HL Deb 31 October 1991 vol 532 cc4-16

Bill pro forma, read a first time.


The Queen's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.

3.45 p.m.

The Earl of Selborne

My Lords, I beg to move, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."

It is a great honour and pleasure to be asked on behalf of all your Lordships to beg leave to thank Her Majesty for her gracious Speech. It is a particular pleasure to do so in this, the 40th year of Her Majesty's reign.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

The Earl of Selborne

My Lords, we are reminded by Her Majesty's presence today in Parliament of the Queen's dedicated life as Sovereign and Head of State here and in the Commonwealth. Her Majesty has recently returned from southern Africa and will soon visit Australia, Malta, France and Germany. As we heard in the gracious Speech, Her Majesty will visit the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. We all recognise how much these historic visits will be appreciated both in this country and on the Continent. We all deeply appreciated the duties that Her Majesty performs in the service of her people, both at home and abroad. This is an opportunity to record, with all humility, our deep admiration, respect and gratitude.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

The Earl of Selborne

My Lords, this is the first gracious Speech since both my noble friends the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip assumed their present offices. Perhaps I may be allowed to pay tribute to both my noble friends on the Front Bench for the courtesy and good humour with which they have carried out their duties so far. I have to note that we are in for what clearly could be a short, sharp and fairly controversial Session and I suspect that both those qualities will be heavily taxed over the next few months.

For some reason as I stand here today it is not any passage of the gracious Speech that comes immediately to mind but the immortal words of Hardy—Ollie Hardy, that is, of Laurel and Hardy fame—who, finding himself in a totally unexpected role, would tend to say, "This is another fine mess you've got us into." I would say those words now if only I knew who was playing Laurel to my Hardy but, try as I might, I simply cannot cast my noble friend the Government Chief Whip as Laurel. But if the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip have put their reputations on the line in their choice of proposer for the humble Motion, I know that at least in the choice of my noble friend Lady Seccombe as seconder, their reputations will be redeemed.

It is heartening to hear in the gracious Speech so much which arises directly from the dramatic change in matters concerned with military security. There are references to the early ratification of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty and to the re-establishment of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the international community. Those developments represent a peace dividend and give encouragement for more such dividends to follow.

I suppose that in a rather humble way I represent the beneficiaries of an earlier, more modest peace dividend. I was within a few months of being called up for national service in 1958 when, to my surprise and I must admit some delight, national service was abolished and I did not have to enlist. I say that it was with some pleasure because I was not particularly looking forward to the Army, and I suspect that, although the Army never had a chance to express a view, it was also quite relieved. I do not share therefore the qualification of so many past proposers of this Motion who have worn uniform of the armed services.

As there is a whiff of local government structure reform in the air, I should like to have worn the uniform of a deputy lieutenant of the county of Hampshire, but I was counselled that that would be inappropriate outside the county of Hampshire. I simply note that it would perhaps have been a way in which I could have made a comment on that aspect of the gracious Speech.

We must all recognise that the Armed Forces of this country are bound to be facing cuts. If we assume that the lessening of tension between East and West can lead to wholesale reductions in our Armed Forces, we should first pause to consider. Since this time last year, we have participated in United Nations action to eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait; we have witnessed the attempted coup in the Soviet Union; and now we watch what can only be described as a civil war in Yugoslavia. Those are all recent reminders of the need to maintain adequate provision for our national defence commitments. We must be certain that we can fulfil our obligations to NATO and can contribute adequately to European defence.

There must be no doubt of our commitment to the security of Europe; and as part of that commitment we must consider carefully how best we can help the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries need new trading opportunities to breath life back into their economies. They are heavily dependent for their very survival on a successful conclusion to the Uruguay Round of the GATT, as indeed are so many other countries. The stakes are very high. If the GATT talks are successful that could mean a surge in world trading activity to the benefit of rich and poor countries alike—the East and the West. Yet the European Community has somehow given the impression that all that could be put at risk merely to protect its agriculture. That may be an unfair perception; it may be that there are other vested interests in Europe and North America which are the sticking points in the Uruguay Round; but whatever is causing the logjam, that must be resolved, and this country must play its full part. There is too much at stake.

With increased world prosperity will come increased world security; but the present initiatives towards a more secure world owe less to prosperity and more to the collapse of the Soviet Union's economy. Enhanced security will be maintained only if the West can respond positively with liberalised trading agreements.

Whether we in the European Community have moved as far and as fast in opening our markets as might have been expected is open to question. Whatever else may happen, do not let failure to reform the common agricultural policy be one reason for retaining tariff barriers against Eastern European production. Your Lordships gave strong support to the case for reform of the CAP earlier this month when my noble friend Lord Middleton moved the report of the European Communities Committee. I have no doubt that your Lordships support the Minister of Agriculture in his attempts to have that unfortunate common agricultural policy, and the Commission's present proposals, amended in a way that recognises our responsibilities to the GATT, to consumers, to taxpayers, and indeed to producers.

The gracious Speech referred to the forthcoming United Nations conference on environment and development to be held in June. The whole field of environmental issues has moved rapidly up the political agenda. I suspect that many of your Lordships find yourselves in the same position as I do: having your green credentials questioned by your children, or perhaps grandchildren, and very good for us it is.

I have recently been appointed chairman of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, an organisation which in part succeeds the old Nature Conservancy Council, which owes much to your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology. I shall therefore follow with great interest the issues which the conference in Brazil will address in June. That is another instance of an international initiative to provide security—in that case, security for the world against the consequences of development as practised today: acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer, deforestation and species loss. Those all represent environmental change brought about by short-sighted policies or often a total lack of policies. Yet the gap between rich and poor countries can be narrowed only by the economic development necessary to meet the needs and aspirations of the world's poor today as well, of course, as those of future generations.

Industrial development has vastly improved human well-being, but we are only now beginning to realise that conservation must go hand in hand with benign technology if sustainable growth is to be achieved. Unless we achieve sustainable growth, we are building up inevitable conflict. We need national strategies to limit greenhouse gas emissions, while acknowledging that developing countries must not be deprived of the ability to achieve economic growth. We need to preserve our planet's plant and animal species. That in turn leads to the need to preserve the relevant habitats. We need to preserve such ecologically key features as the world's forests and peat bogs. Those are issues which must be addressed locally, nationally and globally. So I am delighted to hear in the gracious Speech of the Government's resolve to ensure that that conference is a success.

The gracious Speech referred to our responsibilities as a member of the European Community which is now leading towards economic and political union. Some of us may be suspicious of the federalist position—indeed, more than suspicious, downright opposed to federalism—but we must recognise that our future lies inextricably within the Community. We have a heavy responsibility to ensure that the political and economic benefits to be won from a more secure and prosperous Europe are achieved. We must find common ground with our colleagues in the Community in the two intergovernmental conferences on political union and economic and monetary union. Those conferences must be given a high priority over the next few months.

I have suggested that we are in for a short, sharp Session. Possibly the hint of an election in the air will permeate even into your Lordships' House on occasions. Those of us who in the past have taken a rather relaxed attitude to our responsibilities may find ourselves being spurred into unaccustomed activity by the Whips. It will be a lively Session. Of that I have no doubt, not least because your Lordships always take a close interest in and have a well informed view on matters concerned with local government. Loyal supporter of Her Majesty's Government though I may be, I have no doubt that we shall find cause to revise. Indeed, as the other place may possibly be distracted by the coming election, so the need to scrutinise legislation with due diligence will be even greater than normal. I have no doubt that your Lordships will not be found wanting.

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion for a humble Address to Her Majesty.

Moved, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in the following terms: Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".—(The Earl of Selborne.)

3.57 p.m.

Baroness Seccombe

My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech.

It is a great honour and pleasure to follow my noble friend. His distinguished career in public service, especially his work for the promotion of agriculture and the protection of the environment, has been a shining example to us all. I thank my noble friends the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip for bestowing the privilege upon me. I join with my noble friend in congratulating them on the successful conclusion of their first Session in those high offices.

It is a special honour for me to have been given this task, because I am such a new Member of your Lordships' House. I have been looking forward with excitement to this, my first experience of this great and magnificent occasion, but I am sure that your Lordships will understand when I say that that excitement was mixed with some trepidation. It was in May this year that I made my maiden speech in your Lordships' House. I remember that I was congratulated on its brevity; so I can only think that it is for that quality that I have had the honour of today's invitation. I shall endeavour to maintain the same brevity today, and I trust that your Lordships will extend your usual tolerance to a new Member of your Lordships' House.

The wearing of uniform is a great tradition on these occasions, but it is always one which causes some problems for women. Both my noble friend Lady Blatch, who seconded the Motion two years ago, and my noble friend Lady Trumpington, who performed that task in 1982, declined the invitation to wear their uniforms. I have done the same even though I must admit that some 40 years ago I thought my Sea Rangers uniform was rather dashing.

I wished for a moment, however, that I could ask my elder son to make this speech on my behalf. He is second in command of his Territorial Army regiment. We are immensely proud of him and his family for the sacrifice they make week in and week out. His uniform symbolises the dedicated and professional work done by the TA in the defence of Britain. Long may that continue. It also emphasises the importance of service to the community. That principle has been the guiding light of so many of us here.

We are all set an outstanding example of public service by our Royal Family. Our admiration and affection for Her Majesty the Queen and her family have beer mentioned by my noble friend. I wish to add my congratulations to their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales on their most successful visit to Canada. That visit was invaluable in cementing the traditional relationship between the British family of nations. We all see and admire the work of their Royal Highnesses in so many fields of public service. I wish to express the admiration we all feel for Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal for her outstanding work especially as the patron of Save the Children.

The measures outlined in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech build on and carry forward the policies and achievements of the past 12 years. The measures are the raising of standards, especially in the public sector, the increase of choice and the dissemination of rights and responsibilities throughout society. Those are the principles which underlie the gracious Speech. The basic theme is the enhancement of the quality of life for everyone. That is the prime objective of the Citizen's Charter which I am sure we shall all welcome as an unparalleled instrument to improve the quality of public services.

Much of the legislation proposed in the gracious Speech arises from the charter. One such measure is the educational legislation which will implement the parents' charter. It is difficult to make judgments without background knowledge. I am sure that the provision of more information through reports on both individual children and their schools will be widely welcomed, while the new system of more regular school inspections will ensure that faults in the system do not go undetected.

The Bill on competition and the service utilities will enact the Citizen's Charter provisions for the public utilities bringing the power of all regulators up to the level of the strongest. There can be few of us who have not at some time experienced the frustration of spending precious time—that sometimes means money— waiting at home to see whether the gas man cometh or whether the telephone engineer appears. Therefore I am sure that the fixed appointment times which are now to be introduced will receive a warm welcome. Healthy competition increases choice and helps to keep prices down. The provisions to end monopolies such as that at British Gas, and to remove restrictions on competition for the water companies, should help all of us as customers of the public services.

I know that we all appreciate the immensely valuable work done in this country and abroad by British charities, and we are keen to make them as effective as possible. The charities Bill seeks to achieve that objective. While strengthening the monitoring powers of the Charity Commission, the legislation also gives the commission new powers to deal with mismanagement and abuse on the part of charities. The Bill enables the commission in particular to investigate and intervene more freely than is the case under existing law. I believe that this, the first major charities' legislation for 30 years, will do much to allay the anxiety which is sometimes felt about the proper use of charitable funds and thus increase good will towards charitable bodies.

Unfortunately there are always some people whose lawless activities impair the quality of life for others. The Bill on prison security will deal with some of these lawless activities by imposing much heavier punishments for the new offence of prison mutiny and for those who help prison escapees. I believe many people will approve of that protection of the public both inside and outside prisons.

It is always difficult to strike the right balance between rights and responsibilities, and between fairness and accountability. The Bill on local government finance will seek to strike that balance. That Bill will replace the community charge with the council tax.

This is a time of exciting change for local government. Local authorities have great opportunities at this time to accommodate change if they have the vision to seize those opportunities. As local government moves towards the concept of an enabling authority, local authorities will need to exercise a more strategic and managerial role. The local government Bill referred to in the gracious Speech will establish the local government commission which will provide the new structural basis to underpin the reforms. I can foresee lively debate and argument in your Lordships' House over the detailed clauses of that legislation. However, I believe few would disagree with its ultimate objective: to produce stronger, more efficient local authorities with increased accountability to their voters.

The gracious Speech has outlined for us a substantial and lively programme for the coming year. As a newcomer to your Lordships' House I have been tremendously impressed by the quality of the work that is done here towards the good and stable government of this nation and towards improving the quality of life of our people. We may have different views on how to achieve those objectives; but one thing is certain, those are the common objectives of us all. I feel immensely privileged to share in that work. Finally, I thank noble Lords for listening to me with the patience and forbearance which are so characteristic of proceedings in this House.

My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address to Her Majesty.

4.7 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until Monday next.

It is a great pleasure to congratulate the proposer and seconder of the Motion upon the interesting and impressive speeches they have made.

The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, has won an enviable reputation in the agricultural industry, notably as Chairman of the Agricultural and Food Research Council from 1983 to 1990. His interests in local government, in our rural society, in the environment and in the third world are well known. His speech reflected those wide interests. I am sure his constructive remarks on the common agricultural policy will be taken up when we come to debate agriculture on Tuesday. My first contact with the noble Earl was when he became Vice-Chairman of the Apple and Pear Development Council in 1969.

I was Minister of Agriculture at the time and I am glad to say that I had no worries about apples and pears after he took office. As the noble Earl said, he has recently become chairman of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. We wish him well in that important office.

We also much enjoyed the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe. During her comparatively short time in this House the noble Baroness has shown herself to be a most effective and well informed speaker. I must also congratulate her on her charming and most appropriate dress. I know that the noble Baroness has some radical ideas, and we all much admire her red scarf today.

Yesterday I read the maiden speech of the noble Baroness in which she said that she had a particular interest in the role of education in the life of women today. I agreed with all she said in her speech on that occasion. We look forward to hearing further contributions from the noble Baroness.

Both the noble Earl and the noble Baroness made references to aspects of the gracious Speech and what I have to say about it will be brief. I fear that it sets out a programme for correcting past mistakes. I am grateful to the Government for giving us a detailed foretaste of its contents in the pages of the Guardian a fortnight or so ago. It is always helpful to have time to ponder the gracious Speech and also to know that the Government have come closer to the philosophy of that great newspaper. I am not certain what Mrs. Margaret Thatcher thinks about the Guardian, but the late C.P. Scott would have been very pleased with certain aspects. He would, we know, have produced many long leading articles day by day to educate us about the Government's charters as they emerged.

Some of the Bills proposed in the gracious Speech would, however, have caused C.P. Scott concern and we shall be scrutinising them very carefully. The Bills on education, on asylum and refugees and on local government finance are in that category. There are some Bills which could with advantage commence their passage in this House. The proposed charities Bill is one example and I hope that the noble Lord the Leader of the House will be able to organise that. There are issues on which we can support the Government during the coming Session; for example, in the fight against terrorism and against drug traffic.

In my estimation, the great deficiency of the gracious Speech is its total failure to face up to the acute problems which affect the country at this time; namely, the state of the economy and the grim figures of rising unemployment. Curiously the gracious Speech makes no mention of that; nor does it propose any new policies which might tackle the problem and bring down unemployment.

None of us wants high unemployment. I am sure that Mr. John Major does not like high unemployment. But the sad fact is that the Government's policy seems to be based on the theory that the economy can improve only if unemployment is high. A well-known economist said recently that: the comparison between full employment and long-term high employment is a comparison between a good and a bad society". I have great sympathy with that view. We shall be able to debate that serious problem next Thursday and in a full day's debate the following week.

This debate on the Address is somewhat unusual because it is held virtually on the threshold of a general election. The programme set out in the gracious Speech is, as we all know, framed with that in mind. It is short and lacks vision. It is a holding operation. There is too much wishful thinking and too little real substance.

When will the election come? We all know that it can come at any time between now and next June. Some of us remember February elections. We know that the date depends on the state of the economy at the time and on the opinion polls. We are ready whenever it comes. My view is that it is not good for parliamentary democracy for any party to be in power for too long a period. Like most of the people of this country we think the time has come for a change.

We are grateful to the noble Earl and the noble Baroness for two notable speeches which have set the scene for what should be a very important debate in the light of the coming election. I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until Monday next.

Moved, That this debate be adjourned until Monday next.—(Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos.)

4.14 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

My Lords, I rise to support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and to join him in congratulating those who have moved and seconded the Address.

The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, continues a remarkable record of family service. His first forebear in this House was twice Gladstone's Lord Chancellor; his second forebear was Balfour's First Lord of the Admiralty and succeeded Milner in South Africa; his third forebear served as Minister of Economic Warfare throughout the greater part of the Churchill coalition. The noble Earl himself—only the fourth Earl—has presided with distinction over the Agricultural and Food Research Council and has had important environmental responsibilities which he has now increased and upon which I congratulate him and wish him well in the future.

The noble Earl's experience shone through in the excellent speech which he made this afternoon. I wonder whether he considers that he derives his interests as an agriculturalist and environmentalist from taking his title from and living in that Hampshire village in which in the 18th century Gilbert White was such a remarkable naturalist.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, is, by contrast, very much of the middle rather than the South of England. Nearly all of the many offices she has held are prefaced by the words "West Midlands". She once improved on that by becoming a member of the Heart of England Tourist Board and chairman of its marketing committee, which I hope did not lead to the disposal of too much of the heart. The noble Baroness comes from Solihull, which is engraved on my mind and experience because I fought my first parliamentary election there at the age of 24. In that 1945 election I succeeded in achieving the rare feat for a Labour candidate of losing by a substantial majority. I suspect that the noble Baroness was not old enough to vote against me but perhaps she remembers her parents doing so. Her speech today has been a model of West Midlands directness and political loyalty with just a garniture of special Solihull gloss.

I turn very briefly to the gracious Speech. We are not so much at the beginning of a normal parliamentary Session as in the departure lounge waiting for the date of the general election to be called. As we have already been in this waiting room an unconscionable time, the events of the summer and autumn amount to a powerful case for fixed term parliaments. It is not so much that the present practice is almost unique to this country in the democratic world or that the present practice is unfair; it is more that it is undignified and bad for the working of the machinery of government.

The present practice is unfair in intent. It is extraordinary ab initio to give the starting pistol for a race to one of the competitors and to encourage him to fire it when he sees that the other competitors are tying up their shoelaces or engaged in some other distracting procedure. However, as quite frequently he manages to fire it in such a way as to go through his own foot, it is not the unfairness which worries me—and that may prove to be the case on this occasion—it is the fact that it is nonsensical by any rational standards.

In the meantime we continue fretfully to try to occupy ourselves in the departure lounge with the resources of the duty-free shop beginning to run rather low, as is illustrated by the paucity of the legislation in the gracious Speech. There is very little serious legislation except for the council tax, which provokes some interesting reflections on what would be the net legislative utility of this 1987 Parliament.

In the days when we had alternating governments it was not unusual for one parliament to undo the legislation of its predecessor. There was arguably too much of that with nationalisation, denationalisation, pension schemes and various bodies to deal with prices and incomes. However, for the same parliament and the same party majority to reverse a major piece of its own legislation within the same parliament is remarkable. What a great deal of time, effort and money might have been saved without performing this parabola in the sky which brings us back not exactly to where we started but nearer to it than when we were in the middle of it.

It would be a mistake to describe the legislation of this Parliament as a nullity for we have the Broadcasting Act. Although it now appears that everyone, including its principal progenitor, would like to see it repealed it nonetheless stands firmly and stubbornly on the statute book as a monument to the achievements of the 1987 Parliament.

I do not wish to detain the House this afternoon. We have four days of solid debate ahead and the speeches of the noble mover and seconder have put all noble Lords in a good temper which I do not wish seriously to impair.

4.20 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Waddington)

My Lords, I rise to support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, that the debate be adjourned until Monday next. It is a pleasure to do so not least because of the opportunity that it gives me to thank him and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, for their support for me during my first year as Leader of your Lordships' House and for their helpful advice. I should also like to thank in similar vein the noble Baroness the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers who performs a unique role in this House with great charm and purpose. I hope that none of your Lordships will think that I am making a bid for sympathy if I say that while the past year has been exciting and rewarding it has not been the easiest of my political life. However, the support of the two noble Lords and the noble Baroness—and also the former Chief Whip, my noble friend Lord Denham, who in the early months nursed me along—and indeed that of all your Lordships, has made being Leader of your Lordships' House a marvellous experience. I hope that your Lordships feel that while finding my way and doing my perhaps inadequate best as a government spokesman I have not failed in my other responsibilities to the House as a whole.

One of those responsibilities is to reflect your Lordships' wishes to see this place working as efficiently and effectively as possible. I am glad to have been able to support the setting up of a committee to look into the Select Committee system in the House. I am most indebted, as I am sure we all are, to my noble friend Lord Jellicoe and his committee for the very important work that it has undertaken.

Much occurred in this place during the recess. I wish to thank all those people responsible for the completion of important works necessary for the maintenance of the building and for our comfort.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Waddington

My Lords, the Session ahead will be shorter than usual but I think that your Lordships will feel that it is unlikely to be boring. Even those of your Lordships who disagree with the policies outlined will accept that the government train has not run out of electricity or diesel. I was going to say "steam" but I realised that there is hardly a member of the Cabinet who can remember what a steam engine looks like!

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, had his tongue in his cheek when referring to this full and imaginative programme as a "holding operation". It will certainly hold the attention of Parliament and the public. It is the last Session of Parliament and I shall pass on to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister the excellent suggestion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: that he should keep his eyes open to see whether the shoe laces of any Liberal Peers are left undone.

I reckon that this is a day when we demonstrate our unity as members of this unique Chamber in which we listen to and respect the views of others. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn and Lord Jenkins, for what they said about the speeches proposing and seconding the Motion for a humble Address. My noble friend Lord Selborne hardly needs words from me—or indeed from any of us—to gild his reputation. As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, remarked, his long involvement both in farming and in science policy was crowned by his chairmanship of the Agricultural and Food Research Council. That makes him a powerful Member of your Lordships' House and sensible Ministers treat the likes of my noble friend with prudent respect. I shall certainly continue to do so.

I certainly think that some guile must have been employed by my noble friend to have escaped for two decades the duty that he has performed today. Although he may have felt that someone had got him into a fine mess by inviting him to speak today his eloquence soon got him out of that mess. My noble friend made a most interesting speech and I was particularly impressed by his comments on the importance of the success of the Uruguay Round and of the liberalisation of trade for the countries of Eastern Europe.

My noble friend Lady Seccombe joined this House only recently. I am very grateful to those who have made it possible for me to congratulate one of the few Members of your Lordships' House who is even more of a novice than I am. My noble friend has taken to us like a duck to water and has quickly become a familiar and welcome face here. Her speeches in the House, and in particular her speech this afternoon, demonstrate that it is possible to make comfortably the transition from the back room of party politics to the open forum of Parliament. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, made much the same kind of transition as a member of the party opposite and to the benefit of us all.

We are all politicians, even if we do not all in this House espouse a party. Those who work in the background—particularly, as in the case of my noble friend Lady Seccombe, in a voluntary capacity, keeping the political parties in good running order—fulfil an essential role in the maintenance of parliamentary democracy. I strongly welcomed my noble friend's remarks about the great service performed by members of the Territorial Army. She has every reason to be proud of her son not least because of the time that he devotes to work as an officer in the TA.

Perhaps I may now outline to your Lordships the Bills which will be introduced in this House. I know that sometimes in previous years the menu for this House for the first part of the Session has seemed a little spartan. Perhaps when I was Chief Whip in another place I was responsible for withholding a proper bill of fare from you. But this year I do not think that such criticism can be levelled against the business managers.

On Monday next my noble friend Lady Blatch will introduce the Local Government Bill which sets up a new local government boundary commission and gives my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment powers to implement its proposals. It also deals with those parts of the Citizen's Charter relating to local government. On the same day my noble friend Lord Belstead will introduce the Further and Higher Education Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, will be glad to hear that my noble friend Lord Ferrers will introduce the Charities Bill. My noble friend Lord Ullswater will introduce the Offshore Safety Bill which implements the recommendations of the Cullen Report on the "Piper Alpha" disaster, and my noble friend Lady Hooper will introduce the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Bill. Those five Bills will. I venture to suggest, keep us busy—if not uniformly happy—until Christmas.

The arrangements made through the usual channels for the remainder of the debate on the humble Address are as follows. On Monday we shall consider foreign affairs and defence. My noble friend Lord Caithness will open and my noble friend Lord Arran will reply for the Government. On Tuesday we shall consider local government, the environment and agriculture with my noble friends Lady Trumpington and Lady Blatch speaking for the Government. On Wednesday the subject for debate will be home and social affairs and education, and my noble friends Lord Ferrers and Lord Henley will speak. On Thursday we shall debate the economy. My noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara will open and I shall reply.

I am pleased to support the Motion of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition that the debate be adjourned until Monday. I should like to join him and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, in warmly congratulating my noble friends who moved and seconded the Motion for a humble Address.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until Monday next.