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Queen’s Speech — Debate (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:05 pm on 9th May 2013.

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Photo of Lord Fowler Lord Fowler Conservative 12:05 pm, 9th May 2013

If my noble friend does not mind my saying so, I think that is a trivial argument. We all know—and he knows, because he has been in Parliament for exactly the same length of time as I have—that a whole range of things have been produced and passed that were not in party manifestos. I abolished the dock labour scheme, which I imagine my noble friend enthusiastically voted for and which was not in the party manifesto, and I can think of a whole of range of other things. That argument does not stand up. Let us debate on the issue, not on side points.

Of course, this House and my noble friend are entitled to suggest and propose amendments, but perhaps I may also suggest that that is going to the limit of our power. We are not entitled to defeat the will of the Commons on an issue of this kind: one that was decided, I repeat, on a free vote. It may be an unfashionable thing to say today, but the most important people in this country are not the bankers, self-interested columnists or special advisers who now appear to haunt the whole of Whitehall; they are the Members of Parliament. They are the only ones elected to Westminster. They take their authority from their elected position and they lose it when they leave. They have been elected by the people and they are answerable to the people. In my view, on both these issues—the protection of the public from a press abusing its power and the introduction of equal marriage—Members of Parliament have got it absolutely right.