My Lords, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s great novel, Il Gattopardo—the leopard—was published posthumously in 1958. It became the biggest seller in the history of Italian publishing. Visconti even made a film of the novel. It is a chronicle of an aristocratic prince in Sicily at a time of civil war and revolution. There is one line in the novel which to this day captures the imagination of scholars, academics, students, writers and readers alike. They struggle with one sentence in the book, a sentence which I believe has some relevance for your Lordships’ debate today. Tancredi, a young nobleman, remarks to his uncle, the prince:
“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”.
This central contradiction continues to baffle the literati, but clearly they have not had the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his committee, who seem to me in their report to achieve a perfect resolution of the Tancredi contradiction. The Burns report recommendations undoubtedly ensure continuity for this House’s assets and values and its subservient role in our democratic governance, while introducing some practical and much needed, and much talked about, reforms.
Those gripped by the Netflix series “The Crown” can see how carefully the monarchy has adapted and changed in order to preserve its essential value to the UK. Even the BBC, for goodness’ sake, has adapted and changed without losing sight of its mission and importance. It is time that your Lordships’ House evolved. The Burns report offers the best chance for it to reform itself. We should embrace it because we may not get another chance for years to come.
I have one small criticism, of course—being from the media, I have to find some criticism. While I am in total support of the Burns recommendations, I have only one small regret. The noble Lord might have taken the opportunity to propose the introduction of Radio 4’s “Just a Minute” rules into the Chamber, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Leigh. You get gonged out for hesitation, deviation or repetition.