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I am proud to be the Leader of your Lordships’ House, and I think that this House and the people in it—the Members on all sides of the Chamber—are a huge credit to themselves, to their parties or lack of them, to Parliament and to our country and our democracy. The work that this House does is tremendous. I think of the debates that we have had recently—the economic debate that we had a couple of weeks ago being only the latest example—and I believe that the quality of argument, the depth of experience and the extent of the wisdom and judgment demonstrated are a testament to this House and to our bicameral system. I pay tribute to all those who make this Chamber as good as it unquestionably is. I am proud, too, to lead those on the government Benches here, and I pay tribute to the ministerial team—Ministers and Whips alike—who strive to serve this House and the country beyond it.

At the end of a Session that saw her so successfully take the European Union (Amendment) Bill through this House, I thank my predecessor as Leader, my noble friend Lady Ashton of Upholland, and I wish her well in her new role as the UK’s European Commissioner in Brussels. I pay special tribute both to my successor as Chief Whip, my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton, and to my predecessor as Chief Whip, my noble friend Lord Grocott. To be sandwiched between people of such ability is both a delight and a huge challenge that is beyond even Pret a Manger. I also thank two ministerial colleagues who chose to

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step down at the reshuffle—my noble friends Lord Rooker and Lady Crawley. We on these Benches owe them a huge debt, and I know that the whole House thanks them for what they have done in this House as a whole.

I am genuinely delighted to congratulate my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton on moving the Motion on the gracious Speech. This House is, of course, used to hearing him both as a Minister in the Government and as a much respected and, indeed, much loved Lord Chancellor. Most Ministers spend a good deal of their time strengthening and, indeed, trying to expand their ministerial role; very few try to diminish it. Absolutely no one, other than my noble and learned friend, has put so much effort, skill and intelligence into a wholesale dismemberment of his own job.

Although we in this House have tended to hear him taking a Bill through the Chamber or replying to a debate, it is one of the oddities of ministerial life that the broader speeches, which are one of a Minister’s stock in trade, are pretty well uniformly made outside the Chambers of Parliament—at political and other conferences. We have therefore been privileged in this House today to have been given a glimpse of what others outside this House have seen many times: a marvellous speech full of wit, erudition, argument, and even—although I am sure I am woefully mistaken—a tiny spot of criticism. Members across the House have their differences. There are sometimes differences even on these Benches, but after they happen we unite and move on. That is what we on these Benches have always done, and that is what we will continue to do together, as we have seen today.

My noble and learned friend’s skills in making speeches are very well known, at least in this House; perhaps they are a touch less well known outside the Chamber. On one occasion, when campaigning for the Labour Party during the previous election, he arrived at the venue for his speech. The venue was not quite as bejewelled as your Lordships’ Chamber; it was a room above a pub in Bury. When the gathered crowd, if that is not too strong a word for the good handful of people clustered there waiting for the evening’s political entertainment to begin, was informed that they had a special treat tonight—sandwiches and chips; oh, and the Lord Chancellor—my noble and learned friend was not to be deterred.

On another constituency visit, he was warned ahead of knocking on the door of a particular house that the resident in question was a man of firm views who had, for a number of reasons, been protesting about proposed changes and had recently changed his name by deed poll to Status Quo. My noble and learned friend was not put off for one second. Bounding up to the door, he said, “Good evening, Mr Quo”, adding, in that spirit of uncrushable friendliness that we all know so well, “May I call you Status?”. But the electorate, as always, had the final say. On a further, and no doubt equally successful, campaigning visit, he knocked at someone’s door. When it was opened, he said, “Good morning, madam, I am the Lord Chancellor”, to which the doughty householder replied, “And I am the Queen of Sheba. Now, off”.

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While obviously from these accounts his eloquence is clearly widely unknown on doorsteps the length and breadth of Britain, in this place the opposite is the case. The wonderful website,, which specialises in providing painstakingly and often painful details on all our appearances and interventions in this House, lists for my noble and learned friend an astonishing 4,600 mentions in this House, which in itself is a daunting figure. That is all the more so when you take into account that it covers only the period from January 2001 to now and that the website includes a maximum of 5,000 entries in order to conserve memory—a conservation limit that my noble and learned friend is clearly stretching. Worst of all, as many as 2,079 of those entries are my noble and learned friend talking. Astoundingly, against this impressive record, he has managed to find a new form of words to inform, enlighten and entertain us today. I am enormously grateful to him for proposing our thanks to Her Majesty for the gracious Speech.

My noble and learned friend has set out on a new career path since leaving office, although of course he is still within the legal profession. Indeed, he regularly excites legal journalists by forecasting, to calls of “Shush” from assembled lawyers, that there will inevitably be lots of business for legal firms from the remaking of key economic institutions. Clearly, capitalism may come and go, but lawyers go on for ever.

What has been happening in the financial sector was also obviously of central concern for our seconder. I am deeply grateful to my noble friend Lady Ford for her impressive and immensely enjoyable speech seconding the Motion. Traditionally, the seconder of this Motion makes a lighthearted speech while the mover makes a policy speech in support of the Government’s programme. Just as the likelihood of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton not slipping the odd joke into his speech seemed remote, the likelihood of my noble friend Lady Ford, with her extensive, practical, day-to-day experience of banking and the financial markets, not mixing humour with a focus on the current economic position, also seemed low. I am grateful to both of them for exploiting our conventions so enlighteningly.

As your Lordships have so obviously seen when I have repeated the Prime Minister’s Statements on the current economic position, I yield to pretty well everyone in my knowledge and experience of the economy, although I am trying very hard. But I especially yield to my noble friend Lady Ford. Most of us in this House have mainly just looked upon the turmoil in the markets over the past few months and have been glued to the coverage, but view it through the prism of being mostly outsiders looking in. My noble friend is different. When not engaged in her extensive activities in this House and beyond, she works in the capital markets and her perspective and insights have informed the speech she has made this afternoon.

For me, it is particularly important and impressive that her success and her perspective is rooted in the democratic socialist values that we share. Naming one’s sources for anecdotes in speeches is usually not the done thing, but I shall now do exactly that in relation to my noble friend. Recently, I had the pleasure

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of a conversation with her daughter. We began to touch on women’s achievements and with that, sadly no doubt, on the concomitant issue of the limits placed on such achievements—glass ceilings and so on. My noble friend’s daughter opined with tremendous love and admiration, “My mother just has no concept of a glass ceiling”. That is a tremendous tribute from someone in a real position to know. The merest glance at what my noble friend has achieved across a variety of walks of life shows just how true that tribute is.

Her career in trade unionism, consultancy, regulation, economic management and, perhaps especially, in housing shows that for my noble friend glass ceilings are not there to be shattered. They are not there even to be acknowledged in her case. She is one of the best jugglers of roles I know and she is a very fine role model. We have been fortunate this afternoon in hearing such a considered, thoughtful and incisive speech from my noble friend in seconding the Motion. I thank her for her contribution today and to the business of this House more generally.

I should like to welcome the new Members who have joined the House during this Session, a number of whom have come on to our Benches as Ministers. I believe that, regardless of our political differences, the House as a whole has benefited at a time of huge economic concern and uncertainty from the expertise in this area that some of them have brought. All our new Members are contributing to the debates in this place and I look forward to their contributions over the coming Session.

I am delighted to see our Lord Speaker in her place. The Lord Speaker and I are already working closely together for the House as a whole. The Lord Speaker has a special resonance for Members on these Benches given that they are from whence she came, but her work as Speaker within and beyond this Chamber makes her an enormous asset and we pay tribute to her for all that she does.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and his team of Deputy Speakers for all that they do to ensure that our business is conducted co-operatively and constructively. I thank also the chairs and members of your Lordships’ Select Committees for their commitment, dedication and sheer hard work. I know that we have further business this afternoon in relation to the chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union and I do not wish to pre-empt it, but I want to make mention of the magnificent work of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. I have already mentioned my personal gratitude to the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord McNally, but perhaps I may express the thanks of noble Lords for all that they do for the House. I have to confess that I am sometimes not quite so grateful for all that they do for our Benches, but the political arguments that we have are constructive, engaged in with good spirit and fundamental to what we do here.

I want to pick up on one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, in relation to the argument over parliamentary privilege in another place. Earlier this afternoon, the Speaker of the Commons made a Statement in connection with the current events and announced that he would establish a committee of

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seven senior Members of another place to report on them. In response to the request made by both the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord McNally, I can tell them and indeed the whole House that I have already asked the House authorities to prepare a report setting out the current position on this aspect of privilege in connection with this House and with Members of this House. I will ensure that, once the report has been completed, copies are made available to noble Lords as speedily as possible. Clearly the Lord Speaker has a number of responsibilities with regard to security and related issues that are of direct relevance here. I also readily acknowledge the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and expressed by the House recently, about financial privilege. I am giving it careful consideration and I will be consulting widely within the House. We will return to the matter in due course.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, for all that she does for the House as Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers. Leading political groupings is sometimes likened to herding cats, so goodness knows what it is like to convene something that is neither political nor a group, but the noble Baroness does it with enormous skill and dexterity, as well as with great charm and openness. We are indebted to her.

We are often not aware of—I think that he would be appalled if there were any clear evidence of it—the huge help and guidance given to this House and its Members through the work of Michael Pownall, our Clerk of the Parliaments, his team of fellow clerks and the senior management of the House. Their work is often unsung and unseen, but this House would have no chance at all of doing what it does without these individuals. I am personally grateful for all the guidance and advice that Michael in particular has so ably and unstintingly given to me. Doing this job would not be possible without him.

I single out a particular person for special thanks—Black Rod. To the public, he is the person who works for one day a year with the totality of his job being an enviable one, that of a walk along a corridor and three bangs on a door. We know differently because we know of the extent and importance of Black Rod’s work. As our current Black Rod, Sir Michael Willcocks, is retiring during the coming Session, I know that noble Lords will want to express not just at that point but here today their thanks and appreciation for all that he does in carrying out his role.

I shall add a further word of thanks to those whom we do not see in this Chamber but who work for us all and to those who, even when we see them, sometimes we do not see properly. I refer to the real unsung heroes of the House: those who work in the various parts of the administration, the staff of Hansard, who with dedication record accurately all that we say and do, the staff who work so hard in the Library, our doorkeepers and messengers, and the cleaning, bar, catering and support staff whose hard work and unfailing cheerfulness is such a boon to noble Lords. I thank them all.

The gracious Speech sets out the Government’s programme for the coming Session. It has one primary, overriding aim: to help people meet the economic

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challenges facing our country as a result of the global downturn, and so to make sure that we come out of this downturn both sooner and stronger than we otherwise might. As a Government we are taking action now to help people, not just proposing standing by and doing nothing. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said about the Opposition in regard to the economy: it is a do-nothing party led by a do-nothing leader with do-nothing policies.

The Bills set out in the Queen’s Speech will strengthen the financial sector through the Banking Bill, soon to come to this House; support families and those on lower incomes to save through the saving gateway accounts Bill; and support local economic regeneration and housing through measures in that area of policy. Our commitment to fair chances for all will be taken forward with Bills to eradicate child poverty; to promote equality, including tackling the remaining discrimination on grounds of age; to promote excellence in schools and give our young people the necessary skills and education to equip them for future challenges, while the welfare reform Bill will help people find work. We will promote fair rules for all, with tough measures to punish and prevent crime. We will strengthen our borders and ensure an earned citizenship. We will improve public services through the NHS Bill. A fair say for all means that we will have measures to give parents, patients and the public greater control over the services they use. We will continue to work on measures aimed at improving our democracy and our constitution.

I can confirm that so far two Bills will start in your Lordships’ House—the marine and coastal access and the local democracy, economic regeneration and construction Bills. Through the usual channels, we will make clear further Lords starters, as necessary, as decisions are taken. I can also reassure the House that while we still have the White Paper on Lords reform before us, the Government will not seek to make further progress on Lords reform in this Session of Parliament.

Last week we completed a full and tough Session. We sat for a total of 164 days and I thank the business managers and the usual channels for all the skill and hard work they put in to ensure that the Session went as well as possible. I thank, in particular, the wonderful staff of the Whips’ Office. We passed 24 government Bills and three other Bills reached Royal Assent; we took 63 oral Statements; we debated 70 short Questions; and Ministers and Whips dealt, as ever, with a huge range of Questions from Members of the House.

As a country we face unprecedented challenges. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, and these are the responses and the leadership that the Government, led by the Prime Minister, are providing. Not all are legislative, but the gracious Speech sets out the legislative measures which we believe will best help the people of this country in these difficult times. I look forward to bipartisan support for these essential measures from the other Benches in the House. This is an essential programme and we have to pull together for the benefit of our economy and our country. I look forward to working with all sides of the House as we do so.

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I am confident that this coming Session will, as ever, show the House at its best—a hardworking, responsible, relevant House with a real part to play in the politics and the practicalities of our country. It is a House that we can be, should be and are proud of. As both its leader and its servant, I certainly am proud of it and of what we do here—in the Session just ended and in the coming Session; in the past and in the future. I support the Motion.

Motion agreed.

Chairman of Committees

4.44 pm

Moved by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Motion agreed nemine dissentiente.

Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees

4.45 pm

Moved by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, in moving the Motion for the appointment of a new chair to this House’s European Union Select Committee, it is right, appropriate and an enormous pleasure to say something about his predecessor. Before I do so, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Roper, to the chair. We are all confident that with his vast experience he will ably take on that task, but I know that John is the first to acknowledge that he will have a hard act to follow in the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell.

The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has been a simply superb chairman of the committee. In this House, in the committee itself, and in dealing with the people and organisations in this country and across Europe with whom and with which the committee deals, he has been a model of how to chair a committee and a credit to this House. He has brought to the committee all the qualities that it was thought he would when he took over the chairmanship in 2002: his intelligence, his acuity, his strong sense of fairness and his extraordinary levels of patience—no doubt sorely tried from time to time. Coupled with his background—Eton, Cambridge, the Queen’s Royal Rifles, television, the World Bank—those qualities combine to make him a natural in this House and, of course, in the Select Committee. His knowledge, his experience and his authority have all been to the gain of the committee and of the whole House.

The noble Lord, I am reliably informed, and my own experience and knowledge of him are entirely in accord with this, has never been known to lose his temper on the committee—never been known even to raise his voice, even, perhaps especially, when others would have been provoked by the inevitable frequent and probably permanent clash of civilisations on the

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committee between those pro-Europe and those against it. He has been a particularly distinguished, impressive and effective chairman of this, one of our most respected and well regarded Select Committees. His committee’s exceptional report on the EU Lisbon treaty, which was so important to the passage of the European Union Bill through this House this year, was only the most recent demonstration of that.

That is not the view just of this House. The noble Lord has rightly been lauded well beyond the House—indeed, well beyond these shores. When I meet colleagues from European Union capitals and the EU institutions, he is widely known, regarded, respected and, of course, liked. Last month, in the hallowed halls of the French Senate itself, the noble Lord was awarded its medal of honour and received not one but two standing ovations—rightly so. The fact that he is a linguist will have not only inspired the trust and confidence of our European partners, but ensured greater mutual understanding of often difficult and contentious issues.

The noble Lord will be greatly missed by this House as chair of the committee but greatly welcomed back into the mainstream of the House now that his tenure of the chair is concluded. If I can be allowed the smallest of partisan points from these Benches, it will be a genuine joy to welcome him back to these Benches as my noble friend. Our gain is the committee’s loss but, more importantly, our gain is a gain for the whole House.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Roper, and associate these Benches with the expressions of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. Although he sails under another flag today, he came here as a hereditary Peer, and I know he will not mind it said that he is one of a long line of such people who have come to this place to serve out of a high sense of public duty. That sense of duty, along with his patience, intelligence and good humour, have always marked the noble Lord. The committees he chairs, as the noble Baroness the Leader of the House has said, is regarded as providing a great service to Parliament as a whole, and I am sure that he would wish no greater compliment than if I were to say, with the warmest sincerity, that under his chairmanship its prestige has ever been more widely recognised.

Even those of us who consider it a merciful release that the Lisbon treaty has not yet been inflicted on the British people without their consent will at least acknowledge that the noble Lord’s work in relation to that, the whole process of the draft constitutional treaty and, indeed, the standard of the nearly 40 reports a year on average under his chairmanship was of the very highest quality. His efficient conduct of his office has led to a reduction in the number of scrutiny overrides, from 64 in 2003 to 25 in 2007, something that all noble Lords will welcome.

I trust that the noble Lord will go, with our warmest good wishes and thanks, with that oldest British virtue always to arm him: satisfaction in a job well done. I know that I speak for all those on these Benches who served with him when I say that he will be greatly missed and we look forward to hearing him often in our debates.

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Lord McNally: My Lords, from these Benches I welcome my noble friend Lord Roper to the position and express our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. I suspect that by now he must be feeling rather like Tom Sawyer when he was in the loft listening to his own funeral service. The gratitude of the House is heartfelt and from all Benches. I understand that in the French press he is sometimes referred to as “Lord Pigalle”. I can assure the House that it will not be long before my noble friend Lord Roper is known as “Lord Soho”.

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