The parliamentary package

Lord Norton

The work of the House of Lords should not be confused with sittings of the House. A great deal of work takes place in committees – indeed, committee work can be much more time consuming that participating in debates in the chamber – and in peers’ offices. Committee work entails not only attending meetings but also working through the paperwork for them, which can be extensive. Before the House sits at, say, 2.30 p.m. many peers will already have done a full morning’s work.

The work does not end either when Parliament is not sitting. As one parliamentarian once observed, letter writers don’t take holidays. The mail continues to flow in during recesses. We notify the Attendants’ Office prior to a recess where we want our mail redirected. Each day’s mail is then put in a parliamentary parcel and despatched. I had two packages arrive this morning. People continue to lobby, invitations flow in. The work carries on.

7 comments for “The parliamentary package

  1. Senex
    08/04/2008 at 10:53 am

    The new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice:

    Was invited to attend a sitting of the House of Lords Constitutional Committee in October 2007 where he gave reassurances on questions asked given that he is a member of the government’s executive.

    However, the Committee did not hypothesise on what would happen if a government were elected that contained no MP Barristers. In such a scenario what options would be available to a Prime Minister in order to maintain the integrity of the office of Lord Chancellor?

  2. ladytizzy
    08/04/2008 at 5:14 pm

    Following from Senex’s comment, what percentage of magistrates have had legal experience eg ex-police officers, solicitors? How does this compare with the HoL, and HoC?

    PS Did Lord Rix advise you on the title of this post?

  3. lordnorton
    09/04/2008 at 10:14 am

    In response to Senex, if there were no MPs who were barristers, it would be open to the PM to appoint a Lord Chancellor from the Lords. As a result of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the Lord Chancellor need not be a member of the House of Lords, but there is no requirement that the person appointed to the post sit in the Commons. There are clearly highly qualified lawyers in the Lords, as demonstrated by the fact that the current Attorney General sits in the Lords, as did her two immediate predecessors.

  4. lordnorton
    09/04/2008 at 1:13 pm

    In response to ladytizzy, I suspect the information may well be found among answers to parliamentary written questions. It is the sort of question that variously gets asked. The principal legal advice in a magistrates court comes, though, from the clerk. In terms of MPs, in the current House there are 34 barristers and 38 solicitors. I will need to check the figure for the Lords.

    As for the title of the post, it is – as with the other titles of my posts – all my own work!

  5. ladytizzy
    10/04/2008 at 4:15 am

    Thanks for that, and a further answer. I had sounded out a few people when I was considering whether to apply to become a magistrate but was put off when those who had prior legal experience had all been turned down. Of course, I understand that this, in itself, was not the barrier they were unable to break.

    I am trying to find the answer in the written question but no joy so far though I wonder why Harriet Harman is disappointed that 80% are above 50yo.

  6. Bedd Gelert
    11/04/2008 at 8:15 am

    Doh !!

    And there was me thinking that working in the House of Lords would be the ideal gig for me.. And I know find that far from starting work in the afternoon [I will admit that I thought you kicked off at mid-day] some of you have been hard at it all morning..

    An alternative career plan is called for methinks..

    By the way, and I’m struggling not to sound facetious here, but bear with me. What about a ‘where are they now?’ feature about erstwhile politicians now earning their crust in the House of Lords. For example Lord Howe [of Aberavon?] has done some sterling work since he left the other place, and I’m sure that many other ‘names’ would have some very interesting tales to tell, and knowledge to impart, about life in the House of Lords.

    They might even have some interesting insights to share about the wisdom or otherwise of different aspects and proposals to evolve or reform the Upper Chamber.

  7. lordnorton
    12/04/2008 at 1:54 pm

    ladytizzy: if you fail to find the answer you are looking for, let me know.

    Bedd Gelert: it´s a very interesting point you make. I am struck by visitors to the Lords who see familiar faces in the chamber and have been unaware of the work they are now doing. Lord Howe of Aberavon (Geoffrey Howe) is a good example: as you say, he has been doing excellent work in a number of areas. There are many like him who are extremely active, not only in the chamber but also serving on committees. I agree there may well be a case for considering doing features on such individuals. Given the comment in response to another posting – namely, that this blog may well become permanent – we could include profiles here and/or encourage such members to contribute to this blog.

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