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The Ministry of Justice, of course, also provides a close connection for me to the seconder of the Motion. I am especially delighted to congratulate my noble friend Lord Hart of Chilton on his speech seconding the Motion for a number of reasons. First, he and I worked closely together as Minister and special adviser at the Ministry of Justice, under my noble and learned friend the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, who I am delighted to see here today. Secondly, although my noble friend has been an active and engaged Member of the your Lordships House since 2004, todays address was his maiden speech, since he decided not to speak in the Housealthough I am glad he decided to votewhile he was a special adviser to the Government. I congratulate him on making a successful maiden address. Principally, however, as the House has shown in its appreciation of my noble friend seconding the Motion, his speech was all that a number of us thought that it would be: spirited, insightful, kind and, most of all, funny. My noble friends self-denying ordinance in relation to the Chamber meant that many of your Lordships may not have heard him before today. Those in that category have missed a treat. To those who knew what was likely to be coming, today was a vintage performance by my noble friend. He has, in terms of this Chamber, hidden his talent under a bushel for too long. Today he is fully unbushelled, and your Lordships House is the beneficiary.
As I was writing this short speech, a couple of images came into my mind: the first was of my noble friends desk, completely full of paperas, indeed, was every other piece of furniture in the room, which made visiting him for advice somewhat of a challenge. Of course, as is often the case, irritatingly, he was able to put his hand on any piece of paper required at any point.
Secondly, I recall his ability to create a particular kind of mayhem with a perfectly timed question or point; most famously, for me, when, over a sandwich lunch with the then Lord Chancellor, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, in the middle of a discussion of something quite unrelated, he announced in a matter-of-fact way that he had noticed the Lord Chancellors house was on fire when he left home that morninghe lived close by. He presumed that all must be well as no one had been in touch. The consternation and bemusement on the face of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton was wondrous to behold, bearing in mind that this was some five or six hours later, and only in passing did my noble friend feel it necessary to mention the fact. I should add that all was, indeed, well at home.
Most of all, I will never forget the help that my noble friend gave me at the Ministry of Justice, and gives me nowalways willing to give sound advice, to listen to a problem and give perspective and, I must say, to make me laugh helplessly. We are in for some serious contributions from my noble friend and, I hope, the occasional real treat.
I also welcome fully the new Members of your Lordships House who arrived in the past Session. They have, on all sides of the House, contributed already to our debates, and I look forward to working with them in the Session that will follow. I am delighted to see the Lord Speaker in her place for the State Opening; she is a credit to this House, and I look forward to working closely with her in the future.
Briefly, the gracious Speech today, as others have mentionedsome with perhaps less enthusiasm than they might have donemarks a considerable constitutional innovation. Back in July, the Government published for the first time details in draft of the programme that was set out in the gracious Speech earlier today. Instead of a closely guarded process in which individual government departments propose Bills to be introduced and a Cabinet committee examines and deliberates on costsa process that goes on behind closed doors and means that both Parliament and the public have no prior sight or involvement in the preparation of the programmeinstead of inaccessibility, we now have for the first time transparency and openness. This is real change and a real improvement in our constitution and in the way in which we do government and legislation and, indeed, in the way in which Parliament works.
We have put forward a programme that is based around 25 specified and detailed Bills and other, draft Bills. As the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said, we put it out to consultation. We received comments from a range of people, organisations, members of the public, business leaders, local authorities and third-sector bodies. Comments covered the whole idea of publishing a draft legislative programme, the programme as a whole, and individual Bills in it. I am not sure whether we could say that people were dancing in Devon at the prospect, but I am sure that my noble friend will agree that they were probably tangoing in Telford.
There was support for publishing a draft programme to make the legislative process more open. People with a particular interest in individual Bills welcomed the opportunity to know that the Government will legislate in their area of interest. People want to be able to comment on individual Bills, but do of course recognise the role of government in working out the detail of legislation. They want to know how their views are being considered, and they want a role in reviewing legislation when it has been introduced. Interestingly, they also want the legislative draft programme to be published even earlier than we published it. There is more work to be done on the concept and operation of publishing the programme in draft. We will do this work in line with the results of the consultation, and will endeavour to publish the next draft programme even earlier than we did this year. It is an important step towards openness and an important change in the way in which we do things, and I commend it to your Lordships House.
As a result of this innovation, Members of your Lordships House will be familiar with the programme, which, as the gracious Speech made clear, has three principal elements: opportunity and aspiration; security
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I can confirm three Bills so far that will start in your Lordships House: the human fertilisation and embryology Bill, the Local Transport Bill, and the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill. Through the usual channels, we will make clear further Lords starters as the decisions are taken. I believe this constitutes a programme of radical and relevant change which will enhance and improve our country and benefit its people.
I end my speech by saying thank you. I thank, in particular, the chairmen and members of your Lordships Select Committees for their dedication and commitment to your Lordships House. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and his team of Deputy Speakers for all that they do to ensure that the House runs smoothly and that its business is conducted co-operatively and well. I have already paid tribute to the team here on the government Front Benches. I also thank those on the opposition, Liberal Democrat and Cross Benches who have worked tirelesslysometimes too tirelessly for my likingto address all the issues raised in legislation or in debate. Indeed, I thank all Members of all Benches who spend time and energy getting involved and sharing their knowledge and expertise and who are prepared to listen and engage with the views of others.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: It is called the modern age, my Lords. I pay tribute to and thank the retiring Convenor of the Cross Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton. He has convened, without pressurising, a diverse group of peoplemany of whom, I have noticed, have strong opinionsand has offered them sound advice and good sense. I congratulate him on all that he has done and welcome as his successor the estimable noble Baroness, Lady DSouza. I look forward to working as closely with her. I also thank the right reverend Prelates for their wise counsel and important contribution to this House, and especially welcome back a dear friend, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth.
Last week the House paid characteristically generous and entirely well deserved tribute to Sir Paul Hayter on his retirement as Clerk of the Parliaments. I add to that my thanks to all his staff for their hard work and dedication in the Session just ended, which I am confident that they will match in the coming Session. I know that all Members of the House realise and appreciate all that they and all the staff of your Lordships House do, in whatever role they play, to make sure that your Lordships House runs well with courtesy and real respect for your Lordships. I build on the tribute to Sir Paul by welcoming Michael Pownall, his successor.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, in his advice and help to me and, I am sure, to others, he has already shown himself to be invaluable. In addition, I add my tribute to those Membersall of them friends and colleagueswho we lost during the previous Session. We will miss them all.
Last week, we completed a long and, at times, arduous Session, which was made easier by the skill of the business managers and the usual channels, and I am grateful to them. We passed 25 government Bills and four other Bills also reached Royal Assent. We took 59 oral Statements, had 55 Questions for Short Debate and had a huge range of issues in front of us every day in departmental Questions. It was a full and busy Session.
We now have ahead of us a Session putting into place the programme of legislation set out in the gracious Speech which will, I am sure, be challenging and, no doubt, at times controversial. It will take a good deal of commitment and staying power as well as a good deal of organisation and co-operation. It will help deliver a programme of real merit and value,
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It was ordered that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis do take care that 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 Lords to and from this House during the sitting of Parliament; or to hinder Lords in the pursuit of their Parliamentary duties on the Parliamentary Estate; and that the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod attending this House do communicate this Order to the Commissioner.
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