Wrong House

Lord Norton

In the House of Commons, it is possible to raise a point of order with the Speaker.   One cannot do that in the Lords.   We are a self-regulating chamber, so formally the authority figure for appeal and enforcement comprises the the House itself.  Any member can rise to call attention to a transgression of the rules, but one does not call it a point of order but instead cites what appears in The Companion to the Standing Orders .  Thus, for example, a member may rise to draw the attention of a peer who has been speaking for more than 15 minutes to the fact that, according to The Companion, speeches should not exceed 15 minutes.

However, the recent influx of former MPs does appear to have left some a little unsure as to where they are.  On Wednesday, for example, during debate on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, Hansard records the following exchange:

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords-

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: No, I think I have been very patient.  I have been remarkably patient.

A noble Lord: On a point of order, Mr Speaker-

Lord Campbell-Savours: Well, there is no Speaker here.  We are not arguing that would prevent any member of the public registering to vote prior to…..”

This may well be the first time that the phrase ‘On a point of order, Mr Speaker’ has been uttered in the Upper House!

21 comments for “Wrong House

  1. Carl.H
    14/01/2011 at 9:05 pm

    Oh my, anyone would think he was ****** royalty !


  2. Michael
    14/01/2011 at 10:16 pm

    This kind of thing does seem to be happening more regularly in the Lords. I noticed on Monday for instance during oral questions that Lord Reid of Cardowan referred to the minister as “the honourable minister” and then immediately corrected himself to refer to “the noble minister”. Easily done I suppose if one has spent most of one’s parliamentary career in the other House!

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      15/01/2011 at 8:48 pm

      Michael: It made for one mistake compounded by another. It should have been ‘the noble lord, the minister’. Lords are noble but ministers, as ministers, are not. A number of peers have got into the habit of making this mistake.

  3. Dan Filson
    14/01/2011 at 10:49 pm

    A case of disorientation.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      15/01/2011 at 8:48 pm

      Dan Filson: That is my presumption.

  4. 14/01/2011 at 10:57 pm

    Well, there is a Speaker in the House of Lords now. What worries me more is that the “noble lord” referred to her as “Mr” when surely she should be a “Madam”?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      15/01/2011 at 8:49 pm

      Jonathan: Even though it is Baroness Hayman, the title is the Lord Speaker.

      • 16/01/2011 at 2:45 am

        Lord Speaker, just as you have a Lord Mayor. But in the other place, a female speaker is not addressed as Mr.

        How is the Lord Speaker addressed in the House, if there’s ever a need to refer to her?

  5. Lord Blagger
    14/01/2011 at 11:42 pm

    You’ve got enough speakers already.

    Failed ones from the commons mainly

    Second point we are pay 1,700 a minute to keep you running.

    Just how much as this complete twaddle of ‘convention’ cost us?

  6. Mark Wyman
    14/01/2011 at 11:50 pm

    As the Hansard reporter who covered that exchange, I wondered whether that might get noticed. (That ‘point of order’ intervention was called out ironically, probably as a comment on how the tone of proceedings at that point resembled a heated exchange in the Commons – I don’t think the sedentary Lord in question had forgotten where he was). Incidentally, as what might be called a heckle, it only went on the record because L Campbell-Savours responded to it…

  7. tory boy
    15/01/2011 at 12:32 am

    Lord Norton I think not, I have heard it before (the use of points of order in the lords). There was a very interesting question on Thursday calling attention to behaviour in the house and it (behaviour) has got worse. The behaviour of members on the consideration of Commons Amendments to the Identity Cards Bill was very bad. Question time is till looking like organised chaos, I have been calling for ages for the Lords Speaker to chair Question Time and bring some dignity, self regulation does not work at Question Time. I also think the Labour group have adapted badly to opposition and are not abiding by the rules of the house Lady Royall admitted so much in here question on the issue of bad behaviour in the house on Thursday, if she has any sense she will follow the words of :

    Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, does the noble Lord the Leader of the House remember that about 30 years ago, when he and I first became Members of this House, Baroness Hylton-Foster was Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers. If any new boy or girl in her flock transgressed, she took them aside later and came down on them like a ton of bricks. Would it not be a good idea if the leaders of the various parties were to do that today?

    Certainly the Labour group need it, and I don’t mean to be rude but I think Lord Bassam of Brighton is too much of wet lettuce to do it, I would let Baroness Farrington sort these badly behaved Labour peers out, and give them a good hiding!!

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      15/01/2011 at 8:51 pm

      tory boy: It is not unusual for peers to shout ‘order’ when someone transgresses, or even to claim something is out of order, but I have not heard anyone rise saying ‘on a point of order’. The Opposition are having difficulty adapting to Opposition and it is not helping the House.

    15/01/2011 at 5:26 am

    An odd and intersting exchange, indeed. Perhaps it was Force of Habit?

  9. Twm O'r Nant
    15/01/2011 at 7:57 pm

    Points of Order and points of information are such a basic part of the public and democratic meeting that it must be quite hard to drop it, on first introduction to the noble house!

    I have often thought that it is the slowness of the second chamber that is responsible for the lack of need to use the point of order.

    So the noble Lord does not draw attention to the deep knowledge of the Lord speaker but to the deep knowledge of the book which contains all of that knowledge.

    I guess there are some who have a copy of the Companion to the standing orders to which to make instant reference, but 15 minutes is 15 minutes.

    Self reliance rather than reliance on the Lord president him/herself.

  10. Lord Blagger
    15/01/2011 at 9:48 pm

    No doubt Philip Norton spent is time at school as a prefect telling off little boys for using the wrong coat hooks.

    It’s time the Lords grew up and got some sensible rules in place.

    There is no reason why at 1,700 pounds a minute we should pay for this nonsense.

  11. Senex
    16/01/2011 at 4:05 pm

    TB: On the subject of ‘Question Time’ you might find amusing an exchange that took place in the Commons on Feb 18, 1914.


    Perhaps Lord Norton might offer us an explanation as to why Lords are speaking in the Commons as the phrase ‘the Noble Lord’ is captured by Hansard?

    In this Commons house note it explains ‘How Members are called to speak’:


    The Speaker is a Privy Councillor unlike the Lord Speaker? At one time PCs by convention would seat themselves in close proximity to the Speaker.

    As for the Lords I’m not sure what the seating arrangements are but clearly members have their metaphorical ‘towels’ in place to denote ownership. The woolsack is reserved for the presiding officer, the Lord Speaker.


    Baroness Boothroyd, a former Commons Speaker, is assertive in her views on the new role and its powers. The briefing paper also refers to the inscrutable ‘usual channels’ in determining the order to speak.

  12. Dan Filson
    17/01/2011 at 9:59 am

    The pace and behaviour will revert to pay in a few months. However there is a longer term issue that more and more peers are appointed with the expectation of not being simply there as voting fodder. So they will want to – or feel themselves expected to – contribute. This will inevitably generate irritation at repetition, windiness etc. I don’t know the answer but inevitably the considered tone of Lords debates could change.

  13. Dan Filson
    17/01/2011 at 10:00 am

    I meant ‘revert to par in a few months’ – cannot think why pay was on my fingertips’ mind!

  14. Carl.H
    17/01/2011 at 11:12 pm

    I have to say Lord Campbell-Savours has a lot of presence, he is quick witted and does grab my attention. Someone I would not like to be on the wrong side of.

  15. 18/01/2011 at 10:30 am

    It concerns me that these mistakes are being made. If you consider the staff and researchers that ministers and Lords have, you would expect them to have the necessary information available so they could learn the process of the House that they are sitting in.

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