Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 24th July 2000.

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Photo of Earl Russell Earl Russell Liberal Democrat 6:45 pm, 24th July 2000

My Lords, we have debated this subject a good many times before. Since 1994, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has had an innings of a length worthy of Don Bradman. I congratulate her on it, but I doubt whether half a dozen votes in the House have shifted as a result of the debate. That is sad, but I believe it to be the case. Sooner or later, we probably should reach the point at which the debate has to stop. If the House prefers, we could continue it for the rest of our natural lives, but I doubt that that is what most of us wish.

Were the noble Baroness, Lady Young, to be victorious tonight, that would not be the end of the matter. Your Lordships have heard from the Minister the voice of principle and commitment. We have heard that from the Government right through. I am sure that the House agrees that I am not a distinguished member of the Prime Minister's fan club, but on this issue we have heard from him substance, not spin; principle, not the pursuit of advantage. I congratulate him on that. If the noble Baroness were to be victorious, the issue would come back, whether in this Bill or in another, whether the day after tomorrow or next year.

The other reason why I believe that the issue is certain to come back even if the noble Baroness is victorious tonight is that there is a difference between age groups. The noble Baroness has conceded the point before. She accused me of suggesting that she was over the hill, but if she is, so am I. We are both in the over-60 group.