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I echo what the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal said. Lady Llewelyn-Davies will be sadly missed and I only wish that I had been fortunate enough to have shared more time with her in this House while she was still active in it.
Like the Lord Privy Seal, I should also say how much I am looking forward to the very large number of maiden speeches that we are to hear later--some from our side of the House and some from the other. Again, like the Lord Privy Seal, I hope, in spite of commitments elsewhere in this House later today, to be able to listen to all of them.
I turn now to the Motion that we are discussing. As always, I was hugely impressed by the high-mindedness of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, which was so eloquently echoed by the high-minded attitude of the Lord Privy Seal. I cannot in any way hope to emulate such high-flown rhetoric or such admirable sentiments. I fear that I am only a hereditary machine politician and, as a result, I have no option but to say what is in my mind. I can only apologise to both noble Lords for what they may feel may be something of a come-down after the extraordinary virtuosity that we heard earlier.
I have to confess that I have been much interested by the history of the Motion now before us. The Lord Privy Seal mentioned that it had another incarnation. Unless I am much mistaken, it began its existence on the Order Paper in somewhat different terms from those that we see today. In the Minute of 11th November, for instance, the Motion for today in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, read as follows:
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, as a noted scholar who has experience of tricky textual analysis, will agree that the Motion that he introduced today with his customary style and brio, is drafted in rather more restrictive and somewhat less sweeping terms than that. Today we are invited to support a Motion only when parties co-operate "on major national issues". The noble Lord even helped us by citing a couple of examples in relation to Europe and constitutional change.
I have to ask the House in all seriousness why the noble Lord modified the terms of his Motion. After all--again, I say this in all sincerity--someone of his political experience and proven mastery of the English language in both its spoken and written forms will undoubtedly have considered extremely carefully what he meant to convey before he sent an emissary to the House authorities bearing the terms of his Motion for inclusion in the Minute. So, we can perhaps dismiss at once the unworthy thought that I have to confess had
Your Lordships may have noticed that on Monday 17th November the Liberal Party had a half-day debate in another place, introduced by Mr. Simon Hughes. The subject of that debate was Britain's key public services. The terms of the Motion, while taking a ritual side-swipe at the last government, which is something that we take entirely as a compliment, were not complimentary about the present Government. I am sorry to have to add--I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will be doubly sorry to hear this--that neither was Mr. Simon Hughes.
I assume that some channel of communication exists between the Liberals in your Lordships' House and those in another place. I imagine that it is some sort of super high-minded highway, if I may put it like that. Would it be too fanciful of me to imagine an exchange between those channels of communication, the burden of which might be as follows, although I am sure that the actual language used would have been more stately and perhaps more polysyllabic than my imagination, poor as it is, can muster? The Liberal from the other place might have said something like this, "We have half a Supply Day on Monday. After all, it suits the Labour Party to give us one because they can't win Winchester and want us to have a go at it. If we attack the Government, we don't look to the Winchester voters as though we are Labour stooges any more. After all, this Ecclestone business means that they are not walking on water any longer and it might suit us to put a bit of distance between us and them. As we still present ourselves to the public as being whiter than white, we don't want to get splashed with Labour mud, do we?". I imagine to myself that the Liberal in your Lordships' House might have said something like this in response, "That sounds perfectly reasonable. There is one small difficulty though. We have been pretty big on cross-party co-operation with the Government in our House and our Leader is already closely associated with it, as is our Chief Whip. In fact, not only is Roy Tony's guru on PR and Europe, but he has a Motion down next week saying what a good thing it all is". The House of Commons Liberal might have said, "Well, that's a bit awkward, but no one notices very much what happens in your House so perhaps you can get away with it". The reply might have come, "Well, I'll tell you what, we could modify the Motion a bit and say that co-operation only really works for the great issues like Europe and the constitution". The reply might have come back, "Do what you think best. I have to run now because there is an idiot here I have to hose down who wants to say something about site value ratings although that's all a bit out of date nowadays".
I am sure that something like that exchange must have occurred--without my imaginative bells and whistles. The rewording of the Motion has all the hallmarks of a hurried Whip's solution which inevitably will have to be made to do--
Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, I hope that it will not disappoint your Lordships or insult my honourable colleague in the other House if I say that I was totally unaware of the Motion tabled by Mr. Simon Hughes. I changed my Motion entirely on my own initiative because I thought that noble Lords needed to be directed to slightly more concrete images. I thought that mentioning Europe and constitutional issues might attract one or two more Peers to speak.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, as so often I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, for putting me right on these matters. Obviously, my imagination has run more riot than it should have done, but I am deeply shocked to find that there is so little communication between the Liberal Party in both Houses. We very much look forward to the resulting dropped catches, particularly when the noble Lord has dropped the reins of leadership of his party in this House.
Be that as it may, when the revised Motion is considered--however it was reworded and for whatever motives--particularly in conjunction with the speech of Mr. Simon Hughes, which unlike the noble Lord I have had the advantage of reading, it begs a number of questions. For instance, what constitutes a major national issue in the eyes of the Liberal Party? Clearly, Europe and constitutional matters do--the noble Lord has told us that for himself--but not by implication key public services. From his speech Mr. Simon Hughes believes that key public services are an extremely important issue, but assuming that he had compared notes with the noble Lord--which I had assumed until corrected--it did not appear to be sufficiently important to indulge in cross-party co-operation, at least in the House of Commons, although it might be so in your Lordships' House.
Put like that, the Motion of the noble Lord does not really seem to stand up. All of us, including I imagine the Liberal Party, believe that key public services constitute an important issue. We are in no doubt that the electorate also believes that. The difference between us and the Liberals is how best they can be delivered. Incidentally, it appears to us that the Liberals are still in the dark ages of tax and spend, and we have moved on. Even the Labour Party has moved on a bit. Therefore, the Liberals have ended cross-party co-operation on this issue, at least in the other House, however important that issue may appear to them to be.
The truth of the matter is that the noble Lord is playing the oldest game in the political book. As he has reminded us, he has been writing that book for a number of decades so he ought to know it. It is called monopoly politics and it has exactly the same stultifying effect on the political market as commercial monopolies have on the commercial market. In this House, graced as we are
The noble Lord and his friends in the Labour Party are convinced that this country should become part of western European political union. It must therefore be in their interests to emasculate Parliament, which is the only institution that is still able to hold them to account. In order to do that it is necessary to develop a rhetoric that is powerful enough to achieve their objective, just as it is essential to undermine the party system in order to do so.
Like all effective rhetoric, it relies on a few simple and emotive words. Some of the words that are used in the service of this cause are "modernisation", "inevitable" and "chauvinism". Like much effective rhetoric, more often than not it does not deign to answer detailed arguments that support another view; rather, the tactic is to build a consensus that is designed to appear so powerful that any opposition appears puny and marginal. The result is a political monopoly that, on great questions like Europe, the constitution and perhaps even key public services, is able to brush aside any genuine debate. In the end, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, implied in the course of his remarks this afternoon, politics is indeed about great issues. As he rightly pointed out, they can and often have split parties, including my own.
I maintain nevertheless that parties form and reform and flourish around great issues. The only real danger of any living polity arises if those issues are smuggled though undiscussed. One of the best ways of doing that is by the establishment of the monopoly that I have described. In the commercial world the great nationalised industries produced a similar effect which resulted in bankrupt enterprises across the British industrial landscape. The noble Lord's tactic will produce exactly the same effect across our political landscape. If he doubts me, he has only to look at the favourite subject of his honourable friend Simon Hughes: key public services. I submit that for far too long the political parties have not dared to break the political consensus on public services. The result is that we have saddled ourselves with a dependency culture--to do justice to the Labour Party, it has recognised it particularly in the person of the admirable Mr. Frank Field--that risks destroying society, and we pay nearly £100 billion a year for the privilege.
I do not begrudge the noble Lord one jot or tittle of the international acclaim that he has garnered. I know him well enough to realise that that is certainly not the reason that he takes the view he does on Europe and the constitution. Indeed, on page 617 of the very same volume he states that he believes sovereignty to be an almost total illusion in the modern world. Therefore, his
I end my remarks on a slightly different note. I apologise to the noble Lord for being late for reasons that I hope he well understands. I apologised to him beforehand. Before I came in I understand that he enjoined noble Lords to eschew tributes to him. I shall do so. However, on this last great occasion of his parliamentary career as Leader I should like to make a few remarks. I welcome and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, who is entirely suited to his new task. In particular, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, for the extreme good humour, tolerance and kindness that he has shown me personally not only across the Floor of the House but in our private relations which I have always found extraordinarily agreeable during the three years or so that I have had something to do with the management of your Lordships' House. I have enjoyed our relationship even more than I have enjoyed the noble Lord's books, and that says quite a lot. Your Lordships may have noticed that we disagree politically in terms of policy and in visceral political instinct, if I may put it in that way, but I hope that the noble Lord will feel that our personal relations have nevertheless always remained of the warmest and will continue. Certainly, they do on my part. Perhaps a little prematurely, I wish him the most agreeable of retirements. Like the Lord Privy Seal, I express the hope that he will continue to make regular and distinguished, if constantly misguided, contributions to our debates.
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