The Committee considered a memorandum by the
Lord Chancellor which proposed that:
The Lord Chancellor told the Committee that
on all ceremonial occasions he would wear breeches and tights,
as he did now, and that, in his view, the dignity of the office
of Lord Chancellor would not be reduced by the small change in
dress he proposed. So far as his proposal to conduct government
business from the Front Bench was concerned, he believed he could
do so more efficiently if he did not have to act also as Speaker.
In particular, the wearing of a full bottomed wig when taking
a bill through the House was both restrictive and tiring.
(i) The House attached great importance to
its ceremonial. The role of the Lord Chancellor as Speaker of
the House was a significant one. There would be a lessening of
dignity and authority if the Lord Chancellor abandoned his traditional
dress, even in such a modest way.
(ii) Following the recent changes to the
Introduction ceremony, the proposals could be seen as another
move towards dismantling the richness and colour of the House's
ceremonial and procedure.
(iii) Breeches and tights were not worn by
judges on a daily basis. These were reserved for ceremonial occasions,
as proposed by the Lord Chancellor for himself.
(iv) The Speaker of the House of Commons
no longer wore a full bottomed wig. Why should the Lord Chancellor
not also adapt his dress in the way proposed?
(v) It was a great burden on Lord Chancellors
when they had both to conduct government business and preside
over the House, particularly at the Report stages of public bills.
(vi) The Standing Orders of the House already
acknowledged that there was a difference between the Lord Chancellor's
role as Speaker and his role as a Minister. A move to the Government
Front Bench would more clearly illustrate the difference in these
(vii) While the proposed changes, both to
dress and procedure, were modest and practical, it would be desirable
to postpone them until after the anticipated reform of the composition
of the House.
The Committee noted that there was strong opposition
to both proposals made by the Lord Chancellor.
The Committee nevertheless recommends that in
future the Lord Chancellor should be able, if he wishes, to speak
from the Government Front Bench, even when the House is sitting
as a House. His place on the Woolsack would be taken by a Deputy
Speaker. The Committee approved the necessary amendments to Standing
Orders 15 and 16, which will be brought before the House in due
The Committee also recommends that the Lord
Chancellor should be able to wear trousers instead of breeches
and tights on ordinary sitting days. The Committee took note of
the Lord Chancellor's wish to wear his full uniform on all ceremonial
occasions. The Committee also noted that there would be no change
in the dress worn by Officers of the House.