§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, I wonder whether I am in order in asking the noble Viscount the Leader of the House a question at this point in the proceedings. I am a little concerned about the decision to drop the Princess of Wales from the Daily Prayers.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, can the noble Viscount tell the House who made that decision and how it was arrived at?
The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne)
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am advised that this decision was taken after the late divorce, which means that Diana, Princess of Wales, is no longer a member officially of the Royal Family. This has been signified by the dropping of the title of Her Royal Highness. Therefore, the decision was taken that her name would no longer be mentioned in the State Prayers.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for that explanation. Of course, it will not satisfy those of us who think that it is a mistake. I 5 understand that Diana is still a member of the Royal Family. She is still the mother of the future King, and no one understands what the procedure was for dropping her name. I believe that there are still a lot of questions to be asked.
§ ADDRESS IN REPLY TO HER MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS SPEECH
§ The Queen's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ Lord Gray of Contin
My Lords, I beg to move, That an 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 my honour and privilege on behalf of all your Lordships to thank Her Majesty for the gracious Speech. In doing so I should like to start by thanking my noble friends on the Front Bench, the noble Viscount the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip, for entrusting me with such a pleasant duty.
The occasion also provides an opportunity for us to thank Her Majesty for another year of dedication and self-sacrifice. We are fortunate indeed to have a monarch who leads from the front and whose tireless devotion to her duties serves as a wonderful example to everyone involved in public life and as an inspiration to those of her subjects who see or meet her at home or overseas. We wish her continued good health and strength in the year ahead when we note from the gracious Speech that she will receive the state visits of His Excellency the President of Israel and the President of Brazil, and, along with His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, will visit Canada, Thailand, Pakistan and India.
It does not fall to everyone to be honoured twice in as many months but this has been my good fortune since during the long Recess I was appointed Lord Lieutenant for Inverness. My pleasure was dimmed only by the realisation that such an honour came about as a result of the death of an old friend who had carried out the duties of Lord Lieutenant with great distinction for the past 10 years and to whom I had been Vice Lord Lieutenant for two years.
However, in lighter vein, it appealed to my sense of fun that one who had risen to the dizzy heights of lieutenant in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders some 50 years ago should now be permitted to parade in a uniform of such grandeur as to make that, even of a general, look somewhat downmarket. Indeed, I toyed with wearing it here today, but I was advised that convention is such that it is not thought fitting that it be worn outside one's own lieutenancy.
Within a few days of my appointment, I received volumes of advice, and among those who offered me the benefit of their wisdom were two old friends. The first suggested that it might be best if I adopted a rather lower political profile than had been the case over the 6 years. But the second balanced that advice by writing that he trusted that this new position would not in any way inhibit me from speaking out against a Scottish Parliament with fund-raising powers which in his view, and incidentally in mine too, could put the whole future of the United Kingdom at risk. Happily, we have no such proposals in the gracious Speech, but I am glad to tell your Lordships that I was able to accept both pieces of advice, the former in my own lieutenancy and the latter in your Lordships' House.
I am particularly pleased that this Motion is to be seconded by my noble friend Lord Colwyn. He and I share a barber, very occasionally. He has twin professions, being a dental surgeon by day and a musician by night. But it is his third talent for which he does not receive any payment, as a speaker in your Lordships' House, to which we look forward later this afternoon.
The Government, we learn from the gracious Speech, will continue firm policies to support sustained economic growth and rising prosperity while maintaining low inflation. This will be welcomed, I would hope, on all sides of your Lordships' House, for it would be difficult indeed to argue the case for changing policies which have successfully reduced inflation and interest rates, while at the same time continuing to reduce unemployment, encourage enterprise, and attract record amounts of inward investment, all combining to make our successes the envy of all major European countries, and many others far beyond Europe.
The gracious Speech indicates that national security continues to be of the highest importance, and I welcome the Government's restated commitment to playing a major role in NATO's adaption and decisions on its enlargement. Furthermore, I welcome the statement that the United Kingdom's minimum nuclear deterrent will be maintained. The Government, however, still have a very positive legislative agenda for what must inevitably be a truncated Session of Parliament. By my reckoning, we have no more than 22 sitting weeks compared with an average in a normal Session of about 35 to 36 sitting weeks. With 10 mainstream Bills and others of a non-controversial nature, the programme is ambitious, especially when one takes into account the imponderables nestling among,Other measures will be laid before you".Among the more controversial measures will be a Bill to translate into legislation the White Paper, Protecting the Public, the groundwork of which related to honesty in sentencing, automatic life sentences for violent sex offenders and mandatory minimum sentences for burglary and drug dealing. Like other subjects, the Bills which follow will spell out the detail, at which time more firm positions will be adopted. But there is no doubt in my mind that there exists throughout the country very great concern over each of those matters. The general public is deeply concerned that violent sex offenders, for example, are not always sufficiently restrained or punished; and there is genuine disgust over the apparent leniency at times meted out to habitual burglars who create havoc in the lives of those whose homes have been violated; there is also deep concern over the lives of youngsters which have been wrecked 7 by the activities of drug dealers. We shall have plenty of opportunity in due course to discuss sentencing, but we would be foolish if we did not recognise that here, too, there is widespread public concern.
Another Home Office Bill will deal with a national criminal intelligence service and a new national crime squad. Again, it is a subject which, some may argue, is controversial but containing nothing, one imagines, to trouble the normal law-abiding citizen; and it is the civil liberties of those normal law-abiding citizens which should be paramount in our minds.
These measures make the proposals to implement the recommendations of the English and Welsh rural White Papers on the functions of parish councils seem rather low key, but they are nevertheless very important and should result in village shops being granted rates relief while companies which continue to trade while in receivership will have to pay rates. Such measures are likely to be acclaimed, at least by village shopkeepers, if not by offending companies.
Two Bills will result from proposals specifically affecting Scotland. A Bill is likely to implement the "real time" sentencing proposals of the Secretary of State for Scotland and is also likely to include other improvements in sentencing powers. It will provide for supervision on release for more short-term prisoners. I particularly welcome this element as the early months of resettlement for short-term prisoners are all important in helping to guide them away from former bad habits and, hopefully, to lead them into a more productive way of life. Also, the Sutherland Committee on criminal appeals criteria will have its recommendations reflected. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has never been one to dodge issues and in these proposals he has grasped some of the more difficult problems in the fight against crime.
A Bill which will allow the Secretary of State for Scotland to transfer crofting estates to crofting trusts representing the interests of the crofting communities will not be of major interest to a great many of your Lordships, but for those of us who have Highland connections, the crofters who are likely to gain from the decision to transfer their crofting estates from the Secretary of State's ownership to trusts will benefit very considerably, and the measure is likely to be much welcomed.
The gracious Speech outlines proposals for an education Bill to improve standards and good discipline. This I strongly commend as the two go hand in hand. We are also promised wider choice and diversity which build on measures the Government have already introduced.
Her Majesty has said that a Bill will be introduced to strengthen controls on the ownership of firearms; and it seems likely that measures will be included which go some way beyond the recommendations of Lord Cullen's committee. Such ownership is a question on which emotions are raised and widely differing opinions are held. I feel that your Lordships' House will once again show itself able to provide the atmosphere for 8 thoughtful consideration of this kind of issue. All in all, this is a programme guaranteed to keep your Lordships' House fully employed throughout the Session.
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty.
Moved, That an 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".—(Lord Gray of Contin.)
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Colwyn
My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for an humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech.
It is customary to thank my noble friends the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip for the honour and privilege they have conferred on me. Being bound by this custom, I do indeed thank them for doing me this honour, although having been a Member of this House for nearly 30 years, I had hoped that it had somehow escaped me. As I stand here in trepidation, noble Lords will not be surprised to hear that the Chief Whip has been informed privately of my true feelings.
There is one advantage, however. Having attended many Addresses in reply to Her Majesty's gracious Speech, this is the first time I have ever managed to get a seat in the Chamber. I feel sure that I also have the great honour of being the first practising dental surgeon either to propose or second a Motion for an humble Address. I am proud to represent my dental colleagues in this House. When dentists deal with a clinical problem, they try to cause as little pain as possible. With the forbearance of the House, I hope to inflict minimal discomfort this afternoon.
Before starting on my treatment and by way of a little local anaesthetic, may I congratulate my noble friend Lord Gray of Contin on his opening speech and on his appointment as Lord Lieutenant of Inverness. It is an extra honour for me to follow a colleague with such a distinguished political career. Noble Lords will know that my noble friend has been, among other appointments, a member of the Select Committee on relations between central and local government. This is an area where the first Lord Colwyn had some influence at the beginning of the century, and I believe that it was the reason for his elevation to the peerage.
My noble friend and I have had discussions with the Chief Whip on the question of the correct dress. As we have heard, my noble friend decided against the splendid regalia of a lord lieutenant or the uniform of a lieutenant in the Cameron Highlanders.
I have to admit to achieving nothing more than that of an under officer in the Cheltenham College Combined Cadet Force of the Gloucestershire Regiment. So your Lordships see us as we are. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, may not have realised, but he and I were at the same school. Although he may have been a year 9 or two ahead of me, or even a year or two or behind, I feel sure that, with his undoubted leadership qualities, he would have achieved a much higher rank than I.
The purists in the House will be glad to hear that I did speak to Ede and Ravenscroft—I know many of us will be grateful to them for the help that they have given us today—about the possibility of a 16-stone 6 ft. 3 ins. ex-second row forward donning the Court dress which was so splendidly demonstrated by my noble friends Lord Shrewsbury and Lord Bancroft a year or two ago, but they did seem uncertain whether they would have anything which would fit at such short notice.
May I endorse the comments by my noble friend on the esteem with which the whole House holds Her Majesty the Queen and her family. Many noble Lords will know that in what is left of my spare time I lead a successful dance band, and it has been a great privilege for me to perform for the Royal Family on a number of occasions. I was auditioned for the 21st birthday party of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and not selected, but I did play for His Royal Highness the Duke of York at his 21st and, a few years ago, was chosen to provide the music for Her Majesty's 40th wedding anniversary.
Her Majesty kindly made available a list of favourite tunes which my band turned into what must be almost a world record for non-stop playing, and my overriding memory of the evening was the way in which Her Majesty the Queen Mother danced with a succession of partners, demonstrating boundless energy and enthusiasm. I know that this House would wish to join me in sending her our good wishes.
With the election only a short way ahead, Her Majesty's gracious Speech is not short of content and contains commitments for the next Session which are very much in line with the Government's goal of "Opportunity for all". My noble friend has already covered some aspects of the gracious Speech; but, now that the local anaesthetic should be fully effective, I would wish to commence my treatment by welcoming the introduction of a Bill on primary health care and a commitment to "double living standards in the next 25 years.
I am sure that many of your Lordships will agree with me that the ability to improve living standards depends on many economic priorities: the reduction of taxes; keeping public spending below 40 per cent. of national income; getting and holding inflation down to 2½per cent. or below; the maintenance of mortgage rates at their current levels or below, and the need for the continued fall in unemployment.
However, health is central to living standards and I endorse the Government's promise to introduce a Bill to improve and develop primary health care services. It is important that family doctors should have greater freedom to develop local services in their surgeries and to create a new generation of cottage hospitals all over Britain. The Government have promised increased spending to build and strengthen the NHS for the 21st century. I hope that we shall see new plans to help the mentally ill, reform social care for children, disabled people and the elderly.
10 The family doctor is the gateway to the health service and this Bill, which has the support of the British Medical Association, will enable new approaches to contracting for general practice to be piloted and evaluated. It will encourage local people to develop and put forward their own ideas on different contractual arrangements which could better suit their circumstances and the needs of the service locally. The White Paper concentrates on the professions directly concerned, but also acknowledges the contributions made by nurses, midwives, health visitors, therapists and other health care professionals and managers.
As a dentist, I am delighted to see general dental services included in a primary care scheme. I hope that it will also extend to many of the complementary therapies which are now proving both effective and popular.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has promised extra money for the health service over the next five years. I hope that some of this new funding will be targeted towards biotechnology in the United Kingdom which continues to offer the Government new opportunities to meet the health care challenges. As we move towards the next century, it is important to take advantage of innovative techniques which can drastically reduce costs and simplify procedures for the patient.
The maintenance of health and the treatment of ill health is important for us all—none more so than those of us who are approaching old age. I welcome the commitment for better provision for long-term needs in old age. My mother died earlier this year, having spent the last three years of her life in a nursing home, unable to communicate or do anything for herself. The standard of care was excellent, but we could only meet the costs by using all her life savings. There are a growing number of old people in a similar situation and I must pay tribute to the thousands of carers in this country who selflessly give up their time, money and freedom to look after ageing relatives. Their contribution and loyalty are unbounded. The Government have acknowledged their problems in the past and I hope that some help for them and for the people they look after will be addressed in this Bill.
We are promised a Bill to simplify procedures of the civil courts. I am sure that noble Lords will be looking forward to the Government's response to the Woolf Report, Access to Justice.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, envisaged a unified civil justice system with three procedural tiers to make litigation more accessible and fair, quicker, more certain and less costly, and he considered what steps should be taken to promote the necessary change in culture among lawyers, the judiciary and court users.
This simplification will be of great importance to me as a council member of the Medical Protection Society and chairman of Dental Protection. Medical and dental claims are increasing year by year. The awards to plaintiffs and subscriptions for doctors and dentists are ever increasing. Legislation which can prevent our system mimicking that of the USA has to be applauded 11 and will, it is to be hoped, encourage health care professionals to continue practising in high-risk specialties.
The setting up of specialist centres to handle medical negligence cases and the provision for special judicial training in medical issues will allow patients who have been avoidably harmed to be properly compensated.
The maintenance of family values and the promotion of community spirit are paramount. It is for that reason that I welcome the commitment to implement the proposals in the rural White Paper. I know, for example, how pleased John and Margaret Jones will be. This hard-working couple run the village shop near my home in Oxfordshire. In the past 25 years one in four village shops has been forced to close. The village shop is invariably a family business—the centre of village life—providing local jobs and an essential community service. It is important that they should have help to continue their business into the next century. I am particularly pleased that the proposals include a rate relief scheme.
The gracious Speech also promises the promotion of,fewer, better and simpler regulations to reduce unnecessary burdens on business".I have experience of setting up and running a small business. The complexities and time taken over the paperwork, particularly in relation to the collection of VAT, is a constant irritation. I would welcome any change to make the running of a small business less bureaucratic.
Several years ago, during a seaside holiday in this country, my youngest daughter, Tanya, went swimming and then spent the rest of the week in bed with a high temperature, headaches and sickness as a result of the pollution in the sea. Although Britain is now taking the lead on the environment in Europe, and indeed the world, and privatisation linked with massive investment has given us cleaner beaches, improved river fish stocks and cleaner drinking water, there is still a massive problem with pollution from shipping and from industrial areas in northern and central Europe. We saw the damage done by the "Sea Empress" disaster. Pollution knows no national frontiers. I welcome the promise of a Bill following the recommendations of the Donaldson Report, Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas, to protect our coastline.
I am sure that many late nights will be spent discussing the new legislation that relates to the identification of and increase in the penalties for benefit fraud.
The provision of welfare for those who genuinely need benefit has for far too long been prejudiced by those who think of the system as a help yourself rather than a self-help society. It would seem sensible to introduce some method of checking Inland Revenue records against those of the Benefits Agency to help identify anyone who works while claiming benefit.
At the same time, I welcome the Government's promise of continued help for the unemployed and recognition that our clear priority must be getting people back to work.
12 My Lords, we have a busy Session ahead of us. It is also the busiest time of year for my band. My frequent appearances in the Chamber dressed in black tie usually mean that I am working and unable to stay very late. Noble Lords may well be here until the early hours, but may take some consolation in the fact that I am invariably up until two, three or four in the morning.
I sense that the local anaesthetic is beginning to wear off. I thank noble Lords for the courtesy and patience that they have shown. I hope that the last few minutes have been relatively painless.
I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for an humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.
It is my pleasant duty to start by congratulating the mover and seconder of the Address. This is a difficult and demanding parliamentary occasion. I know that Members on all sides of the House will agree with me that both speakers this afternoon have discharged their duties with distinction and success.
I must, however, begin by expressing some disappointment at the relative sobriety of their costume, remembering as we do the quite extraordinary plumage worn last year by the noble Lord, Lord Denham.
I am disappointed indeed that the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, could not have regaled us with the dress of the Lord Lieutenant of Inverness. I look forward to seeing it at some stage unspecified in the future. The noble Lord is a distinguished Scot and parliamentarian. He has had a lengthy and honourable political and ministerial career. It started, as many do, with membership of a local authority, this time in Inverness. Thereafter he became Member of Parliament for what must be one of the most beautiful and wildest parts of the United Kingdom, Ross and Cromarty. A successful transition through the Whips' Office brought its usual and in his case rightful reward; namely, office. He was a distinguished Minister of State for Energy from 1979 to 1983 and Minister of State in the Scottish Office between 1983 and 1986.
Until I heard some of the noble Lord's remarks this afternoon about devolution my next sentence would have been that he is one of those politicians whom I am always slightly surprised to find in the Conservative Party. Essentially, I have written, he seems to be a man of moderation, common sense, rationality and thoughtfulness. However, I am not sure that I could now pen those words with the same vigour as before I heard him. With those qualities he should perhaps be sitting on other Benches.
Interestingly, Who's Who, that great reference book, lists the noble Lord's hobbies as golf—one would expect that from a Scot; walking—one would expect that, too, of somebody whose constituency had been Ross and Cromarty; family life—again not a total surprise; but, fourthly, cricket. Cricket, my Lords, in Ross and Cromarty? Frankly, the mind boggles. The 13 noble Lord obviously possesses some of the pioneering spirit of the highlander in trying to introduce that Sassenach game into his part of the world.
The noble Lord performed his task today with confidence and aplomb. I congratulate him most warmly.
I now turn to the seconder of the Address. He is truly a unique combination. He is a Peer, a dentist and a bandleader. It is perfectly true that, at different times, we attended the same school. I hope that he can persuade the Prime Minister to forgive him! I have heard of a little bit of gentle Mozart being used to calm a patient, but Dixieland with the drilling is surely something novel. I could not help wondering what pieces he chooses to accompany which operation. What goes with "When the Saints Go Marching In"? Multiple extractions? Or the "Saint Louis Blues"? It is more appropriate, perhaps, for the pain in the waiting-room before you go in to see the dentist.
I was assisted in my researches by an article about the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, which appeared in Today in January 1995. I understand that he founded a dance band which he originally called The Autocrats. I am not sure how revealing that is. The name was later changed and it became The Three-B Band. I wonder what the "B" stood for. Given the noble Lord's profession, it seemed to me that it could be "biting, bridging and beautifying". I believe that it is now known simply as Orchestra.
Under the headline, "Let's play celebrity nashers", the article proceeded to refer to the noble Lord and his profession. It stated:The English aristocracy have traditionally lavished more care on the fabric of their buildings than the fabric of their mouths. Perversely, there is a chap in posh Wimpole Street who is a baron and a dental surgeon. Lord Colwyn, when not blowing his trumpet (in a dance band), can be found drilling and filling for a living. I sought his views. Caps cost between £300 and £600 each; bridgework is much more"—I am not sure whether this is designed to give us confidence—and sometimes to fix or straighten teeth at the front you have to start working at the back. If you are a celebrity and doing lots of appearances, I suppose it is important to look your best. But, quite frankly, I don't encourage very shiny, very bright stuff which we refer to as the 'California smile'".I am not sure whether that is not the smile we have had from the Government in the course of today's Queen's Speech. But the House is in the noble Lord's debt today for the manner in which he seconded the Motion.
Perhaps I may turn briefly to the gracious Speech itself, because this is not the occasion or the time for a detailed examination of the Government's proposals; that will come over the course of the next four or five days. However, it may be for the convenience of the House to let the House know that we propose tabling a reasoned amendment to the humble Address in the following terms and hope that it will be voted upon next Wednesday evening:We regret the failure of the Government to manage the nation's affairs in a manner which preserves social cohesion and integrity within the United Kingdom and the country's reputation abroad".14 I listened to the Queen's Speech with great interest and attention, as I am sure did everybody else. It is obviously the last gasp of an expiring administration. It is quite astonishing, from reading it, to see in how many areas policy is to be "continued" . The watchword of the Speech is "drift" and its battlecry is indecision. Where are the policies to deal with the real issues facing this country? What is in there for unemployment, industrial expansion and the crises in the health service and education? There is nothing for them in this Queen's Speech. Quite clearly the Government have run out of steam and out of ideas. Frankly, after 17 years it is hardly surprising.
We welcome some parts of the gracious Speech; for example, legislation to enable reform of the procedures of the civil courts and implement the proposals contained in the English and Welsh Rural White Papers and the proposed legislation against coastline pollution. We will wish to scrutinise carefully—even suspiciously—the various criminal justice proposals. We hope—I trust that the Government Chief Whip will take notice—that the Government will see fit to allow a free vote on the issue of hand guns. I feel—I say this sincerely to the other side—that this is an issue upon which public opinion is perhaps in advance of the politicians. It is therefore important that on this issue individual politicians should be free of the Whips to make up their own minds as to what they think government policy should be. We urge therefore that there should be a free vote on that matter.
Where are the much-trailed proposals on stalking and the ones on the paedophile register? They are not in this Speech. It is very thin gruel, and the absence of meat is underlined by the extraordinary proposal to publish in draft Bills on the introduction of identity cards and in relation to pensions. It will be interesting to see when those Bills are likely to be published and what their terms are.
The truth of the matter is simple. We all know it. All sides of this House know it and indeed the country knows it. This Queen's Speech is a precursor to the Conservative election manifesto. It is an electioneering document, not a blueprint for the future. As an electioneering document we shall treat it accordingly.
I fear that this Queen's Speech was much as expected. To put it in a sentence: the Government have been there too long; they have run out of ideas; they have run out of initiative; enough is enough and it is time they went.
Moved, That this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.—(Lord Richard.)
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, my first and pleasant duty on this day of ceremony and courtesy is to congratulate the two noble Lords who moved and seconded the Motion this afternoon. I do that most sincerely. They both acquitted themselves extremely well in a task which I, never having performed it in either House, always regarded as difficult and testing.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Richard, I am a little regretful that the noble Lord, Lord Gray, did not honour us with his Lord Lieutenant's uniform. Nonetheless, we 15 can live for a little time to come in the glow of the memory of the refulgence of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, a year ago. However, I endorse the decision of the noble Lord, Lord Gray, in regard to controversy in his lord lieutenancy; no controversy in the county, but complete freedom to speak one's mind in your Lordships' House and elsewhere. That is a rule which I have always applied since becoming Chancellor of the University of Oxford: no political speeches in the city or university, but no inhibition in your Lordships' House. He made the right decision from that point of view.
I admired the quiet authority with which the noble Lord put his points to us. He and I were both Members for Scottish seats—though very different Scottish seats—in the decade of the 1980s. We were both eventually defeated, he in 1983 and I in 1987. I believe the edge of distinction in defeat belongs to him, for he was defeated by Mr. Charles Kennedy whereas I was defeated by Mr. George Galloway.
The noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, is a man of remarkable parts. However, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, was so eloquent upon dentistry that I shall leave that aspect of the noble Lord's attributes and his capacities as leader of a dance band. He clearly has wide interests beyond those two unusual fields. His speech this afternoon was exceptionally informed by practical sympathy over a wide range of issues. His peerage is what may be described as "early Lloyd George vintage". His great grandfather came from the heartland; he was a Caernarvonshire man. Undoubtedly his great grandfather knew Lloyd George. However, as a collector's item, the status and value of an early Lloyd George peerage considerably exceeds that of a late Lloyd George peerage.
I come to the gracious Speech and on this occasion pass by it with reasonable speed. As usual we have a lot in the legislative programme for the Home Secretary. How many crime and punishment Bills have we had from him and his predecessors? It is now well into double figures. Never has a Minister required more ranging shots in order to try to hit a target. If legislation could cure crime there would hardly be a criminal left on the streets of England after the Bills that we have seen.
A hand gun Bill is clearly necessary and we may wish to strengthen it. But I hope it will be fully appreciated by the Government that it must not be a rushed piece of legislation. If your Lordships are to exercise their proper deliberative function, there must be adequate time and spacing for the various stages. No self-respecting chief constable would certify the Home Secretary as a proper person to be in charge of hasty legislation.
For the rest, the measures are concerned a good deal more with fighting the Opposition and the next election than they are with fighting crime. Last year I said that the best news the Lord Privy Seal could give us in his brief speech would be to tell us that next year would be the last Session of this staggering and bickering Parliament. Not greatly to my surprise the noble Lord did not seize that opportunity a year ago. Fortunately, this year the decision is out of his and his colleagues' 16 hands. But we must probably live through another half year of "electionitis". I believe the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, said that it was 22 weeks.
I dread the thought of another 44 Prime Minister's Question Times in another place and the deadening effect that that will have on the electorate and on the reputation of Parliament. But let us hope that at least in your Lordships' House, while we may have some of our old troubles—as we had in July through a rushed timetable with the Government ignoring on one issue almost the unanimous view of this House—nonetheless this Session the Government will try to avoid such provocation and that we may all respond by endeavouring, even under the stress of "election-itis", to preserve the reputation of this House for good temper and considering issues on their merits.
§ 4.30 p.m.
My Lords, as usual at this time of year, I am in the very happy position of being able to agree fully with the Motion moved by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition; namely, that this House do now adjourn. I am only sorry that we do not find ourselves in such agreeable agreement more often at least across the Floor of this House. However, in view of the last remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, with which I would very much like to associate myself, I hope that both the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord Richard, will agree that we have an extremely happy private relationship as regards the management of this House. I shall certainly do my best to observe the strictures that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, made in front of your Lordships this afternoon.
I am particularly sad that, when I come to wind up the debate on the gracious Speech that will take place in your Lordships' House over the next few days, I am in no doubt that I shall find myself unable to agree with the views of at least some noble Lords opposite. Today, traditionally and happily, we descend less far into the political bear-pit even than is customary in your Lordships' House. So I am also able to support the noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, in their typically elegant and eloquent words of congratulation to the proposer and seconder of the Motion for an humble Address to Her Majesty.
Their congratulations were richly deserved by my noble friends Lord Gray of Contin and Lord Colwyn, who have both delighted your Lordships with their contributions to our proceedings today and perhaps tempted us a little—at least on this side of the House—with their hints at the measures that Her Majesty has promised us. With the permission of noble Lords, I shall have a little more to say on some of those measures in a moment.
I turn first to my noble friend Lord Gray of Contin who, as I say, so eloquently moved the Motion for an humble Address. He served for 13 years, as we know, in another place, where, if I may inject a personal note, he was particularly kind to new arrivals who were both poor in experience and rich in nervousness. He has adorned your Lordships' House since 1983, where he has earned universal respect and affection.
17 My noble friend's experience of government in both Houses has been valuable, as has his experience in other fields; namely, in local government, in business and in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. As my noble friend Lord Colwyn said, he has proved a most valuable member of your Lordships' committee on relations between central and local government in the past Session. He is therefore eminently qualified to perform the difficult task he undertook in your Lordships' House today, and he did not disappoint us.
As he told us, my noble friend also has several years' experience as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Inverness. I also add my congratulations on his recent elevation to the post of Lord Lieutenant. I am delighted that we can look forward to many years of distinguished service in the Highlands from my noble friend.
I seem to detect that once again this year we have struck a sartorial note in our proceedings. If my noble friend will allow me the impertinence, he is a modest man. I was therefore not altogether surprised that he eschewed the example set last year by my noble friends Lord Denham and Lord Mancroft who added, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, a flamboyant note to our equivalent proceedings in 1995.
We have heard that protocol did not permit my noble friend to appear before us today in his uniform as Lord Lieutenant. Equally, the regiment in which he once served has, I believe, since been amalgamated. So perhaps it would have been difficult to wear that uniform as well. So even if my noble friend had been tempted into wearing uniform it would therefore have been difficult for him to choose one.
I hope that those are the real reasons for my noble friend's appropriately subfusc appearance this afternoon, rather than the suggestion that one particular mauvaise langue has just made to me. This particular individual has observed that in the modern world the duller the clothes the more powerful the official. He therefore hoped that my noble friend's lack of sartorial flamboyance did not signify support for the Opposition's plans for reforming your Lordships' House, which, as all the world knows, will subtract power and authority from the other place and add it to your Lordships' House. That is about the only thing that tempts me about the Opposition's plans. It is a canard that I know my noble friend will only too readily deny.
I now turn to add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Colwyn for the delightful speech he made in seconding the Address. My noble friend Lord Gray of Contin reminded us, as did other noble Lords who have spoken, that my noble friend Lord Colwyn is a distinguished exponent both of the art of dentistry and of playing the jazz trumpet. Indeed, it must be rare for a single individual to have the steady hand that we all know from experience is required for his profession and to combine that with the expressive freedom of thought so essential for a jazz trumpeter. I have a brother-in-law who is a jazz trumpeter. In view of the late hours that my noble friend keeps, I am glad that he is not a dentist operating on me in the early hours of the morning. But I am sure that my noble friend manages to surmount that difficulty in a way that my brother-in-law would feel unable to do. 18 Both these professions require great nerve and therefore provide an excellent training for addressing your Lordships' House on a day such as today. It is clear, I believe, that my noble friend discharged the task that has been suggested for him with more than usual distinction.
I shall now move briefly to matters of business. My noble friend Lord Gray of Contin has done his sums and calculated that the Session before your Lordships will be much shorter than is usual. Not surprisingly, I can confirm that this is indeed the case as a matter of both law and fact. But I should perhaps warn noble Lords opposite not to get too excited too soon. Like the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, I fully expect the Session to run its course and, despite the firmly held belief of many noble Lords opposite, there can be no certainty that even when the time comes there will be any change in the current seating arrangements in your Lordships' House.
Your Lordships will have heard my noble friend Lord Gray draw attention to the number of substantial and beneficial measures outlined by Her Majesty in the gracious Speech. Your Lordships' House will therefore have plenty of work during the Session ahead. The measures that will come before your Lordships will build on the proven record of the Government in increasing the prosperity of this United Kingdom as a whole and in improving the opportunities open to all, which have been a central part of this Government's objectives since they were first elected.
Listening to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, I could not help wondering, with the greatest respect, where he had been living in the past few years—and sometimes whether he had read the gracious Speech. particularly because I was under the happy impression that we were to introduce an education Bill during the Session.
The noble Lord went so far as to mention the vitally important matter of unemployment. Perhaps the noble Lord has at least noticed that, unlike continental Europe, unemployment has been falling very rapidly in this country over the past five years. I have to suppose that government policies have had at least something to do with that.
I am sure that your Lordships would like to have some indication of which of the measures that were outlined in the gracious Speech will be appearing before us early in the Session. I am pleased to be able to say that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will introduce a Bill to reform the procedures of the civil courts following the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, on improving access to civil justice. I am sure that this measure will be widely welcomed both in your Lordships' House and outside as a means of reducing the costs of justice and improving the speed of the process.
My noble friend Lord Goschen will bring forward a Bill to protect the United Kingdom coastline from pollution from merchant shipping, following recommendations of the report from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, on safety at sea.
My noble friend will also re-introduce a Bill to authorise the construction and operation of a high-speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel. This 19 is a measure on which your Lordships' Select Committee has worked hard under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill. I hope the House will give the remaining stages of the Bill a clear run so that the measure at last reaches the statute book after the thorough examination it has received in your Lordships' House and in another place. I would also like to record my admiration for the work of the Select Committee and what it has done so far towards the completion of a particularly arduous task.
My noble friend Lord Inglewood will introduce a Bill to extend the powers of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. In due course, other important measures will be introduced into your Lordships' House.
The last Session proved a full one legislatively and saw your Lordships introduce a number of innovations. On this occasion last year I suggested that, if a Scottish Bill started its parliamentary progress in your Lordships' House, it might be possible for it to be committed to a committee with the power to meet and take evidence in Scotland. I hope that your Lordships have been satisfied with the way in which that experiment has proceeded in two cases. Your Lordships will remember that evidence was taken in Scotland on the Deer (Scotland) Bill and on the Education (Scotland) Bill. Those two Bills were subsequently among several that had their committee stage of the Whole House off the Floor in the Moses Room. We shall continue to suggest further Bills as candidates for that procedure if they seem suitable and if that can be agreed through the usual channels.
A number of other innovations were, I hope, also successful. A Register of Interests was kept and published. Perhaps equally important in its way, the last Session also saw the introduction of new arrangements for an agreement for parliamentary printing and publications following the privatisation of HMSO. I hope that the Session ahead will prove an opportunity to show that those arrangements will work well. I am extremely grateful for the hard work that has gone into that. Perhaps I should add that, as so often, your Lordships' House used the last Session to take the lead in using new technology by publishing parliamentary papers electronically.
It may be for the convenience of the House if I conclude as usual by outlining the arrangements which have been made for the remaining days of the debate on the Address. Tomorrow, the debate will concentrate on law, home and social affairs. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will open the debate and my noble friend Lady Blatch will wind up.
On Monday next, the debate will continue with foreign affairs, overseas aid and defence. My noble friend Lady Chalker of Wallasey will open the debate and my noble friend Lord Howe will wind up. On Tuesday, my noble friend Lord Ferrers will open the 20 debate on the environment, agriculture, local government and education and my noble friend Lord Henley will wind up. The final day of debate on Wednesday will focus on industry and economic affairs. My noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie will open the debate and I shall wind up. I look forward to hearing the views that are expressed.
There is much business to transact in the coming Session, much of which, I fear, may prove controversial, but it will build on the measures of the past 17 years which have done so much to begin to restore our country from the brink of disaster in which we found it.
Finally, perhaps I may once again thank the proposer and seconder of the Motion for an humble Address. I commend to the House the Motion that the debate on the Address be adjourned.
On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.