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The contributions of some SOE female agents-notably Violette Szabo and Odette Sansom-were recognised posthumously with the George Cross. Their stories, inevitably romanticised, became widely known through films and books in the decades immediately after the war. Of those women who survived the war, many maintained a long silence about what they did, as is borne out by the case of Eileen Nearne, already referred to, whose service in occupied France was known only on her death. As time goes on, more stories are revealed and deserve wider recognition among younger generations.
Like other noble Lords, I think of women such as Noor Inayat Khan, the first female SOE agent to be airdropped into occupied France. She sent back vital information from Paris for three months-far longer than the expected lifespan-but was eventually captured, tortured and executed in 1944 aged just 29. While she, too, received a posthumous George Cross and memorials exist to her in Paris and Dachau, there is no dedicated memorial to her in England, her adopted country. Campaigners are hoping to raise sufficient funds to unveil a statue to her in Gordon Square in London, near her childhood home. A public commemoration of the contribution to this country's history by a young Asian Muslim woman would be a tremendously positive signal at the current time and I hope that the Government will give some public support to this campaign.
At a time when women in the Armed Forces were restricted to a non-combatant role in warfare, the women of the SOE trained and served alongside men,
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The Earl of Selborne: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, for initiating this debate. My grandfather, Lord Selborne, succeeded Dr Hugh Dalton in February 1942 as Minister of Economic Warfare and, as such, he had ministerial charge of the SOE for three years. In fact, near the end of his life he revealed that about three-quarters or four-fifths of his time was spent on the SOE, for the Ministry of Economic Warfare was of course a convenient name to disguise what was going on.
I had the great privilege of speaking at the unveiling of the SOE Memorial on the Albert Embankment on 4 October 2009. I suppose that I was really speaking for my grandfather and all those who had had such respect for, and first-hand knowledge of, SOE agents. I pay tribute to the trustees of the Public Memorials Appeal who raised the money for that monument-the first for all SOE agents-to be placed here in London. I also pay tribute to their foresight in having a female agent, Violette Szabo, represent all agents on it. That memorial faces us here at the Palace of Westminster and it could not be in a more suitable location. We have already heard that Violette Szabo was one of those posthumously awarded the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre.
The SOE's activities were not universally welcomed by other armed forces. Air Chief Marshal Portal described the agents as assassins, and the Secret Intelligence Service, the SIS, now known as MI6, viewed the SOE with great suspicion. I can quite imagine that the SOE did indeed confuse issues so far as MI6 and the Foreign Office were concerned. My grandfather spent a lot of his time defending his colleagues in the SOE from being undermined by other branches of government. Churchill could always be relied on for robust support but at the end of the war the SOE was unceremoniously wound up. The new Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, was no supporter, nor indeed was Anthony Eden, but Lord Selborne and Sir Colin Gubbins, the last executive director of the SOE, and many others felt that the astonishing bravery of the SOE agents and the very great contribution that the organisation had made to winning the war both in Europe and the Far East had not been adequately recognised. Certainly, the agents would not reveal their role to their own families and they were certainly not going to talk about their achievements. Therefore, this short debate could play a very important role in redressing this long historical grievance.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I join the thanks to my noble friend Lady Crawley for this opportunity to recognise the very brave women in the Special Operations Executive. I have a particular interest as I am a trustee of the Imperial War Museum and the author of a study in the late 1980s into whether women ought to be employed in Royal Navy ships, which led to them taking up such employment in the early 1990s. During that study, one of the issues often raised with
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Of course, most of us have heard of Violette Szabo, Odette Sansom, and Noor Inayat Khan-probably less of her. They were all George Cross winners, and two of them were killed. Feature films were made of two of them, as has been said. The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, touched on Nancy Wake. How many have heard of her-the White Mouse? She led a band of 7,000 French Resistance maquisards in the Auvergne, and that was just before and during the liberation of France. She killed an SS man with her bare hands-a horrifying thought-and now she lives in the Star and Garter home in Richmond. It is quite incredible.
Of course, we must not forget that 67 years ago tonight more than 1 million men were fighting on the beaches of Normandy, in the air over Normandy and in some 5,500 Royal Navy ships-sadly nowadays we have rather fewer-off the coast of Normandy, but women were doing so in France. I mention one who was touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton: Pearl Witherington. She ran the Wrestler network, as was said, fielding about 1,500 men. The Germans put 1 million francs on her head, and during that crucial D-day period it was estimated that her network killed 1,000 Germans and took 1,800 prisoners. It is quite remarkable and almost unheard of. She was recommended for a Military Cross, but because she was a woman she could not have one. I am glad to say that that has now changed.
The murder of 13 such women in Germany, even though they were members of the FANY-the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry-and the Women's Royal Air Force, which should have protected them, was an appalling crime. I end with a verse from a poem that put words in the mouth of Violette Szabo by a man called Leo Marks, who was a cipher officer, which I think encapsulates these women:"The life that I haveIs all that I haveAnd the life that I haveIs yours".
As a past president of the Special Forces Club, which was formed by the SOE, I speak of the feeling among those who survived and who live on that there should be an SOE memorial. It was built for that reason. Those of us from Special Forces who have served since World War 2 and joined the club consider it our job to perpetuate the name of the SOE. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, for raising this subject. It is right that we name certain brave and very gallant women, but the feeling inside the SOE was that they thought of themselves as a family and they liked to be talked of as a whole. One must remember that there were many women in the SOE helping in training, signalling, communications, administration and preparing agents to go about their jobs.
The club helps in two ways. We have a very fine historical committee. Its task is to research the history, stories, tactics and everything that the SOE did. We work closely with the Imperial War Museum and raised money for certain things in the museum such as the Special Forces section. Another trust, funded by the great generosity of Sir Paul Getty, has the purpose of helping with the history of the SOE-of course, women come into this-alerting the youth of Britain not to forget what their forebears did, and getting in young students who are keen on history and want to write and learn, and who will continue to perpetuate the name of the SOE.
On our historical committee, no one has given us more help than the great author, Michael Foot, who is a member of the club by virtue of his wartime service in Special Operations. There is a memorial, but perhaps the Government should think about whether they, too, should do something.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Crawley for her excellent speech and for securing this debate to celebrate the courage and tenacity of the 39 exceptional women who were members of the Special Operations Executive. It is right this evening not only that we remember these women but that we enable our children and our children's children to honour them in future years.
By the end of the war, there were 460,000 women in the military and more than 6.5 million doing civilian work. Without their contribution, we would not have won the war and secured our cherished freedom. I pay tribute to all these women, including the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. For me, the ones who stand out and who are in danger of being forgotten are the 39 women of the SOE. Many men did not believe that women should serve behind enemy lines, and recruiters were often sceptical in their assessments. However, these seemingly ordinary women, from many walks of life, were extraordinary. They left parents, lovers, husbands and even children to fight the tyranny of fascism alongside the Resistance in France. They were feminine and fearless, brave and beautiful, and we owe them a debt of honour.
This evening, my thoughts turn also to another intrepid woman, my late friend-because she was my friend-Lady Park of Monmouth, who trained operatives for the SOE. At her memorial service, we learnt that her personal gun had been crafted by the SOE armourer. As the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, said, many women helped prepare the valiant men and women of the SOE family for their work in many countries.
It is difficult to imagine the contrast between the normal lives of the SOE women and their existence in France. One-third of the women were either tortured or killed after capture, but in life all maintained their dignity and none ever betrayed anything of substance. One of the most amazing women was codenamed Madeleine. She was shot at Dachau concentration camp after months of torture and attempts to escape. She revealed nothing to her interrogators, and her last act was to shout, "Liberté". This would have been an act of astonishing courage for any man or woman.
Madeleine's real name was Noor Inayat Khan, of whom we have heard much this evening. She was the daughter of an Indian Sufi preacher and an American woman. She was born in Moscow and educated in Paris, where she became a writer. Apart from carrying the British passport of an imperial subject, she had no innate loyalty to the country for which she died. She was immensely brave and the first female wireless operator to be sent into France. We know that she did a fantastic job on the ground with the Resistance, and for several weeks she was the SOE's only radio contact in or near Paris. However, tragically, she was betrayed, aged 30, by the jealous girlfriend of a comrade.
"I feel it is very important that what she did should not be allowed to fade from memory, particularly living in the times that we do. Here was a young Muslim woman who gave her life for this country and for the fight against those who wanted to destroy the Jewish race. She was an icon for the bond that exists between Britain and India but also between people who fought for what they believed to be right".
I very much hope that the planned memorial for Noor will be raised later this year, the first one in London to an Indian woman. It would help to ensure that at the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember the extraordinary women of the Special Operations Executive.
Baroness Verma: My Lords, this has been an exceptional debate. Noble Lords' contributions have shown why this House is so hugely respected across the globe. I, too, join all noble Lords in paying tribute to our friend the late Baroness Park of Monmouth. She was a fabulous woman. It was only when I came to this House that I learnt of the huge work that she had done during those very difficult years during World War 2.
The Special Operations Executive employed or controlled just over 13,000 people during the Second World War, about 3,200 of whom were women, and it operated in several countries. France was its largest theatre of operations. It had five sections there-including an escape section and a section working with Polish immigrants-involving 1,000 British, French and Polish
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I know that I might repeat some of the excellent points made today, but I really do think that they are worth repeating. Not all of the women who fought were British, as has been poignantly brought out today. Some, for example, came from New Zealand, France, the USA and Poland. Noor Inayat Khan was born in Moscow, her father came from an Indian princely family famous for fighting against the British, and her mother was American. As noble Lords have said, however, this was not about where you came from; it was about fighting evil and protecting people.
France was by no means the only country where female agents operated. Women distinguished themselves in the Low Countries, Yugoslavia and Italy. Besides "official" SOE agents, tens of thousands of women worked in SOE-sponsored networks throughout Europe, for example keeping safe houses for people fleeing Nazi oppression or helping escaping RAF air crews.
Many women in Britain undertook key work to liberate the world from Nazi oppression, from those who organised agents' missions-as the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, mentioned-or who trained agents, to those who belonged to organisations that remained unknown for many years. It was an honour to hear my noble friend Lady Trumpington speak in this debate tonight. I am sure that noble Lords will want to pay tribute to her vital service at Bletchley Park, whose code breakers gave the allies a huge advantage by decoding enemy radio messages. I also recommend that noble Lords visit YouTube, where they can see and hear my noble friend Lady Trumpington giving an interview. She truly is a member of the 21st century.
All of us present will have been moved by recalling the heroism of the women of many nationalities and backgrounds who volunteered to face danger, torture and death in their determination to play their part in the fight of ordinary people of all ages against one of the worst and cruellest tyrants in history.
Women agents have been rightly honoured and commemorated. As mentioned, the highest decorations were given to several of these women. However, they were not the only ones to be given high public recognition. Noble Lords may well applaud Pearl Witherington, who-as my noble friend Lady Trumpington pointed out-commanded a unit of 3,000 men and refused the MBE (civil section) on the grounds that she,
These women have also been commemorated in ways that made them literally household names-in films, books, television programmes and official histories. The greatest authority on all aspects of SOE's work is Professor MRD Foot, who I believe is taking a close interest in this debate, and who has written so eloquently on the heroism of many women in SOE in France, Holland and beyond.
Others have more recently been added to this very public roll of honour, such as Eileen Nearne, who was decorated with the MBE and the Croix de Guerre. She recalled her deeds in a television programme in 1997,
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There are many official and unofficial memorials. The Franco-British memorial at Valençay to the 104 agents of SOE's F Section killed in France was inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1991. Britain contributed 30 per cent towards its cost, including a grant from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Pearl Witherington was one of the two moving spirits who inspired the memorial in Valençay. This memorial remains a focal point for remembrance to this day. On 6 May this year, there were special celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the first agent dropped in Valençay in the presence of the Princess Royal and Sir Peter Westmacott, the British ambassador to France.
In Whitehall stands the memorial to women of World War Two. The noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, who was instrumental in its establishment, made sure that SOE women were invited to its unveiling by Her Majesty the Queen in July 2005. In Westminster Abbey is a memorial plaque for members of all nationalities of the SOE, which was unveiled in 1996 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. A recent memorial was erected on the Albert Embankment in 2009, organised by a registered charity, which my noble friend Lord Selborne mentioned. It features the bust of Violette Szabo and honours SOE agents, specifically those who went to France and Norway. It was unveiled by the Duke of Wellington, with a speech by my noble friend Lord Selborne and a wreath-laying by the Norwegian ambassador. We can also welcome the memorial that is being planned for Noor Inayat Khan in Gordon Square near to where she used to live. Noor used to play in Gordon Square in her childhood and later, as a talented scholar, she would walk to the British Museum and its library. She was the first female wireless operator of F Section sent to France. After being arrested, she was shot in 1944.
F Section's agents are still among us today. We can pay tribute to Nancy Wake and Yvonne Burney, who live in London; to Sonya d'Artois, in Canada; and to Odette de Strugo, in Buenos Aires. They encapsulate the broad international participation in the struggle for freedom directed from London. The Government and this House will wish to pay tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of SOE agents such as these sent overseas during the Second World War and to whom we are for ever indebted. Ever since the end of the war, when the deeds of the women of SOE first became publicly known, their heroism has been rightly honoured. It is far from clear that they themselves wanted to be singled out for different treatment. Many, like Pearl Witherington, wished to be recognised by the nation as combatants on the same basis as men.
SOE agents have rightly been recognised in a proper and dignified fashion, and debates such as this allow the Government further to put their gratitude on record, but official recognition is not the final word. In the course of this debate, the courage and selflessness of the women of the SOE have been movingly recalled, with interesting suggestions for further honouring and perpetuating their memory today. The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, is right that local authorities, for example,
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It is interesting to see how the example set by these courageous women over 60 years ago still resonates today and inspires new initiatives. For example, last September the former Olympic gymnast Suzanne Dando led a charity trek in the Pyrenees with young people on behalf of the Royal British Legion, following, literally, in the footsteps of SOE agent Nancy Wake along the escape route on which she and thousands of civilians and servicemen walked to freedom. One of the women taking part recalled:
Events like this are testament to the fact that the deeds of the women of the SOE are not just recorded in books or inscribed on memorials but are kept alive and still inspire the actions of young women today. The memory of these brave women has been, and is, rightly honoured and kept prominent in the national memory. As we have heard in this debate, there are many ways to keep that memory fresh and many of the most powerful come from spontaneous initiatives. The Government applaud all initiatives of this kind.
Your Lordships' House and I are indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, for raising this debate. Her speech, so eloquently and passionately delivered, of course rightly raises the question of what to do next. The brave men and women who laid down enormous sacrifices for our liberties must always be remembered and recognised. Through this most world-changing period of our history, the role of many must be a reminder to us all and to generations to come that we owe a great deal to the bravery and sacrifice of those before us.
In the final two minutes, I will attempt to respond to some of the points raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, talked about commemorative stamps. I have been informed by my officials that anyone can put forward suggestions for commemorative stamps to the Royal Mail and that MPs and Peers often make such an approach, which is much better than a state-sponsored event. My noble friend Lady Randerson referred to de Gaulle being ungrateful. That may have been so but that was rectified with the memorial at Valençay, which was unveiled in May 1991. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, talked about re-evaluating the medals awarded. I do not have an answer to that, and I am not sure of the policy or protocol, but I undertake to write to her.
The noble Viscount, Lord Slim, spoke about the Special Forces Club keeping the memory and knowledge of the SOE alive and well, which is absolutely right, but that does not mean we should leave it just to that club. It is incumbent on us all, wherever we can, to
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The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, spoke about the neglect of Eileen Nearne. I am advised that she cherished her anonymity. She received much support from the Special Forces Club and in 1997 spoke about her life in a television interview. As my noble friend Lady Trumpington said, often it was about women keeping the oath and not speaking about the work that they undertook during that time. They took it so seriously that many of them preferred to take what they did to the grave rather than tell everyone about the work that they undertook.
I thank all noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, for raising this debate. I hope that it will be read widely in order to ensure that the memories of these fantastic women always live on.
( ) the person is not serving a prison sentence or is not on remand."
Lord Rosser: I congratulate the Deputy Chairman on guiding us through that tour de force. I feel like something of an intruder in standing here to speak to some of the amendments in this group. My amendments are Amendments 190A, 194A, 199A and 201A.
I wondered whether to move the amendment as my amendments in the group relate to elected police and crime commissioners, which are no longer in the Bill. On reflection, I decided to continue to move it, at least to find out a little more about what the Government had in mind for the election arrangements. That is in view of concerns expressed by the Electoral Commission last September that work on a potential spate of elections and new arrangements for elections, including for police and crime commissioners, did not appear to be well co-ordinated by the Government. Of course, we are talking about elections which, prior to the deletion of the relevant part from the Bill, the Government were envisaging should go countrywide in May next year.
In moving the amendment, and speaking to the others in the group, which I have indicated are probing amendments, I would like to ask one or two questions about what the Government had in mind as far as those election arrangements were concerned. I ask them in part in the light of some of the concerns expressed by the Electoral Commission.
First, is the Minister able to say something about what the Government had intended about how those elections would be organised and by whom? Returning officers work on a local authority basis, but in nearly all cases the police authorities overlap more than one local authority area. So although it would not be the first time that elections had been held in respect of an organisation, body or Parliament that went over more than one authority area, it would be helpful if the Minister could say something about what was intended about organising these elections, in view of this issue of returning officers working on a local authority basis, as the elections would take place for many of the police and crime commissioners over a number of local authority areas.
One of the amendments that I have tabled refers to the issue of those in prison and those on remand, and seeks to say that those serving a prison sentence or on remand should not be included among those eligible to vote. It will be interesting to hear the Minister's comments on whether it was their intention that prisoners should be able to vote in the election for a police and crime commissioner or not. I am sure that some people would think that it was rather odd that prisoners should be able to take part in an election of that kind, just as others would think that it was entirely reasonable. Obviously, it is an issue on which there would be different views, but it would be of interest to hear the Government's thinking on that score.
I appreciate that things came to grief, from the Government's point of view, a few weeks ago. But as Governments usually prepare on the basis that the guts of the Bill will go through, it would also be helpful if the Minister could indicate what discussions were held with local authorities, registration officers and electoral administrators and, indeed, with the Electoral Commission, particularly in the light of the concerns that it expressed last September. Indeed, another of the amendments that I have tabled provides that for making orders under relevant provisions the Secretary of State must consult the Electoral Commission and publish its advice. It would be interesting to know if that had been part and parcel of the Government's plans and intentions as well.
In the concerns that the Electoral Commission raised, it said that it asked the Government to create a cross-department working group to co-ordinate all these initiatives-bearing in mind the number of different elections that the Government seem to be envisaging-so the obvious questions are: had a cross-departmental working group in fact been established, had it started to address the issue of electing police and crime commissioners, and how many times had it met or how active was it? I also ask about the resources, since elections cannot be run for nothing and these could have been fairly complicated ones. What had the Government been intending to do where the provision of extra resources was concerned to cover the cost of these elections? It has been their intention to run them, as I understand it, in May of next year-presumably alongside the local elections that would be being run then.
Another amendment that I have tabled relates to the turnout for these elections and provides that there have to be 40 per cent or more of eligible voters voting if the result is to be deemed binding. When we were discussing the referendum on the alternative vote, we had similar debates and amendments were moved which I think provided for the same figure. Those amendments were defeated but, as it turned out, if memory serves me right-and it may have failed me-we got above 40 per cent on the AV referendum. However, were the Government intending on these elections to provide for any minimum threshold where turnout was concerned?
Some serious concerns had been expressed-they have been expressed in debates that we have had in this Committee-that, let us just say, some rather interesting individuals might choose to put themselves up for
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A further amendment that I have tabled takes out a significant chunk of Clause 58. That is for the purpose of asking some of the questions that I have been asking about how the Government saw these elections being run and organised, what steps they had in train and what kind of progress had been made when we reached the stage where the amendment which deleted the reference to elected police and crime commissioners was successfully moved. There are other issues as well. There does not appear to be much reference in the Bill, for example, to election expenses or donation caps and such things. Indeed, the only real reference in the Bill to those kinds of issues is an order-making power for the Secretary of State, so that the Secretary of State can come forward with some of those ideas later. However, subject to what the Minister may say, the Bill does not give us any feel for what the Government intend on how they will run and organise these elections while we are actually discussing it.
Presumably, there are also questions where it would be helpful if we could have some response on issues such as donations and spending on these elections by political parties or, indeed, by anybody else. Do the Government have any views on that? Were they moving in any particular direction on that score that they can share with us? Or-I conclude on this point, because I have asked a number of questions which I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to-are we still in the position that the Electoral Commission referred to last September? With a number of potential elections coming up, some of them new elections for new bodies and including those for police and crime commissioners, the commission was moved to say that this work does not appear well co-ordinated at present. Is that in fact still the reality?
Lord Shipley: My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 193, 195 to 199, 200, 201 and 216. All are pretty brief. Amendments 193 and 194 would replace the word "necessarily" with "reasonably". This is about returning officers incurring costs for services and how those services are charged for. We are concerned that "necessarily" is complicated to define. A better and safer definition would be to use the word "reasonably". That would benefit returning officers, who would, in most cases, get the benefit of the doubt as to what was reasonable expenditure. One person's definition of what is reasonable is very much like another person's. One person's definition of the word "necessarily" might be more problematic.
Amendments 195 to 199 relate to the voting system. Thankfully, the first past the post system is not proposed in the Bill. We will have quite a large number of candidates for the post of police commissioner. The great danger in an electoral system that does not work well, such as first past the post-and I guess that this is why it is not the preferred option-is that you could end up with someone being elected on a very low percentage of votes cast. The difference between the supplementary vote as proposed and the alternative vote system that we would prefer is that, on a supplementary vote system, electors can vote twice whereas on the alternative vote system they can vote in a sequence, as far down the list as they wish to go. I appreciate that your Lordships' House has had a lot of discussion of voting systems in recent months, but the point remains extremely important. The benefit of the alternative vote is that you are likely to get a better outcome-that is, one with greater public support.
There is a danger under the supplementary vote that candidates will end up very closely bunched. If they are, it would be in the interests of a good, strong outcome if more of the choices of those whose candidates came lower down the list were counted. My wish here is simply that someone models the impact of a vote using the supplementary vote as against the alternative vote. Maybe, prior to Report, we could have some further discussion about what that modelling shows.
Amendment 200 relates to a concern from the Electoral Commission. It would add a regulation about spending by those who seek to influence the outcome of an election-that is, campaigners who are not themselves standing in that election. In the briefing that was supplied to Members of your Lordships' House, the Electoral Commission asked that there should be some regulation of spending by campaigners who are not standing for election. I hope that that can easily be agreed.
Amendment 201 would limit the powers of the Secretary of State to make only such modifications and exceptions to normal processes for elections as are required to apply the relevant provisions to the election of these police and crime commissioners. In other words, it would simply prevent the Secretary of State from adding things that may not be essential in the conduct of these specific elections.
Amendment 216 seeks to make it absolutely clear that all staff and suppliers are within the restriction presented. It is an attempt to clarify the wording so that there is no doubt about how restrictions apply to those who have close working or supplier relationships.
Those are the amendments that I wish to speak to. These issues all cause me a lot of concern, but most of them are easily put right. However, the issue of the voting system may come back to haunt us if the wrong one is applied to these elections next year. I very much hope that the modelling that I have asked for might demonstrate what could happen in these elections and what might be the lowest threshold that a candidate would have to secure to get elected.
Lord Campbell-Savours: I intervene briefly on this issue of voting systems to register a counter-case with the Government, in case they are minded to carry out
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Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I speak to Amendment 234ZZF in this group, which relates to the provisions about transfer schemes in Schedule 15. The Bill currently enables the Secretary of State to direct only a police authority to make a transfer scheme. My amendment would change this so that the Secretary of State could also direct a PCC or MOPC to make a transfer scheme. Effectively, therefore, this amendment would allow the creation of secondary transfer schemes after PCCs and MOPC are put in place. Let me explain why this is necessary.
This schedule currently expects a police authority to make a transfer scheme before it ceases to exist. In making that scheme, the police authority has to decide whether to transfer the assets and staff concerned to the PCC or the chief constable, or-in the case of London-to MOPC or the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. There is no second bite at this cherry in the Bill. If the authority does not get it right, the arrangements cannot be changed at a later date. The transfer of land should not be a problem. The Bill envisages that only the PCC may own land. The transfer of contracts may be slightly more complex, but generally the Bill envisages that these will be transferred to the PCC. Following the Minister's assurances in the previous Committee session, it is likely that chief officers will be able to enter into contracts in their own right only in relation to employment.
The real nub of the problem is people. Given that the police authority currently employs all staff, whether they work for the authority or the force, to whom will the authority transfer these staff? The Bill clearly intends that the chief officer should be able to employ staff within the force. Whatever concerns we may have about the police reform proposals, or the proposals to give chief officers a status as corporations sole, it is in everyone's interests that we get the transition arrangements right. This is especially important in our current climate of great upheaval and the various pressures on the whole of the police service. Which staff should chief officers be given? Perhaps they should be given those currently employed in the force, but, of course, it is not that simple; it never is. The reason for this is that many staff within the force are from time to time asked to prepare work to assist the police authority. This might be in relation to preparing reports on police performance or assisting the authority with an engagement exercise or a communications campaign. It might relate to providing information about force professional standards or risk assessment that sits behind the development of police plans.
Technically, under Section 15 of the Police Act, only police staff employed to support solely the force and not the police authority are under the direction
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To demand that authorities undertake this exercise now and become involved in potentially long, intricate and fraught negotiations between the existing authorities and their forces over who gets what will place an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on authorities and forces. This is particularly so at a time when they must deal with other challenges brought about by reform, the financial situation and additional calls on police resources such as preparing for the Olympics. Nevertheless, a PCC will expect to have access to the sort of expertise among his own staff that until now authorities have borrowed from their forces. This puts police authorities in the invidious position of having to second-guess what staff a PCC would want to support him. Will he want to put a particular stress on media and communications, say? We have heard a lot about what high-profile and powerful people these PCCs will be, so that is quite likely. If so, how many staff in the force communications department should be transferred to the PCC's office? Might he want to keep an eye on police performance in case this affects communities' perception of how effective he is?
A pragmatic solution would be to enable secondary transfer orders to be put in place. This is what my amendment seeks to achieve. This would allow the police authority to transfer either all staff or those staff who have dual roles to the PCC or MOPC initially and then to let the commissioner make the decision about which of those staff they want to continue to employ directly and which should be transferred to the chief officer's employment. It would also allow any mistakes in the initial transfer schemes to be corrected at a later date. I realise that this is a technical area but it is very important. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I fear that in the course of this Committee I have not always been entirely helpful to the Government, so on this group of amendments I will do my very best to be as supportive as possible. I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, about the choice between the supplementary vote and the alternative vote. I will not get into the merits of different voting systems as this House has already spent many happy hours doing that and the country has spent rather fewer happy hours doing the same. However, I should say that if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, were to be passed, a further anomaly would be created for London, because the Mayor of London is elected on
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My main reason for speaking on this group is to support the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, in her Amendment 234ZZF. I suspect that this relates to something about which not a great deal of thought has been given in the drafting of the Bill, which ties the hands of an incoming MOPC in London, or an incoming policing and crime commissioner, commission or anything else outside the country. That is because the Government are saying that there is only one bite of the cherry and that the transfer of staff must take place before police authorities are abolished. That would be fine if we were talking about an extraordinarily long lead-in. It would perhaps allow time for much discussion and consultation. However, we are not talking about that.
If the Government get their way, the elections of policing and crime commissioners in the 41 areas outside London will take place next May. That presupposes that in all those areas the detailed work that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has described will have been concluded on time and that the Minister's officials within the Home Office will have done it in sufficient time to provide the guidance that is spelt out in the Bill. I have, of course, enormous faith in civil servants in the Home Office, but I am conscious of the workload involved in saying exactly how this is to be done. If, as is the intention or aspiration, the arrangements change in London earlier than May 2012, it would mean doing all this work on an even shorter timescale in the largest police force in England and Wales. I am sure that everyone would do their very best to achieve it, but I am not convinced that the work would necessarily be completed in time for an order to be passed by the outgoing Metropolitan Police Authority by 30 September or any later date, if it is to go earlier than May 2012.
Even if it were possible to do this in practice, I have to ask the Government whether this is really their intention in the legislation. My understanding is that these new individuals are being created-the MOPC in London and the police and crime commissioners, or whatever we end up with, outside London in the rest of England and Wales-and you are then going to say to them, "Actually, it's tough because all the staff you might want have been transferred already to the control of the chief officer of police". I suspect that there will be some robust discussions about all this. There is the question of what sort of offices will be put around the MOPC and the PCCs outside London. There will be discussions as to which functions are properly the responsibilities of the MOPC or the PCC, and which functions are the responsibilities of the chief officer of police. Here is an arrangement whereby all those decisions will have been made by the time the MOPC comes into force or the elections for policing and crime commissioners-if there are any elections-have taken place in the rest of the country. I suspect that that is not what the Government want, and that any person elected as a police and crime commissioner outside
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This simple amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, allows there to be, if necessary, a two-stage process. If in fact it is all terribly easy-if the difficulties I have identified do not exist, which I doubt, and it is obvious that all the differing candidates for police and crime commissioners in any locality are of the same mind as to exactly what office they want around them and it goes without saying that the Conservative Party candidate, the Labour Party candidate, and the Liberal Democrat candidate will have exactly the same vision of the shape of the office that they want to have around them in the PCC-it will be fine. In reality, I suspect that the Government are tying the hands of those in the new structures that they want to be so effective before they are even created.
Baroness Henig: I shall speak to Amendment 200A in this group, concerned with the Bill's proposal to grant the Secretary of State power to create criminal offences to regulate the conduct of elections for police and crime commissioners and any related irregularities. I have to observe that this is a diverse group. There seem to be a number of distinct issues contained in it. My amendment would, by removing the unfettered power of the Secretary of State to create new criminal offences, ensure that the power is exercised appropriately. By that, I mean by your Lordships' House and the other place. Although there may well be a need to create new criminal offences as a result of the Government's proposed creation of a whole new set of elections and the novel introduction of direct rather than representative democracy as part of a reform package costing more than £100 million, such important steps should not be the preserve of statutes but should come before Parliament.
In this Session, we are following the lengthy debate on the Public Bodies Bill, perhaps in danger of exhausting the utility of the term "Henry VIII clause", denoting the granting of open-ended powers to a Secretary of State in statute. With appropriate respect to His Majesty's memory, I fear that I must raise the not insubstantial spectre of that monarch before your Lordships yet again. Any proposal to grant the Secretary of State unfettered powers to create new criminal offences at whim in any area will strike many of your Lordships as, at the very least, inappropriate. However, when the power to create new offences is applied to procedures governing the people's exercise of their democratic mandate, such a new power might strike some of democracy's most ardent defenders as a little chilling.
If new offences are to be created to regulate the brave new world of directly elected police and crime commissioners, surely those offences should be appropriately scrutinised and considered by Parliament.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): My Lords, Clause 55 allows a police area returning officer and local returning officers for elections of police and crime commissioners to recover charges for services rendered or expenses incurred for the efficient and effective conduct of elections. The provisions on expenditure are modelled closely on those for the European parliamentary elections, where there are returning elections for the overall region and local returning officers. Regulation 15 of the European Parliamentary Elections Regulations 2004 sets out similar provisions to those in the Bill. Expense accounts may always be independently assessed by a court on an application made under Clause 56. Therefore, I suggest that Amendments 193 and 194 are unnecessary and ask that they not be pressed.
Amendment 194A, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord, Lord Rosser, and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, would set a minimum turnout for PCC elections. We have had several discussions on this in other legislation. We do not impose minimum turnouts for other elections. I reject the proposal to single out the election of police and crime commissioners.
My noble friend Lord Shipley asked about the voting system and made the case for AV. I am grateful to my former colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for his point about the dangers of AV. I will not go through that all again tonight. We have recently had a referendum on AV. We have probably almost exhausted the subject. In the context of the Bill, the supplementary vote system is tried and tested in the United Kingdom. It is simpler and easier for electors to understand than the alternative vote system and it is easier to count the votes. The supplementary vote system is being used as it is most consistent with the position of elected mayors and is deemed appropriate for election to a single executive position that is not part of a body such as a committee or a Parliament.
Amendments 201 and 199A would amend Clause 58. They seek to ensure that any provisions made by order are necessary and relevant only to the election of police and crime commissioners. As this clause enables the Home Secretary by affirmative resolution procedure to make provision about the conduct of police and crime commissioner elections, all provisions will require approval from both Houses of Parliament. In any event, Clause 58(1) expressly provides that such an order may make provision only as to the conduct of elections or the questioning of such elections, so the order-making power is necessarily already limited.
Amendment 201A in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Rosser and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, would place a duty on the Home Secretary to consult the Electoral Commission. However, this is already a requirement under Schedule 10. Noble Lords have mentioned comments from the Electoral Commission. I should perhaps mention that until I took on this post as a Minister I was a member of the Electoral Commission. I am bound by confidentiality clauses not to disclose matters that I learnt while I was a member of the commission, but I can tell noble Lords that the Government have worked, and continue to work, closely with the Electoral Commission, the Association of Electoral Administrators, the Society
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Amendment 200A would prevent any of the existing electoral criminal offences being made in secondary legislation applying to PCC elections. I assure your Lordships that these provisions are vital to ensure propriety in elections and we take them very seriously.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned donations and expenses. The Government intend to bring forward amendments to put much of this regulation into the Bill before it completes its passage through the two Houses. We have worked in consultation with the Electoral Commission in drafting the provisions, and I assure the noble Lord that we shall look to draw on the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to ensure that there is propriety in the way that such elections are conducted.
Amendment 190A to Clause 52 would prevent a person serving a prison sentence on remand voting in PCC elections. I assure your Lordships that, as the Bill is currently drafted, convicted persons serving a prison sentence are unable to vote, as with local government elections.
Clause 66 prevents a serving police officer and other people who work in the policing field standing as a police and crime commissioner. Amendment 216 would include within the definition of "member of staff" in this context any person who provided services for another person under their direction and control. The provision covers employees, independent contractors and those seconded to work for the policing body by their usual employer where these people work under the direction and control of the relevant policing body. We consider that these are the types of workers who will be involved in the running of the policing body and who will need to be covered by the disqualification.
My noble friend Lady Harris raised the very important matter of transfers. I assure her that we are working closely with the Association of Police Authorities and the Association of Police Authority Chief Executives. The APA has already put the secondary transfer schemes to us, and I assure my noble friend that we are now considering them very carefully to try to seek a resolution to this matter. I confirm that we will commit to considering this matter further and therefore I ask her not to press her amendment.
Lord Rosser: I thank the Minister for that response and for the information she was able to give the Committee on the Government's intentions. I am not
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The Minister responded on the issue of prisoners being able to vote, or not vote, which was her response. Presumably, if there were any change as a result of the European Court decision-I am aware of the vote in the other place-that would apply to these elections for the police and crime commissioners as well. I assume that would be the case. In the light of the responses given by the Minister and the information she has provided, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I give notice of my intention to oppose the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill. I will probe the Government on why the clause is in the Bill. I hasten to add that I have no personal interest in this matter; I do not intend to stand as police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands.
The clause states that an elected police and crime commissioner will be disqualified while holding office from sitting or voting in the House of Lords, and that no Writ of Summons may be issued to a Member of the House of Lords while they are disqualified under this section. My reading of this is that, unlike in the case of police authorities, current Members of your Lordships' House will be eligible to stand for election, but if elected they will take leave of absence under the changes in the rules that have allowed this to happen in the past few years. I merely ask the noble Baroness why it is deemed appropriate to exclude elected police and crime commissioners from sitting as Members of your Lordships' House.
It is a puzzle, because traditionally the House of Lords has welcomed Members who are on public bodies and boards. I remind the noble Baroness of the Companion to the Standing Orders. On pages 75 and 76, guidance is set out to Members of the Lords who are employed by executive agencies or other public bodies. After a page of guidance, the Companion states that:
"Experience acquired as a member of a public board will often be relevant to general debates in which the same considerations do not arise, and the contribution of board members who are members of the House may be all the more valuable because of that experience".
It has been clear ever since I have been a Member that service on public bodies is to be welcomed among Members of your Lordships' House, and that in debates, while a member of a public board certainly is not there to speak on behalf of that body in the Chamber, the general experience from service on that body is immeasurably helpful. Indeed, in the previous debate we heard a very good example of that from the Minister. She served on the Electoral Commission and rightly said that there were matters discussed that she could not disclose to your Lordships' House. However, she was able to make a few apposite points from her experience. If we are to have elected police commissioners, they would be extremely valuable to your Lordships' House in terms of the contributions that they may make.
Perhaps it is considered that elected police and crime commissioners will be doing full-time jobs. Indeed, on our first day in Committee we had a debate about that; and on the second day the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, confirmed that the Government's view was that these would be full-time posts. Although I can see the point, I have to say that I do not know what the elected police and crime commissioner will do when working a full-time job if it is not to interfere in the operational responsibilities of the chief constable. However, we will leave that point.
All I will say is that 26 Members of your Lordships' House already carry out full-time responsibilities-the most reverend Primates and the right reverend Prelates. I remind the Minister that in the draft Bill on Lords reform-on the assumption that the option of an 80 per cent elected House is chosen, which would mean that 20 per cent of the Members are appointed-the right reverend Prelates are to continue. We therefore have a clear precedent that members of public bodies ought to be encouraged to be Members of your Lordships' House. We also have an example of full-time Members in other jobs who are also Members of your Lordships' House. I really do not understand this proposal and I think that the Government should take it away.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to set out our thinking on this matter. However, I would have thought that the noble Lord would make an excellent police and crime commissioner. I am disappointed that he is not looking in that direction.
As the noble Lord rightly said, in our discussion of Clause 68 my noble friend set out the Government's position that the role of the police and crime commissioner is a full-time job and is therefore incompatible with the holding of other full-time positions. As such, should a Member of the House of Commons wish to serve as a PCC they would have to stand down as a Member of Parliament. It is right, therefore, that similar provisions apply to this House.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My understanding is that membership of this House, as opposed to the House of Commons, is part-time and therefore fully compatible with any other part-time employment.
While I am on my feet, it might help the Minister if I add some other questions. When I became a Member of this House I was also chairing a committee for the Committee of the Regions of the European Union and for the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. I was also a member of Lancashire County Council and leader of the Association of County Councils for England and Wales-but we will not go back to the Welsh issue for the moment. All that was deemed compatible.
I therefore do not understand why the Government are ruling out this particular area. A suspicious person-which of course I am not-would think that perhaps the Secretary of State does not want in the future, were the Government's proposals to go through, Members of your Lordships' House who know some of the problems that are happening in these new police arrangements coming back here and talking to the Minister about them. I beg the Government to think twice.
My recollection when I came into your Lordships' House was that Viscount Thurso wanted to renounce his title and become a Member of the House of Commons, which he did. Your Lordships then got a trifle snippy about people who had been Members of the House of Lords going into the Bishops' Bar, and some of us changed that rule. I am quite worried about this. I think that the Government are seeking to keep an arm's length from people. After all, I presume that as a Member of the House of Lords I will still be able to vote for the person who represents me. I have no intention of standing, but were someone else from Lancashire to stand, I would want to hear their views in here because, from my experience of Lancashire, I am sure that they would inform your Lordships in great detail with great knowledge and great assistance.
Lord Harris of Haringey: Before the Minister resumes her flow, I would like to follow on from the point that my noble friend Lady Farrington of Ribbleton has made. I was a member of your Lordships' House while fulfilling the office of chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority. At the same time, I was also a member of
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It therefore seems anomalous that we are now in a position where we are saying that membership of this House is becoming incompatible with holding this sort of elected office. Why is this particular office being singled out in this way? Where is the parallel set of proposals that would preclude people holding other elected offices from sitting in your Lordships' House? I think that the Government have got themselves into a little bit of a tangle, completely unnecessarily, on what is, after all, a fairly small point.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Would my noble friend allow me to point out to him that the contributions he made were always valuable, as were those of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who was a member of the London Assembly at the time, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, who was on the Committee of the Regions? I think that the Government should welcome this plethora of experience. The noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, also learnt a great deal and informed the House a great deal. I am sure that the Minister will want to take this away in order to ensure that your Lordships' House has up-to-date information about what is happening in other bodies, particularly those that the Government seem so determined to establish in their own model.
Lord Lyell: My Lords, before my noble friend replies, will she allow me 30 seconds of her valuable time? I am now in my 51st year in your Lordships' House. I believe that the Lords spiritual provide a very effective, quiet and discreet view to me and, I believe, to your Lordships on various aspects of the matters that pass through this House in a quiet and civilised way. I hope that she may tolerate, at least, the Lords spiritual, and that they may remain, or that she will take this on board. As one of those who in Northern Ireland we call the minority community, who in Scotland are called left-footers, perhaps I should desist from that. I believe that the Lords spiritual, with all their traditions, have given service to your Lordships' House and this Parliament for over 400 years and more. Can she possibly feed that in to the wonderful arguments that she is putting forward tonight?
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I cannot resist suggesting that it may be that the Government want the commissioners to be able to sleep-from the examples given, we were all rather short of it. Fortunately, this Chamber is quite helpful sometimes in that respect.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I am in awe of the multitasking skills of your Lordships' House. I do not know when your Lordships manage to sleep. I must reiterate that the job is full time and not part time. However the role of a Member of your Lordships' House is perceived by individuals inside or outside the House and whether it is regarded as a part-time or full-time requirement, the role of the police and crime commissioner is definitely full time in every sense of the word. In our debates on the amendments so far, we have discussed what a large role it is. We have had long discussions about whether the commissioners will get around their patch or have enough time for meetings with other bodies with which they will need to build cohesive relationships. Yes, they will, because it is a full-time job.
Perhaps I may explain the situation as far as your Lordships' House is concerned. As I have said, if a Member of Parliament wishes to serve as a PCC, they would have to stand down as an MP. Given the role and the demands of the PCC, and the demanding job of an MP, there would be no way in which they could carry out both functions. It is right therefore that similar provisions apply to this House.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: I beg my noble friend's pardon but will she confirm that, if an MP decides that he or she wants to stand as a police and crime commissioner, they would have to resign before they decide that they want to stand?
Baroness Browning: Certainly, they would have to stand down at the point at which they put themselves forward for selection or they would have to give notice at that point. Once the period of the election for the police and crime commissioner begins, they could not have an interest in being a Member of Parliament. The point is that there simply is not time to do both demanding jobs. This is not about what other people do, how other people take on public appointments or how they perceive the time factors. The fact is that the role of the PCC is full time.
I should correct something that I have just said. Apparently, an MP would not have to resign and trigger the by-election until elected. If they were an unsuccessful candidate, they would not have to trigger a by-election. I apologise to your Lordships' House. In a way, that is almost digressing from the point that I hope I will be able to make between now and 3 o'clock in the morning.
Lord Beecham: Some of us are anxious that matters should not proceed for very much longer but for just a little longer. Perhaps the Minister, who is obviously
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Furthermore, it is not so long ago that eminent judges sat in your Lordships' House as Law Lords. As I understand it, there was some controversy over whether they should continue to do so. They no longer do so but it can hardly be argued that theirs was not a full-time responsibility of the highest order. That did not appear on that basis to cause any problems. The problem of the position of the Law Lords was that they were both making laws and then interpreting and adjudicating on those laws. That is not a comparable situation with that of police commissioners. Is there not an inconsistency in the approach that suggests that, even if the job were deemed to be full time, about which some of us would have reservations, that should disqualify anyone from sitting in this place and being a commissioner?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, will the Minister also confirm that in the register of interests for your Lordships' House, none of us is required to signify whether we are in full-time or part-time employment outside this House? I would consider that, in choosing and voting for someone to be a commissioner, were this Bill to become an Act, they could not serve in Lancashire and be a Member of your Lordships' House, although Surrey may be possible as a combination. It would be no more difficult than being in charge of running a bank or a huge business and being a Member of this House. The Government are not being logical, and that surprises and shocks me.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I will try to take some of the shock out of the noble Baroness's reaction to this and explain the thinking behind it. So far as this House is concerned, life Peers do not have the option of standing down, and therefore disqualifying Members of this House from standing as a police and crime commissioner would in effect be a life ban. In this area, we are following the model set out in the European Parliament (House of Lords Disqualification) Regulations 2008. There is a precedent for a similar situation already on the statute book. Further, as hereditary Peers are elected but without terms of office, a hereditary Peer who stood down to serve as a PCC would not easily be able to return once their term of office as a PCC ended. Therefore, rather than disqualifying a Member of this House from standing as a PCC, this clause prevents a serving PCC from
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I would suspect that, as in many other elected offices that the public are involved in, there is quite a mood these days about how much time an elected representative devotes to the task in hand, whatever it is. The public scrutinise, often at very close quarters, the time spent by those elected to that type of office. I must therefore reiterate that whatever people regard as the time commitment made to serving in your Lordships' House, a police and crime commissioner's job would be a full-time job in every sense.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her response. I do not wish to detain the Committee. Three points have been raised in this debate. The first is that the issue of the European Parliament is a red herring. We changed the law because there was a problem with a Liberal Democrat MEP who, because of European law, would have been disbarred from standing for and accepting a seat in Europe because she was also a Member of your Lordships' House. That was why we made provision for a special leave of absence.
The second issue is that many Members of your Lordships' House also have full-time responsibilities. We have many lawyers. Indeed, I see the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in his place. He always strikes me as being not only a hardworking lawyer, but also an assiduous Member of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, mentioned the Lords Spiritual, and we heard from my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Tope. What is of concern is that the Home Office seems to be enunciating a new rule which states that the Home Office is now deciding whether it is appropriate or not for your Lordships to take on another responsibility. It is not for the Home Office to so decide. I should tell the noble Baroness that I am certain of one thing: if this is put to the vote at the Report stage, she would lose it.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: Before we conclude this interesting debate, I thought I might add a few words. The first thing that occurs to me is that we are introducing
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Secondly, it might be useful if I draw for a moment on my own experience as independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. I was appointed to that post when already a Member of your Lordships' House and carried on doing that job for nine-and-a-half years while a Member of your Lordships' House. I issued a self-denying ordinance that although I occasionally spoke on counterterrorism matters I never voted on them, because that seemed to me the right approach to take. But I can tell the Committee that it was of great benefit to me to be here in order to be able, sometimes rather painfully, to learn from your Lordships what they thought of my performance of my duties and of the nature of the role that I undertook-some of whom, I hasten to add, have changed their views as a result of the last general election.
I have been accused of being a busy lawyer and I am happy to plead guilty to that. There are many of us in this House who come here knowing that it is not a full-time job. I have been a Member of both Houses of Parliament. There is a huge difference between the two Houses. One of the great advantages of this House is that there are people who come here perhaps not very often but make contributions of the most inestimable value to this House's understanding of issues under discussion. It has never been a full-time job-Heaven forfend that it should ever be. There are those who may wish to treat it as a full-time job, but that is a matter of their choice.
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