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Page 24, line 9, leave out first ("Chair") and insert ("Chairman").

The noble Baroness said: I want to speak to Amendments Nos. 165 to 169 and 171 to 191.

However, before I do so, and with the leave of the Committee, I refer back to Amendment No. 154, on which I think I said, "This is not a sensible amendment". I would not have realised I had said that had it not been picked up by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I did not intend to say that.

Lord Tope: Perhaps I may reassure the noble Baroness. What I heard her say--I hope this is right--was that she was not moving the amendment because it was sensible. I thought that was rather a bizarre reason for not moving an amendment.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I thank the noble Lord. I intended to say that as it is such a serious amendment, and as we were trying to move on, I would not move it this evening but bring it back on another occasion. I hope that clarifies the position for the record.

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The 26 identical amendments in the group to Clauses 42, 43 and 44 call for the deletion of the word "Chair" wherever it appears and its replacement by "Chairman".

Perhaps I may ask for the Committee's indulgence by mentioning my qualifications to speak on the subject of this series of amendments. From 1985 to 1988 I was Chairman of the 300 Group, an all-party organisation dedicated to getting more women into the other place. From 1986 to 1992 I was the Chairman of the Women into Public Life Campaign, dedicated to ensuring that more women receive more appointments to public bodies. For my efforts in those two spheres, Her Majesty honoured me with the MBE for,


    "services in the advancement of the status of women in public and political life". From 1993 to 1996 I was the Chairman of the Greater London Area of the Conservative Party. From 1990 to 1994 I was the Chairman of the Barnet Family Health Services Authority. Since 1997 I have been the Chairman of the National Association of Leagues of Hospital and Community Friends.

In none of those offices has anybody dared to call me "the Chair". Maybe it is because, despite my well-known mild and self-effacing manner, they simply did not dare to, or maybe they realised that I am not someone who can be sat upon. Certainly I do not need any lessons from anyone on how the interests of women are best promoted. I believe that they are certainly not promoted by those who cause the women's movement to be held up to ridicule by the sort of verbal absurdity that we find perpetrated in the Bill.

The French, the Italians, the Spanish and the Portuguese languages have two genders for their nouns. Hundreds of other languages have the same defect. The Germans run to three--masculine, feminine and neuter--with the word for "Miss" being male for some unfathomable, Teutonic reason.

The Queen's English--your Lordships will note that the name of our language which is spoken all around the world is English, not British or United Kingdomish--fortunately does not assign any gender to its nouns. The word "chairman" does not assign any connotation of the sex of the holder of the office.

Another grotesque word that is sometimes used is "spokesperson". Thank goodness all the perpetrators of this sexist nonsense do not call him or her the "spoke". There is a story which I cannot prove that one local council decided that the phrase, "manhole cover" was politically incorrect; and since "personhole cover" was too crass even for them, referred to them as "horizontal aperture closures".

A female executor is called an "executrix"; so why is a female director not called a "directorix"? Why is a female judge not called a "judgess"? Female ushers are called "usherettes", so why is a female Minister of the Crown not called a "Ministerette"?

I use the phrase "sexist nonsense" because in the name of what they call "political correctness", verbal vandals actually perpetrate gender disputes where none exists. Only yesterday some noble Lords in this Chamber were talking about "Peers" and "Peeresses". I am not a Peeress; I am a Peer and am proud to be a

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Member of this House as a Peer. A "Peeress" is the wife of a Peer. I did not say the "spouse" of a Peer because I would not insult my poor husband who is sitting in the Peeress's Box.

As I said, a Peeress is the wife of a male Peer. I am a Peer and when someone stands up and says, "My Lords", that includes me and every other noble Baroness in this House. My summons from Her Majesty the Queen instructs me to attend "with the other Lords". There are those who say that we should be using this different language and argue that it is the symbolism that counts. It is not. What counts is getting our arguments across without detracting from the main point.

In saying that, perhaps I may touch on the issue of consistency. In the three clauses that I am discussing the, draftsman used the word "chair" 26 times. However, Schedule 21, paragraph (6)(1) requires the Metropolitan Police Authority to appoint not a "chair", but a "chairman"--a "chairman", after all this other nonsense of 26 times calling it a "chair". Schedule 23(3) requires the mayor to appoint a "chairman" of the Fire and Emergency Planning Authority; and not just a chairman, but a vice-chairman as well. Schedule 14 provides for the payment to be made to the "chairman" of the London Transport Users' Committee. Section 237 amends the Regional Development Agencies Act, passed only last year, by providing for the mayor to appoint a "chairman". Lastly, whoever drafted paragraph (3) of Schedule 25 was clearly torn in two directions and produced the following compromise,


    "Appointment of member to take chair", and then it says,


    "The Mayor shall appoint one of the members of the Cultural Study Group for London to chair it". The draftsman could not make up his mind whether it was a "chair" or a "chairman" and came up with those two sentences.

The amendments we are proposing make not one jot of difference to the Act or the working of the authority. But it eliminates a piece of linguistic nonsense that I should have thought the Government would prefer not to inflict on the residents of London or to give any degree of credence to by including it in an Act of Parliament. I beg to move.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: It is with the utmost reluctance that I rise to oppose my good friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, whom I first met in the 300 Group, which she was later to chair with elegance and distinction.

I have been a chairman, but not of as many organisations as the noble Baroness. After 11 years on Surrey County Council, during which I had insensibly--because all Liberal Democrats tend to speak in this language--unconsciously and unwillingly offended people by occasionally calling them "chair" when, according to the constitution of the county council I should have called them "chairman", I myself became chairman of the county council. I raised with the chief executive whether I could call myself "Chair". He said, "Certainly not". I said, "Why not?" He said, "Because

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of the way in which the standing orders of the county council are written at the moment you have been elected as a chairman and not as a chair".

This particular Bill is trying to guide--I put it no stronger than that--this modern institution into a more modern way of conducting its business. I believe that growing numbers of people find obnoxious terms which have "man" at the end of them, but are posts which may be filled with either men or women. Most of us do not get into a great tizzy about it, but we would still rather that things were not like that.

Some of the examples which the noble Baroness put before us did not follow the pattern of what she was saying. For example, the enviable characteristic of the word "judge" is that it does not distinguish between men and women. I could be a good or bad judge of a flower show, an apple, a taste or whatever I like. I cannot be a judge in court because I am not qualified, but Members of the Committee will know what I am trying to say.

If we are to be a little more modern let us choose one of the more acceptable modernisms. I am sure that the noble Baroness will agree with me that "chair" is preferable to "chairperson", which is a repulsive term. It also has the great advantage of being consistent with the longstanding formality such as the need to address oneself to the chair. It is a way in which the seat of authority becomes first the office and now it is attached to the person who holds that office just as it is attached to the person who sits in the chair.

Interestingly enough, I took part in this very same debate in my own party many years ago at nine o'clock in the morning in Dundee, which is not a very attractive place or hour at which to conduct that kind of debate. I knew that I would have against me a very distinguished member of my party who was extremely cultivated in his own tongue. In fact, he was an English scholar. So I referred to the English dictionary which was in two volumes. It was printed in such small print that one needed a magnifying glass to read it. That was kindly provided by my county council. I found that the earliest use of the words "chair" and "vice-chair" are in letters of about 1780, written by the chair and vice-chair of the East India Company to each other. I do not believe that we need any further justification for this very small shift towards modernism. It was not even that modern.


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