Publicising the House

Lord Norton

54268The Information Office of the House of Lords produces some excellent material.   Given the demands made on it to respond to queries, finding the time to be proactive and publish some invaluable publications is quite a challenge.  It produces obvious value for money.  This is reflected in the answer I have just received about the number of staff employed on public and media relations, especially in relation to the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament.  The figures suggest we have a highly efficient service – and one that perhaps deserves more resources. 

 House of Lords: Staff

Asked by Lord Norton of Louth

    To ask the Chairman of Committees how many staff of the House are employed exclusively or primarily on press and public relations; and how this figure compares with the number of staff employed for the same purpose by (a) the House of Commons, and (b) the Scottish Parliament. [HL1457]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The figures requested are as follows:

  House of Lords House of Commons Scottish Parliament
Staff directly involved in press and public relations work (information, marketing, education and outreach) 10 50 44
—of which, press/media officers 2 10 10

These figures do not include Visitor Services staff in either the House of Commons (33) or the Scottish Parliament (18). The House of Lords contributes 30 per cent of the cost of staff working on bicameral services (such as education, outreach and visitor services), who are based in the House of Commons.

12 comments for “Publicising the House

  1. Bedd Gelert
    26/02/2009 at 7:03 pm

    Methinks some people are doing very well publicising the House.. Lord Myners… Lord Mandelson..

    Perhaps you could give us an insight into the whys and wherefores of having the ‘First Reading’ of the Mail NotAPrivatisation Bill in the House of Lords, and a day early – what advantages does this confer on Lord Mandelson’s attempt to shoe-horn this ill-considered legislation through ?

    And why does Lord Myners slate bankers’ pay one week, then let Sir Fred get away with alleged daylight robbery the next ?? He clearly isn’t short of a bob or two himself…

  2. Bedd Gelert
    26/02/2009 at 7:22 pm

    Myners is indulging in Olympic standard buck-passing here…

    I am not surprised that Brown and Darling are cross – they are the ones with whom the buck is going to stop…

  3. Croft
    27/02/2009 at 10:26 am

    The most surprising figure in that to me is the Scottish parliament. 44 staff -v- 50 for the Commons. Obviously the <£50M cost of the parliament building which ended up costing £430M has not proved much of a salutary lesson about excessive spending.

    Who decides how many staff the Lords employs? 2 Press/Media people seems ridiculously low. Once you factor in holidays, sick days and the like that means one person is likely on duty much of the time which must leave them running to stand still.

  4. Tory Boy
    27/02/2009 at 6:24 pm

    I hope that Lord Steel’s bill is accepted I am watching the recorded debate of his bill and I hope it goes onto the statue book. It is a good bill because it is a necessary tidying up exercise. I am not in favour of changing the composition from appointed to election or a hybrid house.

  5. Croft
    28/02/2009 at 12:17 pm

    Tory Boy: But Steel’s Bill does alter the composition of the house. It removes elections for the hereditary peers thereby changing the house to all appointed – such a change being promised against in ’99 as part of the ‘deal’ until proper reform of the house occurred. This is exactly the piecemeal approach that wasn’t intended.

    Part 4 of the act still allows peers to be excluded even where convicted in a foreign country, in absentia and without any fair hearing or trial. It’s a deeply offensive provision. Such convictions ought to be referred to the Cttee for Privileges to decided upon.

  6. lordnorton
    28/02/2009 at 3:00 pm

    Croft: I dealt with the point about the hereditaries in my speech on the Bill yesterday. Far from preventing hereditaries entering the House, the provisions have the capacity to have the opposite effect. Because of the way the House of Lords Act works, there is a bottleneck limiting able hereditaries from entering the House. The ‘deal’ of which we hear a great deal did not necessarily involve maintaining the 92 hereditaries in perpetuity and, as was discussed yesterday, much depends on what one thinks constitutes ‘proper reform’. Part 4 of the Bill brings the Lords into line with the Commons. The Bill does include provision to deal with a situation where it is felt that a peer who has been expelled merits returning to the House.

  7. Croft
    28/02/2009 at 4:43 pm

    As I remember reading them last time Lord Irvine gave a clear and unqualified undertaking that the HPs would remain until major reform (2nd stage) was (being) completed. I agree we can have a fair debate about what that major reform constitutes elected/part-elected and so on but I find it hard to see Lord Steel’s bill under such a definition. It feels like advanced tinkering! I must admit I’m also rather sympathetic to those members who suggest that reform should be done with a government bill preferable having had the constitutional propriety to set out their specific reform proposal in a manifesto at the general election.

    As to part 4, I can’t say I find ‘it brings the lords into line with the Commons’ a strong argument in principle or in practice. There are many differences between the houses not least an expelled MP has the ability to stand again for election.

    I don’t follow your comments on expulsion. As far as I can see the only redress is under 3 part 12 which only applies to an ‘appeal’ against ‘leave of absence by reason of failure to attend the House’ and not Part 4s criminality exclusion. Can you clarify this?

    1 yr still seems a very blunt instrument and arbitrary. The public may be just as un-accepting of a member sentenced to 12 months as 12 months 1 day. Why is the house so reluctant to simply refer any peer sentenced to prison to the Ctee for privileges for them to decide and recommend a motion for the house to approve on the length of any exclusion. This seems far more equitable and as it’s parliamentary membership rules is fireproof from ECHR challenges.

    Lord Cobbold claimed that you agreed a special case should be made for the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain to remain. I must have missed that in your speech – or was he remembering previous comments. I’m very sympathetic to the case but can’t say I saw much support in other speeches.

  8. lordnorton
    28/02/2009 at 6:01 pm

    Croft: We would be quite happy for the Government to take over the Bill; it would at least enable it to claim to have fufilled its manifesto commitments, a point variously drawn out in the debate. The point about the 92 hereditaries remaining revolves around whether there was a commitment to maintaining them in perpetuity: that is, when one dies, another is brought in to replace them. There is now a strong view that those members convicted of serious criminal offences should be excluded. The Commons employs what seems a reasonable provision, so we have followed it as much for that reason as for ensuring both chambers have the same provision. It is important that the bar is known. If it were left to the Privileges Committee to make a recommendation, there would be uncertainty and doubtless claims of partiality if one peer was recommended to remain and another, sentenced to the same term of imprisonment, was not. It is not for the House to re-try a case. If someone excluded went on to do exceptional work and there was a view that they deserved to be brought back into the House, then Clause 17 of the Bill can be utilised. I was in the chamber for the entire debate and I heard Lord Cobbold’s reference. He was not referring to anything I had said in my speech or, as far as I am aware, anything I had previously said on the subject!

  9. 01/03/2009 at 2:49 am

    The thread seems to have departed somewhat from the original posting, albeit to very interesting subjects. I find this a shame, as the original posting raises important issues, and the very imteresting subjects deserve threads of their own.

    Press and PR is too easily written off as spin in contemporary politics, I believe the functions to be crucially and potentially critically important, however, especially with issues such as Lord Myners’ approval of the RBS pension following so hotly on from the Sunday Times allegations of cash for co-operation.

    Only two for the press/media function does seem very thin.

    What performance indicators does the House use to measure the effectiveness of those performing the Press + PR task? Such as a periodic survey of opinion formers and decision takers on the functions and activities of the House?

  10. Croft
    01/03/2009 at 1:10 pm

    stephenpaterson: As I understand their remit the Press officers have no role wrt Lord Myners as that is a party or governmental matter – they represent/work for the house as a collective hole.

    I did think, as I understood their role, that they ought to have been there to stand up for the house when the incorrect costs were widely published. I don’t think we ever got (or I wasn’t listening properly) a real answer for how those figures went uncorrected for so long.

  11. lordnorton
    01/03/2009 at 6:04 pm

    Croft: On your earlier question, it is ultimately a matter for the House as to how many people to employ. The authorities have tended to err on the cautious side. I agree with you and stephenpaterson that the number for press/media relations is very low, both in absolute terms and clearly (as the figures show) in relative terms. You are correct in your response to stephenpaterson that how Lord Myners exercises his departmental responsibilities is not a matter for the Lords. I agree with the last paragraph of your most recent comment. I am not sure if the figures were correctly swiftly; they may have been, but the media may not have taken much interest as it would undermine the original story.

    stephenpaterson: As you will have seen, those who wish to comment on the House of Lords Bill can now do so through another post. I agree with what you write. Media relations are incredibly important; the House recognises that, but – as the figures demonstrate – there is a case for expanding our resources. In terms of performance indicators, I am not sure what formal measurement is employed. I suspect the principal measurement is probably the sheer extent (column inches etc) of media coverage. There is no polling undertaken on a regular basis in regards to opinions on the Lords that would allow us to measure performance against popular attitudes toward the House.

  12. Croft
    02/03/2009 at 10:59 am

    At least as far as measuring performance is concerned I would have though when the press next appear before one of the appropriate Lord’s Cttees asking them to offer their opinion of the usefulness/efficacy of the Lord’s Press Officers would probably be as good a starting point as any.

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