Tuesday, 28 October 2008
Questions in the House of Lords
Last Wednesday the new Chief Whip in the House of Lords, Lord Bassam of Brighton, reminded their Lordships of the "rules" relating to questions.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, before we proceed to the first Question I should like to say a few words about procedure at Question Time. We rightly take pride in being a self-regulating House, but it is helpful for us to be reminded of our normal customs from time to time. Self-regulation can only work if noble Lords in all parts of the House co-operate to make it work. The Companion makes clear that Ministers’ initial Answers to Questions should not exceed 75 words.
Noble Lords: Hear, hear! (I was in the public gallery at the time, and can attest to the support shown by their Lordships for these reminders)
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, they are on notice. The Companion also says that supplementary questions should be short, designed to elicit information rather than incorporating statements of opinion, and confined to the subject of the original Question. I am sure that the House will be delighted to know that I have reminded my colleagues on the Front Bench that answers to supplementary questions should also be concise. It is to the benefit of all Members of the House to keep questions and answers short. This will maximise the number of supplementary questions that can be taken in the 30 minutes available. I am sure that the House will find agreement with that.