Parliamentary Democracy and Standards in Public Life

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Thursday 11th January 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My Lords, I will not follow the noble Lord, although he made some interesting and powerful points. It struck me while my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham, who always brings wisdom to our debates, was speaking, that what we have really lost in this country and Parliament is the ability to disagree agreeably. That is fuelled by social media and has done enormous damage to our public life.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone: she made a far-ranging and very interesting speech. She talked about Lord Judge. In the next couple of weeks, we will have the opportunity to remember at thanksgiving services two remarkable parliamentarians: Baroness Boothroyd, one of the greatest Speakers that the other place has ever had, and Lord Judge, who, although a great judge, was a parliamentarian to his fingertips. He understood the most important fact of all: the Executive are answerable to Parliament, not the other way around.

I will just touch on one other thing—this House. I have been in Parliament getting on for 54 years now, including just over 13 in your Lordships’ House. I believe in it. I believe that it does a very good job, and I believe that we have some remarkable Members in our midst. But we have to look at ourselves and the way we refresh ourselves. I beg my of noble friend who will be winding up this debate to give further thought to the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Norton. Doubtless he will say more about it when he speaks.

We cannot refresh ourselves by continuing to have resignation lists produced by a Prime Minister who has had barely 40 days and 40 nights in power. I say nothing about the individuals concerned—I will give them a courteous welcome; of course I will—but we have to look at this. The way this has been handled has done damage to our parliamentary democracy. We must look at the power of Prime Ministers. Of course, they must have the opportunity to nominate—although I am not sure they should if they have had only 40 days and 40 nights—but there should be a statutory appointments commission which has the final say on the integrity of those who come to this House.

We have many tasks before us. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone, for giving us the chance to air some of these things, although I am sorry that our rules mean we have had such a short time to do so.

Death of a Member: Lord Judge

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Thursday 9th November 2023

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My Lords, for me, Lord Judge was the personification of patriotism. I saw this in a particular sphere that nobody has touched on. For the last decade or so, he was the chairman of a group of people who make an annual award for responsible capitalism. He did that because he believed in the highest standards in all walks of life. The time that he gave to reading the submissions and guiding the judges was just remarkable. I can see the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, who is a recent addition to the judges, nodding. Goodness shone through everything that he did. We shall all be the richer for knowing him and the poorer for his passing.

Lord Hendy Portrait Lord Hendy (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I had the privilege of knowing Igor for just short of 40 years. We first met in that bitter industrial dispute, the miners’ strike of 1984 to 1985, in the raft of litigation: I was in one case for the National Union of Mineworkers, and he was for the Union of Democratic Mineworkers. The bitterness between the two can be imagined. Out of court he was charm itself, such an easy man to deal with. We co-operated as barristers should, for the benefit of our clients and, of course, the court. But in court—my word—he was a lethal advocate, as has already been said and, indeed, as your Lordships know from his interventions in this House.

I also had the privilege of appearing before him several times in the Court of Appeal in some leading cases that time does not permit a discussion of. He was a wonderful judge: courteous, charming, attentive, concise and, of course, just—as one would expect. Before I met him in this House, I also had dealings with him in another context: I was one of the founders of an organisation called the Free Representation Unit, which arranges young barristers to represent people who would not otherwise be represented in employment tribunals, social security tribunals and so on. Igor was its patron and an ardent supporter. Those qualities demonstrated to me things that I saw so many times when he spoke in this House: his humanity, his empathy for those less fortunate than ourselves, and his respect for the rule of law. I am pleased to say that last night we had an event marking the 51st anniversary of the founding of the FRU and a minute’s silence for Igor. We will miss him, and I will miss him.

House Of Lords: Appointments System

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Wednesday 19th July 2023

(9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think the Government have other legislative priorities. The noble Lord knows how highly I esteem him. He is a bit like the elder Cato, who ended every speech in the Roman Senate by saying that Carthage must be destroyed. Unfortunately, Romans later looked back and said that when Carthage was destroyed was perhaps the beginning of the end of Rome. I am sure that, one day, the hereditary peerage will—and that has been long accepted—depart this House. Many will be sad of that. When it does, the full gaze of the public will turn on the life peerage and how that, in its turn, will stand the test of time.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords—

Lord Shinkwin Portrait Lord Shinkwin (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, overall numbers obviously matter, but so does the number of Members of your Lordships’ House with a diversity of lived experience. The greater ethnic diversity of the recent intakes of Members to your Lordships’ House obviously strengthens us hugely in the eyes of the public, but will my noble friend The Lord Privy Seal to draw No. 10’s attention to the fact that, as compared with 20% of the population who are disabled, only 1% of your Lordships’ House has long-term lived experience of disability and encourage the Prime Minister to remedy that disproportionality?

Northern Ireland Protocol

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Tuesday 28th February 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I believe that I had sought to do that, my Lords.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I salute the courageous persistence of the Prime Minister in achieving this for our country. Will my noble friend make another appeal to those who represent the people of Northern Ireland in the Northern Ireland Assembly? Surely they should seize the opportunities that my noble friend Lord Howell talked about a second ago and meet. This is not perfect, but it is the right way forward.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is in the nature of any agreement, particularly one that is ultimately successful, that there must be some element of compromise. However, I will not add further to what I have said, which was the right position. We wish to see restitution of the institutions but that must come, like everything else, from and for the people of Northern Ireland.

Business of the House

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Tuesday 31st January 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Hoey Portrait Baroness Hoey (Non-Afl)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Northern Ireland Budget Bill is clearly very important to people in Northern Ireland. I fully understand why His Majesty’s Government want to get this legislation through in one day, but it is important that your Lordships remember the reason why we have to do this. We are doing this because there is no Executive and there is no Executive because of the protocol.

The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill had its First Reading here in July, then we had Second Reading in October, three long days of Committee and then silence. As the Bill is so important, I want to query why this is. Can the Minister give us some idea of when this very important Bill, which should be going through while the negotiations are continuing, will come back to your Lordships’ House?

Every week something new happens that affects people in Northern Ireland because of the protocol. We have a ridiculous situation where, if I fly from Belfast to Faro or Mallorca, I do not get duty free. If I fly to London, I do not get duty free. If I fly from London to Mallorca or Faro, I get duty free. When I asked His Majesty’s Government why this is, I was not told the honest reason: Northern Ireland has been left in the EU and therefore the EU will not allow us duty free, and neither will His Majesty’s Treasury. We are in a twilight, limbo situation. Your Lordships must realise that this cannot go on. Will the Minister kindly tell us when the protocol Bill is coming back to this House?

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Hansard - -

Before my noble friend replies, could he accept that many of us wish the Government every possible success in their negotiations? This protocol came about as a result of a treaty negotiated by Her Majesty’s Government, as they then were. Therefore, we bear responsibility for it. They tried to fit things into a straitjacket when it should have been, as I said last week, a much more flexible garment, but the fact is that this should be sorted out by negotiation and not by a totally unsatisfactory Bill being driven through your Lordships’ House. It is a very great pity indeed that those who have been elected to represent people in Northern Ireland are sulking rather than meeting, as they should, in the Assembly to which they were elected to debate this and other things.

Lord True Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Lord True) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I venture to say that we have a Motion before us relating to the Northern Ireland Budget Bill. I think we have heard from these short interventions the divergent opinion in your Lordships’ House about current matters and policy in Northern Ireland.

I cannot, as was alluded to earlier, give any specific response on timing, but all noble Lords will be united on the importance of getting this right and having full and due respect for the feelings and needs of all the people in Northern Ireland. That is something I think everybody in this House shares.

So far as this Bill is concerned, the noble Baroness said it is a pity that it is one day. Following the unfortunate events in 1909 to 1911, it is normal practice for a money Bill to be considered in one day. That will be the same for the Northern Ireland Budget Bill.

Democracy Denied (DPRRC Report)

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Thursday 12th January 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a particular pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hutton of Furness, because he made some extremely perceptive and very good points, particularly in the context of skeleton Bills. The defining feature of this debate—and I have heard all of it—has been support for the two committees of your Lordships’ House and a very real concern that the balance of power in our country is getting out of kilter. I pay tribute to my noble friends Lord Blencathra and Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts for their excellent and powerful speeches and, even more, for the reports that they have placed before us. It is indicative of government’s cavalier attitude towards Parliament that we have had to wait so long for this debate, and I deeply regret that.

When I entered the other place, way back in 1970, I was taken to one side, after taking the oath, by two very experienced parliamentarians: the late Sir Derek Walker-Smith and the late Sir David Renton, later Lord Renton. They said to me, “You are of course here as a Conservative Member of Parliament, and you will be expected to give general support to the Government, but that doesn’t mean agreeing with everything that they say. Remember”, said Sir David, wagging his finger at me, “it is the Government who are accountable to Parliament, not Parliament that is accountable to the Government.” I have tried to make that my watchword through the last 52 and a half years.

Certain messages come out of this debate. There is too much legislation. The question that should always be asked, before any Bill is introduced, is whether it is necessary. That is why it is so important—a number of colleagues have touched on this—that we should, as a matter of course, have pre-legislative scrutiny. We should also have post-legislative scrutiny, because we need to see how what we have enacted has impinged on the lives of our fellow citizens. The two Houses need to come together, because the fundamental flaw in parliamentary democracy in this country is that there is effectively no scrutiny in the other place: timetabling destroyed it. I was there when it happened, and I fought against it. Conservative spokesmen then said, “We’ll get rid of this”, but it was so convenient for the Executive that they did not get rid of it; they kept it. We will never have a true balance of power until there is proper scrutiny in the other place as well as this one.

In his excellent speech, my noble friend Lord Norton also talked about delegated legislation and our being rather afraid to use the power we have. That point was picked up by others; I think the noble Lord, Lord German, used the term “refer back” in his speech. We should have the courage to refer back to the other place delegated legislation that the Government have thrust upon us; we are not obliged to accept it. The Government are accountable to Parliament, but they will not be properly accountable to Parliament unless Parliament makes them so.

All these problems are not new; they are in a different guise. When I taught 18th-century history before I came to this place, I often talked about Dunning’s Motion of 1780, in which he said that the power of

“the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.”

If we substitute “Executive” for “Crown”, that is true today. We have to get a better balance and remember those very famous words that “the price of liberty”—of which we are the guardians and for which we are responsible—“is eternal vigilance”. There has been so much appalling legislation, to whose length the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, referred, put before this House in recent years that we should all be thoroughly ashamed of it.

This has been a good debate. It is an honour to take part in it and we are all deeply grateful to the two noble Lords who led it so brilliantly.

Counsellors of State Bill [HL]

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I apologise for not being able to be here on Monday for Second Reading; I was in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, chairing a conference on press freedom organised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

However, I will make one point. At an earlier stage, I was slightly concerned that there seemed to be a sharp intake of breath in some quarters in relation to whether we ought to discuss this. That concerned me. We need to reaffirm the sovereignty of this Parliament. This is a constitutional monarchy: Parliament is responsible for considering all these kinds of Bills, and it is right that we do so. It is right that my noble friends Lord Stansgate and Lord Berkeley—I note that both are hereditary, which is interesting, but that is another story—should be able to move amendments, and that we have a debate on this.

This is especially so when the whole role, function and composition of this second Chamber is being reviewed. We ought to recognise that a number of constitutional questions are being considered at the moment, and Parliament should have oversight of any such Bills in a constitutional monarchy. It is right that we hear from my noble friends Lord Stansgate and Lord Berkeley, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and anyone else who wants to comment on this.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My Lords, it is of course right, and what the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, said is entirely justified: Parliament has a role. But, in this particular case, we can rely upon the good judgment and discretion of the King, and we can recognise that he is a father and a brother as well as a king.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will make a more lawyerly point. I heard the wise intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, on what is regular and the powers of the Lord Chancellor. I will not comment on either of those points. But I heard the noble Lord say, in moving the amendment, that his wish was to provide some clarity. I respectfully suggest that its wording actually does the precise opposite, because he has used the verb “excluded”—although, when he moved it, he used the word “removed”. In the context of this legislation, verbs are important. A Counsellor of State can be excepted if they are overseas, for example, which means that they cannot act but they do not lose their place in the pecking order. If they are disqualified, they lose their place in the pecking order, and the next person in line takes that place. It is not immediately clear to me whether “excluded” is “excepted” or “disqualified”. With the greatest respect, I suggest that it is this amendment that ought to be excluded.

Counsellors of State Bill [HL]

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, who has delivered a very well-researched speech. I must say that, as he was speaking, I had a lovely mental image of his father in a celestial realm writing his diary. I am sure he would have approved of every word that the noble Viscount uttered. He is quite right, as is the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, and my noble friend Lord True: this is a very simple measure to deal with an immediate potential problem. It is right that it should be simple; it is right that it should add just two people to the list at the moment; and that does not mean that the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, is wrong in thinking that there may be a time when we look a little beyond that.

The fact is that we need to extend this list of people. There could be no better two members of the Royal Family than the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex to invite to join this list, and this just gives us all a brief opportunity to say how much we are indebted to the Royal Family for the wonderful service they have given, most gloriously personified by Her late Majesty’s seven decades on the throne. I have great confidence that our present King will continue in that tradition, but he needs to have the peace of mind that this very simple measure gives him that, in the unfortunate event of his being unwell, or the necessary event of his being out of the country if some problem crops up, there will be no difficulty about finding two Counsellors of State to fulfil the necessary duties that the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, described so very well. Therefore, it is with very great pleasure that I give my total support to this Bill and express my hope that Committee and any subsequent stage will be extremely brief and that Wednesday’s other important business will not be held up as a result.

Economic Update

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Wednesday 19th October 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not going to comment on the appointment of advisers, but I am sure that those named, if the noble Baroness has named them correctly, will give the best advice they conceivably can. Often from Green Benches we hear attacks on the financial services sector, and it is quite astonishing that the Scottish Greens in government should adhere to this kind of visceral opposition to financial services. There are more than 2.3 million jobs in financial services, and two-thirds of those are outside London in finance hubs including Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester. Financial and professional services contributed nearly £100,000 million pounds in taxes in 2020.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My Lords, will my noble friend accept that what is crucial at the moment is that in the country as a whole there should be real confidence in the credibility and the competence of the Government, and that that means there has to be a Prime Minister who is entirely credible and who enjoys the full confidence of the country, as I believe the Chancellor now does.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave to the noble Lord yesterday.

Replacement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer

Lord Cormack Excerpts
Tuesday 18th October 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

There will be a Statement by my right honourable friend; I believe that 31 October is still the date suggested. Work is proceeding at pace and I assure your Lordships that they will receive full information on that in the same way as the other House.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that we now have a wholly credible Chancellor who fully deserves our support, and that it is important that we have a wholly credible Government as well?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I believe that we have such a Government.