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Queen's Speech — Debate (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:20 am on 27th May 2010.

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Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 11:20 am, 27th May 2010

Don't go "oh"; you had better to wait to find out who has nominated some of the new Peers.

I do not believe that we will retain public confidence in such circumstances. I love this House and I do not want to see it decline from a House of respect into a House of absurdity. I know that for the majority of your Lordships a nominated House suits you very well. However, the clear and settled view of the other place, and the official view of all three major political parties, expressed in manifesto commitments at the election, is for Lords reform to produce a House based on election. That proposition also has the consistent support of public opinion. I do not doubt the parliamentary skills of those who oppose elections. I say to them only this: I hope the judgment of history for this Parliament will not be-as it must be about the Conservatives from 1983 to 1997 and Labour from 1997 to 2010-that it did not carry through reasonable reforms at a reasonable pace when it had the chance.

Let me deal with one objection immediately. Some say that, given the severity of the economic crisis, to put energies into Lords reform would be frivolous. I remind the House that the Conservative-Labour coalition to which I referred earlier, that of 1940 to 1945, not only won a war but also brought forward the Beveridge report and the Butler Education Act. Good Governments do not have to be one-trick ponies. Nor should the House lose the opportunity to look at measures for reform which can be undertaken here and now. Before the election, I commended the Lord Speaker for her initiative in asking the noble Lords, Lord Filkin and Lord Butler of Brockwell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, to chair working groups to see whether we could do some work that was parallel to that which the Wright Committee was doing in the House of Commons. I hope that those ideas can now be taken forward with a sense of urgency.

Today's debate will also cover Home Office and Communities and Local Government business, to which I now turn briefly. First, the police reform and social responsibility Bill will bring in strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives. My noble friend Lady Neville-Jones will deal with this and other Home Office matters in the winding-up speech. Our legislation on local government will be of a piece with our wider constitutional goals of fundamentally shifting power from Westminster to the people. The Department for Communities and Local Government will introduce two Bills in this parliamentary Session, which will be in the steady and capable hands of my noble friend Lady Hanham.

Moreover, the localism Bill will enable individuals and community groups to have much greater influence over local government and how public money is spent in their area. The Bill will streamline the planning system and encourage local communities to become actively involved in planning, housing and other local services. The Government will also introduce a Bill to halt restructuring of local government in Norwich and Exeter. The Bill will be introduced as soon as possible to avoid delays in the local government financial settlement.

The gracious Speech reflects a genuine radicalism in the areas that we cover in this debate today. In the words of the old Metropolitan Police recruitment poster, dull, it isn't. This is likely to be a long Session, and there will be many times when we debate our politics and public trust, our communities and their security and liberty. The contribution of this House in resolving these matters starts with this debate, and I look forward to the contributions from all sides.