Lord Davies of Stamford debates involving the Leader of the House during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 13th Jul 2023
Wed 18th Aug 2021
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, the amendments in this group are all concerned in one way or another with devolution. To start, I beg to move government Amendment 61; I will also speak to Amendment 309. Taken together, they pick up a proposal made by my noble friend Lord Naseby in Committee about the voting rights of members of the Common Council of the City of London. Having considered the issue raised by my noble friend, the Government are of the view that there is merit in correcting the disparity that applies uniquely to members of the Common Council of the City of London, preventing them voting on housing matters when they are also tenants of the council. These government amendments will allow common council members to apply for a dispensation to vote, bringing the City of London into line with the disclosable interest regime that applies to all other local authority members via the Localism Act 2011. I commend them to the House and will be happy to respond to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, once she has spoken to it.

Lord Davies of Stamford Portrait Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab) (Valedictory Speech)
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My Lords, for the last two years a very nasty, cruel war has been waged only two or three thousand kilometres to the east of here by the Russians who attacked Ukraine quite gratuitously under the orders of Mr Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation. He is a man who, I think everybody knows, identifies with the most imperialistic Russian traditions of former tsars such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great.

We could have flinched from our responsibilities when this invasion took place but we did not, and I congratulate the Government on the strong line that they have taken in support of Ukraine and the good example they have set, which has been followed by many other members of NATO, in supplying vital arms to the Ukrainian forces. It is very important to respond to aggression because, if one does not, one will quite clearly have more of it.

My reason for speaking today is that there has been a very important meeting in Vilnius over the past few days in which the leaders of NATO have set out the kind of policy we should adopt in relation to Ukraine over the coming months and possibly longer. I am glad to say there has been a large measure of consensus and some important developments—very important is the fact that Sweden has now joined NATO. Sweden is an influential country, much respected throughout the world, and a great asset to us in this difficult situation.

The other countries—most recently France and Germany, in the last few days—have also agreed to supply new weapons, which is very important. The West generally has shown that it will not be ignored in a matter of this kind, which threatens the fundamental sovereignty of the peoples of Europe and the peace of our continent. We must always remember—we learned it in the 1930s, of course—that aggressors invariably come back for more, and what one must never do is give in to them. What is very important is that we do not conduct ourselves in such a way as to send a signal to Mr Putin that he can get away with invasion with impunity and that he can alter the frontiers of Europe quite deliberately at his own behest. That must never happen.

There is something personal that I should mention. If I am alive today, it is thanks in large part to the remarkable work of the medical profession. I pay tribute to all those who work in it, most particularly in the NHS. My father was a GP all his working life and was devoted to the founding principles of the NHS. My eldest son has volunteered for years with St John Ambulance, and he gives me graphic and often disturbing accounts of what life is like on the medical front line. The emergency intensive care and trauma teams at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre defied the odds when they saved my life after my near-fatal car crash three years ago. I am eternally grateful to them, together with the wonderful rehabilitation team in London, who got me back on my feet.

I am gravely concerned at reports of insufficient numbers of staff and hospital beds, plummeting staff morale, crumbling buildings and other problems which beset the NHS. The Government owe it to the country to do whatever is necessary for the health of the nation, and the time for taking urgent action on this matter is now.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a great honour and privilege to follow a characteristically eloquent speech from my noble friend Lord Davies of Stamford. After so many years’ service in both Houses since 1987, we owe him a great debt of thanks for the work he has done for the people of this country and for our country. It is my great sadness that I have known him for only such a short time. I was appointed as his Whip just a few months ago. It is a great regret that we have not been able to get to know each other better during that time but, as my noble friend sets off on what I hope will be a long and peaceful retirement, I hope we can keep in touch. I thank him greatly for all the things he has done during his time serving the people of the country.

Afghanistan

Lord Davies of Stamford Excerpts
Wednesday 18th August 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Davies of Stamford Portrait Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I do not think I shall ever forget the extraordinary pictures we saw the other day of human desperation at Kabul airport. That is one of those dramatic pictures you never forget. The most extraordinary thing about the whole incident was that I got the impression the British Government were extremely surprised by events and had not prepared for them at all. I would have thought that anyone responsible for Afghanistan would have considered the possibility of a Taliban offensive and decided to plan to meet it. However, as far as I could see, no contingency plans were in operation at all, which is most extraordinary. I would have hoped there was a plan years ago focused on that contingency and that it would have been exercised from time to time to keep people alert.

I fear that the British Government became extraordinarily complacent and, as people do when they become complacent, began to believe their own propaganda—that Afghanistan was doing well and was well on the way to becoming a stable democracy, as we all hoped it would. There was no evidence for that at all. On the contrary, it was quite clear that the real curses of Afghanistan—corruption, war and the exploitation of women—are as constant there as they have been in previous generations, and are very difficult to eradicate.

Nevertheless, in the circumstances we must ask ourselves what we will do. In this excellent debate, I think there has been consensus that our primary, absolute obligation is to try to save the lives of those who worked with or for us in Afghanistan, whether as interpreters, aid workers or whatever. They must be extracted from Afghanistan as soon as possible and generously treated when we have got them back. Nothing is as important as that.

At the same time, as has already been suggested, we need to have a thorough look at the way in which we make our foreign policy—whom we consult, which countries we are prepared to co-operate with and which we are not—and to develop a new doctrine approach to foreign policy co-ordination. For many years we did not really need foreign policy co-ordination, because we had a special relationship with the United States; we spoke to them and that was good enough. Then we joined the European Union and again we were within a structure in so far as the European Union was concerned, developing co-ordinated foreign policies, which was a good idea in principle.

With both those things now gone, I am afraid that relations with the Americans will take a lot of repairing, so we need to think again about how we handle these things, who we rely on as allies and who we want to speak to about various problems and share the issues of the day with. This should be done systematically, and hopefully quite quickly, because we do not have very much time.

This has been an extremely valuable debate. A lot of people have asked pertinent and sensible questions, and they deserve a considered response. It would not be reasonable to expect the Government to give such a response in a brief wind-up speech, but I hope they will be generous in writing letters to Members who have taken part and will set out the Government’s position on the various points that have been made. That would greatly add to the utility of the whole exercise of Parliament—

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I am afraid I have to interrupt the noble Lord. We thank him for his contribution and perhaps we can move to the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Gadhia.