Page last updated at 19:22 GMT, Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Peers reject changes to oral questions in the Lords

Peers have rejected recommendations from the Procedure Committee to change the way oral questions are tabled in the House of Lords.

A number of peers spoke out against proposals to turn the award of oral questions into a ballot, during a debate on the committee's third report on 9 January 2013.

The chair of the committee, Lord Sewell, told peers he wanted to see the introduction of a daily ballot rather than the current system whereby peers queue up to table a question up to four weeks in advance.

Lord Sewell said the current system was leading to members having to wait for up to three hours to secure a question, and was biased towards peers living in London and those who do not have other commitments or a career outside Westminster.

This, he told peers, had resulted in 27% of oral questions in 2012 being tabled by just 15 members of the House of Lords.

Instead the committee proposed setting up a daily ballot for members, which peers could enter into between 10am and 4pm on every sitting day.

But opposing the proposal, Labour's Lord Lea of Crondall told peers the idea of queuing was not a great hardship as you got a comfortable seat and could "catch up on emails, read the Financial Times or catch up on Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire".

Conservative peer Baroness Gardner of Parks said she was opposed to the "lottery" of a ballot, but the Ulster Unionist Party's Lord Empey told the House that the current queuing system discouraged members, like him, that lived a long way from London.

Peers opted to support an amendment by Labour's Lord Grenfell to reject the proposed ballot system, but ask the Procedure Committee to look again at the way oral questions are handled and report after the Easter recess.

With this amendment in place, peers went on to approve the third report of the committee, including recommendations on procedure surrounding prayers, Standing Orders, scrutiny of draft Orders, affirmative instruments and notice of en bloc motions.

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