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Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Richard: I read those words yesterday and again today, and I listened again to the speech read by

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the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor; but I still ask the question. Where is the vision to inspire the nation as we approach the 21st century? Where is the declaration by the Government of their wishes for the good governance of Britain for the remainder of this decade? What can anyone glean from this piece of overt politicking except that the Government are now prepared to use any mechanism available, including even the gracious Speech, to try to gain some party political points. The carefully planned offensive has been so carefully planned that its objectives, its strategy and even its tactics are obvious even before it begins. This is a trivial political programme by a tired Government. In the interests of the country, I hope that it will be their last.

Moved, That this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.--(Lord Richard.)

4.15 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, my first and pleasant duty on this day of ceremony and courtesy is to comment on the speeches of the mover and the seconder of the Address. Those are roles which I have never been called upon to perform--obviously not in this House, but not in the other place either--but they have always struck me as being pretty testing roles and they were excellently performed today. Indeed, in the happy choice of word of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, the Address was refulgently moved by the noble Lord, Lord Denham.

However, I must not talk about the noble Lord as though he were an ingenu making his debut. He looks a little more like a Chelsea Pensioner. He is in a real sense almost the most experienced and the most weathered among us. He spent 12 years as Government Chief Whip, seeing out five or six Leaders of your Lordships' House, and making the brief tenure of his immediate successor as Chief Whip seem but an evening gone. Frequently when someone makes as successful a speech as that which we heard from the noble Lord this afternoon, after a few months we read of his being promoted to be an assistant Whip and making a tentative but promising appearance at the Government Dispatch Box. Somehow I do not think that we shall see that with the noble Lord, Lord Denham, this Session.

Turning to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, I noticed one odd connection between him and the noble Lord, Lord Denham. Both their peerages date from what might be called the roseate sunset of the Baldwin era--in other words, the early months of 1937. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in this respect--but only in this respect--is somewhat senior, for his peerage came in the New Year's Honours List whereas that of the first Lord Denham appeared in the Coronation Honours List of that year. Today the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has necessarily occupied the junior role, but he has discharged it very well. It may well be that he, not the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will be on the Front Bench before the close of another perhaps less roseate era. The noble Lord's father, who was well known as one of the most brilliant after-dinner speakers in London, would, I

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think, have appreciated several of the noble Lord's touches this afternoon. I warmly congratulate both the mover and the seconder.

I turn to what there is in the gracious Speech. It hardly amounts to a very resounding programme, but when I think of what might have been in it if it were a resounding programme, that is perhaps as well. A Judiciary (Abolition of) Bill from the Home Office might not be entirely beyond the bounds of Mr. Howard's imagination. But what I find very extraordinary is that this Government, through their briefing machine which was reflected unanimously in the whole press this morning, stressed the political nature of the 15 Bills proposed and the fact that they are designed primarily to wrong-foot the opposition parties. I am sufficiently old-fashioned to believe that the Government ought at the very least to pretend that their measures are designed for the public interest rather than for party tactics. Furthermore, such an attitude to the briefing put out yesterday shows a most humiliating defensiveness, as well as partisan irresponsibility, for Her Majesty's Government to announce that it is the Opposition which set the agenda.

To move to a conclusion on a more agreeable note, I am very glad to see that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has at least partially won his battle and has provided one of the few beneficial measures in the gracious Speech. In that battle, every move from day to day--almost hour to hour--was reported in the press. What a change there has been during a generation, going back almost exactly to the time graphically described by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, when his father moved the humble Address in the first Session of the present Queen's reign. In 1953--I happened to be reading about it only the other day--there was a tremendous Cabinet dispute over something called "Operation Robot"; whether the pound should be floated. Positions were taken up by civil servants, economic advisers and Cabinet Ministers. All Session long the noise of battle rolled. But not a word got out. I was only a young Back Bencher with close Treasury and economic contacts and not a word did I hear of it. What a contrast with what happens today.

I suppose that the issue can be argued both ways and that it is desirable that Members of the Cabinet should live in a goldfish bowl of their own choosing shining their own lights onto it. However, as someone with a certain belief in collective Cabinet government and Executive authority within its proper limits, I find such total incontinence faintly shocking. And I am sure that it makes total nonsense of Official Secrets Acts, leaks inquiries and still more of occasional prosecutions. This Government betray their own secrets before anyone else can have a chance to do so.

It is part of the general atmosphere of a government at once decaying and flailing with increasing bad temper against any criticism of their own worsening performance. The best news in the national interest, as well as giving an unusual impact to his speech, would be if the noble Lord, the Lord Privy Seal would announce today that this will be the last Queen's Speech before a general election.

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4.23 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, I believe that it was a Liberal Prime Minister who, in answer to a similar inquiry--indeed, to almost any inquiry of the kind made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, in his usual elegant way--always answered, "We had better wait and see".

As usual, it gives me the greatest of pleasure to support the Motion of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition that this debate be adjourned. Perhaps the noble Lord was a little more combative in his remarks than has been customary on this occasion in years gone by but I make no complaint about that. The Motion to adjourn is one issue upon which we are in complete agreement. However, I can assure your Lordships that next week when I reply for the Government on the last day of debate on the gracious Speech, it is all too unlikely that we will be of one mind. Therefore, I shall content myself with revelling in this happy concatenation today.

The noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, were characteristically generous in their words of congratulation to the proposer and seconder of the Motion for a humble Address. However, I am sure your Lordships will agree that this year perhaps more than in many years even of extremely distinguished contributions, such congratulations have rarely, rarely been better deserved.

My noble friend Lord Denham bestrode our narrow world in this place as Government Chief Whip for many years. As a result, his contributions to our debates were all too rare. However, I am sure that today the whole House was reminded of what his office deprived us during those years. It would be fair to say that the magnificence of his oratory was matched only by the magnificence of his apparel. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that in dressing properly for the occasion he was practising merely what he has always preached. I believe that in his days as Chief Whip he invariably issued the most detailed sartorial instructions to the proposer of the humble Address.

My noble friend is a distinguished and popular Member of your Lordships' House and I believe that it was wholly appropriate that he should have undertaken the task that he has performed so elegantly today. It is appropriate too because my noble friend will know that the hereditary peerage, unlike himself as a distinguished member of it, has all too often been known for the utilitarian nature of its clothes rather than their elegance. I am told that the most notorious example of that regrettable tendency occurred not many years ago, I suspect in the Bishops' Bar of your Lordships' House, when one of your Lordships overheard two of his fellow Peers in an extremely serious conversation. It went something like this: "Jolly cold, isn't it?". "Yes, old boy, it certainly is. It's so cold I've got my combinations on. And I'll tell you something else--they were my grandfather's!". My noble friend turned to his neighbour and observed, "That's what I like about this place. Every time you come into it you hear something damned

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interesting". My noble friend told us much that was interesting today, as well as setting us an example sartorially.

My noble friend Lord Mancroft has had two hard acts to follow, as he acknowledged. The first, of course, was my noble friend Lord Denham. The other, who I suppose is always with him, was his father who, sadly, I never met but always understood was one of the finest and wittiest speakers of his day. In seconding the Motion for a humble Address, my noble friend showed once again that there must be something in the hereditary principle.

My noble friend brings to our debates knowledge of a number of areas as well as an elegant turn of phrase. However, his work in the area of drug addiction is particularly admired in your Lordships' House and I hope that he will long continue to grace our debates. It is with the greatest of pleasure that I yield yet another job to the many held by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and I yield it with pleasure; it is the responsibility that in future he should personally recommend to the Prime Minister the names of those who should grace the Government Front Bench.

The legislative programme which was announced by Her Majesty in the gracious Speech is, contrary to what was said by both noble Lords who have since spoken on the Motion, to give effect to the central themes that have characterised Her Majesty's Government's legislative programmes since 1979. That is, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft most clearly pointed out, the liberation of the energies of the British people within a United Kingdom as the surest way of building prosperity and success in a rapidly changing world. The programme will give the House an interesting and varied diet in the weeks ahead. In particular, the Bills which will begin their passage in this House are substantial and a number will be introduced very shortly.

My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will introduce a Bill to reform the law of divorce which will also contain in large part the provisions of the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill which your Lordships considered during the last Session. I am particularly pleased that it will be possible to reintroduce the provisions to which your Lordships gave such thoughtful scrutiny and that the protection that they will provide for victims of domestic violence need not now be forgone for much longer. In that context, I am especially grateful for the assurance of support--because that is what I thought it was--that the House heard from the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, during his remarks this afternoon.

My noble friend Lord Howe will introduce a Bill to govern the Reserve Forces about which my noble friend Lord Denham spoke with such authority. The provisions of that Bill have previously been published in draft and have been subject to extensive consultation. Therefore, I particularly hope that the passage of the Bill will demonstrate how valuable such an exercise can be in improving the quality of legislation. I hope that it will be an earnest of the Government's good intentions in that respect in the years to come.

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My noble friend Lady Blatch will introduce a Bill to reform the procedure for disclosure of information in criminal cases and to implement certain recommendations of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice. My noble friend Lady Cumberlege will introduce a Bill to allow local authorities to make cash payments to disabled people so that they can purchase the care services which they need, and so exercise greater autonomy over their day-to-day lives. In due course other important Bills will be introduced in your Lordships' House. I also look forward to them.

Last year the noble Lord, Lord Richard, thought that the legislative programme of the 1994-95 Session seemed a little thin. In retrospect, the noble Lord may feel, to some degree, that the wish was father to the thought and even, perhaps, that his diagnosis turned out to be a little faultier than he might have wished. Today, the noble Lord said something of the same sort about this year's programme. All I can say is that we shall see whether his diagnosis proves any more accurate this year. If it does, I look forward to a late June rising rather than anything later.

On this occasion last year I also spoke briefly about the procedural experiments which had recently been recommended by the Group on Sittings of the House. During the last Session, we pursued those recommendations. For example, we considered a Bill in a Committee of the Whole House off the Floor; we held an informal meeting on a Bill between Second Reading and Committee; and we committed a number of Bills to Special Public Bill Committees.

In due course, I have no doubt that the Procedure Committee will wish to consider how successful those experimental procedures have been. I would not wish to pre-empt its consideration, but, in the meantime, perhaps I may say that the general sense of the comments that I have received clearly suggests that the House would wish to continue and, perhaps, build upon those developments.

One particular refinement which suggests itself to me concerns our handling of Scottish legislation. I am sure that your Lordships will have watched with the keenest of interest the enhanced role of the Scottish Grand Committee in another place. Some of your Lordships will know by now how much the Children (Scotland) Bill of last Session benefited from the taking of evidence from interested parties in Scotland before its detailed consideration in either House.

If a Scottish Bill were to start in your Lordships' House in this Session it might, I suggest, conceivably benefit from similar attention. Therefore, I hope that it may be possible to discuss with the usual channels in the first instance whether it might be desirable and indeed practicable that, by way of experiment, a Scottish Bill might be committed to a committee with power to meet and take evidence in Scotland. I would be most interested, of course, in any more general reaction from noble Lords to that idea before we took it further.

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It may also be for the convenience of the House if I conclude as usual by outlining the arrangements which have been made for the remaining days of the debate on the Address. Tomorrow, the debate will focus on foreign affairs, on overseas aid and on defence. My noble friend Lady Chalker of Wallasey will open the debate and my noble friend Lord Howe will wind up. On Monday next, the debate will continue with law and home and social affairs. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will open and my noble friend Lady Blatch will wind up. On Tuesday, my noble friend Lord Ferrers will open the debate on the environment, agriculture, local government and education and my noble friend Lord Henley will wind up. The final day of debate on Wednesday will concentrate on industry and economic affairs. My noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie will open the debate and I shall attempt to wind up.

I look forward to the debate and to the opportunity that it will provide for my noble friends to set out the Government's policies and to expose the approach of our opponents. Until then, I shall merely reiterate my thanks and my most respectful congratulations to the proposer and seconder of the Motion for a humble Address. I can only add that I have never seen a better advertisement for the desirability of foxhunting men to enter politics. I commend the Motion that the debate on the Address be adjourned.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.

Chairman of Committees

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I beg to move that the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, be appointed to take the Chair in all Committees of the House for this Session.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente.

Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I beg to move that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, be appointed Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees for this Session.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente.

Stoppages in the Streets--Ordered, That the Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis do take care that during the Session of Parliament the passages through the streets leading to this House be kept free and open; and that no obstruction be permitted to hinder the passage of the Lords to and from this House; and that no disorder be allowed in Westminster Hall, or in the passages leading to this House, during sitting of Parliament; and that there be no annoyance therein or thereabouts; and that the Gentleman Usher

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of the Black Rod attending this House do communicate this order to the Commissioner aforesaid.

Appeal Committees--Two Appeal Committees were appointed pursuant to Standing Order.

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Appellate Committees--Two Appellate Committees were appointed pursuant to Standing Order.

        House adjourned at twenty three minutes before five o'clock.



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