The House of Lords likes to talk about itself and this afternoon is no exception.
The House has been debating a series of (modest) amendments to its own procedures. First off is the idea that during Question Time the Lord Speaker should be allowed to arbitrate between the political groupings in the Chamber as to whose turn it is to ask a supplementary question. This is regarded as revolutionary stuff. At present the House itself decides by growling whose turn it is and, if there is still a conflict with two (or more) Peers trying to speak at the same time, the Leader of the House intervenes and arbitrates. The Leader of the House is, of course, a Government Minister and to most people it might seem odd that he should decide who should ask a question of one of his Ministerial colleagues. But that is the way it is at the moment and after more than an hour of debate, the House voted by 169 to 233 to retain the status quo.
The House did agree that Peers could refer to the House of Commons as the “House of Commons” rather than the “Other Place”, but the idea of simplifying the forms of address proved much more controversial. At present, former senior judicial figures have to be referred to as “The Noble and Learned Lord”, Field Marshals or holders of the Victoria Cross as “The Noble and Gallant Lord”, and Bishops as “!The Right Reverend Prelate”. It was suggested that “The Noble Lord” or “The Bishop of _____” might suffice. After lengthy debate, the House divided with 173 in favour of the proposition and 173 against and the proposed simplification was declared “not carried”.
For the time being, procedural reform will have to wait.