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Parliament: 2012 Pageant

Volume 718: debated on Monday 29 March 2010


Asked By

To ask the Leader of the House what support she will give to the proposal for the performance of a pageant of Parliament in 2012 to celebrate the achievements of Parliament.

My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, has put his interesting proposal to the House authorities. I hope that he will understand that it would be inappropriate for me, at this stage, to lend my personal support to any particular proposal while it is under consideration.

I am grateful to the Minister for that partially cheerful answer but, after many months—years, even—of such difficult times in Parliament, does she not agree that a pageant of Parliament that shows the achievements of the British Parliament over many centuries could do something to restore our reputation? Will the Leader of the House encourage those authorities who are able to help us with facilities of any nature to discuss with us the future of this proposal?

My Lords, I agree that we have been through difficult times, but I still think that we should be proud of our Parliament and proud of our democracy. Anything that can be done to engender more confidence is a good thing. I think that we need to wait until this proposal has been through the proper procedures, which is what is happening now. However, I draw the noble Lord’s attention to the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, who was introduced last week, is chair of the Cultural Olympiad. He might find that useful.

Does my noble friend agree that this is a somewhat unreal suggestion from the Liberal Democrat Benches? Before we celebrate the achievements of Parliament, would it not be a good idea to persuade the Great British public that there are achievements that deserve to be celebrated in the form of a pageant? We have to be a bit more popular. Can my noble friend imagine the front page of the Sun if we were to have a pageant to celebrate the achievements of Parliament? I can imagine little that would be worse for the reputation of this House.

I hear what my noble friend says and I can of course imagine the front page of many newspapers. However, I still think that there are many achievements of this Parliament, and of this House in particular, of which we should be proud.

My Lords, is there not a strong case for deferring the main celebrations of Parliament until 2015, when we can celebrate Magna Carta, not only for what it contained but for the massive impetus and inspiration that it gave to the cause of human freedom?

My Lords, it is an excellent idea to celebrate 2015. In 2012 we will have the Olympics, the Paralympics—we have just welcomed the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson—and of course the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen, so there will be much to celebrate that year.

My Lords, is not 2012 the right year for this, a year when we will be celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen in a constitutional monarchy? Nothing could be more depressing than the noble Lord, Lord Richard, waiting for the approval of the Sun before this Parliament has a pageant. It is time for Parliament to get off its knees and to tell the people of this country that it is here that their liberties are secured, as they have been for 800 years. That would be a celebration indeed in 2012.

My Lords, I completely agree. I would never go on my knees. I am very proud of Parliament and would never wait for the endorsement of the Sun for anything. If we did that, we would not be governing in the way in which we are. There is much to be proud about. While there will be much to celebrate in 2012, there will also be much to celebrate in 2015.

Is my noble friend aware that this could be seen as a public relations exercise and that, as such, not only the Sun but other newspapers would have a field day mocking the attempt to paint Parliament white? The timing is very bad and absolutely wrong. I would be opposed to any such move.

I hear what my noble friend says. Clearly there are a wide variety of views around the House. Ultimately it is for this House to decide on these issues but, while I understand concerns about a public relations exercise, there is also much that we should continue to be proud of in our Parliament.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, if this proposal finds favour, I for one look forward to hearing Welsh Peers singing the praises of Parliament?

My Lords, the Leader of the House has mentioned the Sun, but is it not more to the point that, if this rather curious proposal were to go ahead, it would be important that it was sponsored by the Daily Telegraph?

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that one of the reasons to be proud of Parliament is if it does its job properly in scrutinising legislation put forward by the Executive before it is passed?

My Lords, bearing in mind the fact that Parliament has been losing powers not only to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but to Europe as well and is continuing to do so, and is held in less respect now than it ever has been, would it not be more appropriate to hold a memorial service than a pageant?