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House of Lords

Tuesday, 6 November 2007.

Queen’s Speech

The Queen, being seated on the Throne, and attended by Her Officers of State (the Lords being in their robes), commanded the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, through the Lord Great Chamberlain, to let the Commons know, “It is Her Majesty’s pleasure they attend Her immediately in this House”.

Who being come, with their Speaker, Her Majesty was pleased to speak as follows:

“My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my Government will take forward policies to respond to the rising aspirations of the people of the United Kingdom; to ensure security for all; and to entrust more power to Parliament and the people.

“My Government’s programme will meet people’s aspirations for better education, housing, healthcare and children’s services, and for a cleaner environment.

“My Government is committed to raising educational standards and giving everyone the chance to reach their full potential.

“A Bill will be introduced to ensure that young people stay in education or training until age 18, and to provide new rights to skills training for adults. Draft legislation will be brought forward to reform apprenticeships.

“Available and affordable housing is one of my Government’s main priorities. Legislation will be introduced to create a new Homes and Communities Agency that will deliver more social and affordable housing, and promote regeneration.

“There will also be a Bill to reform the planning system, providing for quicker and more transparent decision-making.

“My Government is committed to providing a healthcare system organised around the needs of the patient.

“Legislation will be introduced to create a stronger health and social care regulator with a remit to ensure clean and safe services and high-quality care.

“A Bill will be brought forward to reform the regulation of human embryology and to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of medical research.

“My Government wants all children to have the best possible start in life.

“There will be a Bill to improve services for vulnerable children and young people, including those in care.

“My Government will bring forward proposals to help people achieve a better balance between work and family life.

“Legislation will be introduced to enable unclaimed money in dormant bank accounts to be used for youth facilities, financial inclusion and social investment.

“A Bill will place a duty on every employer to contribute to good-quality workplace pensions for their employees.

“My Government is committed to protecting the environment and to tackling climate change, both at home and abroad.

“A Bill will be brought forward to make the United Kingdom the first country in the world to introduce a legally binding framework to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“My Government will introduce legislation to provide clean, secure and affordable supplies of energy.

“There will be legislation to tackle congestion and improve public transport.

“Alongside measures to meet rising aspirations, my Government will take further action to create stronger communities and tackle terrorism.

“Legislation to reform the criminal justice system will continue to be taken forward, with the aim of protecting the public and reducing reoffending.

“My Government will publish a draft Bill on citizenship.

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“My Government will seek a consensus on changes to the law on terrorism so that the police and other agencies have the powers they need to protect the public, whilst preserving essential rights and liberties.

“My Government will pursue policies to secure a stable and strong economy, with low inflation, sound public finances and high levels of employment.

“Legislation will be brought forward to protect depositors and ensure confidence in the banking system.

“A Bill will be introduced to reduce regulatory burdens on business.

“My Government is committed to openness and accountability and to a strong Parliament able to hold the Government properly to account.

“Proposals will be brought forward to renew the constitutional settlement and strengthen the relationship between the Government, Parliament and the people.

“My Government will bring forward proposals on the regulation of party finance and expenditure.

“Members of the House of Commons, estimates for the public services will be laid before you.

“My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my Government will continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations in the interests of all the people of the United Kingdom.

“My Government will continue to work to build a prosperous and secure European Union, better able to respond to the challenges of globalisation. Legislation will be brought forward to enable Parliament to approve the European Union reform treaty.

“Reducing global poverty will be a high priority for my Government, with renewed efforts to achieve the millennium development goals. The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to visiting Uganda later this month for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

“My Government will continue to work with the Government of Iraq to deliver security, political reconciliation and economic reconstruction.

“My Government will continue to support the Government of Afghanistan as it tackles extremism, instability and the narcotics trade.

“My Government will continue to work with the United Nations, G8 and European Union to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including addressing international concerns over Iran’s nuclear intentions.

“My Government will maintain Britain’s strong commitment to reaching a lasting peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Other measures will be laid before you.

“My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels”.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed at half-past three: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Coventry.

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Members of the House

It was ordered that a list of Members of the House, prepared by the Clerk of the Parliaments, be printed.

Clerk of the Parliaments

The House having been informed on 24 May that Her Majesty had been pleased to appoint Mr Michael Graham Pownall to the Office of Clerk of the Parliaments, vacant by the retirement of Sir Paul David Grenville Hayter, the letters of appointment dated 4 November 2007 were read; then the said Michael Graham Pownall made the prescribed declaration (which declaration is set down in the Roll among the oaths of the great officers) in terms as follows:

“I, Michael Graham Pownall, do declare that I will be true and faithful and troth I will bear to Our Sovereign Lady the Queen and to Her Heirs and Successors. I will nothing know that shall be prejudicial to Her Highness Her Crown Estate and Dignity Royal, but that I will resist it to my power and with all speed I will advertise Her Grace thereof, or at the least some of Her Counsel in such wise as the same may come to Her knowledge. I will also well and truly serve Her Highness in the Office of Clerk of Her Parliaments making true Entries and Records of the things done and passed in the same. I will keep secret all such matters as shall be treated in Her said Parliaments and not disclose the same before they shall be published, but to such as it ought to be disclosed unto, and generally I will well and truly do and execute all things belonging to me to be done appertaining to the Office of Clerk of the Parliaments”.

After which he took his seat at the Table.

Select Vestries Bill

Read a first time pro forma.

Debate on the Address

The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): 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.

I have, for the convenience of the House, arranged for the terms of the gracious Speech to be published in the Official Report.

3.42 pm

Baroness Corston: My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

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I thank my noble friends the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip for giving me the privilege and honour of moving this Motion. My noble friend Lady Ashton of Upholland is a delightful and approachable colleague. Her competence is evidently appreciated on all sides of the House, in view of the fact that she has been elected by her peers in successive years as Lords Minister of the Year and Peer of the Year. As to the Chief Whip, my noble friend Lord Grocott—or the Captain of the Honourable Corps of the Gentleman-at-Arms, as I should call him today of all days after his resplendent appearance before us this morning during the State Opening—not only was he an effective and highly respected colleague during my first two Parliaments as a Member of another place, but he is the embodiment of a great Chief Whip, in that you are rarely conscious of the discipline but feel bad if you let him down. He also does marvellous pager messages.

I am just starting my third year as a Member of your Lordships' House and have been reflecting on the experience. I was talking to our late lamented and noble friend Tony Banks—Lord Stratford, or Lord Banks of the Thames, as I gather he wanted to be called—the night the House rose for the Christmas Recess of 2005, which was his last night here. We swapped notes and I pointed out that our intake had reduced the average age in your Lordships’ House to 69. He said that it meant that overnight he had become a young Turk, having previously been a boring old—I think that noble Lords know what word he used.

My former right honourable friend Tony Benn recalls his late father, Lord Stansgate, joking that after being in the Commons for years the one thing that he could not get used to in the Lords was all the good will. The conclusion I draw is that this House is by and large comprised of people who have a wealth of experience of life and who are beyond ambition because we have nothing to prove. All I will say to the Government is that in the process of constitutional change they should make sure that these two essential qualities are not lost.

When the history of our period in office is written, it will be acknowledged that we changed the political discourse on public services. No party in the foreseeable future can be elected without a wholehearted and generous commitment to health, education, social security and housing. It is a remarkable achievement. I was very proud of the fact that after we came to power in 1997 it was in the poorest parts of my constituency of Bristol East—areas that are not on any tourist map—that the first new school and health centre were built. Now every secondary school in Bristol has been or is being rebuilt. Such things matter, and not only for teachers and health professionals; the quality of local services is seen as a direct reflection of the worth that we place on local communities. Whenever I see a TV news presenter standing outside a hospital, I always look at the building. It is remarkable how often it is new.

I know from my own family experience how life- enhancing public services can be. My paternal grandfather was born in a workhouse. He left school at 11 to work as a miner. My father left school at 15. He eventually found it hard to get work because he

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was blacked as a trade unionist. I left school at 16 and went to university in my mid-40s, after my children had graduated. I then trained as a lawyer. I now live a life of relative privilege but I never forget those who, like my family, are utterly dependent on our public services.

There is a similar story to tell on youth unemployment. Early in the 1992-97 Parliament, my parliamentary friend and neighbour, the right honourable Dawn Primarolo, visited a secondary school in her constituency at the end of the academic year. She was told that 100 students were leaving but that only 11 of them had a job to go to. Ten years later, when I told this story to a group of school leavers in my constituency, they did not believe me, because they all had jobs and training places to go to. Consequently, I was delighted that the gracious Speech included legislation on housing, pensions, health and public transport. The proposals to improve the life chances of looked-after children are particularly welcome, as is the intention to help people to achieve a better balance between work and family life.

The phrase “knowledge economy” is often bandied about, but there is no doubt that Britain’s economic status can be secured in the future only if we have a well educated and highly skilled population. In this context, the proposal to raise to 18 the minimum age at which young people can leave education or training is both welcome and vital. It is more than 40 years since the announcement that the school leaving age would be increased to 16 and in that time huge strides have been made in other countries. India, for example, is turning out 1 million science graduates a year.

I have left until last the issue that is most important—climate change. You do not have to be a weather forecaster or a scientist to work out that our climate is changing; it is obvious to any experienced gardener. It is the only credible explanation for the extreme weather phenomena that we have seen in recent years, from Hurricane Katrina, to severe drought, to disastrous floods. It is a relief that at last there appears to be unanimity in the science community worldwide that human activity is changing our climate. Late converts are to be preferred to sinners, but global progress is slow. It was in 1979 that I first learnt that there was a hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic. We were told then that all would be well if we stopped using chlorofluorocarbons, so my contribution at that time was to stop using deodorant sprays. Wouldn’t it be great if that had been enough? The Climate Change Bill is our most ambitious initiative yet: to move beyond Kyoto so as to reduce the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60 per cent by 2050, using 1990 as the baseline. It is worth recording in passing that we are one of the few countries to comply with the Kyoto targets.

The Energy Bill is the other side of the same coin, with its emphasis on a more rapid deployment of renewables in the UK. While wind farms, carbon capture and initiatives such as a Severn barrage may well have their place, I am convinced that there is growing public enthusiasm for microgeneration. People want to do their bit for the environment. Generous grant schemes for householders and the encouragement of microgeneration in public buildings are good common

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sense and would be popular. Also very welcome are the proposals to target fuel poverty measures more effectively so as to build on energy-saving measures, such as home insulation.

Occasionally, I reflect on an experience that I had about 30 years ago. I was campaigning in a local government by-election in south Devon, together with a party colleague called Norman. I thought that he was old, although he was probably about the age that I am now. It was just coming up to lunchtime and I decided to stop, but I realised that Norman had been detained on a doorstep. I went to inquire what was happening and it turned out that, after Norman’s introduction, the householder had said that he would not be able to vote. Norman assumed that that meant he had just moved in and was not on the register, so he explained the procedure for doing so. The man said, “No, no; I can’t vote”, and Norman thought that he meant that he wanted a postal vote. He explained the procedure and offered him an application form. The householder then said very loftily to both of us, “No, you misunderstand. I can’t vote because I’m a Jehovah’s Witness. My vote is in heaven”. Norman replied, quick as a flash, “But you come down for your meals, don’t you?”. We all come down for our meals, and we have common aims of protecting the security and safety of the British people, looking after all our children, providing world-class education and skills and reducing global poverty.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

3.53 pm

Lord Hart of Chilton: My Lords, it is a great honour and privilege to second this Motion for an humble Address and to have the pleasure of following my noble friend Lady Corston, whose political achievements in human rights and equal opportunities I have so admired. It is also a great honour to do so by way of making a maiden speech.

I should tell your Lordships that, when I entered this House, I went immediately to the ever-helpful Clerk of the Parliaments to inquire about making maiden speeches. “As you were a government adviser”, he said, “I think it would be quite inappropriate for you to speak”. “Oh dear”, I said. He replied, “Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time. One of their Lordships took 35 years before troubling the House with a few words and, even then, the general view was that it wasn’t worth the wait”. I went to the Whips and told them the news. I said, “I’m afraid that I won’t be able to speak”. “That’s the best bit of news we’ve had for some time—it’s a pity there aren’t more of you. Always remember: less is more”. Buoyed up with that confidence-building experience, perhaps I may thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House and the noble Lord the Chief Whip for

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having the audacity to invite me to second the Motion this afternoon. Perhaps I may also pay my own tribute to their work.

As a Minister, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House was, as I know from personal experience, quite outstanding at taking Bills through this House, and she always sought sensible compromise in doing so. With her in her new role, we have someone who genuinely wishes to be a Leader of the whole House, and in my view she has made an excellent start. I am also a great admirer of the noble Lord the Chief Whip, who carries out his difficult tasks with good humour. When confronted with trouble, as he often is, he asks himself always what the good people of Telford would do—and they rarely let him down.

As I am paying tributes, perhaps I may pay two more—to the noble and learned Lords the former Lord Chancellors for whom I worked for nearly 10 years. As your Lordships may imagine, they were not always easy men to advise, but they were a delight to work with, kind and generous. They both had huge energy and ability and were, in quite different ways, formidable advocates. They were prodigiously hard-working and—quite surprisingly for me at least—in going for a train, both of them had an astonishing turn of speed along platforms and going up stairs, leaving me hopelessly trailing behind carrying the bags. They were much loved by their private offices. I should add that the officials working in those offices were also outstanding. They worked long hours, always in good humour, with great loyalty. We are lucky to have such civil servants.

Although I received abusive telephone calls for not preventing the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine, from abandoning his knee breeches, tights and buckled shoes, in fact, surprisingly, neither Lord Chancellor ever sought my advice on their personal appearance, make-up or clothing. Of course, one might say that their impeccable sense of style was the only guide they needed; indeed, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has become an icon for the shirt industry. Very sensibly, they rejected my suggestion that they might appear on “The Simpsons”.

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