disposed of before the time indicated for the resumption of business, the House adjourns ‘during pleasure’(45) until that time.

3.52 If the intention is simply to interrupt the proceedings for a period without taking any other business, a motion is moved that the House do adjourn during pleasure until a stated time. If the House is in committee, however, the proceedings may, with the consent of the committee, be interrupted without any Question being put. If such an interruption is proposed, and no member of the House objects, the member in the Chair announces:

“The committee stands adjourned until —”.

Motions en bloc

3.53 Certain categories of motion may be moved en bloc. This means that a single Question is put and decided. The categories are as follows:

(a) motions to approve affirmative instruments (see paragraph 10.16);

(b) motions to reappoint or to fill casual vacancies on select committees (see paragraphs 11.6 and 11.11);

(c) stages of consolidation bills (see paragraph 8.221); and

(d) motions to carry over private bills.(46)

3.54 Moving other categories of motion en bloc may be authorised by a business of the House motion.

3.55 The following rules apply:

  • Notice must be given, by means of an italic note in House of Lords Business.
  • If a single member objects, the motions must be moved separately to the extent desired.

3.56 For moving amendments and clauses en bloc, see paragraphs 8.84, 8.142 and 8.176.

Official Report

3.57 The Official Report, or Hansard, is the substantially verbatim record of debates and proceedings in the House and Grand Committee. It is published in three separate parts:

(a) a record of debates and proceedings in the House, including certain items not spoken in the Chamber that are the subject of formal minute entries relating to the progress of bills, texts of amendments moved, and division lists;

(b) a record of debates and proceedings in Grand Committee; and

(c) the text of written statements and of replies to questions for written answer.(47) The definitive record copy of written statements and replies to questions for written answer is the digital copy which is available online.(48)

3.58 The online version of Hansard contains hyperlinks to the electronic texts of various relevant documents, including reports from domestic or select committees, copies of bills or statutory instruments, and other official documents of direct relevance to the debate.

3.59 Hansard is produced by an Editor and staff who are accountable to the Clerk of the Parliaments. It is published online throughout the day, approximately three hours behind real time, and a printed version is produced the following day. If the House sits after 2.30am a cut-off time on material published may be imposed, with the remaining business from that sitting appearing in the next daily part. Corrections are made to the online text once published to ensure that it remains accurate and authoritative.

Correction of speeches

3.60 When correcting their speeches, members should not attempt to alter the sense of words spoken by them in debate. Corrections are accepted only when the words that were actually spoken have been incorrectly reported. The procedure for suggesting corrections to be included in the record copy is published on the inside cover of each daily part.(49)

Journals

3.61 The Journals are the permanent official record of the proceedings of the House, compiled from the Minutes of Proceedings. The Journals differ from the Minutes in that they include a daily record of members present, the Letters Patent of peers on introduction, and an index. All copies of the Journals of either House are admitted as evidence by the courts and others.(50) If required in evidence, a copy or extract of the Journals, authenticated by the Clerk of the Parliaments, may be supplied.

Parliamentary papers

Papers laid before the House

3.62 The Minutes of Proceedings record each day the titles of various documents, or ‘papers’, presented or laid in the House on that day and also those laid since the last sitting. These papers fall into two main categories:

(a) papers presented by command of His Majesty on the initiative of a minister of the Crown. These are known as ‘Command papers’. The majority are published in a numbered series currently labelled ‘CP’. Command papers may be presented at any time during the existence of a Parliament, including non-sitting days, recesses and prorogation; and

(b) papers laid before the House pursuant to an Act, statutory instrument or Measure. These are known as ‘Act papers’. They may be of either a legislative or an executive character, and they may be either subject to a degree of parliamentary control (depending on the provisions of the parent statute) or purely informative.

3.63 Papers may also be laid as Returns to an Order of the House, for example in response to a motion for papers, although this is now rare.

3.64 Certain statutory instruments can be laid when the House is not sitting for public business, namely those instruments (apart from special procedure orders) which are required to be laid before Parliament after being made, but which do not require to be approved by resolution or lie before Parliament for any period before they come into operation.(51) The times when such instruments may be deposited are those shown in the table.

3.65 No papers of any type may be laid during a dissolution of Parliament.

3.66 If it is necessary to bring a statutory instrument into operation before it has been laid before Parliament, the responsible department must submit a notification and explanation to the Lord Speaker.(52) Their receipt is recorded in the Minutes of the next sitting day’s proceedings.

Days when papers may be laid

3.67 Papers may be laid on the days and times set out in the table.

Days when papers may be laid

Time at which papers may be deposited in Printed Paper Office

 

Earliest

Latest

House sitting for public business

9.30am

5pm

Non-sitting day (Monday to Friday)

11am

3pm(53)

Prorogation

11am

3pm

Dissolution

Papers may not be laid

3.68 Departments wishing to lay Command papers or statutory instruments outside these hours must make special arrangements for their receipt with the Printed Paper Office.

Entitlement

3.69 Members of the House are entitled to obtain certain papers free of charge from the Printed Paper Office. Details can be found in the Handbook on facilities and services for members and their staff.

Public petitions

3.70 Members of the public may petition the House of Lords, but only a member of the House may present a petition. Members of the House should give the following guidance to members of the public who ask them to present petitions on their behalf.

3.71 The presentation of a petition is recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings, and the petition is retained in the Parliamentary Archives for one year. However, no order is made for the petition to be published unless a member of the House puts down a motion to debate it for a designated day; otherwise no action follows.

3.72 Petitions relating to a public bill may be presented at any time during its passage through the House. A petition relating to a bill which has not been before the House, or which has already been rejected by it, cannot be presented.

3.73 A member proposing to present a petition should consult the Journal Office at an early stage.

3.74 Petitions to the House of Lords begin:

“To the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, The humble Petition of [names or designation of petitioners] sheweth”.

3.75 The general allegations of the petition follow. The petition ends with what is called a ‘prayer’, setting out what the petitioners desire the House to do. After the prayer are added the words “And your Petitioners will ever pray &c.” followed by the signatures. The petition may be written or printed on paper. At least one signature must be on the same sheet as the petition. The signatures must not be stuck on to the paper. The petition of a corporation should be under its common seal, which must be affixed to the first sheet.

3.76 Members of the House presenting petitions should sign them, and either send them to the Clerk of the Parliaments or hand them in at the Table.(54) In either case, having notified the Table in advance, they rise in their place after oral questions and say:

“My Lords, I beg to present a petition from [names or designation], which prays that this House will [the prayer is read out].”

3.77 They may add:

“The petition bears X signatures.”

No speech may be made and no debate follows.

Messages between the two Houses

3.78 A message is the means of formal communication between the two Houses. It is used for sending bills from one House to the other, for informing one House of the agreement or disagreement of the other to bills or amendments, for the exchange of documents, for the setting up of joint committees, to obtain agreement to the suspension of proceedings on legislation from one session to the next, and for other matters on which the two Houses wish to communicate.

3.79 Messages to the Commons are taken by a Lords clerk and handed to the Serjeant at Arms. Messages from the Commons are brought by a Commons clerk to the Bar of the House and presented to the Clerk at the Table. There is no special ceremony for the arrival of a message, and the business of the House proceeds without interruption. Messages are always included in the Minutes of Proceedings but they are read in the Chamber only where some immediate action is to be taken by the House.

3.80 Messages are either ‘substantive’(i.e. they cause a bill or amendments to be published), or ‘non-substantive’ (all other messages). The House can send and receive a substantive message at any time; if the House is not sitting, material received may be published under SO 49. The House must sit to receive a non-substantive message. 

Footnotes

1 Procedure 5th Rpt 2001–02.

2 The House sat on a Saturday and a Sunday at the outbreak of World War II. It sat on Saturdays in 1982 to discuss the situation in the Falkland Islands (LJ (1938–39) 383–4, (1981–82) 216) and in 2019 to discuss Exiting the European Union (HL Deb. 19 October 2019 vol. 800). The House attended the State Funeral for Sir Winston Churchill in St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 30 January 1965. 

3 The procession consists of a doorkeeper, followed by the Deputy Serjeant at Arms (the Yeoman Usher) or Principal Doorkeeper bearing the Mace, followed by the Lord Speaker. In the Prince’s Chamber, Black Rod joins the end of the procession. Procedure 4th Rpt 2005–06.

4 The two archbishops and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester do not take part in this rota.

5 SO 56.

6 SO 15.

7 Report to the Leader from the Group on sittings of the House: HL Paper (1993–94) 83, paragraph 20; Procedure 1st Rpt 2005–06.

8 Procedure 2nd Rpt 2008–09.

9 Procedure 3rd Rpt 2003–04.

10 Procedure 2nd Rpt 2005–06.

11 Procedure and Privileges, 2nd Rpt, 2021–22.

12 SO 30.

13 Unanimous leave of the House is not required to move another member’s amendment, or motion during consideration of House of Commons amendments (Procedure 5th Rpt 2017–19).

14 SO 40(3).

15 The HousePapers app is available to download free of charge.

16 Each week, the Government Whips’ Office publishes a separate document entitled ‘Forthcoming Business’, which informally advertises business for the following week and that provisionally proposed for subsequent weeks.

17 Written questions may be submitted by email. Questions are accepted a member’s parliamentary email account. If a member wishes to email questions from a non-parliamentary address the member should first designate the alternative email address by providing signed authorisation to the Table Office.

18 Procedure 1st Rpt 1969–70.

19 See paragraph 6.26 for a full explanation of the times at which oral questions may be tabled.

20 SO 41.

21 Procedure 5th Rpt 1966–67.

22 SO 40(1).

23 Procedure 5th Rpt 1966–67; 1st Rpt 1975–76.

24 SO 37.

25 Procedure 2nd Rpt 1992–93; SO 40(2).

26 “Next business” can include the original question, if the business under consideration was an amendment.

27 SO 35; Procedure 5th Rpt 1970–71.

28 Procedure 5th Rpt 1970–71.

29 SO 39. 

30 Procedure 1st Rpt 1987–88.

31 Adjournment to a time other than the next sitting time would need notice, unless the next sitting had not been advertised in which case an adjournment to the next normal sitting time could be moved without notice.

32 SO 61; HL Deb. 16 June 1958, col. 892.

33 SOs 37, 38.

34 Procedure 6th Rpt 2005–06.

35 See paragraph 6.48.

36 The general debate day runs from the start of a session until the end of January the following year. Procedure 3rd Rpt 2010–11.

37 SO 38(6).

38 SO 38(7).

39 Procedure 2nd Rpt 1958–59. 

40 Procedure 4th Rpt 1964–65.

41 For example, a repeat of a Commons statement immediately after oral questions usually follows any first readings of Lords or Commons bills, or business of the House motions, that are ready at that point.

42 SO 39(3).

43 SO 40(3).

44 SO 43.

45 Adjournments ‘during pleasure’ are breaks in a sitting for specified or unspecified periods.

46 Procedure 2nd Rpt 2006–07.

47 SO 42.

48 questions-statements.parliament.uk/

49 Procedure 1st Rpt 1969–70.

50 Evidence Act 1845, s. 3. The Act does not extend to Scotland.

51 SO 70.

52 Statutory Instruments Act 1946, s. 4, as amended by Sch. 6 to the Constitutional Reform Act 2005; SO 72.

53 Procedure 2nd Rpt 2006–07.

54 SO 75.

Companion to the Standing Orders of the House of Lords

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