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Queen’s Speech — Debate (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:03 pm on 9th May 2013.

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Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 4:03 pm, 9th May 2013

Incomprehensible, as my noble friend says—to lawyers, inter alia. There are number of senior judges sitting here and I am sure that they would be able to relate wonderful tales about the stuff that has come before them. I heard from one justice of the Supreme Court the other day that they were about to give judgment when one of them suddenly thought, “Hey, wasn’t something passed in 1995?”. When they went back to look, sure enough there was, and they rewrote their judgment. I shall not name names.

The truth is that this state of affairs is brought about by a combination of circumstances, one important aspect of which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, recently referred to—the production-line legislation in the other place and the guillotining Motions that render much of the legislation there not merely inadequately considered but not considered at all. Large chunks of legislation come here never having been debated. Added to that, there is the manifesto theory of government—that if it is in your manifesto, you are entitled to legislate for it. The fact that nobody reads or buys the manifesto is neither here nor there. In the 1945 election, the manifesto for the Attlee Government was, I think, 15 pages long, whereas for the current Government it is 115 pages, but that is apparently of no importance.

Incidentally, the Queen’s Speech talks about bringing in 15 new statutes, and I believe that we have five carry-over Bills. I hope that under the health and safety legislation, which we are going to simplify, we will be allowed to have back the brushes in our gentlemen’s toilets. Noble Lords may not have noticed but they have been withdrawn on health and safety grounds. Therefore, one major improvement will be coming our way, God willing.

As I said, all this creates confusion in the minds of the public because we are endlessly changing things. We are not content to leave a law in place for 10 or 20 years. A new Minister in a new Administration says, “I’d like a new Education Act”, or whatever it might be. The poor old public are punch drunk. I repeat that there is a degree of resentment at what, too often, are seen as impositions by us. What is more, they are careless and unnecessary impositions. One sometimes has the feeling that some of this legislation is trophy stuff that Ministers can paste to their lavatory walls back home.