Lord BatesMain Page: Lord Bates (Conservative - Life peer)
Department Debates - View all Lord Bates's debates with the Leader of the House
My Lords, I second my noble friend’s Motion for an humble Address. It is an honour to do so and a particular honour to follow my noble friend Lord Bates, a true gentleman whom I first met when he was at the Home Office and I began working as an adviser to Theresa May. It was a relatively short acquaintance, for in 2016 he resigned to walk 2,000 miles from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro to raise awareness of the Olympic Truce. At the time I remember being impressed, not just by that act of charity but by the sheer scale of the task. Now I realise the lengths that someone will go to in order to avoid Oral Questions in your Lordships’ House, particularly when they are the Home Office Minister. Truthfully, though, as we all know, that walk was only one of many: my noble friend has in fact trekked more than 9,000 miles through 25 different countries, raising more than £1 million for a whole host of charitable causes. It is an achievement to be proud of, although he is far too modest for such things. I for one am very proud to share the privilege of speaking with him today.
I am also pleased to follow in my noble friend Lady Finn’s footsteps. As the last person to second such a Motion, she pointed out that this job is usually given to someone deemed up and coming. I note that she has set rather a high bar in that respect, having upped and upped and now gone to No. 10 as deputy chief of staff to the Prime Minister. As in all places of great renown, what goes on behind that front door is often more prosaic than people imagine but, having worked there myself for a while, I can tell your Lordships that all the rumours are true: the real power behind the throne is indeed a woman and, yes, you cross her at your peril. Her name is Alison and she runs the Downing Street canteen with a rod of iron. An early adopter of the Government’s obesity strategy, which has been further developed in the gracious Speech, she banned me from eating sausages because she said I was becoming too podgy. She is a woman who tells it how it is, whether you are a lowly adviser or the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. For as long as she is there, there will always be a strong seam of common sense running through that building.
Likewise, it is good to see my noble friend Lady Finn at Downing Street. Always thoughtful but also forthright in her opinions and dealings, she will be a perceptive voice at the heart of government. In her contributions in this place, she always speaks for many and, while I have no doubt that she will continue to do just that, I am probably not alone in hoping that she might also, on occasion, have a chance to speak for us. For after working in Fleet Street for 17 years and then going on to work for a Conservative Government, I am no stranger to jobs which do not exactly court popularity.
However, I must admit to feeling a particular dismay about the public reputation of the House of Lords. Look: I understand the charge sheet and am immensely conscious of the privilege we have in being here. It ill behoves us to complain too much but I will admit to being deeply frustrated as we came under attack in the media recently. There is of course nothing new in this; noble Lords who have served here longer than me will know that too well. But I was frustrated, as someone who still looks at this place with new eyes, and at that time was looking at how your Lordships were debating and improving the then Domestic Abuse Bill.
Were you to ask anyone whether it was a good thing that, thanks to my noble friend Lady Morgan of Cotes and others, we had now outlawed the threat to share intimate images, they would surely say yes—just as they would be pleased to know that, thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, we continue to lead the world in combating coercive control and that, thanks to my noble friends Lady Newlove and Lady Bertin, non-fatal strangulation has become an offence in its own right. This will not only help thousands of domestic abuse victims but help to guide a generation of young boys as to what is and is not acceptable in a relationship.
These things may have happened eventually but they would not have happened now, as was so essential, were it not for the work of noble Lords across this House. I am of course biased so I will instead refer the House to the words of the independent domestic abuse commissioner:
“I have been so deeply in awe of the process as the Bill has passed through the Lords. The issues have been passionately and cleverly debated with so much crossbench support. It has opened my eyes to the power of the second chamber to shape the law.”
I hope your Lordships will forgive this backward glance to previous legislation when today is about our forthcoming agenda. I do so because the then Domestic Abuse Bill really demonstrated the difference we can make. I am sure we are all grateful to the new Lord Speaker for his commitment to helping others better understand the work that we do. I also do so because it was a Bill which showed the House and the Government at their best. Even the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, said so, so it must be true.
I hope that it is not naive of me to hope that we will engage in a similar fashion on many of the issues contained in this gracious Speech. I am delighted to see that, as promised, there will be further measures to address violence against women and girls, and to address racial and ethnic disparities. A new building regulator will be established; anyone listening to the truly shocking evidence emerging from the Grenfell inquiry will know that this is a matter of the utmost urgency.
There are, as ever, many difficult matters to tackle. We will work to secure a safer online environment, particularly for our children. One area that I know this House is keen to address is social care, not just in terms of provision but also on better recognition for all those working in this field. The commitment is there but I am sure we all look forward to more detailed proposals, doing so in the knowledge that the only way to solve a problem as intractable as this one is through cross-party consensus—and find a solution we must. For if any good has come from the pandemic, it is a greater appreciation of the fundamental role that social care plays in protecting many of our most vulnerable.
It is not the only lesson to be learned from coronavirus. We hope we have now been through the worst; certainly, we have endured much over the last deracinated year. But as we emerge, blinking into the sunshine, we have a legislative programme that will take us forwards, support the NHS, get to grips with the obesity crisis, and build on the brilliant successes of our life sciences sector. Life has been somewhat on hold in recent times but these measures, together with those outlined by my noble friend Lord Bates, give us cause to look to the future and to do so with optimism. It is in that spirit that I humbly beg to second the Motion.
Motion to Adjourn