The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I have to acquaint the House that Her Majesty was pleased this morning to make a most gracious Speech from the Throne to both Houses of Parliament assembled in the House of Lords. Copies of the gracious Speech are available in the Printed Paper Office.
There are some things which we say in this House because it is customary to say them; there are some things we say because they represent what is really in our hearts; sometimes we have the good fortune to find that the two reasons coincide. Either reason would suffice for me to say how deeply I appreciate this privilege and the sense--the unaccustomed sense--of humility with which I undertake this commission.
In thanking my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House and my noble friend the Chief Whip, perhaps I may be the first from the Floor of the House to congratulate our new Leader and welcome him to his position on the Front Bench.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, his competence has been repeatedly demonstrated. He is formidable in debate-- sometimes even more eloquent than he was today--but, even more importantly, his charm is such that we find ourselves wanting to agree with him, even when we know that he is wrong. How can we not admire the patience with which he listens to people telling him what he knew long before they did?
We shall miss hearing my noble friend Lady Jay from the Front Bench. She sought consensus when consensus was sometimes elusive. She was robust in controversy but her words were usually calculated to restore, if not agreement, at least a measure of concord. I hope that from these less sanctified but less constrained Benches she will sometimes consent to be part of our conspiracies.
I am aware that I am treading where many saints have trod. There has always to be an exception. I have looked back to the debate on the address four years ago of the opening of the previous Parliament. My noble friends Lord Merlyn-Rees and Lady Mallalieu led us through some fascinating reminiscences. I think the House has divided into two categories: those who, like me, are old enough to remember the events which they recalled, and those who are learning how quickly today's experiences become part of history.
Those four years have brought their share of changes. Some valued and well loved colleagues are no longer with us. They are not forgotten. Suddenly, in the course of a discussion on a subject on which they spoke with authority or about which they cared deeply, we find ourselves saying, "I wonder what so-and-so would have had to say about this." Other
Inevitably, individuals change, but it remains the same House. Heraclitus, concerned to show that everything is always in a state of flux, declared you cannot step twice into the same river because the constituent waters are always changing. In this House we step into the same river daily and from year to year. Whatever changes await us as we adapt to a changing world and to the changing needs of government, I shall be surprised if we are not recognisably the same House.
We shall continue to draw on the wisdom of our predecessors. The great lesson that they taught us is that wisdom does not necessarily consist of repeating everything that they said and their way of doing things. The wisest of them responded to changes in their own day. We may shortly be discussing the disclosure of interests. In a generation when no one called for changes there was no need for a debate. What has changed is not standards of conduct in this House. That matter is not in question. What has changed is that public business is now conducted--and properly conducted--with a greater degree of transparency. So we may be wise not to encourage suspicions which we know to be unfounded because we are not prepared to declare the facts and let the truth speak for itself.
When he performed this task last year, my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton spoke of the many privileges which membership of the House confers. One is that those of us whose words spoken in private would be quickly and mercifully forgotten speak words in this Chamber which are recorded for all nations and for all posterity. What we say in the irritation or the loss of concentration of the moment may be read by our progeny 10 generations from now--particularly, of course, by those in pursuit of PhDs. If our words sound so absurd that they laugh at us, that is a risk that we take. One day it may happen to them and no great harm is done. What is more dangerous is that what we say may appear persuasive to them. So we need to reflect carefully on the principles that we enunciate and how we express them. Sometimes we think that we are quoting scripture when in reality we are writing it. In the words of a famous American President:
Sometimes even the principles that unite us may conflict. An important principle arises because this is a scrutinising Chamber. Our composition makes available to us a wide spectrum of experience and expertise. That spectrum has broadened very much for the better in recent years. I hope that any future arrangements will ensure that it is not lost. Not only are we entitled to scrutinise; we have a duty to do so, and we should be allowed time to do so--always remembering that the words available to be said expand with the time available for saying them.
I do not believe that the Government will resent that. The very fact that we are discussing what should be our response to the gracious Speech demonstrates that the relationship between those who govern and those who speak for the governed is one of dialogue. If I may speak for my noble friends on these Benches--I may be told that I do not--we shall not be uncritical supporters of the Government, however irritating some of our closest friends may sometimes find that to be.
That is one principle. But there is another principle to which I believe your Lordships will assent no less readily. Some of us have just participated in a general election campaign. What we lacked in votes we supplied in voices. If I draw on the words of a valued trade union colleague, not I hasten to say a Member of this House, the time for voting is over. Now it is time to stand up and be counted.
One essential element of an election campaign is that people make promises. Now I understand why an aspiring politician is sometimes described as "promising". The people have chosen between various packages of promises. Now comes the time when the accounts are presented. The people have endowed the Government with a mandate and the Government have sought to reflect that in the gracious Speech. Of course, no human being is in total control of all events, thank heaven. But the Government are both entitled and under an obligation to do what is possible, within the constraints which events impose, to implement that mandate sensibly--but not over-technically construed, of course. It is known as keeping your promises. Our scrutinising function does not extend to frustrating the people's mandate. My noble friend the Chief Whip knows the great regard in which I hold him; otherwise I probably would not be making this speech. But if he will accord me the privilege of age and allow me to teach my grandmother--perhaps I may reformulate that as at my age most people do not have a grandmother--his office requires the constant exercise of judgment, what is desirable against what is possible. He is sometimes urged to moderation, but moderation in fulfilling a commitment is not necessarily a virtue. History is more charitable to those who tried too hard than to those who judged it better not to try.
If you visit the national archives in the Rotunda in Washington you may be shown the great charters which gave rise to the American system of government: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and, a little apart from the others, the American Bill of Rights. There you will see set out 12 early amendments to the Constitution. If you are a Member of this House you may say, "But I always read that the Bill of Rights consisted of 10 amendments". The 12 amendments were adopted by Congress and remitted to the state legislatures for ratification. They ratified 10 of them, and it is those 10 which have the force of law. But the document which the American nation preserves so carefully in the Rotunda consists of the whole 12. What they are celebrating is not what was achieved but what was aspired to. Reconciling those two principles is not
I have shamefully neglected to comment on the contents of the gracious Speech, not from absence of temptation but from absence of time. If I may say a passing word on just one paragraph, I particularly welcome the priority to be accorded to tackling climate change and to sustainable development. For the sake of my grandchildren I pray for understanding that pollution, hunger, tyranny and crime do not recognise national boundaries and joined-up government must not be allowed to become unstuck by lines on a map. But that is a concept which we can unpack together in the long winter evenings ahead of us.
In a few moments your Lordships will have the pleasure of hearing my noble friend Lady Crawley. I am content to leave her to comment on the proposals in the gracious Speech, speaking as she does from her distinguished position as chair of the Women's National Commission and her impressive record in the European Parliament and, even more importantly, with her roots firmly in the West Midlands. I do not know what she proposes to say but I know that I shall agree with her! I beg to move.
"We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".--(Lord Archer of Sandwell.)
It is a real honour to be asked to speak today. But at this moment all the marvellous wit and flair of recent predecessors in this role come disturbingly to mind. I hope that I can do justice to the standard that they have set. As this slot is so often reserved for fresh young talent, I feel a little like that great Irish philosopher, Val Doonican, who once remarked that it had taken him 40 years to be an overnight success.
My first thoughts today are for some faces who are no longer with us. Many of us attended Baroness Denton's memorial service last week to give praise for an extraordinary life. And I already miss my noble friend Lord Molloy, with whom it was my frequent pleasure to stroll gently through the lobby of life.
It is, of course, a delight to follow my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell. He remains one of the most highly respected Members of this House. His commitment to human rights and his experience of legal matters, specifically as Solicitor General in his time, ensures that when he speaks we all
It is a convention at these times to praise the Chief Whip--not at all a burdensome task as the Chief Whip is such a favourite with noble Lords. And it has been my pride to serve with my noble friend Lord Carter, whose generosity, energy and personal decency in his role will have long ago secured him his place in history; and I am sure that the small matter of my request for a larger office and new furniture will be no trouble to him whatsoever!
Of course, the Chief Whip's job is sometimes to make us stay late. My noble friends have all experienced that moment when the Chief Whip comes up to you, looks into your eyes and says those six little words: "The whip stays on after dinner"; or those even less welcome six little words: "It could well be after midnight". Sometimes I get home at about 2 a.m. and my partner, when I wake him as I inevitably do, is wont to utter, indeed splutter, an amusing limerick he has composed. It begins: "The Chief Whip's name was Carter". Unfortunately, the conventions of this House do not allow me to complete the poem--perhaps just as well.
Perhaps I may welcome, too, the new Leader of the House, an extremely popular appointment on these Benches. His formidable skills remind me of that old Civil Service categorisation of talented new graduates: "able, frighteningly able or just plain frightening". In the nicest possible way, he is all three.
This seems an excellent moment to thank my noble and learned friend's predecessor, my noble friend Lady Jay. She will long be remembered and praised for her stewardship of the House during one of its great reforming periods. There is more reform to come.
I am glad to see the Leader of the Opposition in his place. While gathering my thoughts about the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, I took the liberty of looking him up on the shadow Cabinet website. I have to tell noble Lords, and especially noble Baronesses, that there is a very fetching photograph of him to be found there, with his rich flop of hair tossed attractively to the left--or is it the right? From the angle of the photograph, he was obviously recumbent on a chaise-longue. His matinee idol good looks make him stand out--well, they certainly make him stand out from the rest of the shadow Cabinet. Joking aside, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that he is known and admired throughout the House for his personal courtesy .
I see that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, is not in his place, but I know that the whole House wishes him well. We look forward to seeing him back with us very shortly. We are of course delighted to see the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby.
A new Parliament opens, and with it comes a fresh generation of challenges for our country. We all know the broad outlines of the Government's programme for the new term: investment in and reform of our public services, based on economic stability. I very
Like all noble Lords, I am sure, I shuddered on election night when the results from Oldham were announced and we saw the size of the vote gained by the British National Party. It was a wake-up call to all of us. I very much welcome the initiatives already taken in Oldham by the Home Secretary and others.
Just as our marvellous social diversity is precious, so, it would appear, it can be precarious. The great treasure of a multicultural Britain must be cherished by all of us in public life. Intolerance cannot be allowed to become respectable.
There is a wider point here. My parents arrived in 1950s England with nothing but their suitcases. Over the decades that followed, the welcome that they received from local people matured into mutual respect and affection. They found the West Country to be a tolerant, live-and-let-live place. Their desire to be worthy of their new home subsequently inspired them as employers, civic leaders and volunteers--a tradition that is very much alive today among my wider family and among the diaspora throughout the country.
For our democracy to prosper, every family must share in the progress that we make and the prosperity that we create. Over the past 25 years, the total volume of income in our country has doubled. We are living through what some commentators call the "age of contentment" or the "peace and plenty years". However, such language will seem like so much cruel irony to all those still not properly included in the wealth of the country or in the drive to establish world- class public services. That is why I welcome the legislation in the gracious Speech that will prioritise reform in education, health, crime prevention and welfare. I am proud that the Government remain committed to halving child poverty by 2010. Like all of us, I want to ensure that the pensioners of this country take part in its prosperity. I welcome legislation to establish the new pension credit.
It is strange to recall how much opposition there once was to the minimum wage, yet 1.5 million people, principally women, have benefited from it. I look forward from these Benches to debating continuous rises in the minimum wage. While I am on the subject of women, I must say how delighted I was to see in the gracious Speech a proposal to allow political parties to make positive moves to increase the representation of women in public life.
Countryside communities have had a very rough time. They have felt excluded and they deserve our support. However, I did not agree with the unnecessary exaggeration that was at times made of a bogus conflict between urban and rural areas. I very
In conclusion, there is surely a strong metaphor in this regard for all of us. The fact is that if the countryside prospers, we all prosper. When poverty and discrimination are eliminated, the whole country gains. When cultural diversity and life choices are respected, the quality of life for us all improves. When we embrace a European and global destiny, rather than try to hold back the clock and promise ourselves a better yesterday, Britain does better.
Our new Parliament is now set to run until 2006, and we have a lot of work to do. I wonder what the newspaper headlines will be like on 20th June 2006--perhaps noble Lords will allow me to speculate for a moment: "Minister of Sport, after five years' coaching, finally agrees to appear on 'A Question of Sport'"; "The glass ceiling finally shattered to smithereens--it's official"; "New national stadium opens in Birmingham"; and "House of Lords in uproar"--I address this in particular to my noble friend Lord Shore of Stepney--"as the price of afternoon tea in the Peers' Dining Room rises to 12 euros per person". We shall see, my Lords, we shall see.
It is one of the more pleasurable duties of the Leader of the Opposition to move this Motion, which I know from experience unites the whole House. It is also a pleasure to follow the elegant contributions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley. They typify two strands of the Labour Party in this new House--those such as the noble and learned Lord who served with distinction in the House of Commons and in previous Labour governments and those such as the noble Baroness who came in on the new wave since 1997. Both of them contributed greatly to the work of the House during the previous Parliament. Today we heard again why they made their mark. I congratulate them on the justified distinction that they have received today.
I venture to suggest that the noble and learned Lord has never been more grateful to Sandwell than he must have been during the past two weeks. Territorial designations certainly have their moments. Someone once even thought that my forebears had founded a university. What an appalling thought for the students of Strathclyde.
The noble and learned Lord has a distinguished record of service in another place. He was Solicitor-General during the 1970s. Since his arrival in this House nearly 10 years ago, he has championed the causes of human rights, individual freedoms and parliamentary privilege. I feel sure that his career in this House still has a very long way to go.
I learn that the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, is a specialist in Latin American literature. I am not; but I am led to believe that one of the most perfectly formed of all novels from that continent is Chronicle of a Death Foretold. As a hereditary Peer, I have lived with that prediction for some years now and after the reference in the gracious Speech, it may be that I shall not do so for very much longer. But whatever happens, my personal fate is not important. Whatever our background, party or peerage, we should surely all agree that our first duty is to serve Parliament and the people of this country, and a stronger House in a stronger Parliament must be the outcome of any further change in the coming years. That is a theme to which I shall return in far greater detail, the House will be relieved to know, when we debate the constitutional aspects of the gracious Speech tomorrow afternoon.
Although much is unchanged since we last met, the most striking change is that we have a new Leader of the House. Therefore, I join those who have already congratulated him and, personally and officially, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, and I wish him well in all fields except the most narrowly partisan. After all, partisanship is not a quality in which this House expects its Leaders to be practised or to excel too much. I shall miss his predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, at the Dispatch Box, from where she bowled a straight ball, even though she often aimed it directly at my head. So I wish her well in whichever capacity she continues to serve.
I look forward to working with the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the usual channels. This House works best when there is a close understanding and co-operation in all parts of the House on House matters. I pledge myself to support the noble and learned Lord in the many decisions he must take as Leader of the whole House. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, I shall particularly try to remember to do so when I think the noble and learned Lord is wrong. But he will have my support nonetheless.
One striking feature of the present Government is the extent to which they rely on Members of your Lordships' House. That is greatly to the benefit of this House and to the Government. But there is still the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. In the weeks leading up to the election, how keenly he must have been praying for the promotion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn--to the office of Leader of the House of Lords, that is. There were moments recently when, reading the latest spin from No. 10--or perhaps it was even No. 11--we were worried for him when we feared, like Cardinal Wolsey long ago, that he might be ruefully rubbing the back of his neck. We are delighted that he still graces us on the Woolsack.
We also congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, on his promotion. He is only the second Attorney-General in your Lordships' House in the entire history of the kingdom; the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, was the first. We know how richly both noble and learned Lords deserve that honour, but is it not extraordinary that, for the second Parliament running, with over 400 MPs the Prime Minister cannot find one person in the House of Commons who is capable of doing the job of Attorney-General?
We have further senior Ministers in this House. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, is the new Deputy Leader, which is an appointment on which I congratulate her. She is also Minister for Trade in the DTI as well as Foreign Office Minister of State. That accretion of great offices also harks back to the Tudor age, but it is one which I am sure the noble Baroness has the panache to fulfil.
We now have the Minister for Planning, no less, in the Lords. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, fresh from the triumphant regeneration of the North Greenwich peninsula, now turns his attention to the broad acres of England. I hope that he will be more discriminating about the content of the countryside than he was about the content of the Dome.
My fellow compatriot from Scotland, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, has been elevated to the position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Cabinet Office enforcer. He will have learnt a lot crossing swords with Mr Livingstone and Mr Kiley, but what has the noble Lord done to deserve being appointed always to be the man to clear up after the Deputy Prime Minister? He is in danger of going down in history as John Prescott's right hand, but how much more subtle is the right hand than Mr Prescott's left?
If the 1997 Parliament was that of the "Blair Babes", the 2001 Parliament looks increasingly like being the Parliament of the "Blair Barons". We have even seen the Appointments Commission set aside, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, elevated to this House as Minister for Women. Of course, we welcome her too. The noble Baroness is one of the first of 39 new Peers appointed in the past eight weeks who will be joining us. Well over one-third of the Members of this
I turn for a moment to the Liberal Democrat Benches. I join the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, in saying how much I regret the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, who has recently not been well. On behalf of the whole House, I wish him a speedy recovery and a return to his duties in this House. In his absence I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. We have recently been told by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Mr Charles Kennedy, that his party is now the real opposition. In the previous Parliament you could have fooled me! Still, there is nothing better than a sinner who repenteth. We shall closely examine the Liberal Democrat voting record to see whether it matches up to that party's aim to hold the Government to account. We shall welcome the Liberal Democrats into the Lobbies with us as we seek to improve the legislation. In this Parliament we must all be more constructively critical and--dare I say it?--self-critical.
I hope to see more alliances across parties to improve legislation and to hold the line whenever government tread on liberties, on natural justice or on freedom of choice, as all governments sadly find themselves doing.
I hope that we shall have a better atmosphere in the House. It was not always a happy place in the previous Parliament. I will join hands with anyone from any party, or none, who wants to make it a better-functioning, warmer-spirited place, one where the sensitivities of others--old-fashioned or new-fangled as they may variously seem--are respected; one in which how we act, not who we are, matters most.
It can be like that. It has been like that. It should be like that again. With that spirit of good will, I congratulate unreservedly those who have spoken today and all the beneficiaries of electoral success. I wish every noble Lord the very best as we do our duty in enabling the Queen's government to be carried on, but in a way ever so occasionally a little wiser than Her Majesty's Ministers may first have conceived.
Perhaps I may conclude with two specific questions to the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House: an easy ball with which to start the Session. First, when he replies, can he indicate which Bills are envisaged to start their passage through Parliament in this House?
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank warmly the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, for his kind remarks about the leader of the Liberal Democrats. We share completely the noble Lord's hope that my noble friend Lord Rodgers will soon be back in his place. I am delighted to say that my noble friend is making a very promising and rapid recovery.
Perhaps I may also assure the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that even though the Liberal Democrat Benches in both Houses are now crowded, there is always room for prodigal sons and daughters from the noble Lord's party.
I congratulate the Government on being the first Labour Government to be re-elected for two consecutive Parliaments by a convincing majority. It would be less than gracious not to recognise that historic achievement.
Before I congratulate the new Leader of the House, perhaps I may express a word of appreciation about the very gracious, elegant and determined way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, presided over this House during the previous Parliament. We wish the noble Baroness well in whatever future career she chooses which, we know, will benefit from her many distinguished qualities.
I turn to the new Leader of the House, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. I say right away that his mellifluous voice and enchanting manner, which are greatly to the credit of the principality from which he comes, should not lead any of the unwary to overlook the fact that he is also a man who is made of Welsh steel and whose determination perhaps exemplifies that of the Welsh dragon. No one should be confused by the noble and learned Lord, utterly charming though he frequently is. I noticed in the previous Parliament that whenever things became rather rough--in other words, whenever the ice was a little thin under the Government--it was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who would appear at the edge of the stage and take over the crucial elements of whatever Bill was before the House. We shall be worried if the noble and learned Lord suddenly appears on the Front Bench when no one is expecting him. We shall put on our tin helmets and wait for the storm that is to come.
Perhaps I may say how much we wish the noble and learned Lord well. He will be presiding over a new phase of change in the House of Lords. We look to him and to his colleague in another place to make more
I turn now to the mover and seconder of the Motion for an humble Address. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, has been an admired friend and colleague of mine over many years. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the noble and learned Lord was a distinguished Solicitor-General in the Wilson and Callaghan governments and subsequently, as an Opposition spokesman, spoke on legal affairs, on issues concerning trade and, not least, on Northern Ireland. One of the noble and learned Lord's remarkable characteristics has been a great consistency in the causes in which he believes. In preparing for this speech, I looked up the remarks that he made in his maiden speech in another place on 29th April 1966. It is worth reminding the House of what he said. He was speaking of the detention of 15 Guyanese, who had been detained without trial or charge. He said:
The noble and learned Lord, working as he has done in the fields of human rights and of parliamentary privilege for the 30 years that followed his maiden speech, is now able to look back on his work and on that of others and say, "Yes, my goal has been attained." It has been attained in the consolidation of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law and in the establishment of the International Criminal Court. Not many of us can say that our vision as young men and women more than 30 years ago has been so completely fulfilled.
Another great characteristic of the noble and learned Lord has been that he has consistently defined human rights in the context of a world society and not just a national society. He was chairman of Amnesty International in this country; he was and is the chairman of the All-Party World Government Group; and he was and is the chairman of One World Trust. One can say of the noble and learned Lord that he is not only a man for all seasons but also a man for all places. That, I believe, is a splendid tribute to be paid to any one of us in this House.
I turn to the brilliant and funny but also serious speech made by the seconder of the Motion for an humble Address, the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley. She is a woman of great energy, conviction and ability. I would not be altogether surprised if the commitment in the gracious Speech to increase the representation of women in public life had at least something to do with the noble Baroness. The noble Baroness was a blazing personality in the European Parliament--not an easy place to carve out a memorable niche. But she did, becoming the deputy leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party. In addition, she has
It is perhaps worth adding that the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley--like another noble Baroness with whom in other ways she would not normally be associated--has also created a remarkable record of maternal productivity. She shares with the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, the distinction of having had twins, and not only one child at a time.
The noble Baroness referred to the Chief Whip--beloved by us all--the noble Lord, Lord Carter. When she began to quote her partner's first line of a limerick, I am afraid that, in my trivial way, I began to try to complete the limerick. The House will recall that the noble Baroness's partner began,
I add my congratulations also to another outstanding Member of the House, the noble Baroness Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, on becoming, not unexpectedly, Deputy Leader of the House. If I was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, I would be very careful.
Finally, perhaps I may say a few words about the gracious Speech itself. We on these Benches are a little disturbed by the failure of the gracious Speech to say anything very concrete about the plight of rural Britain. In that regard we share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. Rural Britain has been through a terrible period, one which has brought many families to the edge of despair and to the experience of great need. It would have been better if the Government had chosen to try to find ways to heal some of the wounds that the rural areas have sustained. Given the Prime Minister's performance in the area of foot and mouth, I do not doubt the Government's sincere intention to do so. However, if I may say so, it is a little insensitive that the gracious Speech has nothing to say on this front.
We notice that there is to be another round of reorganisation and reform of public services. We shall look closely to see whether that legislation is necessary and constructive. We have a slightly troubled feeling that digging up trees over and over again to see whether the roots have taken may not be the best way for them to flourish.
We strongly endorse the legislation to encourage competition. We hope that it will extend to the media as well as to other areas of business. We strongly support the proposals to reform the adoption laws.
Perhaps I may ask the Leader of the House a couple of questions. Would we on these Benches be right to interpret the gracious Speech as covering the ratification of Kyoto? We believe that that would be an example to the rest of the world. In the light of what both the mover and seconder of the Motion said, it is vital that we bring forward that ratification as soon as possible.
Secondly, when are we to have the opportunity to discuss in greater detail the welcome global effort to reduce poverty and the extreme inequalities in the world? As a postscript, perhaps I may express my concern and that of my party that so little attention was given to this matter during the election campaign--the fault of no one except perhaps the media.
Finally, what has happened to the urgent need to legislate on the issue of human cloning? Perhaps I may quote the promise made to these Benches by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, on 22nd January:
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, it is a great pleasure to support the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. We always agree when it comes to deciding where we are to have lunch together. The noble Lord has promised to harry us and keep us to account with resolution and determination--but not beyond 19th July.
Perhaps I may say a word about my predecessor and friend. We worked closely together for three years. I could not have had a more generous or supportive Leader. My noble friend worked very hard to reform this House. She was indeed a formidable Leader. She discharged all her duties with rigour and fortitude. We all owe her gratitude and thanks.
I, too, am sorry, for many reasons, that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, is not present. He has been ill and is now recovering. He wrote to me recently. We all want to see him back in his place as soon as possible.
I want to pay tribute to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell and to my noble friend Lady Crawley. When I was a very juvenile barrister, my noble and learned friend was Solicitor-General. He kindly encouraged me in the work in which I was just starting out. He will long since have forgotten that, but I never have.
My noble and learned friend is an unusual beast--rarely found in captivity. On the basis of the references made to him by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, I propose to apply for a licence to clone him. The unusual nature of the beast is that he never speaks except when it is necessary. When he does, he always makes a powerful contribution. I shall never forget the moving way in which he introduced the amendments to the Human Rights Bill which at last removed from our constitution that monstrous barbarity: the possibility that we might execute people for murder. That is an illustration of the work that my noble and learned friend has done.
This is the first time that I have had the infinite privilege of addressing your Lordships as Leader of the House. No one among us can hope to serve this House who does not care for it. I hope that your Lordships know that I do. This is a House with a great heart. We need to change our composition, and we shall. We need to improve our working practices, and we must. Why is that? It is for the reason to which a number of your Lordships alluded. We must make our House more securely lodged in the great constitutional scheme. I want to see the potential and future value of this House fully recognised and understood. We have a vast resource. We have a great, deep reservoir of experience, talent, diversity and honourable unselfish love of country. Those things still matter and resonate.
Despite outward superficial appearance, we are not yet perfect in every way. We shall be able to discharge our duties much better if we reform and renew ourselves. We have the opportunity to do so on composition. We must seize the opportunity to do so on working methods. I put this point in the abstract. It is necessary in a society and in a constitutional democracy such as we have that no government, no central executive, should be without effective reasoned challenge. That is part of the duty of this House. We shall not discharge that duty unless we attend to our own internal working arrangements. I hope to gain support to set up a small Leader's group to produce promptly a menu of proposals to determine whether we can in appropriate ways serve the wider parliamentary and public interest. From the experience I have had here, I am confident that we can move forward smoothly, but we must do it.
Tomorrow we shall begin the substantive debate on the gracious Speech. It will be opened on the constitution by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. Contrary to what was said in the newspapers--it always affords me an indecent glee to
The Chief Whip tells me that I am not to gloat about the result of the election, but I think that that is quite unfair. I ought to be entitled to gloat a little. What we have is a continuing mandate and an imperative instruction. I believe that what the people of this country want is the opportunity of a calm and ordered life, first-class public services and, above all, the belief, settled on a true basis, that their children may have the chance of a better life than they had. This particularly means the honouring of those who work in public service, who are too often in my opinion unsung, unregarded and unpraised. We want to modernise the National Health Service and we shall continue that work. Power needs to be devolved to those who work in it and to those who take up its services at their lowest point; namely, those who are patients of the National Health Service.
We have a moral imperative to continue to improve educational provision. We cannot even dream of a civil society without an educated population. It is now a settled constitutional convention that the Home Office always has a plethora of Bills and nothing has changed. There will be a Bill to enforce the recovery of the proceeds of crime. There will be a criminal assets recovery agency. We shall take the power to combat money laundering. We want to, need to and must deliver a modern, efficient police system which can deliver what our citizens want. Our purpose and aim is to reward those who work and save and to protect those who are genuinely unable to do either. There will be the increased protection for pensioners' savings to which reference has been made.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked me what we might expect in the next few weeks. We hope to make a start on what will be a long journey and a difficult, arduous Session. There will be the Bill to grant citizenship to residents of overseas territories. That is a very long-standing promise. I know that all noble Lords have been eager and determined that effect should be given to that measure of justice to a small but important number of people. There will be a Bill to improve land law. There will be a Bill to equalise at 60 the facility of concessionary travel for both men and women. I must say that I thought that 60 was far too young but I have been overborne by those who are superior to me. We shall reintroduce the extremely
We shall have plenty of time to discuss the gracious Speech over the next few days. It is a substantial programme. I believe that with the good will of this House we can deliver that programme. I believe that if we co-operate in reasoned amity we can together do much good work.
I recognise and underline that this Government, although elected with a great majority, do not seek to be a dictatorship in this Chamber. I realise that I wear two hats. Although I am called the Leader of the House, the important one for me is as the servant of this House. I support the Motion.
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 of Black Rod attending this House do communicate this order to the Commissioner aforesaid.
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