Procedure and Privileges Committee Debate

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Main Page: Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Labour - Life peer)

Procedure and Privileges Committee

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Excerpts
Tuesday 28th November 2023

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I seek some reassurance. “Intemperate language” I understand, but “argumentative” was used as not being appropriate. It may be because I am argumentative but I think that scrutiny and the important role of this House, as it now has the responsibility of holding the Foreign Secretary to account, means that there is likely to be some argument. I worry about the potential of oversanitising the nature of the discussion. No one should be rude, but the word “argumentative” is a little worrying. Perhaps the Senior Deputy Speaker could reassure me that the committee is not trying to quell dissent and have a chilling effect on free speech.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, before we hear the Senior Deputy Speaker’s response, I say that I fully support both reports. The proposals are practical and sensible and aid scrutiny. I have been in the House for more than 13 years. When I first came, we were constantly reminded about sticking to the Companion, and it was good, sensible advice. That seems to have stopped in recent years, perhaps because of the pandemic. I suggest that all of us get a copy of the Companion from the Printed Paper Office. It will make excellent bedtime reading. If we stick to the Companion, it aids scrutiny and our business. Sometimes we all sit here very frustrated when colleagues are not sticking to the Companion and are straying all over the place with waffly speeches, waffly questions and waffly answers. It is not good. Let us all get a copy of the Companion and start using it when we come back.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Senior Deputy Speaker
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My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I apologise for jumping in to answer the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, when in the spirit of things I should have waited for all the considerations from noble Lords.

The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, raised something that we brought to the House today, which is length. I am reminded of the late Lord Judge and his words on brevity, the use of language and the way in which we can all make many good points in a short time. I very much agree. Reading too much often breaks the flow and exchange which we undoubtedly want in the conduct of our business so, wherever we can, we should not read too much. I am sorry that I read my script, but I wanted to get it absolutely right.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fox, raised the term “argumentative”. Deploying argument in debate is one thing, obviously, but the committee felt there could sometimes be a Motion or amendment so highly charged, emotive or argumentative in nature that its text should be considered. I am fully expecting her and indeed all noble Lords to engage in what we do very well here: a very considerable scrutiny of public affairs.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, I say that I too can remember when very senior people would just wave the Companion at someone —and it did not half steady them up.

The way the House works best is when we let business flow well, we do not overcomplicate, we are brief when we can be, and we make our points well and fully. That is why I am grateful for all these comments. The committee seeks to be pragmatic in bringing these matters to your Lordships. With respect to the new Foreign Secretary, I very much look forward to our exercise of accountability. I acknowledge the Leader’s very speedy letter to me about how, in having one of the great offices of state in this House, we should fulfil our responsibilities with accountability and scrutiny.