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Lord Monson: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has, as always, done us a great service in so ably introducing this very sensible and welcome group of amendments. Given that they are so sensible, I do hope that the Government will accept them. If not, then I trust that the Opposition will divide the House. As the noble Baroness said when she introduced the amendment, this is not a laughing matter. Rather, it is a serious matter.

The amendments not only strike a blow against the tyranny of political correctness, but, as the noble Baroness said, they also strike a blow against the increasingly appalling misuse of the English language.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am not sure which Minister is to respond to this series of amendments, but I suspect that it will be the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington. I have reread several times her response to similar amendments at an earlier stage. I find it difficult to find any intellectual defence for the Government's view.

Perhaps I may join others in saying that I thought that these amendments were introduced brilliantly by my noble friend Lady Miller and with impeccable use of the English language. Indeed, she did the language a great service as well as putting up an extremely

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intellectually valid defence for appealing to the Government to change the very ugly term “chair". I must advise my noble friend Lord Stewartby that I do not quite agree even with the use of the term “chairperson". However, there is the marginal improvement that that term at least refers to a human being. The terms “chairperson" and “chair" are wholly ugly terms and, as my noble friend said, they do no service to the advancement of the interests of women in public life.

In Committee, I referred to a number of clauses in the Bill in which the word “chairman" is used. I referred, for example, to Schedule 14; Clause 20(1)(a); Schedule 21; Clause 269; and Schedule 23. Those provisions refer back to the London Regional Transport Act 1984, the Police Act 1996 and the Local Government Act 1985. In response, the noble Baroness said that because those were references back to other Acts, the proposed change could not be made. But here we are in this Bill amending those Acts and repealing sections of them. Perhaps I may refer to page 121 and Clauses 217 and 218. Indeed, Clause 217 states that Section 40 of the London Regional Transport Act 1984 shall cease to have effect, but Clause 218 then proceeds to use the term “chairman" in relation to the chairman of the London Transport Users' Committee.

It is no argument to say that because a term has been used previously, it must inevitably be used again but then to change the word to “chair" for the rest of the Bill. Equally, if this opportunity is being taken to use more elegant language from past statutes, it seems to me that it would be consistent to continue to use that terminology throughout the Bill.

There is no defence for the Government's proposed language. It is politically correct. Old Labour does live on in this sense. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, will feel able to respond to what I thought was a most elegant speech from my noble friend Lady Miller in an attempt at least to have consistency in the Bill while also reintroducing elegance of language.

Lord Harmsworth: My Lords, do the Government think that there should be an interpretation Bill, intimating that sometimes inanimate objects refer to human beings?

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I am tempted, but I shall not say anything except that I still support the language of these clauses as firmly as I did when they were debated at such length in Committee.

The Earl of Bathurst: My Lords, I wonder whether either of my noble lady friends can say what the objection would be to saying “chairwoman". My

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noble friend Lady Blatch did not mention that. She expounded the good reasons for saying “chairman"; but why not “chairwoman"?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may respond to that--

Noble Lords: No!

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am sorry, but we are on Report and we had a very lengthy debate on this in Committee. It is not possible for noble Lords to speak more than once--

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, again with the leave of the House--

Noble Lords: No!

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am sorry, but the noble Baroness--

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, may I ask for advice from the Clerk of the House as to whether it is in order to respond to a question?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I am sorry but it is not in order at Report stage--

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, with the leave of the House--

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: Well, go and ask the Clerk of the House, but please do not take the Floor of the House when the matter is quite clear. The noble Baroness is much more experienced in the ways of this House than are many of us, including myself, and knows that at Report stage noble Lords do not speak more than once on an amendment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, this lengthy series of amendments seeks to amend every single reference to “chair" and “deputy chair" of the assembly. The Greater London Authority will be a radical, new style of governance. As one small part of that modernising agenda, we decided to update the terminology used to refer to the presiding officers of the assembly to the usage which is now recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary.

Of course, it is true that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said, previous legislation uses the term “chairman". In fact, where this Bill modifies earlier Acts or makes provision in the context of earlier legislation, as the noble Baroness noted, the term “chairman" does appear. It would be ridiculous--and we do not believe that it would be either practical or necessary--to amend all previous legislation from beginning to end in order that that legislation should be consistent with this. I understood the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, to ask why we were not amending all that legislation. Where we are using quotations from and references to legislation which has already been enacted and which uses the term

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“chairman", we are not seeking to change that usage. Here, we are merely ensuring that where this legislation refers to the Greater London Authority, a more modern usage, recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary, is used.

I personally find it offensive to be described as “verbally fascist" for wanting to recognise that language evolves and changes. It is matter of opinion; it is a matter of judgment; it is a matter of taste. I hardly believe that those of us who came to recognise that generations younger than us had seen fit to seek to change the language should be accused of being verbal fascists. Referring to others who do similar things as “verbal fascists" does, by implication, in my understanding of the use of--

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I did not accuse anybody of being verbally fascist; I said that I believe that political correctness is a sort of verbal fascism--

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It is the same.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: No, my Lords, it is not the same. I went on to say that political correctness regards saying the right thing as being more important than doing the right thing. I would certainly never call anybody verbally fascist and if the noble Baroness interpreted what I said in that way, I of course apologise; but I did not mean it that way and I do not think that I said it either.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, we shall both read Hansard to see what was said. In the light of her explanation, I am only too happy to recognise that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, did not intend to be offensive.

We could debate this for a very long time, but I say simply this. I was convinced of the need for a change of language following the period when I used to travel between the north and south of England and had constantly to change my language when I reached Crewe because the north referred to “chairman". I was “chairman" of Lancashire County Council and our chief executive officer explained that the legislation setting up the county council and the office of chairman referred to “chairman" so that was the word that had to be used. However, I also remember when a small child in a primary school playground asked me, “How can you be the chairman of Lancashire County Council?" That made me think about use of language. I think about it because if a child visualises a man every time the word “chairman" is used, there is perhaps a case for changing the language.

I can say little else. I fear that no one will have their mind changed on this. In the light of what I have said, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, will agree to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that nobody is likely to change their mind on this matter. I feel very strongly about it. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

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6.59 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 153) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 119.

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