Keeping an eye on the other House

Lord Norton

The past week has been pretty hectic.  The Lords has been busy getting on with the detailed scrutiny of legislation.  However, peers have also been keenly interested in what has been going on in the Commons.  Many have followed the proceedings on screen.  Now that offices have TV screens, it is possible to get on with work while also keeping an eye on the screen: we can access the feed from each chamber as well as the annunciator.  In other words, we can just keep an eye on current business or we can actually watch the debate.  However, if we want to watch a debate in the Commons in person, we can go over and sit in one of the small side galleries in the Commons: a couple of benches are reserved for us, though you cannot squeeze many in.  I watched on screen much of the the two-day debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill, but went over to the Commons to watch the wind-up speeches and the division on Second Reading.   The chamber was noisy and the result obviously keenly anticipated.  It was one of those historic occasions.

Just as we can go over to the Commons to watch proceedings, MPs are entitled to come and stand below the Bar (just behind the cross-benches shown in the picture) in the Lords to watch proceedings.  Though it is not unusual for peers to pop over to watch proceedings in the Commons, it is fairly rare to see an MP standing below Bar in the Lords.  An MP occasionally pops over to collect guests they have arranged seats for below Bar or a front-benchers may come to watch proceedings on a relevant Bill.  The only time when we saw MPs in some numbers was when we were debating the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill.  When the Commons rose, it was not unusual for MPs to come over to the Lords to observe the lengthy deliberations on amendments to the Bill.  It actually became quite crowded on occasion.  At least the MPs got to see the House in action.

7 comments for “Keeping an eye on the other House

  1. MilesJSD
    17/07/2012 at 3:42 am

    It is becoming embarrassingly, painfully, maybe ‘too-late’, clear

    that both Houses are remaining self-blinded to and aptitude-incapable-of-learning, modern governance electronic-technology advances in:
    ‘cameral’ networking, discussing, debating, scrutinising, and voting;
    up-to-the-minute (democratic) information publishing-to-The People,

    and also, within people-participatory-democracy-essentials,
    formal participatory-democracy electronic input (upwards)
    from the random (but perhaps adequately ‘screened’) citizen among The People.
    The “Horse Trading” blog (below) includes relevant material to this double-problem of

    1) how to keep the ‘retired’ and ‘removed-from-real-life-and-work’ governance-employees, up-to-date and up-to-speed in taking us into the Future;
    2) make the governance technology both adequately secure and sufficiently ‘easy’ to use.

  2. Chris K
    17/07/2012 at 2:15 pm

    After the Blair purple flour incident, Peers can’t take visitors into the Commons gallery any more, can they? But MPs can take guests to watch the Lords?

    • maude elwes
      17/07/2012 at 5:55 pm

      Treachery is obvioulsy condoned by Whitehall officials, so the paper tells us today. And who are these Whitehall officials who have the power to hide from the public facts that lead the country to war illegally? Whilst hiding their faces from that little rulle called accountability.

      What are these people afraid of? Well the snippet tells us it is fear of the Americans having their noses put out of joint by having their duplicity exposed when comepelling the UK to send its soldiers to war on their behalf. As well as spening out pounds sterling to pay for this junk they pour on us so frequently.

      So, thse letter are expected to show that Blaid is indeed culpable as a war criminal. If he was not, the letters wouldn’t need hiding would they?

      Questions as to why this man Blair and others close to him are not being held responsible for their illegal actions are being asked around the world.

      See what they admit to doing and yet are not charged to date.

      With any luck the US will require extradition of Blair and try him in Texas.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      20/07/2012 at 9:43 am

      Chris K: Yes, peers can arranged for guests to attend debates in the Commons, just as MPs can arrange for guests to attend debates in the Lords.

  3. Gareth Howell
    19/07/2012 at 10:25 am

    Most MPs have very little idea of what goes on up the corridor, until their number is up, and then, due to the addiction/adrenalin rush of public speaking, they have to find SOMEWHERE to gab on, and there it is!

  4. sophieduschl
    19/07/2012 at 5:31 pm

    I have a question with respect to the Government’s Response to the Joint Committee’s Report. I wanted to find out whether the Response and the new House of Lords Reform Bill 2012 were published together. The Response only states that it was published in June, but not on which day. I am interested, because it makes me wonder, how anyone could have been able to properly discuss the Government’s changes before the Second Reading. Is it common practice that the Government publishes the Response and Bill more or less together? I find that it weakens the chance for proper scrutiny. Then I have another question, with respect to the Joint Committee of which you were a member. I was expecting that it would produce a very Government conform report (which it did), but was surprised about how big the division in the committee was. I read that the members were selected through the “usual channels” but I have no clue what those channels are. Was it possible for the Government to influence who was to serve on it? And one last question, did the Government ever comment on the Alternative Report?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      20/07/2012 at 9:50 am

      sophieduschl: The Government’s response to the Joint Committee report was published at the same time as the Bill. Initially, the Government had not intended to publish a response to the Joint Committee report. When I raised the issue, I was told that the Bill would be the Government’s response to the report. I pointed out that the Government normally published responses to Joint Committee reports, including those on draft Bills (as happened, for example, with the report on the Constitutional Renewal Bill – I served on that Joint Committee as well). This seems to have prompted the Government to produce a response to the report, so I suppose we should be grateful that there was actually a response at all.

      Members of the Joint Committee were indeed selected through the ‘usual channels’. The parties sounded out members as to whether they would be interested in serving. On the Lords side, there was no shortage of peers willing to serve and they were selected largely to reflect opinion in the House. On the Commons side, I think it was more influenced by who was available. One Labour MP who was appointed never turned up for a single meeting. I gather he tried to find someone to replace him, but could not find anyone.

      The Government have not responded to the Alternative Report.

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