Monday, 5 September 2011

Standing Orders of the Houses of Parliament

Both of the Houses of Parliament have their own sets of standing orders.  Some of them are very old.

The earliest come from the House of Lords.  The following (among others) date from 27 March 1621, though they appear to have been amended since then:
6.  Bishops to whom a writ of summons has been issued are not Peers but are Lords of Parliament, and shall be introduced on first receiving a writ and also on translation to another See.

26.  Every Lord is to speak standing and uncovered, except by permission of the House.

27.  When any Lords speak, they are to address their speech to the rest of the Lords in general.

76.  If Her Majesty is not personally present to prorogue Parliament at the close of a session, such prorogation is not to be by Writ, but by Commission directed unto some of the Lords of the Upper House; and they, being in their robes and seated on a form placed between the Throne and Woolsack, are to command the Usher of the Black Rod to let the Commons know the Lords Commissioners desire their immediate attendance in the House of Peers, to hear the Commission read; and the Commons being come up to the Bar of this House and standing uncovered, the Commission is to be read by the Clerk, after which Parliament is to be prorogued in such manner, and to such time, as is commanded by the said Commission.
On 13 June 1626, an order was adopted against "asperity of speech":
32.  To prevent misunderstanding, and for avoiding of offensive speeches, when matters are debating, either in the House or at Committees, it is for honour sake thought fit, and so ordered, That all personal, sharp, or taxing speeches be forborn, and whosoever answereth another man’s speech shall apply his answer to the matter without wrong to the person: and as nothing offensive is to be spoken, so nothing is to be ill taken, if the party that speaks it shall presently make a fair exposition or clear denial of the words that might bear any ill construction; and if any offence be given in that kind, as the House itself will be very sensible thereof, so it will sharply censure the offender, and give the party offended a fit reparation and a full satisfaction.
This order dates from 30 March 1670:
21.  If any Lord has occasion to speak with another Lord while the House is sitting, they are to retire to the Prince’s Chamber, and not converse in the space behind the Woolsack; or else the Lord Speaker is to call them to order, and, if necessary, to stop the business in agitation.
And this order dates from 22 December 1720:
1. — (1) When Her Majesty comes publicly to the House, the Lords shall be attired in their robes or in such other dress as may be approved by Her Majesty, and shall sit in their due places.
(2) At all such solemn times, before Her Majesty comes, no person other than a Lord shall be allowed on the floor of the House except:
(a) such members of the Royal Family as Her Majesty may direct;
(b) Judges summoned by writ and the officers and attendants of this House;
(c) such Peeresses and members of the Diplomatic Corps as are in possession of an invitation issued by the Lord Great Chamberlain.
(3) No person whatsoever shall presume to stand upon the steps of the Throne but such as carry Her Majesty’s train and those that bear the Regalia.
(4) The approaches to the House shall be kept clear from all unauthorised persons, and the Lord Great Chamberlain shall be desired to take care to see this Order duly observed.
The standing orders of the Commons are quite modern by comparison.  The oldest dates from 29 March 1707 (and was last amended on 8 March 1971):
49. Any charge upon the public revenue whether payable out of the Consolidated Fund or the National Loans Fund or out of money to be provided by Parliament including any provision for releasing or compounding any sum of money owing to the Crown shall be authorised by resolution of the House.
This one dates from 11 June 1713 (last amended 8 March 1971):
48. This House will receive no petition for any sum relating to public service or proceed upon any motion for a grant or charge upon the public revenue, whether payable out of the Consolidated Fund or the National Loans Fund or out of money to be provided by Parliament, or for releasing or compounding any sum of money owing to the Crown, unless recommended from the Crown.
And this one, which is still enforced every day, comes from 6 April 1835 (last amended 14 November 1933):
7. No Member’s name shall be affixed to any seat in the House before the hour of prayers; and the Speaker shall give directions to the doorkeepers accordingly.