Lord Lisvane debates involving the Leader of the House during the 2019 Parliament

Death of a Member: Lord Judge

Lord Lisvane Excerpts
Thursday 9th November 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, was a great man and a wise man. He was funny, tough and, as so many have said, extremely kind. He and I were in Oman together, about three or four years ago. At a formal meeting of the State Council, which is the Omani equivalent of this upper House, I was asked a question by one of its Members. It was a long and complicated question, in very rapid and totally incomprehensible English. I had no understanding or clue of what exactly I was being asked, but I floundered on until I was rescued by Igor. He swept down and, with his very graceful words, said, “Perhaps I may add”, which immediately made everything extremely clear. He will be missed immeasurably. Perhaps the best and most lasting tribute we in this House can give him is to challenge wherever and whenever we see Henry VIII powers.

Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane (CB)
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My Lords, Igor Judge was a man of warmth, courtesy, humour and wisdom. He moved seamlessly from being a giant of the law to a doughty defender in this House of the constitution. I got to know him when I was Clerk of the House of Commons and he eagerly embraced the proposal that there should be regular meetings between senior members of the judiciary and senior officials of the Commons, which proved to be invaluable.

When my wife was a high sheriff, Igor came down to deliver a superb and memorable high sheriff’s lecture on the threats to our constitution. Away from that serious subject, it was a weekend when the four of us laughed a very great deal. I was privileged to have him, with Betty Boothroyd, as a supporter for my introduction to this House. Thereafter, he was a friend, guide and mentor, as he was to so many.

During what we hoped would be his convalescence, he and I exchanged books by post—on cricket, naturally. My profound sympathies go to Judith and his beloved family. Igor’s loss will be deeply mourned and long felt.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB)
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My Lords, on behalf of the other former judges who cannot be here, I would like to add a short word, as I had the privilege of working closely with my noble and learned friend for 25 years. As has been said, he was unfailing in his kindness to everyone, whatever their position. He had a willingness to listen, but always with an acute understanding of the problem being presented to him and in doing all he could to help.

He led the judiciary in the transformation necessary after the reform of the office of Lord Chancellor. He established new working relations with Parliament and the Government on broad issues, but some involved detailed work, such as going over with the Lord Chancellor—jackets off, late into the night—the drafting of the legislation establishing the current Sentencing Council. He was a man of great learning, but it was lightly worn. It was always evident here, but he often used it to add humour to ceremonies, such as when he opened a court in Chester; he had his own volume of the yearbooks, with their Middle Age cases, which was entirely apposite to that city.

In short, he was a great Chief Justice—a servant of justice with a sense of duty that was wholly unsurpassed.

Democracy Denied (DPRRC Report)

Lord Lisvane Excerpts
Thursday 12th January 2023

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane (CB)
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My Lords, looking at these two excellent reports, I must confess to a feeling of helplessness. The phenomenon which the two committees analyse so tellingly is a familiar one and was most effectively criticised in the splendidly excoriating contributions of the chairmen of the two committees earlier in the debate. I declare that I am a former member of the Delegated Powers Committee and am about to come to the end of my term on the SLSC.

For many years now, the boundary between primary and secondary legislation has been moving steadily upwards, with matters of policy and principle, as has been said by many noble Lords, being increasingly included in secondary legislation, with commensurately low levels of parliamentary scrutiny. There are attendant risks: just look at what happened with the tax credits SI, which was an entirely self-inflicted wound. At the same time, the powers which Parliament is asked to grant Ministers to exercise, with little scrutiny, grow ever more extensive. We have the baneful Henry VIII powers, on which the noble and learned Lord the Convenor has waged unremitting war for some time but, I hope he will not mind my saying, without inflicting significant casualties. Those are bad enough, but when Ministers are given the power to amend not only any statute passed at any time but even the statute resulting from the very Bill under consideration, one must ask what value is to be placed on the legislative process as a whole.

Distinct from Henry VIII powers are the sweeping powers given to Ministers for barely specified purposes. As the reports point out, this means that, when the enabling legislation is passed, our fellow citizens may have little idea of what the law affecting them may eventually look like. I am extremely grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his reference to that earlier in the debate.

It is common ground that your Lordships’ House leads the way in the exacting process of scrutinising secondary legislation, and I am sure that I am not alone in finding it ironic that this House, so often the subject of naive proposals for reform, is so far ahead of the elected House in seeking to protect the interests of citizens in this way.

This afternoon, our focus is on secondary legislation, but I fear that this is symbolic of a deeper malaise in the legislative process as a whole. A previous Prime Minister used to describe proposals as “oven-ready”, but what we have to deal with is the half-baked. Even allowing for the chaotic uncertainties of the last couple of years, this is not acceptable.

Take the development of policy, for example. What happened—and this was well mentioned earlier—to the idea of Green Papers, followed by White Papers, followed by legislation? The former Leader of the House of Commons rather gave the game away in his letter of 24 January to the chairmen of the two committees, in which he said that

“there will invariably be times when greater flexibility may be needed when legislating, for example as part of an emerging policy response.”

No; legislate when you have agreed the policy, not before. Do not rely on delegated powers to rewrite—or write—the bits of the Bill that could not be settled before introduction. Do not try to solve business management problems by bolting together proposals which should be separate Bills. The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill is a current and indeed fairly dreadful example of the species. Try and plan for more Bills in draft—they will save you trouble in the long run and, incidentally, they can be a sensible way of settling on appropriate delegated powers.

On secondary legislation, it is frustrating that the Government could, if they wished, change things fundamentally as a matter of good practice. But, at the moment, we seem to be told that this is the way that things are done, rather than the more important question being answered of whether it is the way that things should be done.

I commend the work of the Hansard Society and declare to your Lordships that I am a member of its advisory panel. I hope that, when it reports, the Government will approach its recommendations in a positive and collaborative spirit.

Let us not deceive ourselves: delegated legislation is a real problem area, but it is not the only one. The legislative process as a whole needs a fundamental overhaul, but that would take a lot more than my five minutes—which I have already exceeded.

Restoration and Renewal

Lord Lisvane Excerpts
Wednesday 13th July 2022

(2 years ago)

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Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane (CB)
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My Lords, I find it difficult adequately to communicate the sense of frustration that I feel at the way these matters have been handled. In 2011, together with my opposite number Sir David Beamish, I commissioned the original condition survey of the Palace. I felt passionately that we could not be another generation of stewards who passed up on our responsibilities for this wonderful building; it had been only too easy to do, year after year and decade after decade. David and I agreed that this had to stop.

The principal conclusion of that survey was that doing nothing was not an option. Now, more than a decade later, we are still unable to escape from Groundhog Day. Still beneath our feet is that horrifying basement, so vividly and frighteningly described by the noble Lord, Lord Best, and which I very early on christened the “Cathedral of Horror”. Certainly, there is no reason to change its name now.

I supported the original R&R governance structure on two main grounds: that parliamentarians would be unable to resist interfering with the delivery of the project, as happened for decades when the Palace was being built; and that Parliament is not good at taking executive decisions—and why should it be? Now, it seems, everything is to be put back into the melting pot.

I spoke in the debate on 6 February 2018, at the end of which your Lordships concurred with the House of Commons in recognising the

“clear and pressing need to repair the services in the Palace of Westminster in a comprehensive and strategic manner to prevent catastrophic failure in this Parliament”.—[Official Report, 6/2/18; cols. 1916-17.]

The two Houses agreed that the only option was a full decant, and that the right governance model was a sponsor board and delivery authority. Now we are back to square one—or possibly square minus one. I do not feel strong enough at the moment to revisit the arguments about governance, nor those about the likely cost. My concern is with the immediate practicalities, which I hope the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will be able to address in her reply.

First, let us suppose that there is what the 2018 resolution of both Houses called a “catastrophic failure” of services. It might be caused by fire, flood, power outage, asbestos escape, whatever. If there were a major incident, it might well mean that the Chambers and perhaps large areas of the Palace were unusable for a long time. Let us also say that, instead of the vague possibility of such a failure, the very vagueness of which has been such a comfort over recent years, the disaster happens tonight—for the sake of argument, at about 11.30 pm. What happens tomorrow? How does Parliament continue its work? I hope there are good answers to these questions, but I fear I do not know them.

It is worth remembering, too, that there are already a large number of projects under way on this crowded and constrained site, and it is a credit to those who plan and carry out those works that the effect on day-to-day business has been minimised.

The first paragraph of the Motion before us emphasises the need to ensure the safety of all those who work in, and visit, the Palace, now and in the future. It is one thing to express such a commitment but quite another to fulfil it. We may think that we carry some collective responsibility for these matters, but legally they fall to two people only: the Clerks of the two Houses, who under the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992 are the corporate officers. Those of your Lordships who have been corporate officers, in whatever contexts, will be only too well aware of the unforgiving nature of the law in respect of corporate responsibility. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 concentrates the mind wonderfully—it certainly concentrated mine. It is for a corporate officer, and for him or her only, to decide whether an organisation can discharge its duty of care and, if not, what remedial action to take.

In a parliamentary context, that could mean deciding that part of the Palace was too hazardous to allow access to. That could not be overruled by the commissions of the two Houses, and it might have a very significant effect on the transaction of parliamentary business. I would simply observe that in terms of hazards—multiple hazards—we are living very close to the edge. We can be lucky only for so long, and if we are not, national and world opinion will not be kind to us.

When I spoke in the February 2018 debate, which was just about a year before the Notre Dame fire, I suggested what I described as,

“a highly plausible scene … on a hot summer’s evening, with both Houses sitting late to finish business before the Recess. One of the too many minor fires, which we are told occur each year, swiftly becomes a major fire and spreads rapidly because of the lack of completed fire compartmentation. The electricity supply goes down completely. A huge demonstration which happens to be taking place in Parliament Square means that the emergency services cannot get to us quickly. There are hundreds of casualties and possibly fatalities.”

I asked:

“How do we feel about continuing to carry that risk…?”—[Official Report, 6/2/18; cols. 1972-73.]

The noble Baroness the Leader of the House emphasised the need to proceed more quickly with safety-critical works, but I would say—adopting Lenin’s words, “everything is connected to everything else”—that it is quite hard to complete safety-critical works within the wider context of building restoration. You cannot do it properly without doing it as a single exercise.

I shall finish on a less pessimistic note. I endorse the aspirations of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. As chairman of the fabric advisory committee of a cathedral, I am very well aware of the shortages in the many heritage crafts that will be needed for the restoration and renewal of this world-renowned building and the desirability of these being found from all parts of the country. I am glad that it seems accepted that R&R should be supported by a heritage crafts academy, which partly through apprenticeships will support the skills needed and thereafter will stand as a permanent public benefit.

Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission

Lord Lisvane Excerpts
Wednesday 29th January 2020

(4 years, 5 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect the Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission to be established.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, the Conservative manifesto committed to reviewing the relationship between the Government, Parliament and the courts in a constitution, democracy and rights commission. We will set up the commission within this Government’s first year. Further announcements will be made in due course.

Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane (CB)
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My Lords, I know that I speak for the whole House in wishing the noble Earl many happy returns for his birthday. On a similarly positive note, I hope that he will be able to give us assurances about the authority and independence of the commission, to be demonstrated by its membership, and, above all, an assurance that the commission will not have its card marked by the Government.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind greetings. I recognise absolutely the concern that lies behind his Question. The one thing we want to achieve from this exercise is a set of recommendations that command public confidence. That means a wide range of engagement by the commission when it is formed and a feeling on the part of the public and, indeed, civil society as a whole, that they are engaged with, and sympathetic to, the outcome.