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Lord Shutt explains the workings of the House of Lords

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

David ShuttNo ermine-trimmed scarlet robes were on display at the Todmorden U3A AGM where the guest speaker was the Rt. Hon. the Lord Shutt of Greetland and Stainland, explaining something of the workings of the House of Lords. His lordship, or David as he's more likely to be known, told to his audience that the robes only come out on ceremonial occasions.

Before that, the retiring Chair, Gwen Goddard, gave her report in which she expressed her satisfaction at seeing an increase in membership, as well as an increase in the attendance at general meetings. Gwen also expressed her thanks to all her fellow officers and committee members for the work they did, and the support they had given her during her year of office. David Shutt was then introduced by the new Chairman, David Cross.

After telling his audience that at 71, he is under the average age of members of the Lords, David went on to outline a typical day in the House. Proceedings open each day with questions to the government and there will be ministerial statements on issues of the day. Bills are also introduced into the Lords as well as the Commons. The first reading of a Bill is just a presentation of the document, just letting their lordships know it exists, the second reading is when members get down to consider it and those present in the chamber will be those peers who are interested in the matter the Bill addresses. This stage is when debates first take place. After the second reading the Bill goes to the committee stage - where detailed line by line examination of the Bill and discussion of amendments takes place.

The report stage then takes place in the chamber and gives all members further opportunity to consider all amendments to a Bill. Detailed line by line examination of the Bill continues. Votes can take place and any Member of the Lords can take part. If the Bill is amended it is reprinted to include all the agreed amendments. The Bill then moves to third reading for the final chance for the Lords to debate and amend the Bill. The Bill then goes to the Commons, and if any of their Lordships amendments are opposed by the lower house, then a ping-pong process may ensue, David said, where it goes backwards and forwards between Houses. Legislation, David told his audience, takes up two-thirds of the time of the Lords, the rest is spent in debates. Political differences are less pronounced in the Lords than in the Commons – and MPs themselves know little of the Lords.

On a personal note, David said that he became Deputy Chief Whip in a process which didn't included a direct invitation to take the post. He told his audience that the job of chief whip is to offer fellow peers to get things done, rather than be an enforcer. They don't really have the power to do the latter, anyway, he said. David was previously spokesperson on Northern Ireland and recently stood down as Deputy Chief Whip. He said that holding a responsible post entails working a 17 – 19 hour day, giving up one's other interests and losing touch with the outside world.

In answers to questions, David said that there would be a better geographical representation in an elected Lords. Presently there are only three Lords from Yorkshire.

In her report, outgoing Chair, Gwen Goddard had remarked on the high quality of the speakers Todmorden U3A had had during the past year and Lord David Shutt continued that line of interesting and amusing speakers. The University of the Third Age meets in Todmorden on the third Thursday of every month - see the What's On pages of this newspaper, and find out all of its activities at www.u3atod.org.uk

Many thanks to John Bouttell for this report


Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb

HebWeb News - Claire Benedict talks acting to Todmorden U3A (April 2012)

HebWeb News - Kate Moreton-Deakin spoke about her day job as Associate Director - Corporate Social Responsibility with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. (Feb 2012)

HebWeb News - Fair Trade Movement (Feb 2012)

HebWeb News - Fancy a cruise to the Antarctic? (Feb 2012)

HebWeb News - Gail Allaby, U3A's Queen of the Underworld (Dec 2011)

HebWeb News - September meeting report - Report of meeting about Walking the Pacific Crest Trail

HebWeb News - August meeting report - Bolton Abbey

HebWeb News - May and June meeting report - Keep Learning: Live long and prosper and the role of the Lord-Lieutenant

HebWeb News - April meeting report - Belt and Braces - An Everyday Guide to Risk and Chance

HebWeb News - March meeting report - Growing Old in the Twenty-First Century

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