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My Lords, I begin by declaring my interests as set out in the register, in particular as chairman of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association and as a partner in the global commercial law firm DAC Beachcroft LLP.
It is a privilege to follow what I regarded as an outstandingly good speech by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. It was my privilege to sit with him on the Constitution Committee for several years. Sadly, we are no longer on that committee and he has moved on to a much higher role in this House, but I welcome his words of reflection on the unwritten constitution. Because it is not written at the moment, we have the opportunity to write, for the first time, our constitution. That is something for which we should bear in mind his wise words.
I recall that we did have a great debate about all this. I am sad to see that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, is not in his place, because that debate took place on the very idea, put forward by the then Lord Chancellor, that we should in effect downgrade the position of Lord Chancellor, albeit by creating the Supreme Court and siting it elsewhere. In a way it also paved the way for the very situation that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, has just outlined. The constitutional framework has shifted on to “softer sand”, to use his words. We should pause and reflect on that.
Overshadowing us is the fact that, as we are already acutely aware, while we debate so many important aspects of Her Majesty’s gracious Address, along the Corridor in another place the protracted and debilitating discussion of Brexit continues. I understand that the latest information is that we will be sitting through Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the coming weekend. No doubt we shall hear more about that.
Brexit touches on all aspects of our lives, including those that we are debating today. My area of activity for the last 50 years has been the financial services sector, which leads the world and is vital to our entire social and economic fabric. It makes doing business possible and brings security into all our lives. Its business model is predicated on highly sophisticated and flexible modelling of risk and uncertainty, and it has done everything possible to make itself Brexit-proof. I pay tribute to the chief executive of BIBA, Steve White, and his team, for their skill in helping the industry prepare for whatever transpires. None the less, the current uncertainty is causing incalculable and unnecessary cost, stress and friction. A no-deal Brexit would still cause significant damage. As the Government seek to steer between the Scylla of a Government led by Jeremy Corbyn and the Charybdis of a no-deal Brexit, they do of course enjoy my full support.
Breathless after that, I will take this opportunity to praise this Government’s commitment to the continuing improvement of high-speed broadband coverage. It will improve people’s lives, be beneficial to commerce and provide the necessary foundation for the UK to emerge as one of the leading developers of autonomous vehicle—AV—technology. At the same time, I voice a note of caution. For us to remain at the forefront of AV development we shall need greater investment in infrastructure beyond 5G. I refer noble Lords to KPMG’s 2019 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index, which noted that, despite leading the way in other areas:
“The UK faces challenges concerning digital and physical infrastructure … It lags behind other countries in 4G coverage, global connectivity, quality of roads (especially smaller roads) and logistics infrastructure”.
The Law Commission has just published its second consultation paper on the regulatory framework for the safe deployment of automated vehicles in the UK, which noted that rural areas of the UK would be in serious trouble. What I am talking about is: in Wales, how on earth would a driverless car negotiate flocks of sheep? My experience as a Whip, by the way, is wholly unconnected. I welcome the Government’s proposals. Above all, this debate reminds us that there is going to be life after Brexit.