My Lords, I wish to thank my noble friends the Lord Privy Seal, Lady Barran and Lady Chisholm of Owlpen, for their work to ensure the passage of this landmark Bill. The Bill, in the form in which we now see it, is the product of excellent co-operation across all parties in both Houses. I thank noble Lords for their engagement and co-operation in helping to create the robust measure we have before us, in particular the noble Lords who served on the Joint Committee that carried out the pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill and those who now serve on the shadow sponsor body.
I express my gratitude also to noble Lords who contributed to debates and tabled amendments, especially the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, all of whom embraced the spirit of collaboration and joint working that ensured that the Bill made swift progress without sacrificing the quality of the scrutiny it received. My thanks go too to all other noble Lords who tabled amendments and spoke on Report yesterday, including the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler. Lastly, I extend my thanks to the excellent Bill team, as well as the restoration and renewal programme team, the shadow sponsor body, the Parliamentary Private Secretaries, the Whips on both sides and, of course, the clerks, for their support.
Noble Lords across the House have recognised the need for this Bill, which addresses the pressing issue of the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster and which has been improved thanks to their efforts. The degree of consensus on the Bill across both Houses is reflected in its swift passage. I believe that we all have been keenly aware of how vital a step this is towards ensuring that the historic and iconic building in which we are privileged to serve is safe for staff and the public, that the works are delivered on time and on budget—ensuring value for taxpayers’ money—and, above all, that we have the right framework to secure the Palace of Westminster as the home of the UK Parliament for future generations. I beg to move.
My Lords, I speak on behalf of these Benches and of my noble friends Lady Smith and Lord McNicol, who helped me take the reins of the Bill from our side when my noble friend Lady Smith became somewhat otherwise engaged with developments elsewhere. I too place on record our thanks to the Government for their co-operation on this Bill and to parliamentarians in both Houses who helped ensure that the Bill is in the good place that the Minister referred to at the end of Report. In particular, I thank my noble friends Lady Smith and Lord McNicol, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the Leader of the House for their work and commitment throughout the various stages of the Joint Committee deliberations and the passage of the Bill.
I also thank my noble friend Lord Blunkett, who played such a key role in ensuring that public engagement, consultation, the involvement of parliamentarians and staff in the project and the key issue of disability and public access were at the heart of the Bill. The Bill team has—I agree—worked in a particularly exemplary and collaborative way with your Lordships and deserves special thanks, as do Beth Miller, who provides the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, with support, and the excellent team from our Opposition office, Ben Wood and Dan Harris.
My Lords, perhaps I may lighten the atmosphere a little. I remember a Lonnie Donegan song which was a reflection of the war for American independence and the red coats fighting a losing battle. It went:
“There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago”.
There are fewer of us in here than there were a few moments ago, for fairly obvious reasons, but this Bill is critical not just to the fabric and well-being of the heart of our democracy—the Palace of Westminster itself—but to a futuristic look at how might restore trust in and engagement with democracy. I am particularly grateful to all those who have played their part in making this a substantive measure which we can be proud of and which gives the sponsor body of the future and delivery authority clear direction in implementing it. I shall not repeat the names of everyone who has been involved, but I endorse entirely the thanks offered to those who have been part of it. I give my personal thanks not just to my own Front Bench but to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, who has reflected the best of the way in which we can conduct business in the House of Lords.
In implementing this Bill and taking forward the kind of advice that we had from all quarters on all matters in the joint scrutiny committee, it will be critical to draw down on the best possible expertise across the UK. If we do that, we will have something to be proud of in the years to come.