House of Lords
Thursday 26 May 2022
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Oxford.
Cancer in children is thankfully rare, accounting for less than 1% of cancer cases each year. The Government are dedicated to improving cancer outcomes and our new 10-year cancer plan will further our efforts to improve childhood cancer diagnosis rates and outcomes. We continue to invest in research, including with the paediatric experimental cancer research centres network, which is dedicated to early-phase research on childhood cancers.
My Lords, childhood cancer is not rare; it is the biggest killer by disease of children under 14 in the United Kingdom. Sadly, it is often diagnosed late and one in five children who get it will die. The issue was highlighted in the House of Commons last month in an excellent debate led by Caroline Dinenage. There, there was a cross-party consensus that, with just 3% of funding spent on children’s cancer, there needs to be greater emphasis on research, detection and treatment. Will childhood cancer be a priority for the Government’s 10-year cancer strategy and will the requested childhood cancer mission become a reality?
I thank my noble friend for the question and for discussing the issue with me previously. As he rightly says, even though it is rare, cancer is the biggest killer of children aged up to about the age of 15. The Government’s new 10-year plan for cancer care is under development. It will address the cancer needs of the entire population, including those of children. We also recognise the severe impact that cancer has on not only the patient but their family and friends, and are focusing in particular on interventions that support patients through difficult journeys of diagnosis, treatment and aftercare.
My Lords, research for finding new treatments for cancers, particularly childhood cancers, where the numbers are small, requires international collaboration. Some 42% of current CRUK clinical trials have international partners. The Government are consulting on clinical trials regulation and we have data sharing and protection legislation going through Parliament. Does the Minister agree that it is important that neither the regulation related to clinical trials nor the legislation related to data sharing should in any way jeopardise our international role in clinical trials collaboration?
I thank the noble Lord for the question, which cuts across three of the priority areas in my ministerial portfolio: data sharing, the life sciences industry—in which clinical trials and research play a huge part—and international collaboration. It is really important that we continue international collaboration. However, one of the challenges we face is that we have to make sure that patients are comfortable with researchers having access to their data. As part of that work, we have called in civil liberties organisations to help us along that journey. So, while we encourage more people to share data, we have to make sure that they have those protections. We can have the best systems in the world, but, if people opt out, they are useless.
My Lords, many families of children with cancer have to travel a long distance to get treatment for their child. Those families face financial problems. Will the Government do more to help families who have children with cancer and who are feeling financial pressures because they need to travel and cannot continue to work because of the pressure the family is under?
The noble Lord makes an incredibly important point about support. One of the things we are looking at in the research is how to help not just the patient but their family and their wider support network. I will take his specific question about assistance back to my department and write to the noble Lord.
My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of Genomics England. I am pleased to report to the House that whole-genome sequencing is now improving care for children with cancer as part of the NHS Genomic Medicine Service. In fact, Great Ormond Street recently found that WGS has reclassified diagnosis in 14% of cases, changed management of the condition in 24% of cases and improved diagnosis in 81% of cases. Will the Minister join me in thanking those at Genomics England and in the NHS who worked so hard during the pandemic to get this service up and running? Will he also pledge today to do whatever he can to scale this service so that we can play our full part in tackling this pernicious disease head-on?
I thank my noble friend for that. It is really important that we look at the huge potential of genomic research and the information it can give us. It is also important that, as we move towards the newly born programme, we do genomic sequencing of newly born babies so we have that data and are aware of the issues that could arise in their lifetime. In addition, we are looking at technology on testing—some research trials show that there are blood tests that could identify up to 50 different types of cancer early—so there is a lot of work going on in this area.
My Lords, too often people think only of outcomes that are about survival. Children with cancer are treated with therapies that were tested on and designed principally for adults. Cancer Research UK knows that these treatments can and do have serious long-term impacts on these young growing bodies and that parents often struggle to get the support they need. What is being done to improve follow-up care for childhood cancer survivors: for their education, their health and in particular their mental health?
All these issues are being looked at as we understand more about childhood cancer and also in the context of wider support. That is important not only during the time they are receiving treatment; as the noble Baroness rightly says, it is not just about the cancer itself but about some of the poor patients and their families, because when they get the bad news it affects their mental health. We have to look at this in a holistic way and there are a number of initiatives. I will write to the noble Baroness with some more detail.
My Lords, early diagnosis is key to successful outcomes in all kinds of cancer. In the long-term plan the Government set out an ambitious target for increasing the early diagnosis of most cancers. Can the Minister tell the House what impact Covid, the subsequent backlog and the shortage of clinicians in the NHS is having on the achievement of this target, how progress towards it is being measured and how it is being reported?
Following on from the question of the noble and gallant Lord about the matter of significant improvements being made in the lives of children with cancer by detecting cancer early and avoiding delays in care, there are of course three components to early diagnosis, with the first being awareness of symptoms by families and primary caregivers. Can the Minister tell your Lordships’ House what assessment has been made of the level of awareness and what is being done to promote that awareness among families and primary caregivers?
The noble Baroness raises an important point about how we raise awareness, and that goes right across not only the population but patients themselves. NHS England and NHS Improvement are developing plans for future phases of their Help Us Help You campaign to raise awareness of key cancer symptoms. To date, the campaign has contributed to the record high levels of urgent cancer referrals that the NHS has seen since March 2021.
Perhaps I may take the opportunity to address the question from the noble and gallant Lord. Covid clearly affected the backlog. One of the things about the waiting list is that now 80% of people on it are waiting for diagnosis. One of the issues we are looking at is how you push out more community diagnosis centres around the country, not only in hospitals but in shopping centres and sports arenas, so that effectively we go to the patient and detect as early as possible. We hope that all that, in conjunction with things such as blood testing and genomic sequencing, will lead to earlier diagnosis.
My Lords, brain tumours are the single biggest cause of death among children and adults under the age of 40 of any cancer. The Government made a generous commitment to increase funding, which is absolutely essential for brain tumour cancer research, but, so far, they have not met the target that they themselves set. Will my noble friend undertake to review this situation, given the seriousness of the position?
One of the things about answering a question like that is that we are now aware of so many different types of cancer. For example, a blood test that has been trialled identifies 50 different types of cancer. Sadly, my mother-in-law died of a brain tumour, and I have asked questions about that in the department. If my noble friend will allow me, rather than read out a short answer I will write to him in more detail.
Social Homes for Rent
The provision of affordable housing is a central pillar of the Government’s plan to level up the country, which is why we are investing £11.5 billion in affordable homes over the next five years. Our affordable homes programme, which began last year, aims to deliver 32,000 homes for social rent—double that of the previous programme.
The Minister talks about 32,000 homes for social rent, yet 1.2 million households in this country are on council house waiting lists. The Government recently published their levelling up White Paper, which has 12 missions. Not one of those missions talks about affordable or social housing for rent. Can the Minister explain why?
We have a commitment here, specifically within the affordable homes programme, to build more homes for social rent. We have also introduced a number of mechanisms that enable councils to build again. A generation of councils has not built any homes, or very few, but we have seen far more in the last decade. The levelling-up missions are clear, but we also have very clear missions to build more homes of all types and tenures.
Will the Minister look very kindly at the idea of sociable housing, where you get sociable mix? The problem we now have is social ghettos of poverty. We need to create a mix, as well as addressing the problem that the children of the middle classes are also unable to get housing, so why do we not try to mix the two crises together?
The noble Lord is always on the money. We need to create places and not just homes on mono-tenured estates. That is why the affordable homes programme is looking to increase the number of social homes for rent, but also other forms of subsidised housing such as affordable rent and low-cost home ownership, so that people of all incomes can live in the same place.
My Lords, when are we going to have a housing policy that takes account of the fact that we have an ageing society? How can you level up when we are expecting a new generation of elderly people in poverty who will go on paying rent as long as they live? If we can plan for an ageing society, why can we not plan to have flexible and adapted housing, systematically provided and spatially planned, which can allow for people to age in place? That would save enormous social and economic costs.
We do recognise that we have an ageing society, which is why a chunk of the £11.5 billion affordable homes programme will go towards subsidising housing for the elderly. We recognise in our planning policies that areas need to do their bit to house people, and also to enable people to remain in their homes if that is what they choose to do.
My Lords, the promotion of shared ownership homes has helped some people get on to the housing ladder. However, the terms of resale are onerous, particularly for those who wish to move swiftly for new work. Some families default on the mortgage element of their shared ownership, which is likely to increase as a result of increased mortgage costs. Does the Minister agree that, if housing associations are expected to buy back such flats and houses in these circumstances, they could be put back into the social home rental market quickly?
I recognise that there are issues with shared ownership tenure. One of the problems has been that many shared owners own only a small amount of the equity and are often faced with heavy remediation costs. I certainly take that point on board, and we should allow flexibility, where it makes sense, to shift from shared ownership into social housing. I shall take that point away and discuss it with my officials.
My Lords, one of the unexpected consequences of the Covid lockdown period is that people are discovering that they do not need as much office space as they used to. Everyone is downsizing and there is a glut of office accommodation on the market these days which, I suspect, will remain. Might the Government look at the planning required to convert office to residential? That might be a quick fix to create a lot of new homes.
I thank my noble friend for raising that issue. Of course, we went through an era of liberalisation around change of use from office to residential, and that is a factor that local authorities should look at as they develop their local plans: to get the right balance between economic development and providing housing for their communities.
Is the Minister aware of the Select Committee’s unanimous report Meeting Housing Demand, which said:
“Those living in the private rented sector are more likely to live in poor quality, overcrowded conditions than owner-occupiers, and often have limited forms of redress”?
Does the Minister agree and, if he does, what is he doing to assist people to move out of very highly priced and often poor private rented accommodation into more affordable housing?
The Government do recognise the issue that the noble Lord describes. That is why in this Session we are bringing forward a private renters’ Bill and applying the decent homes standard to the private rented sector so we can raise the quality of the stock. However, we also recognise that we need to bring in more affordable housing, including more social housing.
The Government built only just under 6,000 social rent homes in 2020. That was a 12% decrease on the previous year and an 85% decrease on 11 years ago. With shortages of materials and labour, many see the target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s as almost impossible. Does the Minister still think that target is achievable?
We try to set specific, measurable and achievable targets. I do not want to trade statistics, but I point out that in the last decade, we have seen local authorities once again building homes for social rent—18,300 homes for social rent. In the 13 years from 1997 to 2010, local authorities built merely 2,994 affordable homes. So, with councils able to build more social rented homes, we will have a very good chance of meeting those targets.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Government get incredible value for money investing in the acquisition and modernisation of existing rundown privately rented properties? This converts them into affordable, safe, secure socially rented homes, but it also addresses fuel poverty, hits the decarbonisation and climate change agenda and tackles health inequalities, because people are in cold, damp and hazardous conditions. It serves the levelling-up agenda as well, because it produces jobs, employment, training and apprenticeships. It does all these things at once, and the Government get most of their money back in lower housing benefit costs.
The noble Lord is right that we have seen a spiralling increase in housing benefit costs—staggering increases over the past decade or so. Of course, taking poor-quality private rented accommodation and turning it into high-quality affordable housing is a good thing and provides value for money for the taxpayer.
The Government’s recent announcement that right to buy is being extended to housing association properties will even further deplete the stock of homes for social rent. Is it now time to allow councils to keep 100% of their receipts from right to buy in order to rebuild and to give them the ability to set the discounts locally that their particular circumstances dictate?
I have some sympathy with the point that the noble Baroness makes, but we should point out that there are now greater flexibilities around right-to-buy receipts—not necessarily 100%, but they are greater. We have also removed the cap on borrowing for the housing revenue account, and that is why we are seeing councils building far more homes than they previously did.
Russia and Ukraine: Settlement
My Lords, we applaud Ukraine’s efforts to engage in dialogue in the face of continued Russian aggression. The United Kingdom and our allies support Ukraine’s efforts to secure a settlement that delivers a sustainable peace in line with established principles of European security. Any outcome needs to ensure Russian withdrawal and a ceasefire, and to strengthen Ukraine so it is able to deter future Russian aggression and, if necessary, defend itself.
My Lords, why, prior to a war now riddled with Russian atrocities, did we reject the December 2021 Russian-proposed talks on a draft treaty covering security guarantees, arms control, self-government within Ukraine for Donetsk and the maintenance of the existing corridor of non-nuclear barrier states from Finland to the Black Sea? Jens Stoltenberg agreed to the talks; why did we not? Russia’s proposed treaty was only in draft. Why did we not use it—indeed, why do we not use it—and build on it as the basis for negotiation and at least try to end this proxy war? There is a copy of the draft treaty in our Library.
My Lords, there is a simple answer to that. Any partner to a negotiation needs to uphold the rule of law. Russia has repeatedly failed, including in 2008 through its aggression in Georgia and in 2014 through its annexation of Crimea. Those were illegal acts of aggression, as is the current war in Ukraine.
My Lords, has my noble friend read the speech of Henry Kissinger in Davos, where he advised attendees at the conference not to get swept up in the mood of the moment and suggested that negotiations to end the war had to begin in the next two months
“before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily”
contained? He suggested that the starting point for negotiations should be the pre-invasion de facto borders. Does my noble friend agree that Dr Kissinger is no woolly idealist but a hard-headed diplomat with a very distinguished record? However inconvenient it may be, should not his advice be carefully studied?
My Lords, I had the opportunity to meet Dr Kissinger a couple of years ago. When we look at any conflict, all wise words need to be listened to, of course. What is equally important, however, is that the sovereignty and integrity of every nation are protected.
My Lords, I completely agree with the Minister. If there is to be a negotiated settlement, as President Zelensky says there must be, Ukraine must be in the driving seat. But what can we do to support President Zelensky’s objective? When I met Barbara Woodward this week, she stressed that the Secretary-General is now much more proactive in trying to bring the parties together. There are also opportunities for bilateral support. Can the Minister tell us what the Government are doing to support those objectives?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. He and I have been speaking about this consistently throughout. I am glad that he met Ambassador Woodward. We continue to engage through all multilateral channels, particularly on humanitarian issues. We were first in line; indeed, I spoke with the Secretary-General in New York about the importance of engaging with all sides. Even at that time, as the noble Lord knows, Russia would not entertain a visit from him. Later today, I will meet the Ukrainian prosecutor-general, Iryna Venediktova, who is in town, to discuss our support for her work on the ground. We will continue to work with Ukraine, particularly on the current situation around food security, to which my noble friend Lord Lamont alluded. That issue is not just about Ukraine and Russia; it is about the whole world.
My Lords, the noble Lord is right to emphasise the importance of holding to account those who are responsible for war crimes in places such as Mariupol and Bucha, as well as for the illegal invasion of Ukraine. There is no moral equivalence between Ukraine and Russia here. Will the Minister report back to the House on what action is being taken to bring to justice those responsible for these terrible events? Also, will he say more about the opening up of grain supplies? This issue is now jeopardising people living in places such as east Africa and the Horn of Africa, where 20 million people already facing chronic drought and famine-like conditions will now be denied grain as a result of the blockade of Odessa.
My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that, as I have already mentioned, I have a meeting later today with the prosecutor-general, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Justice Secretary. The work we are doing through the ICC will also be a point of discussion. Yesterday, along with the United States and the EU, we announced an advisory group to look at aggression. We welcome the first prosecution that has taken place on the ground. On the noble Lord’s wider point, we have put additional funding and support into the Horn of Africa, primarily on this very issue of food security. I have visited north Africa and will do so again later next month.
My Lords, the element of futility in Putin’s human rights atrocities and slaughter of the people of Ukraine is that the current bombardments are purely within the buffer area of the Minsk agreements. Some of us do not take our foreign policy lead from Henry Kissinger. There have been calls from the Republican right to negotiate on that ceded territory. The Foreign Secretary is on the record as saying that the UK’s sanctions will be in place until all Russian troops have left Ukrainian territory. The very thing that Putin wants at this time, in what will be a long-term, protracted conflict, is western division. What mechanisms are in place for the UK to use to ensure that such division does not arise?
My Lords, it has been very important to show unity of purpose and unity of action. The noble Lord mentions the role of sanctions. As he said—I believe this passionately—the sanctions have worked because, where one country or region has led in front of others, we have co-ordinated and worked together. Those sanctions are hurting Russia, Mr Putin, the Russian Government and all those who support them. It is important that we retain them. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said—I am in total agreement with him—any negotiation must be led by Ukraine and it is the job of any ally, partner or friend to be firmly behind Ukraine.
Your Lordships will know that, in 1938, France and the United Kingdom imposed on Czechoslovakia a deal that they had come to with the Third Reich. This is not a good precedent. The Government have rightly been praised from both sides for their actions on Ukraine. Can my noble friend assure me that we are talking to our allies, in particular France and Germany, to ensure that they do not try to impose their own settlement on Ukraine? It must be the Ukrainians who lead; we support them.
My Lords, I totally agree with my noble friend. The Government are engaging at the top level. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister engages regularly with President Zelensky on the principles that he has articulated. Let us be clear: President Zelensky has said “Let’s meet” directly to Mr Putin. It is important that we get behind his efforts.
Does the Minister recall that the Foreign Secretary spoke of reclaiming all the lands lost by Ukraine, which would presumably include Crimea and be a recipe for continued and long-term conflict? That was at a time when President Zelensky was speaking of returning to the borders of 24 February, although I concede that he has hardened his line a little. Essentially, he has been pragmatic. Was it not unwise of the Foreign Secretary to be more hard-line than the President?
My Lords, in relation to the impending food crisis and the 20 million tonnes of grain that are being held hostage by Russia in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Rudenko offered yesterday to provide a corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine, but only if some sanctions are lifted. What is the Government’s position on this?
My Lords, I assure my noble friend that food security is very much at the forefront of not just our thinking but our policy. Over the next three years, we will direct more than £3 billion of support to the most vulnerable countries, particularly in Africa. Yesterday, in engaging with G7 partners, Foreign Minister Kuleba said, I believe, that this agricultural crisis will not be for just one cycle but will be repeated.
There is grain in Ukraine currently. The issue is that Odessa and the Black Sea are blocked and mined. This requires Russia not just to show full co-operation but to pull back. It could demine certain parts where the Ukrainians themselves have provided mines—they know where they are—as part of the support. Equally, however, what guarantees do we have once we get into the Black Sea? That is where Crimea comes in. The Black Sea allows Russia to embargo any ship going through. Of course, mines remain a constant challenge.
My Lords, it is quite clear that the early euphoria about how Ukraine is doing must now be tempered. There is no doubt that the Russians have twigged what a shambles they have made of this and are now focusing on much smaller areas; for example, in the Donbass. This war will grind on and Putin shows no desire to have some form of agreement. We know that he behaves appallingly and that Russia lies about these things. That means that this war will continue because he will not come to the table until he finds that it is causing real pain and the sanctions start to hit. It is therefore important that we keep supplying weapons to Ukraine and keep up that flow.
Can I ask a precise question? A lot of the weapons we have been providing and sending to Ukraine are from orders that were for people in western Europe. We have not let contracts to enable our arms manufacturers to produce these weapons for our own stocks and to replace the weapons being used in Ukraine. Can the Minister confirm that these orders will be let because this has gone on and on and that has not happened?
Cost of Living: Pensioners
My Lords, no assessment has been made. The Government are aware of concerns about the cost of living. My right honourable friend the Chancellor is making an announcement on this issue today. Since 2010, the full yearly amount of the basic state pension has risen by more than £2,300 in cash terms. That is £720 more than if it had been uprated by prices and £570 more than if it had been uprated by earnings. State pension recipients are also supported by further measures for older people.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. In 2019, 68,000 pensioners died in poverty. That number will increase, as the real value of the state pension has been cut and another £800 energy rise is coming. Can the Minister commit to an immediate increase in the state pension of 15%? If not, can she return to the House in two weeks and explain why the Treasury is failing to support our pensioners?
The noble Lord understands that I cannot make that commitment. We understand that people are struggling—we really do—with rising prices of energy and other things. The Chancellor is clear that, as the situation evolves, so will our response, with the most vulnerable being his number one priority. He will set out more details today. All noble Lords and I will have to wait to hear what he says.
My Lords, what are the Government doing to help pensioners with the cost of living crisis? This is an emergency. Age UK has just released the report It Doesn’t Add Up, which quotes single pensioners who are
“anxious and depressed. I only shower once a fortnight and use the oven once a week. I do not know what else I can do”.
There is more the Government can do. I know my noble friend cares deeply about this issue; would she urge the Treasury to look at issues such as reducing the standing charge that single pensioners pay, increasing the value of the warm homes discount, which after 10 years is still just £140, and perhaps increasing pension credit, by £20 a week, for this emergency situation?
My Lords, does the Minister agree that, along with some pensioners, the most vulnerable people in our society are those of working age who cannot work, because of disabilities, mental health problems or other issues? I understand from the media reports that the Chancellor will be focusing help on working-age people who can work, urging them into work with incentives and so on. Will the Minister draw to the Treasury’s attention this incredibly vulnerable group of people who will simply not be helped at all, according to press reports about the Treasury support?
I confirm to the noble Baroness and the whole House that the Chancellor and his team are cognisant of the issues that the most vulnerable are facing—those who cannot work and those who are in work but wish to do better. He is clear that, as this situation evolves, his response will evolve too. The most vulnerable are at the heart of what the Government want to do, so please be patient.
My Lords, Age UK said that, before the pandemic, 1.3 million pensioners in England were suffering from the “risk of malnutrition”. It adds that
“1.4 million older people … have been eating less since the start of the pandemic”
“at a greater risk of becoming malnourished”.
What estimate have the Government made of the risk of malnutrition among pensioners and what are we doing about it?
My Lords, is it not the case that the level of state pension in this country, at less than £9,000, is not a sum on which most people can be expected to live? In Germany, the state pension is £26,000 a year; in France, it is £15,800. Do the Government now regret suspending the triple lock?
My Lords, I am glad the Chancellor is finally putting something on the table, although we do not know what yet, but does the Minister agree that the process is not great? The Spring Budget was only two months ago. We begged the Chancellor to do more on the cost of living and he ignored us. We suggested a windfall tax and the Prime Minister ridiculed it. The Government did not have to legislate for the biggest real-terms cut in the value of the state pension for 50 years. We do not yet know what the Chancellor is going to do, but the rumours always appear to be about one-off payments. Even if there is something to tide people over, it will not deal with the collapse in the standards of living. Why have Ministers ruled out bringing forward pension and benefit increases? Does the Minister accept that prices are unlikely suddenly to slump again but, if they did, upratings would pick that up next time round anyway? Or will the Chancellor be back here again in a few months?
If the noble Baroness does not mind, I do not agree that the Chancellor has ignored things. He has had to deal with a pretty difficult set of circumstances. Due to legacy benefits, we can do an uprating only once a year, the reasons for which all noble Lords know. Since 1987, we have consistently used the September inflation figure and that will continue.
My Lords, one-third of the household support fund is earmarked for pensioners. The second tranche of £500 million, which is not a great deal, came into play on 1 April this year. Could the Minister tell us how much of that fund has already been exhausted, how quickly the first tranche was exhausted and what work has been done to evaluate the effectiveness of the household support fund?
I confirm that the Department for Work and Pensions requires local authorities to provide management information returns detailing their spend and the volume of awards made for food, energy and water bills. MI returns for the scheme, running from 6 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, will also detail grant spend and the volume of awards made to families with and without children. This will be published in the coming months.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness understand that pensioners’ incomes, this time, this year, are 5% lower in real terms than they were last year? Part of the reason for that is the excessive delay between the index and when increases are paid. Is it not time to fully computerise the state pension so that increases can meet the challenge of inflation?
As I have said, the state pension uprating relies on legacy IT systems that must be coded well in advance of the uprating. The noble Lord makes a good point about the impact of good IT systems; I am not going to argue with that. Additionally, state pension rates need to be confirmed in advance of uprating because claimants can claim their state pension four months before they reach state pension age and they need certainty about the value of their entitlement.
Healthy Homes Bill [HL]
A Bill to make provision for the delivery of healthy homes and neighbourhoods; to set out the principles that define a “healthy home”; to establish the office of the Healthy Homes Commissioner; and for connected purposes.
The Bill was introduced by Lord Best (on behalf of Lord Crisp), read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Ballot Secrecy Bill [HL]
A Bill to make provision for ensuring the secrecy of ballots cast in polling stations at elections; to require the Secretary of State to publish related guidance; and for connected purposes.
The Bill was introduced by Lord Hayward, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 9) Regulations 2022
Motion to Approve
Pollution Prevention and Control (Fees) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2022
Motion to Approve
Arrangement of Business
Announcement of Recess Dates
My Lords, for the convenience of the House, I would like to make a short statement about forthcoming recess dates. As usual, to save Members reaching for their diaries, a note of all the dates I am about to announce will be available in the Printed Paper Office before I sit down. In a bid to be helpful to the House, we are planning ahead to next February. I should therefore put particular stress on the usual caveat that the planned recesses are provisional and subject to the progress of business.
As we have already announced, we expect Summer Recess will start at the end of business on Thursday 21 July and the House will return on Monday 5 September. For the Conference Recess, we expect to adjourn at the end of business on Thursday 15 September and to return on Monday 10 October. In November, we will have the usual short break, with the House expected to adjourn at the end of business on Wednesday 9 November and to return on Monday 14 November. For Christmas Recess, we expect to adjourn at the end of business on Wednesday 21 December and to return on Monday 9 January. Finally, for the February Recess in 2023 we expect to adjourn proceedings at the end of business on Thursday 9 February and to return on Monday 20 February. Further dates will be announced later in the Session.
The recesses coincide, with the exception of the September Recess when the Commons will rise a week later on 22 September and return a week later on 17 October. That is the only difference. It is not unprecedented for there to be a slight difference of plan around this time, as there was in the previous Session. Sometimes we start business earlier, and that allows the minimum intervals to take place. Normally we interlink, but it does not have to be like that. We are our own House. We determine our own dates and there is no particular reason why they have to be the same.
What about all-party meetings? There are a lot of meetings—political meetings and non-political meetings—and there is a whole lot of business where both Houses work closely together. As the Chief Whip rightly said, the last time when we had separate dates it created a lot of problems. There were things happening down at the other end that we should have been participating in. I hope that the Chief Whip will go back and have another look at this and see if he can find a way of getting them to coincide.
I am always open to suggestions. I do not say that I will not look at it, and I accept the point that in some cases an APPG might take place, but we are giving people plenty of warning on this so they are able to arrange the dates that suit them to combine with both Houses. It is perfectly possible to work around this. Sometimes it helps if we come back one week different to get business done and vice versa so that business can come from the Commons to us. We do not have to be the same, but I take the point. Having made those decisions, I think it is unlikely that they will change.
My Lords, I endorse what the noble Lord said and welcome the fact that we are looking some distance ahead, but there are other problems. There are Joint Committees. For example, I serve on the Joint Committee on Human Rights: we cannot sit if both Houses are not sitting simultaneously. That means we lose a whole committee date. We cannot be flexible about that. They are Joint Committees of both Houses. It does not make any sense.
They are Joint Committees of both Houses, and there is one week when both Houses will not be sitting together. Therefore, there are another 51 weeks when they can sit together, so among the many problems we face, I do not think that is an insuperable one.
I ask the Chief Whip to acknowledge one other problem, which is that if the Commons are sitting and we are not, and something of significance occurs, requiring a Statement from the Government, we are not in a position to follow up that Statement in a timely way. That has happened in the past. Does he not think that is something to be considered?
Of course the same applies the other way around, when we are sitting and the House of Commons is not. It is able to cope with that. It is true that in that one week it will not be able to, but as I said before, these are not insuperable problems. I said to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, that I will look at this, but I do not think it is very likely that the dates will change. I have said I will look at them. It may be possible, or it may not. I think it is unlikely, but I will look at it.
Lord Speaker’s Statement
My Lords, before asking the Leader of the House to begin the next business, I wish to offer a few short words of tribute to Her Majesty from the Woolsack.
It was a privilege on my first day as Lord Speaker to welcome Her Majesty to Parliament for State Opening in 2021. Although it was my first State Opening in the role, Her Majesty has attended every State Opening bar three since the beginning of her reign in 1952. Her loyal and steadfast presence is a constant feature of British life and helps bind us together in an increasingly polarised world. Throughout the magnificence of her reign, Her Majesty has been the supreme example of integrity in public life, and she continues to show unwavering duty and devotion. Her long record of public service is recognised not only within the United Kingdom but globally, especially within the Commonwealth, which she has served with great distinction over many decades.
This Chamber, being the place where the three elements of Parliament come together, has an important connection with Her Majesty. Behind me, the sovereign’s Throne is one of the reminders of the crucial role she plays in our constitution in opening Parliament and in signing our Bills into law.
Since her accession 70 years ago, the world has witnessed an extraordinary series of societal changes and historical events, from the beginnings of the post-war settlement and the development of mass communications through to the end of the Cold War, the fight against climate change and the transformation brought about by the internet. Historians will recognise the Elizabethan age as a time of extraordinary change. Across all these world-changing events and many more, Her Majesty has represented an essential point of continuity while still embracing modernity in her work as our Head of State.
Her leadership and that of the late Prince Philip, with his Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, has inspired thousands of people, especially young people, to develop their skills and to work to improve society and the environment. Awards and initiatives led by them have seen millions of people develop, grow and perform outstanding achievements in the service of their communities.
Today this House has the privilege of marking Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I am sure I speak for the whole House in expressing the deepest thanks for Her Majesty’s 70 years of unparalleled, exemplary and devoted service.
Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
Motion for an Humble Address
That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to offer the heartfelt good wishes and loyal devotion of the House on the occasion of the Seventieth Anniversary of Her Accession to the Throne, expressing its deep gratitude for Her Majesty’s lifelong unstinting service, leadership and commitment to the United Kingdom, Dependencies and Territories, Her other Realms, and the Commonwealth.
My Lords, this is a formal occasion for us, as the upper House, to pay tribute to our sovereign. But for many noble Lords, including me, this is also a personal occasion—a chance to pay tribute to an inspirational woman who has dedicated her life to public service. I know that many noble Lords enjoy a personal relationship with Her Majesty the Queen, and I look forward to hearing all contributions to the debate today.
The Queen has been an enduring presence in our national story over the past 70 years. The United Kingdom of today looks markedly different from that of 1952, when she ascended the Throne, and yet Her Majesty has remained a constant presence in our lives, upholding the best of tradition while progressing and moving with the times.
The Queen has given seven decades of dedicated service. Just as she proclaimed she would at the age of 21, she has devoted her life to the United Kingdom, the realms and the Commonwealth. Her ongoing commitment to public service is beyond question, and we are all immensely grateful for it.
We in this House have a special relationship with the sovereign, because the Crown is an integral part of the Parliament to which we all belong. During her reign, the Queen has given Royal Assent to some 3,833 public Bills. The sovereign also has the right to consult, encourage and warn the Government of the day, and the 14 Prime Ministers who have served through her reign have all benefited greatly from the Queen’s enormous experience. Your Lordships’ House is often credited with providing the institutional memory of our country’s governance—the Chamber is indeed filled with years of wisdom—but even the aggregate experience amassed in the Chamber today, substantial though it is, cannot match that which the Queen brings to her role.
Her Majesty is unique in many obvious ways—in being the monarch, our longest ever reigning monarch and the first to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. But, also uniquely, she has met more international leaders than any living person on this planet, from Nelson Mandela to the Dalai Lama and from Charles de Gaulle to Ronald Reagan. The Queen has been both a witness to, and an active participant in, the past 70 years of world history.
During that time she has performed her role as the head of the Commonwealth with great energy, driving forward this remarkable organisation, which spans 54 independent and equal countries and nearly a third of the world’s population. From Australia to Antigua, Canada to Cameroon, the Commonwealth is a unique association, spanning almost every region and religion. Her Majesty is also Head of State for the 14 Commonwealth realms, where her jubilee will be celebrated just as it is here in the United Kingdom.
Another institution that the Queen heads is, of course, our Armed Forces. It is to her that our military personnel swear allegiance, but she also has a strong personal connection as wife, mother and grandmother of individuals who have served. Indeed, the Queen herself joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War, training as a driver and mechanic and becoming the first female member of the Royal Family to join the armed services as a full-time active member.
This is just one early example of her remarkable ability to move with the times, something she has done consistently over the past seven decades. More recently, in 2020, as vast swathes of the country were working via Zoom, I was present, along with the Queen, at the first ever virtual Privy Council meeting in our history. Just this week, we saw the addition of a motorised golf buggy to the royal fleet, used to give Her Majesty a grand tour of the Chelsea Flower Show.
The Queen’s reign would not have been the same without Prince Philip by her side. In Her Majesty’s own words, he was her “strength and stay”. As noble Lords know, they enjoyed many happy occasions with their family at Sandringham, and it is the place Prince Philip chose to spend his time once he stepped back from public life. I can well understand their affection for the estate, as my husband is MP for North West Norfolk and fortunate that Sandringham is in his constituency. Over the last couple of years, we too have spent many happy hours, as visitors, enjoying the grounds and the many events that take place there.
The Queen’s extraordinary range of knowledge on just about any subject has always been impressive, and this is ever evident at state dinners and diplomatic receptions, some of which I have been fortunate to attend. She is naturally inquisitive, interested in everyone and everything, ensuring she gets the best out of any situation. I first had an audience with Her Majesty upon being appointed a Government Whip and Baroness in Waiting. In our first meeting, our conversation spanned international football, the domestic issues of the day and, of course, most importantly, her horses’ prospects at Royal Ascot.
The Queen has always loved horses; she has a real affinity with them. When I was just five years old, a man fired several blank rounds in quick succession at the Queen during the Trooping the Colour parade, startling all the horses around. She was able to keep control of her horse with characteristic calmness and a pat on the neck and, undeterred by the rather serious incident that had taken place, continued with the parade. Her knowledge of horses goes far beyond skilful handling. One of her home-bred mares, Balmoral Leia, won the highland pony title at the Royal Windsor Horse Show just a couple of weeks ago.
The Queen takes people as they are. While always conscious of the dignity of the Crown, she possesses a remarkable lightness of manner. She appears just as comfortable presiding over state dinners as she is rambling around the countryside in well-worn waterproofs. Indeed, the sight of Her Majesty driving herself to church is as familiar to us all as her travelling in the state coach—but at least these are two of the more traditional methods of transportation. Noble Lords will no doubt recall the Queen’s cameo, alongside James Bond, in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games, in which the Queen’s journey from Buckingham Palace culminated, as far as viewers were concerned, in a royal parachute jump. We found out later that she had orchestrated this without anyone in her family knowing, so they must have been even more surprised at the scene than we were.
The Queen certainly has a wry sense of humour. Noble Lords may have heard the story of the lady in Norfolk who, on encountering Her Majesty entering a shop, told her, “You look just like the Queen”, to which she replied, “How reassuring”. That encounter is a reminder of the Queen’s own words in her 1991 Christmas message:
“Let us not take ourselves too seriously. None of us has a monopoly on wisdom.”
We are celebrating this remarkable jubilee not simply because of the unprecedented duration of the Queen’s reign but because of the deep affection and respect that she commands in the hearts of the people of this country—affection and respect unmatched by any monarch in our time. We remain deeply thankful to Her Majesty for all she does for the nation and look forward to her jubilee celebrations next week.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Baroness the Leader of the House in paying tribute to Her Majesty the Queen. It is also a pleasure and privilege to speak from these Benches to offer Her Majesty our congratulations on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee.
Members of your Lordships’ House are no strangers to long periods of public service. We are all motivated by the desire to serve the people and improve their lives but I am sure your Lordships will agree that Her Majesty is in a league of her own. In duration and dedication, no one can compare. Her sense of duty is well known to us all.
Her Majesty is rightly respected for her almost complete avoidance of party-political controversy during her long reign. This is all the more remarkable, given that she is from a trade unionist background. Her mother and father were honorary bummarees —porters at Smithfield meat market—and members of my union, then the Transport and General Workers’ Union, now of course better known as Unite. The Queen Mother was delighted to be a member; she and George VI were admirers of the union’s former general-secretary Ernest Bevin, who of course went on to serve as a distinguished member of the war Cabinet and as Foreign Secretary. He is one of my personal heroes but I know that he was hugely respected by both King George VI and the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth, but also by Her Majesty the Queen.
As the noble Baroness the Leader of the House said, Her Majesty is of course the head of the Armed Forces. This is a role that she has always taken seriously. We all have memories of Trooping the Colour and her leading Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph. As the noble Baroness also said, it is not just an official role: it is very much personal to Her Majesty, having many family members who have served and having served herself in the Second World War. As well as numerous visits to military establishments and hosting events for service men and women at royal residences, in 2009 Her Majesty introduced the Elizabeth Cross—the first medal named after a reigning monarch since the George Cross in 1940—which gives special recognition to the families of service personnel killed during military operations and as victims of terrorism since 1948.
In a changing world Her Majesty has been a reassuring, constant presence, the likes of which we may never see again. She has in many ways been a bridge from one era to another, connecting different generations through the decades. Britain in 1952 was a vastly different place from the country we live in today: a nation emerging from the ravages of a world war with rationing still in place. The challenges of the Cold War and the nuclear age were still in their infancy. The NHS was only four years old. There was just the one TV channel and only 150,000 homes even had access to a television set—no personal computers, no mobile phones and no internet.
Fast forward 70 years and not only has the technology transformed all our lives, mostly for the better, but our society is a very different place. We are now a much more diverse and vibrant country, being home to people from across the globe. Opportunities for women have been transformed, although there is still a long way to go. In 1952, I could not have married my husband; in fact, I would have been at risk of arrest and prosecution just for being who I am. But as our country has changed, so too has the Queen. Everyone changes over the years but Her Majesty has adapted and modernised the monarchy in ways that mean that even many republicans have huge personal admiration and affection for her.
The Queen is the personal embodiment of the nation and a huge asset to us all. Instantly recognisable across the globe, she has met almost every significant world leader of the past 70 years. More importantly, they have all wanted to meet her. We often talk about soft power in this place and Her Majesty epitomises it. Politicians come and go, and some are more loved than others, but to maintain the Queen’s levels of respect and popularity over seven decades takes a real talent.
Ten years ago on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee my noble friend Lady Royall, the then Leader of the Opposition, spoke about the falling esteem in which politics and politicians are held—sadly, a situation little improved, if not worse, a decade on. She contrasted this with the affection for Her Majesty and said we had much to learn from her. I know it is a recipe that we all wish we knew the ingredients of, but we can take a guess at some of them: not only her sense of duty and devotion to public service but a strong work ethic, a love of country and the Commonwealth, and her sense of humour, as the noble Baroness the Leader of the House mentioned.
As the noble Baroness said, Her Majesty also had the love and support of the Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip was a remarkable individual in his own right: outspoken, sometimes irreverent and at all times totally human, his support has been vital. As consort of the monarch for some 69 years, he not only provided invaluable support for Her Majesty but made a huge impact on the life of our country in his own right. The noble Baroness mentioned the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which has impacted the lives of countless young people here in the UK and in some 144 countries worldwide. Over the years since its founding in 1956, many leaders from the arts, business and politics have undertaken the awards. The promotion of volunteering, physical exercise, the development of personal skills and exploration is of great benefit not only to the participants but to their communities and countries. It is a legacy that will endure. Sadly, I got lost on my orienteering exercise on Chobham Common so I never made it past the bronze stage.
Let this Platinum Jubilee be a celebration of community, selflessness and serving others: a celebration of all that is positive about our public life and institutions, a break from the usual daily diet of cynicism and scepticism, and a truly national celebration of a Head of State like no other.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to speak on behalf of these Benches on the occasion of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The Queen is the only monarch I have known in my lifetime; I was born less than four months before the Coronation. To mark this event, aged four months, I was given a commemorative coronation half-pint beer mug bearing the royal crest. As a strict Methodist teetotaller, my mother was black-affronted by the gift and for many years it sat unused at the back of her kitchen cupboard. As a teetotaller, she had no use for it; as a royalist, she could not throw it out. This demonstrates how difficult it is for the monarchy to please everybody.
The Queen’s reign is remarkable in many respects—first, for its length and, secondly, for the unchanging pattern of life the Queen has followed: Christmas at Sandringham, August in Balmoral, garden parties, Ascot, state visits and diplomatic receptions. On the surface, many things have hardly changed in 70 years. However, thirdly, the non-royal world has changed beyond recognition, not just in material terms but also in attitudes, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said, towards women, homosexuals, ethnic minority communities and other minorities, and, in some respects most relevantly, by an almost complete collapse in the deference shown to institutions and the people who represent them.
As a result, what the nation expects of the monarch has also subtly changed. When the Queen came to the Throne, many millions of people treated the institution of the monarchy reverentially and were more than satisfied if the Queen performed her constitutional duties, from the State Opening of Parliament to the appointment of sheriffs, in a dignified and suitably regal manner. Over time, however, the country has looked to the Queen to speak for it in moments of trauma and difficulty, and to do so in a manner which is studiously politically neutral. It has also required the stripping away of the mystique of royalty. People have demanded far more openness in the way the Royal Family presents itself and there has been far more public scrutiny of every aspect of the lives not only of the Queen herself, but of all other members of the Royal Family.
The Queen has been able to navigate these swirling currents of changing times by basing her life on unchanging principles. Three stand out. The first is an overriding commitment to the service of the nation and to her duty to represent its traditions and values. Secondly, her firm Christian faith has permeated her whole approach to life and underpinned her sense of service to others. Thirdly, there is a sense of obligation towards our former colonies and to the Commonwealth, as its relationship to the UK has evolved very substantially over the decades since her accession.
These three strands are most publicly brought together in the Queen’s annual Christmas Day broadcast, when Her Majesty, reflecting on the past year, draws out lessons which she commends to the nation to follow in the succeeding one. Typically, the concepts of community, generosity, kindness and service to others permeate what she has to say. These are timeless virtues, but ones of which we need constant reminding.
As the Queen reaches this jubilee, it is inevitable that she is gradually reducing the scale of her activities and gradually passing on her responsibilities to Prince Charles and Prince William. In them, the country is fortunate in having future monarchs in whom her sense of duty is equally replicated.
Anyone who has had any personal dealings with the Queen will be remembering them over this jubilee period. I was fortunate to serve as a member of the Royal Household for three years from 2012 as Captain of the Queen’s Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard. In that capacity, I met the Queen on a number of occasions. Two stand out today. First, during my term of office, the yeomen had a formal dinner with wives at St James’s Palace. It was the depth of winter. The Queen and Prince Philip, in formal attire, attended a pre-dinner reception and in customary manner spoke to groups of yeomen organised in a horseshoe in one of the grand reception rooms of the palace. My job, in theory, was to guide the Queen around the room. The truth was, she was so accomplished at this sort of thing, that she in effect guided me around the room. She spoke to each group with energy, wit and evident enjoyment. She finished the horseshoe within a minute of the time allocated. Every attendee was made to feel special. It was a bravura performance at a private event the Queen was not required to attend, which she went to out of a sense of duty and at which she played her part to perfection.
The second was in the aftermath of the 2015 general election, when I ceased to be the Captain of the Queen’s Bodyguard. As tradition requires, I had to have an audience with the Queen to hand back my staff of office. As I was waiting to see Her Majesty, I noticed that it said around the rim: “For the use of the Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard, for the time being.” I pointed this out to the Queen and said that my time had now obviously been. She smiled sympathetically, but when my successor the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, followed me into the audience room to receive the staff, the Queen pointed out to him that it was for his use only “for the time being”. It demonstrated a sharp mind and a gentle wit, two extremely endearing qualities. It is memories such as these which certainly endear the Queen to me and similar experiences which endear her to so many people in the country. I have been very fortunate to live under such a monarch and, in the words of the song, “long may she reign”.
My Lords, on behalf of the Cross-Benchers, I have no doubt about one thing. It is the first time—well, the first in my time—that the Cross-Benchers have been absolutely united and of the same voice. On the whole, we tend to disagree; we are rather a disparate bunch.
We heard from the Leader about the promise the young Princess Elizabeth made in August 1947. It is a moving declaration to us, her future subjects. I was alive at the time, and I hope I can weary your Lordships by reading it out:
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
I find that moving. She was 21 years old. How many of us thought we were making promises at the age of 21 which, perhaps memory will teach us, we have forgotten to keep? This was a solemn, unequivocal promise; a living, lifetime promise for her “whole life”, made by a young woman who could not have known that the call to the burdens of duty and the assumption of responsibility, not as a princess but as the Queen—as we now say, the head of the Commonwealth—would come so early or last so long.
During her long reign, as the Lord Speaker touched on, the momentum for change has been irresistible. The speed of change has been explosive. There has never been a reign in which so much has changed more rapidly for so many people in the history of the nation—indeed, as has been touched on by those who spoke ahead of me, the history of mankind—than this reign. During all those years and decades of change, the Queen has been on duty as our Head of State, devoted to our service. I say “on duty” because she could never know, and nobody could ever know, when she might be called on to exercise her responsibilities.
In our celebration—the noble Lord, Lord Collins, touched on this—we should remember not just ourselves, our children, grandchildren and families, but the generations of her subjects who have been overtaken by time and who would have been so enthusiastic in support of these proposals. I am talking about my parents’ generation—most of our parents’ generation, but for some of us perhaps our grandparents’ generation—who endured the casualties, hardships and lamentations of the Second World War and its bleak aftermath with such fortitude and resilience. In 1952, their lovely young Queen was a promise of a brighter future for them. The trumpets no longer sound for that rather remarkable quality of fortitude. It is very self-effacing; people do not highlight their own fortitude, do they? They do not blow their own trumpets.
However, during all the years since 1952, the royal responsibilities have not lightened and the difficulties have not disappeared; they have remained. When we think about it and try to imagine—and we can only imagine—the specific and special demands which rest on the shoulders of the monarch, we can be sure that fulfilling her youthful promise has not always been easy. There must have been times—I am sorry to say so, but we all do it—“Really, do I have to stand up in the House and speak now?” is one such moment. We all have moments when we think, “If only”, and that has never happened here.
It is with fortitude and resilience that, decade after decade, that lifetime promise of service has been and is still being fulfilled. The speakers before me have highlighted individual moments, and no doubt those after me will do so. I shall not do that, but I do adopt everything that has been said. We share on these Benches the national outpouring of affection, admiration, respect and, dare I say it, joy in the fact that we have Her Majesty as our monarch. These moments are a fulfilment of her promises to us, and they have made her an inestimable blessing on this nation. The humble Address is our unemotional but truly heartfelt way of saying thank you.
My Lords, I am delighted on behalf of the Lords spiritual to offer profound gratitude and hearty and—to echo the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge—joyful congratulations to Her Majesty the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee.
I may not have been aware of the events of 6 February 1952, unlike some of your Lordships, although, being born just two months later, I can claim to have been eager to participate in the new Elizabethan age. From these Benches, we reflect particularly on the solemnity of the Coronation, which happened nearly a year later, and the setting of the constitutional roles of the sovereign in the wider realm of faith. That faith has been evident, as the noble Lord, Lord Newby, mentioned, in the Queen’s consistent, unstinting and prayerful support not only for the Church of England as Supreme Governor but for the Church of Scotland and people of Christian faith across the United Kingdom and the world. The Queen’s lifelong practice of public worship and private prayer has been remarkable to witness, not just in the much-publicised Royal Maundy Services and other great occasions in cathedrals and abbeys but, week by week, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham—the place already mentioned by the Leader—or Crathie Church on Deeside. Those who have had opportunity to preach at such services are grateful not only for the hospitality that surrounds them but for the much- missed, stimulating theological discussions with the late Prince Philip.
This reign has also seen not just a remarkable contribution by one of the leading women of the world, as the Leader has already said, but, in the past decade of her reign, the inclusion of women in the leadership of the Church of England and, of course, through Royal Assent to the 2015 Act, those women Bishops come into your Lordships’ House.
The connection between our sovereign who practises her faith and the national Church is appreciated, perhaps surprisingly, especially in the interfaith communities of my own city region. Not least at times of local strife or international discord, I have found time and again people gaining reassurance and inspiration from a constitution and a sovereign that take faith and the virtues and values that spring from it seriously. As the Queen said in a speech at Lambeth Palace in 2012
“the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.”
She affirmed that
“gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely.”
The expression of lived faith is no better seen and heard, as we have already heard today, in the brief and moving Christmas broadcasts, where the virtues of service and compassion, illustrated by the life of Jesus Christ, are rooted in shared, fragile humanity and wisdom accumulated over more than nine decades. It was most vivid, I think, in the Queen’s Christmas message of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, where she combined Jesus, the Light of the World—and, she was prepared to say, her own inner light—with recognition of the many faith festivals that we enjoy in this country and those Covid volunteers across the Commonwealth. She referred to a story told by Jesus, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, ending by saying that all
“put the lives of others above their own”.
As we have heard, she spoke modestly by not referencing herself—and she has exercised that virtue over 90 years —but by promoting the values, virtues and service of others.
Later this summer, we will witness the intercultural and worldwide life of the Commonwealth in the Games to be held in Birmingham and region. In 1952, let us remember, there were only a handful of nations in this movement that has now increased to some 72 today. Here we can see the Queen’s commitment to unity in diversity, courageous and sometimes difficult conversations, and the higher purposes of our common humanity. We may all trust that she enjoys the races at the Alexander Stadium as much as she does those at Ascot.
The Royal Windsor Horse Show pageant started with the first Elizabeth, if you happened to see it. Our nation and many countries in the world have been blessed beyond measure by the faithful and continuing reign of Elizabeth II. She upholds the virtues of dignity of the constitution, responsibility of duty to others and a trusted relationship with her people, all undergirded by faith. Thanks be to Her Majesty. Thanks be to God.
“Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
These are the opening words in the Writ of Summons from Her Majesty the Queen which commands us to assemble here in Westminster—not Stoke-on-Trent— to treat and give our counsel, and are we not fortunate to be here on this day to do so and to respond with one united voice in saying thank you: thank you to our Queen for 70 years of dedicated service and for giving outstanding leadership to our country? She is England’s 40th sovereign since William the Conqueror and the first to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, as my noble friend the Leader of the House pointed out in her splendid address.
At a time, especially this week, when it seems that all our institutions are under attack—be it Parliament, the Church, the Civil Service, the judiciary, government, our police, the City, the Bank of England and the fourth estate—only the monarchy remains solid as a rock in the nation’s esteem, respect and affections. For that, we owe everything to the example and sacrifice shown by her Majesty. Yes, sacrifice.
All of us who have served in government have been greatly honoured to do so. However, I confess to secretly feeling a sense of relief when, after 10 years as a Minister of the Crown, I surrendered my seals of office to Her Majesty and the daily tyranny of the red boxes ended, and I was once again in control of my life and diary, and my family and I were out of the public eye. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, pointed out, for Her Majesty the Queen, her whole life, from the age of 25, has been one of selfless dedication to our country and the Commonwealth. Despite intense global scrutiny, she has done so without putting a foot wrong. She is, of course, very well informed and knowledgeable, and she has opinions, but, even in this age when it seems that everything is leaked, none of us knows what they are. Duty is her guiding star in everything she does—something that might be more closely emulated by some others in our public life.
For hundreds of thousands of people across the globe and here at home, the day they met the Queen is never to be forgotten. This includes Heads of State: think of Her Majesty’s skill in engaging so brilliant with everyone from President Ceauşescu to Donald Trump, and from Mandela to President Reagan. For most people, though, the meeting might be only fleeting—perhaps 45 seconds—but what the Queen said and what the occasion was will be retold many times, as the noble Lord, Lord Newby, demonstrated in his excellent speech.
A friend, whose mother was sadly suffering from dementia, told me that producing the photograph of her meeting the Queen would bring her back in conversation, smiling and recalling that red-letter day. As a constituency MP visiting nursing homes—I had a marginal seat, so I visited them very regularly—I was struck on many occasions by how determined the residents were to get to 100 years old in order to receive their telegram from the Queen.
I thought that I might not be alone—and obviously I was not, listening to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham—in welling up when listening to Her Majesty’s broadcasts at 3 pm on Christmas Day and being inspired by her example of a life lived in the Christian faith and her commitment to unity, belief in ourselves as a nation and a common purpose.
Her Majesty can also call people to account, as when the so-called masters of the universe were left speechless following the financial crisis of 2008 when she simply asked:
“Why did no one see this coming?”
This is a question that she may very well ask again in the difficult months that lie ahead.
We get the occasional glimpse of her private life with her love of horses and corgis, which has been mentioned already, and of Balmoral, in Scotland, and Sandringham, in Norfolk, where she can enjoy a more relaxed time. That dry sense of humour and wit, which has been referred to, is often on display, as on the occasion of a Privy Council meeting when someone’s mobile phone went off and the Queen said, “You might want to take that; it might be someone important”.
Today, we began our proceedings by praying for our sovereign’s long life and health, as this House has done on every sitting day since 1952. We can all share in that sentiment, so I say this. Are we not lucky? Long may she reign over us; God save the Queen.
My Lords, Her Majesty has been a public servant for the whole of my life and for those of most noble Lords in this Chamber. She referred to her late father’s selfless dedication, and she has kept her promise faithfully to follow that dedication. She is a public servant who cannot answer back, but who has set an example, most recently during lockdown, by getting right to the heart of family and the impact of grief, isolation and separation, by praising the health service and by steadying the ship.
One cannot help reflecting on one’s own life, because the Queen has always been there. She was appointed a Counsellor of State when she was 18 years old, and replied to Parliament’s humble Address on behalf of the Throne, in the year I was born. For the coronation, there was a spoon, a mug and a New Testament, and games on the recreation ground in Royal Leamington Spa, which we called the Rec. It did not occur to us that some people might be watching the event on TV. I received two honours from the Queen at Buckingham Palace surrounded by proud family members, every one of them a republican. I then arrived here in 2010, affirming loyalty to Her Majesty and her heirs and successors. How often have we sat watching for the stumble on the phrase, “Her heirs and successors”?
I thought about this: how does someone brought up in a family who were not monarchists pledge loyalty to Her Majesty? Some people might go through the motions. I remembered something that an old friend said to me in the 1970s, when the Queen was having a bad time, and I told him that I thought the UK would never reject the monarchy. He was quite philosophical—he was even further to the left than I was at the time—and he said, “Just think of the alternative”; I did, and I did not like it. So my affirmation in 2010 was sincere.
Harriett Baldwin MP wrote in the Telegraph about the Queen as a role model for women, and she referred to the change in the law in 2013 to enable the first-born child of the monarch to ascend the Throne, whether a boy or a girl. Prince George, should he decide to raise a family and his first-born is a girl, will be succeeded by his daughter and not by any successive male. Harriett Baldwin refers to the House of Lords’ “posh glass ceiling” in her article, and calls male primogeniture in the House of Lords,
“Parliamentary misogyny baked right into the institution.”
I agree with Harriett Baldwin’s analysis and the fact that the current position helps explain why only 13% of the land in the UK is owned by women. She cites the good example set by the monarchy. However, I have my doubts about the solution, if all that results is that class privilege is baked right into the parliamentary institutions.
I turn now to the Commonwealth, which has been mentioned by many. I admire the fact that the Queen has supported the Commonwealth throughout her life and has attended CHOGM, even when some of our political leaders have been less than keen in attending. I was fortunate to attend CHOGM twice, in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and saw for myself the positive impact the Queen had on those gatherings—bear in mind that the Zimbabwe CHOGM was hosted by the late Robert Mugabe. Her Majesty has had to put up with some right wrong’uns in her reign, both at home and abroad. I was pleased to see the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on today’s list; he will do a much better job of doing justice to Her Majesty’s commitment to the Commonwealth.
Finally, when the Queen became the longest reigning monarch in 2015, the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, who was Leader of the House, said:
“All of us who seek to play a part in public life can have no better example than her.”—[Official Report, 9/9/15; col. 1419.]
I endorse that statement and am pleased to take part in the debate.
My Lords, given our role as a revising Chamber, there are very rare occasions in this House when one can indulge in unfettered praise, and rightly so. Today, however, is one of those rare occasions, as we join together to joyfully recognise Her Majesty’s unrivalled contribution to our national life.
Hearing some of the tributes to Her Majesty today, I am struck not only that the Queen has been on the throne for seven decades—70 years—but that during that long period her reign has been faultless. Her Majesty’s surefootedness defies the imagination. Personally, I find it impossible to think of any comparable achievement.
The wonderful words that Her Majesty said on her 21st birthday, which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, quoted, spoke of her devotion to service. Ever since those words, Her Majesty has adhered to that promise she made, steadfastly and, on occasions, with great courage. What the country owes to Her Majesty is incalculable.
Through the many difficulties she has had to face up to throughout her reign, she has never, even for an instant, wavered in her duty or from taking the right course of action. As has already been said, she is an example to all her people, and to the world, of the meaning of “duty”. However hard a decision might be, she always puts her obligation to the country in front of everything else, whatever her personal feelings and whatever the personal cost.
One might think that behaving in such an exemplary manner might have made the Queen remote, but she has never become distant from her people. Moreover, she has retained a wonderful sense of humour, as my noble friend Lord Forsyth has so delightfully demonstrated and as I can humbly attest to.
My Lords, rather like my noble friend Lady Donaghy, I find myself surprisingly pleased to be taking part in this afternoon’s proceedings marking the Queen’s Jubilee. I was not raised a monarchist but it is nevertheless a huge honour and pleasure to take part. Reflecting on the decades of her reign before arriving here today, I was struck that many of us have always been Elizabethans. It is too soon to tell how this period will come to be characterised in the future, but I was struck by our Lord Speaker’s words before we began our discussions this afternoon when he said that this period would come to be known as a time of extraordinary change. I am sure that he is right about that. Some of the most tumultuous events in modern history are still, today, very fresh in our minds.
Pandemic disease threatening the lives and livelihoods of just about everyone on the planet is something few of us expected to see. There have been moments during the last two years where the Queen’s words and presence have led the nation in a subtle yet powerful way. During the first lockdown, when fear about the virus was at its height and when there was no mass testing and no vaccination, just the harshest of restrictions, the Queen addressed the nation with a message of reassurance and hope. As others have said, the continuity that she embodies came into its own at that moment. She told us we would all meet again; she told us that what we were experiencing was tough but that it would pass. She knew what the nation needed to hear and articulated it with empathy and simplicity.
Therefore, the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh in the spring of 2021, when restrictions were still in place, saddened many of us who may not have expected to be moved so much by his passing. I think that we all know someone who died during Covid and can relate completely to the pain of loss made sharper by our inability to mourn in the way that we normally would hope to—no large gatherings or hugs with cherished relatives who we had not seen for far too long.
The moving photograph of the Queen sitting alone at her husband’s funeral spoke to the nation of sacrifice and solidarity: that no matter who you are, the rules are the rules. Her quiet dignity at that moment resonated in a way that no State Opening or Trooping the Colour ever can. It showed a connection between the monarch and the people that ceremony and convention often obscures.
We do not yet know how the second Elizabethan era will be remembered, but we do know that Queen Elizabeth herself will always be admired, respected and loved by the people of this country for, let us hope, many years to come.
My Lords, today we are celebrating 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the realms and the Commonwealth by Her Majesty the Queen. She is, as we have heard, the longest-reigning sovereign in British history. She has seen enormous change from the immediate post-war period to today. Those worlds are so very different, but the values of our society have remained the same and Her Majesty the Queen has led us in maintaining those values through changing times by personal example. She has led our transition from Empire, through a changing and developing Commonwealth, to reconciliation with others through her visits to Ireland and Germany.
Like others, I have very fond memories of the coronation period in 1953. I remember going to a church hall at the age of seven to receive my coronation mug—I am very proud of that mug and I still have it. I remember watching the Coronation on a flickering black and white television set at our local doctor’s house. It was the latest technology that we all aspired to. I also remember so well the coronation sports day, with the egg and spoon race, the sack race and the three-legged race. I was not particularly good at any of those three.
In more recent years, I have attended official visits of the Queen to Newcastle upon Tyne on several occasions: the Silver Jubilee, when she opened Eldon Square shopping centre; the openings of the Tyne and Wear Metro, the A1 western bypass, the new City Library and the Great North Museum; and, of course, the distribution of the royal Maundy money in Newcastle Cathedral in April 1990. I noticed on all these occasions that her visits and her walkabouts—to which she gave a lot of time and effort—always made a lot of people very happy. That is one reason why Her Majesty the Queen enjoys huge public support for her leadership, for her resilience and for her consistency.
She has earned our respect and our affection, in part because she is not just our Head of State; she is head of our nation. She senses our mood and provides a crucial lead at key moments such as in the recent pandemic. She promotes the values of community service and of charitable work. She celebrates success such as with all the various Queen’s awards. The nature of the monarchy and how it might change is for future generations. For now, may I just say that I think we are far better off with a Head of State who is independent of politics and political parties and who can also be the head of our nation.
In 1952 Her Majesty promised to follow her father’s selfless dedication, and she has done just that. We now have four days of celebration to mark her Platinum Jubilee and it is good to know that it is estimated that one-third of our country will be attending a street party. We say thank you to Her Majesty the Queen for her service, for her loyalty and for her devotion to our country over the past 70 years.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. Like him, I did not excel on the sports field at the time of the Coronation and I failed to participate in any of the activities that were organised in Holbeach at that time, but I did get my New Testament, and my mug. I still have them and I treasure them; there is a lovely dedication in the front of the New Testament, which I very much treasure. I thank my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal for setting up this debate today so that we have an opportunity of paying tribute to our Queen.
This is an unprecedented event: 70 years our sovereign. There is one thing certain and sure: none of us here is going to see such an event again. Who would have been able to envisage the pattern of events that our own lives would see and how our national life would change, when we saw those images of the young woman stepping down the aircraft steps, drawn away prematurely from her visit to Kenya, to be greeted, among others, by Prime Minister Churchill? What a period of transition it has been, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said—more than we could have imagined at the time. We have the Commonwealth, which she has assisted to be a force for good in the world, a world in which travel and mobility are the experience of all. Let us go back to that fuzzy black and white image on our small black and white television screen in an overlarge veneer cabinet: who could have foreseen multi-channel colour TV, overtaken in turn by the computer, by the internet, by social media, by mobile communications? We live in very different times.
During those times, as many noble Lords have pointed out, the presence of Her Majesty the Queen has been a reassurance for us, for our nation and for the Commonwealth. We all speak from a position of privilege in this House, but I thought I would talk from personal experience of a time before I came to this place, which indeed has brought me very much pleasure and satisfaction. I have been fortunate to have been a member of the Royal Household—the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and I were colleagues together—as a Whip and as Chief Whip in this place. I have loved my Palace duties and the pleasure that state visits have brought. The way that her Majesty has dealt with different Heads of State is quite remarkable. Many here will know her better than I do, but take my word for it if you do not: she is a delightful person to know.
She loves horses, but she adores gardens and flowers too. In this regard, I have some personal experience because, 37 and a half years ago, my family was appointed to the warrant holders as bulb growers to Her Majesty. Since medieval times, suppliers to the Royal Household have been warranted. There is nothing grand about this, but more than 800 individuals and companies are warrant holders, big and small, high-tech and low-tech. The Queen’s role in encouraging excellence through this system has been remarkable. Since 1840, there has been a Royal Warrant Holders Association and I am a great believer that sociability is a huge advantage to human progress. We learn so much from each other. My brother Roger is the grantee of the warrant, and he and the rest of us have benefited much from the encouragement and companionship of others in the Royal Warrant Holders Association. It has been the source which our Queen has given to ensure excellence in many different trades and, like the Queen’s awards for industry and for export, has played a part in keeping businesses modern and competitive.
I end by saying that throughout her 70 years on the Throne of this country, she has shown faith, constancy and determination. She is a pattern for public duty and service which we in this House, I know, seek to follow. Meanwhile, let us enjoy the celebrations.
My Lords, I can only think of Her Majesty as a young Queen. I wrote to her at her 80th birthday to tell her. That must seem very strange when she was 80 years old and even stranger now she is 96 years old. Let me explain. To do so, I shall take your Lordships, if I may, back to 6 February 1952. I was then a schoolboy aged 13 years. It was a normal start to a normal school day, but by mid-morning a rumour was passing round the school that the King had died. This was a great shock; he was only 56 years old. We knew that things were not well when the BBC shut down all its radio programmes—the Home Service, the Light Programme and the Third Programme, for those who can remember those days.
It was a particular shock because we did not know the King was ill. As young schoolboys, we did not notice, in so far as we looked at newspapers, that the King looked awfully unwell a few days earlier when bidding farewell to his daughter Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh when they were starting a world tour on his behalf. We learned on that very day that he was being succeeded by the young Princess Elizabeth, only 25 years old. This was not much older than most of us schoolchildren; it was only 12 years older than me. That evening, we had a broadcast from the Prime Minister. He mainly directed his broadcast to a tribute to the late King. He made little mention of the new monarch until the end, when, with great Churchillian style, he said, “I must end this broadcast with an anthem and prayer of my youth—God save the Queen.”
Shortly afterwards, we heard at my school that the young Queen was paying a visit to Portsmouth. It so happened that my school was quite close to the A3, which was—still is—the road from London to Portsmouth. A group of us went to the roadside. The royal car, on Her Majesty’s directions, I am sure, slowed down to almost walking pace and we were able to have a wonderful view of the new Queen. This was my first opportunity to see Her Majesty.
Next came the Coronation in June 1953. The Queen was then only 27 years old. I was the only person in my family who was not in the abbey at the Coronation—I had some jealousy over this—but I was allowed to go to the dress rehearsal, where the Duchess of Norfolk, the wife of the Earl Marshal, took the role of the Queen. Of course the Queen was not there, and that made her faultless performance at the Coronation a particular credit to her.
The next time I saw the Queen was four years later. She was then 31 years of age. I was doing my national service in the Royal Navy, and I took part in a royal review off the coast of Invergordon in the north-east of Scotland. The review started with all the Navy’s vessels, or as many as could be gathered together, steaming past the royal yacht, which was then in very new use with a wonderful, gleaming hull. As we passed the royal yacht, we doffed our hats. The next day, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh gave a whole day to be aboard HMS “Ark Royal”, then a leading carrier in the Royal Navy on which I had the honour to serve. Her Majesty spent most of the day in the control of the ship—the bridge, which controls the movement of the ship itself, and Flyco, which was in charge of the movement of aircraft when taking off and landing. It was obviously an exciting day for Her Majesty and it was all rather exciting to us. The aeroplanes were catapulted off the front of the carrier and there was always a danger that the catapult would not function strongly enough, or that the engines of the aircraft taking off were not sufficiently revved up. These were occasions when the aircraft would dip and almost skim over the water before it got sufficient power to fly.
The landing was also an exciting event. The method then was for the aircraft to have a hook at its stern and to catch one of the hawsers as it came in to land on the carrier. There were occasions when it failed to catch the hawser, and then a frantic signal was given to the pilot to roar off the deck and, we hoped, not dip into the water. Her Majesty thoroughly enjoyed that and watched all the detail of the day. I was in the chart room as a very young navigating officer. It was very close to the bridge and Flyco and I was therefore able to witness Her Majesty deal with a problem. She was in high heels and they were catching on the decking of the ship. She asked the captain if she could remove her shoes and, for the rest of the day, she padded around in her stockinged feet, still enjoying and participating so much. Although I have had the honour on several occasions to meet Her Majesty in person, in Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and other places, these memories are indelible for me.
The greatest tribute I think I can give to Her Majesty is on her success in avoiding any expression of view on political matters. It is true that she has very occasionally dropped a few hints, but for the most part this has been most rare. Her views on Scottish independence were unfortunately leaked by Prime Minister Cameron. I always thought Her Majesty was anti-Brexit because it was going to badly disturb our status quo—as indeed I believe it has. But, like everybody else, I simply did not know Her Majesty’s view on Brexit.
I feel I must end this short tribute to her as I began, with Churchill’s words of his youth, which have been the anthem and prayer of my last 70 years and Her Majesty’s last 70 years: “God save the Queen.”
My Lords, the breadth of wisdom, experience and accomplishments of Her Majesty the Queen, as well as the extent and depth of her service to our nation, are such that a single Member of your Lordships’ House can never do her justice. Most noble Lords have spoken of that service and of her great contribution. As Her Majesty’s Master of the Horse, I want to focus on the aspects of the Queen’s life which involve horses, an area where I like to think she gets her enjoyment, relaxation and excitement, but where she also makes a significant contribution to our public life.
Perhaps her best-known equestrian passion is for her racehorses. She has owned winners of all five English classics, except—tantalisingly—the Derby, in which her Aureole came second in 1953. Aureole, incidentally, itself sired a Derby winner. Among her best horses were Carrozza, which won the Oaks in 1957; Pall Mall, which won the 2,000 Guineas in 1958; Highclere, which won the 1,000 Guineas in 1974; Dunfermline, which won both the Oaks and the St Leger in 1977, an astonishing performance; and Estimate, which, despite not winning a classic, was one of her best horses, winning the Queen’s Vase in 2012 and the Gold Cup the following year. Each of these horses won other important races and Her Majesty has had, and continues to have, other very high-class and successful horses; these are just some of her bigger winners.
Despite the difficulty of competing at the top today, against the world’s massive racing establishments, which are equipped to breed a multitude of foals to produce one good one, compared to Her Majesty’s relatively modest number of brood mares, I think I am right in saying that the Queen had her highest ever number of winners last year and has had no fewer than five winners in the month of May this year alone—and, in addition, five seconds. She looks sure to have a fistful of runners at Royal Ascot.
The Queen’s approach to the breeding of racehorses is that of an intellectual. Which bloodline will nick with which? Is the aim a sprinter or a classic horse? What are the logistics of getting the mare to the stallion, many of the best of which are overseas? The breeding of racehorses is a long-term game. The classics are run by three year-olds and the planning of the breeding will not have been undertaken overnight. Luckily, patience is an asset of which the Queen is not in short supply. The naming of racehorses is, for the Queen, something akin to an advanced crossword. What would one call a foal by the stallion Night of Thunder, out of a mare called Free Verse, but Slipofthepen?
Other noble Lords have commented on the Queen’s sense of humour. We were discussing the other day a horse she was, unusually, rather disappointed with. At the age of 96, she told me, “I could run faster than it in gumboots”.
Her Majesty’s expertise is not restricted to racehorses. As my noble friend the Leader of the House said, at the Royal Windsor Horse Show two weeks ago she entered, among others, her homebred Highland mare, Balmoral Leia. Leia triumphed, not only in her class but as champion, and then as supreme champion in- hand mountain and moorland pony.
The Queen takes a considerable interest in breeding and has been a strong supporter of some our rarer breeds, just some examples of which are the fell pony and the Cleveland bay, the latter important to the world of carriage driving in general and the Royal Mews in particular. The Queen also pays considerable attention to the life after racing of her horses, a notable example of which is her retrained racehorse Barbershop, formerly trained by Nicky Henderson, which ran with distinction in the Queen’s colours, winning eight races and being placed in the 2009 King George VI Chase. He followed this up with a string of successes in the show ring.
The Queen is well known to be an excellent horse- woman and horse-master herself, most notably when riding in her birthday parade in 1981. As my noble friend the Leader mentioned, when a teenager let off a starting pistol next to her, her charger, Burmese, bounced, but Her Majesty patted its neck and carried on as if nothing had happened. She rode in nearly 40 birthday parades between 1947 and 1986, 16 of them on Burmese, a gift from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and has subsequently attended in a carriage.
I had a stark personal experience of the Queen’s horse-mastership when accompanying her round the stables at the Royal Mews before Christmas in 2019—so, comparatively recently. We came to one rather excitable young horse whose stable door had been flung open, between the sovereign and which there was only fresh air—and not very much of it. As its forefeet left the ground, I was calculating how it would be possible for me to insert myself between the Queen and the horse, bearing in mind that I had to navigate around or over either the Crown equerry or the head coachman, to neither of whom it appeared to have occurred that a disaster of global importance was about to occur. While I was still working on it, and indeed while said horse’s feet were still airborne, the monarch lifted a forefinger and firmly said, “No”—at which the horse in question sprang to attention, and disaster was averted.
I know that the entire horse world, like the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, would want to record its huge congratulations to the Queen on yet another extraordinary achievement in her Platinum Jubilee.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure and honour to speak today on this humble Address celebrating the Platinum Jubilee. As I walked into the Chamber today, I was delighted to see that the doorkeepers have also joined the celebrations by decorating their office.
Her Majesty’s first visit to Burnley was in 1955. Unfortunately, I was not around at that time, but I was around in 2012 at a major part of her visit to Burnley. I was working as a junior academic at the university at the time, and Her Majesty the Queen, alongside Prince Philip, visited the campus. I was responsible for arranging a small corner of the atrium which Her Majesty was visiting. I was an academic, and we had the community development team, the youth work team, and the public services team. Each department had a PowerPoint screen up, showing whichever subject they were—but when I looked at the public services screen, it did not say “public services”, because the academic had missed the “L” out. So, as I looked at the screen very nervously and sheepishly, I had a quick moment before Her Majesty arrived to change the word—which I cannot repeat—to “public” instead of what it was. Thankfully, Her Majesty’s visit remained dignified.
As many noble Lords have spoken about so eloquently and passionately today, Her Majesty has seen 3,833 public Bills and 14 Prime Ministers in her time—what a remarkable record. As a proud royalist, I am honoured to be standing here, as the son of an immigrant from a Commonwealth country and somebody from an ethnic minority. When Her Majesty spoke to me on that visit, she made me feel special, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, mentioned. I had mature students with me, and I remember—as Prince Philip asked them, “What are you doing at university? You’re surely too old to be at university”—having a pleasant conversation with Her Majesty around lifelong learning.
I am quite emotional, because this is a historic moment, and I am honoured to be speaking here. I note, in my own words, the Queen’s unparalleled, devoted service—service with fortitude and resilience. We as a nation are so lucky to have had Her Majesty serving for so many years and, as my noble friend Lady Chapman spoke about, during the pandemic. I was Mayor of Burnley at that time, and I remember the difficulty all communities faced in this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, but in her we had the hope we needed. A famous philosopher once said:
“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air...but only for one second without hope.”
Her Majesty the Queen has been providing us with hope for more than 70 years, and she continues to do so.
To finish with the very interesting point made by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, I have been trying my best to see Her Majesty in the last few months. I lobbied hard to get a ticket for the State Opening but, unfortunately, she was not here. I lobbied hard to get a ticket for the garden party, at which I saw noble Lords from across the House yesterday, but, unfortunately, because of ill health, she was not there. But I tell your Lordships one thing: I will be lobbying hard to ensure that the House of Lords moves to Burnley so we can have the Queen addressing the State Opening in that city.
My Lords, it is a real pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley, with his special—and much more youthful than some of ours—perspective. I rise to support the Motion in the name of my noble friend the Leader of the House, who made an excellent speech, and, as others have done, to congratulate Her Majesty the Queen on the 70th anniversary of her accession to the Throne. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said, it is a very joyful event for the people of our country and for those of the Commonwealth.
I have always been conscious that I was born in the year of Her Majesty’s Coronation, so I am a coronation baby and still the proud owner of a commemorative coin given to me to mark the occasion. I collected stamps from an early age and grew to love that handsome sideways head on increasingly decorative stamps from across the globe. For the brief period that I was the Minister responsible for recommending the design of new postage stamps to the Queen, I discovered that she also has a very fine collection. Later, I was responsible for the Royal Mint in Wales when we issued the new 12-sided, bimetallic, counterfeit-resistant £1 coin, which bore the unmistakable portrait of the Queen. I should add that in my early years as a civil servant, I had a wonderful black leather briefcase with “E II R” stamped on it in gold, which I carried with great pride. I am not a new or late supporter of the Queen.
Throughout my life, the Queen has been someone I have admired. She is probably the most famous woman in the world, and a supreme professional to make every career woman amazed by her composure, her work ethic, her charm, her humour and her judgment. She has also been a loving wife, mother and grandmother at the same time—how much she must miss her rock, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, after their many years together. That was a tragic loss during Covid, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman of Darlington, described so well.
I met Her Majesty for the first time in my Tesco days at a Red Cross reception to meet those of us involved in helping after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand. She spoke with much obvious affection for Princes William and Harry, who had been working with us, packing relief parcels for some of the unfortunate victims.
Finally, I should mention Her Majesty’s passion for racing and for breeding racehorses, so well described by my noble friend Lord de Mauley, the Master of the Horse, that there is nothing to add. I just wanted to say that, sadly, she does not have a horse in the Derby next week, but I will be cheering to the rooftops if—as I am sure and I hope she will—she wins at Royal Ascot.
It is a great honour to speak today. Like others, I offer my thanks for Her Majesty’s duty, fortitude and sacrifice, and my warmest congratulations on her unrivalled, record-breaking Platinum Jubilee.
My Lords, I am very pleased to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and to have the opportunity to congratulate Her Majesty the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee. Like others, I express my respect and admiration for her many years of service. However, unlike many previous speakers, I cannot remember the Coronation and I have never had the pleasure of meeting the Queen. I met her mother once, but that is a story for another day. As the longest-serving monarch that this country has ever seen, as for almost everybody in the country and beyond, she has been a constant presence throughout my life, and, coming to this debate, I was thinking about what form that has taken and what it has meant.
I had a very ordinary upbringing, but I have a very early memory, from when I was very small, of being taken with other children and my family to stand at the roadside with my flag because the Queen was coming to our town. It was so exciting. Everybody was there with their flags, and I have never forgotten that huge excitement. Later, as a child, I had school trips to the Commonwealth Institute, as I am sure many noble Lords did. I loved going there. As a country child, to go somewhere and see so much culture and difference, and to look at the world outside my own small place, was something I found very precious at the time. We all learned so much from what was there. The Queen’s commitment to the Commonwealth and the institute, which was there to help children learn, was a very important part of my childhood and has been important for many people right around the world.
My next memory is of the Silver Jubilee in 1977— I was still quite young then. Again, it felt like the whole village had climbed Beacon Hill to light the beacon. We stood there and watched all the other beacons lighting up in the distance—what an extraordinary experience. The cherry on the cake for me was that there was then a party at the “big house”. The big house was Highclere Castle, so I tell people when we watch Downton Abbey, “I’ve been to a party there”. Then there was the privilege of being elected as a Member of the other place and being able to go to a garden party in Buckingham Palace, and then coming here and being able to pledge my allegiance to Her Majesty. Doing the work we do here and being part of your Lordships’ House is the greatest privilege of my life.
I think now about how the Queen has threaded her way through my life and how she is now threading her way through my children’s and grandchildren’s lives. I had a photograph from my daughter-in-law this morning, showing my grandchildren with their faces painted with Union Jacks and all dressed up to go to the jubilee party at their nursery school. The Queen has had such a huge and positive influence on generations of this country. Everyone feels much calmer and more secure when they know that she is there—basically, with us. So I hope she enjoys her jubilee celebrations as much as the rest of us and wish her all my best.
My Lords, it is a privilege to speak in this debate and to follow my noble friend Lady Hayman. She sought to remind us of some of the things that are important across our country, today and beyond. I was speaking to my wife this morning, who was taking our granddaughter to school. She was singing the national anthem, which she had learned at school yesterday. That is such a wonderful thing. In schools and nurseries across our nation, this is what young people will be doing. They will be learning about the Queen and our country, and about important values.
I just want to say one important thing, building on some of the things noble Lords have been saying. Sometimes, there is a way in which we regard things such as duty, service and patriotism as almost old-fashioned values—as somehow not relevant to today. Well, I am pleased that my children, my grandchildren and the children of this country learned and are learning those so-called old-fashioned values at school, because they are important when, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, mentioned in his excellent contribution, many of our institutions in this country are under threat and under attack.
We can discuss that another day but today, through the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, we are celebrating an institution that brings our country together and overcomes the divisions we sometimes have both within our country and beyond. Sometimes we need to remember what brings us together; that is why I am so pleased that we have this opportunity of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Her Majesty the Queen has been a phenomenal example of this throughout her reign. Many of us can point to people she has met in the Commonwealth and so on, and how she has tried to bring nations together.
I just want to mention one example—I think the noble Lord, Lord Howard, mentioned this—that absolutely shows how the Queen puts duty and service above herself and above personal angst. It was when she met Martin McGuinness. I cannot imagine anything more symbolic or self-effacing than when she put aside everything that she must have felt to serve what she was thought was her public duty: to meet Martin McGuinness in Belfast, with Peter Robinson stood beside her. She did that because it was, she thought, in the interests of her country, of her people and of peace. That selfless devotion, which she has shown all the way through her reign, is something we can all admire.
I join noble Lords in saying that the magnificence of the Queen’s reign, the way in which she sets an example to us all and the joy she will bring next week through all the parties and celebrations are a reminder to us all of what is important and what matters, as well as of the fact that our country, people and community are as important now as they ever have been—and for that we should be eternally grateful.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my two esteemed former parliamentary colleagues, who both made superb speeches. We have heard many remarkable speeches, but I want to make a few short, personal reflections.
When I was first elected for North West Norfolk, in 1983, my predecessor, Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler, gave me some advice. He did not give me much advice, because he was pretty angry that I had beaten him, but he did say, “You will on occasion have the privilege of meeting Her Majesty at different events. You might even, if you are very fortunate, be invited to Sandringham. My strong advice is to make sure that you are extremely well briefed on everything to do with the Sandringham estate, including the four or five villages on the estate. Above all, you must go round the two studs and learn what you can about the horses, because those are the things that Her Majesty may well ask you about if you are honoured enough to meet her”. That was very good advice indeed. We had a remarkable speech from the Master of the Horse. I was not aware that last year was Her Majesty’s best season ever as an owner/breeder. I imagine that every one of those winning horses was bred by her—a huge achievement in an age when she is up against giant racing organisations from around the world.
During Her Majesty’s visits to Sandringham every year, she invariably went to visit the local WI and would invite into Sandringham House the recipients of various royal prizes. She would also pay at least three or four visits every year to local organisations, hospitals and factories. She would open village halls. She really did make an effort. We in north-west Norfolk were very fortunate to benefit from this. I remember that, on so many occasions, she was very pleased to meet the dignitaries in the chain gang, but I could see her impatience and enthusiasm to get on and go round the factory or hospital. Once, one of her ladies-in-waiting said to me, “Well, of course, Her Majesty does always like to meet real people”. What she had in mind about the chain gang, I do not know.
Her Majesty loved coming to our local town hall and paid a number of private visits to King’s Lynn town hall—obviously, King’s Lynn was once a borough in its own right; it is now part of a borough council. The mayor was taking her round with some other people on a private visit and was showing her some of the cabinets full of quite remarkable treasures that are part of Lynn’s history. The Queen spotted the original mayoral chain, which was a good deal more elaborate and valuable than the one the mayor was wearing, and said to the mayor, “Do you ever get to wear that chain?” The mayor said, “Well yes, your Majesty, when we have special visitors.” I do not know what it is about seaside air and royal visits that can throw the mayor of a borough, but as that mayor has, sadly, long since passed away, I am not embarrassing either him or his family.
The Queen once came to visit the Construction Industry Training Board at the National Construction College, which was in my constituency. However, because it was a major regional event, quite a few MPs were there as well. Her Majesty arrived, on this occasion with Prince Philip, and the Lord Lieutenant said to her, “Isn’t it really good news to see all these MPs here?” Before Her Majesty could reply, Prince Philip said, “I suppose you could say that if you wanted to, but I don’t know why on earth they are not at work.” We felt a bit deflated by this, but Her Majesty turned to the Lord Lieutenant and said, “Timmy, of course it’s marvellous to see the MPs here”, and we felt a great deal better after that.
The Queen once came to my rescue—I will never forget this—on a purely personal level at an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the RAF at RAF Marham. It was a big event and I got a VVIP invitation; I had never had a VVIP invitation before in my life, and as a young MP I felt rather chuffed. I was assembled with these other people in an enclosure in this very large room in the mess, and I said to the group captain, “Isn’t it good news that we’re going to meet the Queen?” He said, “I wouldn’t count on it.” I said, “I thought we were VVIPs” and he replied, “Oh no, there’s a VVIP group and a VVVIP group, and then of course we’ve got the Chief of the Air Staff and the marshals of the Royal Air Force, so you’ll be lucky to meet the Queen, Henry.” Anyway, about 20 minutes later the Queen appeared, and across the mess, about 20 feet away, she caught my eye and I did a little bow. She turned to the group captain and said, “I’d like to go and talk to my MP.” I think he was slightly thrown. However, Her Majesty then came across to the two groups of VVVIPs and VVIPs and said hello and shook my hand. She then said, “I hope you’ll be joining us later.” I said, “I very much hope so, ma’am, but I’m not counting on anything.” Anyway, the seating plan at lunch was suddenly changed within the next five minutes and I was promoted to the top table. That was only a small example of the extraordinary warmth that she shows to people. So many noble Lords have mentioned that ability to put people at ease and to make the recipient feel so much at ease and feel so special, as the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Shipley, pointed out.
We live in turbulent times, both internationally and within this country. So many crises are taking place at the moment, and there is the ugly growth of separatism and republicanism in Northern Ireland and Scotland, but in the midst of all this stands our monarch, who shows that continuity, that exceptional example of service and dedication which the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising, mentioned, and that constantly reassuring presence. I believe that a result of that is that, at the end of this quite remarkable jubilee year, the union and the monarchy will be that much the stronger, and so the country really owes a huge debt to Her Majesty. We pay that respect to her, honour that debt, and long may she reign over us.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow that delightful speech by my noble friend Lord Bellingham, with its many interesting anecdotes. I am a contemporary of the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, and one of my earliest memories is being shushed by my parents to listen to the King on the radio. I think, because the Queen has reigned for so long, her beloved father—and she still regards him as such—has tended to be forgotten by many people. Most people in this country have lived only in the reign of our Queen, but he was an extraordinary unifying force during the last war. My parents almost venerated the King and there was tremendous sadness when he died, at a young age, as the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, said, with most people not being aware that he was very ill. I remember that, at my school, we were all issued with black armbands, which we wore until after the King’s funeral—itself an extraordinary solemn occasion.
All your Lordships will have seen the photographs—as far as I am concerned, a year before television—of the three Queens together: our Queen, the Queen Mother and Queen Mary. It was an extraordinary sight. We also all remember the photographs to which the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, referred of the Queen’s plane landing and her being greeted by her Prime Minister Winston Churchill, whom she regarded as a very great man indeed—and of course he was.
This morning, I went to the Ascension Day service at the abbey. As I sat there, inevitably I thought of this debate and the events of the Coronation—an extraordinary day, which I watched, as did the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, on a very grainy television. This was in the drawing room of our choirmaster Mr Bradley, and every time the national anthem was played we stood up. The rain and Queen Sālote were perhaps two of the imperishable memories of the Coronation.
As a schoolboy then, I never thought that I would have the enormous privilege and honour of being present at the three jubilees we have celebrated in Parliament. The Silver Jubilee was in 1977. Ten years ago, we had the Diamond Jubilee, but the one that was most personal to me was the Golden Jubilee. I happened to be treasurer of the CPA at the time and, with the chairman, had the enormous privilege of escorting the Queen and Prince Philip around Lancaster House and presenting the various groups of Commonwealth parliamentarians who had gathered for that special conference.
It was remarkable that they had been to all those countries. I presented the delegation from Malta, which was where the Queen and Prince Philip had perhaps the happiest days of their life before she succeeded, because he was there as a naval officer and she was there as his wife. They knew so much more about Malta than the Maltese MPs who were there, and the same was true of many of the other countries. Some of the little remarks they made as we moved around, about the countries and the people, I would not dream of repeating on the Floor of the House, but they showed two things—a wonderful knowledge and a real affection. The affection of the Commonwealth parliamentarians was palpable, as they greeted their sovereign and Prince Philip. It was quite extraordinary.
She has been a thread of continuity and a rock of stability throughout our lives. I count our country extremely fortunate in having a monarchy. She is the 40th from William the Conqueror but, since the Roman legions left in the fifth century, we have always had a monarch, even before the creation of England and, much later, the United Kingdom. There can be no monarch who has ever given a more devoted and wonderful service to their people than our Queen. She has been the epitome of all that is best in our national life.
I think of the divisiveness of political heads of state: Trump in America, for instance, or the recent, rather bitter election in France, which resulted in the return of President Macron—I was pleased about that, by the way. We have someone who can unite the people by not being allied with any political party or faction and who can also give this extraordinary continuity, through many decades in the case of the Queen. There is no word that is more abused in the English language than “unique”—but we are living through a unique period at the moment. Clearly none of us will ever see this again, but probably nobody ever in the history of this country, certainly not for many decades or even centuries, will have the opportunity to honour someone who for seven decades—the biblical term of life—has been at the forefront of all that is best in the United Kingdom.
We have heard some marvellous anecdotes today. We had a wonderful account from the Master of the Horse, and we had a very moving speech from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, a few minutes ago, and the noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley, were the only ones I disagreed with—I hope she is never invited to open a House of Lords in Burnley, and we shall all do our best to make sure that that never comes about. But how wonderful that we in this House today, which is so special and in which we have a constant reminder of the Queen, are united. There is nothing that divides us today in our affection, loyalty and admiration. Long live the Queen!
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and to hear what so many noble Lords have said in this humble Address, because this moment really does recognise something distinct. We are celebrating relentless hard work, tireless commitment, loyalty, dignity and respect for duty by the longest serving monarch in British history.
As many noble Lords have noted, the changes that Her Majesty has seen over 70 years are quite astounding. In my part of the United Kingdom, Wales, the heavy industry that I grew up with in the mining areas has largely given way to financial and other services. Indeed, the United Kingdom itself is very different. Power is dispersed to other Parliaments in the four nations and movement to and from the Commonwealth, the European Union and beyond has fashioned a more diverse and multicultural society, as noted by my noble friend Lord Khan.
This is a time for us to come together in recognising these incredible attributes and paying our respects to Her Majesty the Queen. The platinum jubilee will offer us a rare, once in a century opportunity as a nation to put aside divisions and to take time to value community, public service and loyalty to others. Throughout her life, Her Majesty the Queen has been an exemplar of the importance of public duty. What is also undeniable is the depth of affection and respect in which Her Majesty is held, and it is an affection and respect that has not been taken for granted. Through her actions, she has always endeavoured to earn the trust and respect of the British people.
Perhaps the most significant and long-lasting connection between Wales and the Queen grew out of her empathy following the Aberfan disaster that dreadful Friday afternoon in October 1966. I was a schoolgirl in Pontygwaith Primary School, three valleys along. I stood in the schoolyard after lunchtime, along with my friends, and we prayed for the children of Aberfan. Despite the close proximity, I had never heard of that place before that day, but I have never forgotten it since. The Queen continued to make visits to the village over the decades, and indeed has visited Aberfan more than any other member of the Royal Family.
During her long reign, the Queen has been a witness to the history of many such events in our nations. She has experienced those changes at first hand and has been the constant thread that runs through the life of our nations.
The first time I saw the Queen in person was at an event at Buckingham Palace in summer 2009. That was also the first time I had visited Westminster, but those two events are entirely unrelated. I was struck by her luminescence; she simply shone. The next time I saw her in person was in your Lordships’ House in December 2019, when attending my first State Opening. The moment of seeing her again in person was singular, especially as now I was one of her trusty and beloved servants.
God bless you, Ma’am, and, as we say in Wales: Llongyfarchiadau ar eich Jiwbilî Platinwm—congratulations on your Platinum Jubilee.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the excellent speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport.
As many have said today, it is one of the greatest privileges of my life to be able to stand in this House and honour, as her humble citizen, our extraordinary Queen. I thank God that 70 of my 77 years have been under her reign. This unprecedented period of peace and growing prosperity has, in good part, been influenced by her faithfulness to her position.
How has our Queen been able to be so consistent and gracious to all her subjects over these 70 years? I have met her only once, but I remember the kindness of her smile. Knowing our own frailties, we are all in awe of her constancy. The answer—here I follow the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham—lies in her continuous confession of her trust in and reliance on God her father and Jesus her saviour.
Her biographer, William Shawcross, said:
“Two things stand out—the Queen’s constant sense of duty and her devotion to God.”
Of this she speaks humbly but openly, especially in her Christmas broadcasts. She was clear during her first Christmas broadcast in 1952 that she would not have the strength to serve unceasingly without the prayers of the people of the Commonwealth and Empire, and humbly asked for them as she prepared to dedicate her life at the Coronation. She referred to this on her 90th birthday, saying:
“I have been—and remain—very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for his steadfast love. I have indeed seen his faithfulness.”
She is right. Millions of Christians have faithfully prayed for her to live long, for her kingdom to be at peace and for the common good. Standing back, when we see her reign in the context of the grand sweep of world history, these prayers have been answered spectacularly.
To my mind, her Christmas messages have all been about responding to the example of her Lord Jesus, who came to serve, not to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Who knows? She has possibly been advised to universalise her message and talk blandly about “the season” or wish everybody “happy holidays”. I suspect that, if she has needed to resist such siren calls, she will have done so because she knows her saviour and her saviour knows her, because of an ongoing relationship.
At key moments she has referred to drawing strength from God, which comes from that daily walk with Him. Such strengthening is needed not just in extremis; it becomes the default for people such as the Queen who are constantly required to put others’ needs ahead of their own and to take others with them on a difficult journey.
I have heard it said that there are two types of people in public life: those who want to be something and those who want to do something. Her Majesty is possibly unique in that she has had no choice but to be both those types of people simultaneously. She has done a tremendous amount, as many noble Lords have pointed out: for example, serving in the Second World War, and continuing to fulfil onerous royal duties into her 90s.
She has also had to embody an ideal—never an easy thing to do, especially as the composite of that ideal has shifted suitably since she ascended the throne. The expectation in the 1950s, when the country was finally beginning to slough off post-war austerity and set its course for a new era, was that she should embody serenity—many royals across the world are, after all, known as serene highnesses. There was also an expectation that the family she raised would be an ideal example. Later in her life, after more than one annus horribilis, she found herself being criticised for being too serene—certainly not emoting enough—especially when it was clear that her family was not so much an ideal example as a typical one.
To live successfully in the public eye for 70 years, and necessarily to maintain legitimacy in the public affection, has required a very strong sense of identity. Identity is how we see ourselves, in contrast to image, which is how others see us. Just like a socially held ideal, a personally held identity shifts over time: we grow older; we move up the generations; hopefully we grow wiser. Identity is a very live issue in the zeitgeist today. The received wisdom is that identity should be entirely self-made and that the ability to realise that ideal increases in proportion with wealth, status and the autonomy these convey.
The Queen is a monumental exception to that formula. Her identity—what she is and was able to be—has always derived from her royal responsibilities and a sense of duty and service. In this, she is less unique than people realise. Her Christian faith means this would have been the case whatever her station in this earthly life. For Christians, their sense of identity flows not from wealth, status or even ethnicity, sex, gender or whatever; rather, it flows from their relationship with their Lord Jesus Christ, from whence flows, as St Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians,
“the fruit of the spirit”,
which characterise her life: love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, patience, faithfulness and self-control.
To reiterate, prayer has been an indispensable element of the support she has received from so many people. Turning to the New Testament as I close, in the first chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he urged that
“petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made … for kings and all those in authority.”
I thank God for answering these prayers for Her Majesty so very graciously. I cannot think of any other figure who has done what she has. She is the Queen of the world, known and revered by so many in so many different lands. I spoke to an Australian friend of mine last week about this debate. He said, “The Queen’s sense of duty and service are a wonder of the modern world.” Yet she would be the first to give credit to the noble king of kings and lord of lords whom she serves, to acknowledge that the esteem in which she is held is further evidence of the undeserved grace she has been able to draw on—to lean on—every day of her life. We never want to lose her, but the day will surely come when she passes through the veil into eternity and stands before her king. Then, He will say,
“Well done, my good and faithful servant … Come and share your master’s joy.”
I congratulate my gracious sovereign Queen, Queen Elizabeth II, on her Platinum Jubilee and I thank my Lord for her.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, and to hear his very warm words about the strength and many qualities of our Queen. It is my great honour to speak in this historic debate to pay tribute to Her Majesty on the most splendid occasion of the Platinum Jubilee, which will be cause for celebration up and down the land and across the Commonwealth and beyond.
I very much enjoyed preparing for my speech today, not least because it gave me a good reason to watch again the unforgettable clip of the Queen’s own starring role in the Olympics opening ceremony, which the noble Baroness the Leader of the House rightly drew our attention to in moving the humble Address. Not only did the Queen have her own starring role in the opening ceremony but we were treated to the sight of Daniel Craig as James Bond, besieged by corgis rolling around at his feet. This film was of course just the warm-up before Her Majesty the Queen actually walked into the stadium, to a rapturous reception, and giving a major surprise to her family. In that moment, I am sure that the Queen was crowned the monarch of monarchs, showing the world her spirit and great sense of fun—in this instance, as her qualities always are, given in the service of her country.
However, I was particularly taken with the story about the dress that was worn as the Queen seemingly parachuted into the stadium and, at the same time, the same said dress that she wore to enter the stadium. Only the Queen’s personal assistant and adviser, and not her seamstresses, knew why two outfits were needed. The second version was made in total secrecy for the stunt double. Even those working on the making of the dresses—which, by the way, used very elaborate and beautiful materials, as we will remember, including silk, lace, beads, feathers and enamel—did not understand why two identical outfits were being made.
On this point, I will say a word about Her Majesty’s signature style of clothes. The overwhelming thing among so many others about Her Majesty’s reign, is her absolutely steadfast support of British fashion. She exclusively wears British-made clothes, and the British creative industries could not have a better ambassador.
As the former Member of Parliament for Lincoln, I had the pleasure of welcoming the Queen to the city. However, it is the style of the coverage by the Lincolnshire Echo of the opening of Pelham Bridge in 1958—a bit before my time—that really drew my attention for the purposes of this debate. With only black-and-white photographs of the day, the Lincolnshire Echo gave readers, as part of its article, a thorough description of what the Queen was wearing. It said:
“She wore a mustard coloured cape style raincoat with a full back in proofed silk. Her turban hat of soft blue had a strawberry pink band interwoven. Her majesty also wore three quarter grey gloves and black court shoes. Returning to the car she removed her raincoat to reveal a soft woollen dress in the same shade of blue as her hat … Her only jewellery was a three rope pearl necklace and pearl button earrings and a silver bracelet.”
How absolutely marvellous—as was, of course, the reception by the people of Lincoln, who stood in the pouring rain to catch a glimpse of the royal visitors:
“‘Lift your brolly Miss’, a woman onlooker shouted … A man next to her said ‘I’m going to see them even if it does mean I will get pneumonia.’”
That is the spirit of Lincoln for you.
I should add that the article also fully reported the Queen’s remarks, including that Pelham Bridge was a “bold and imaginative solution”. Her Majesty said it was
“an example of this country’s skill and ingenuity in making the changes necessary to satisfy requirements of modern life without destroying the heritage of the past.”
Those words have stood the test of time. Indeed, the Queen herself has made the changes necessary to satisfy the requirements of modern life without destroying the heritage of the past, and for that we are grateful.
On the Royal Family’s website, the Queen is accurately described as “iconic and celebrated”. I close my remarks by offering another word for consideration, “beacon”, which in this context is defined as someone that guides or gives hope to others. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, reminded us, when the Queen—then Princess Elizabeth—spoke on her 21st birthday in a broadcast on the radio from Cape Town, she said:
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service”.
So it has been, and it continues to be so. For so many years Her Majesty has undertaken this with the late Duke of Edinburgh by her side—may his memory be for a blessing. Her Majesty the Queen has been, and continues to be, a beacon to the people of our nation and beyond our shores, giving hope and guidance. We thank you, Your Majesty; you have given us more than we could ever have hoped for. Long may you reign.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow all those who have offered their praise and gratitude to this remarkable person, who has reached a milestone moment in the history of this country. I have nothing but pleasure in adding my voice to theirs.
I will begin my remarks in a slightly different place following my noble friend Lady Merron, simply because I met the Queen once in Balmoral when her attire and sartorial sensitivity was quite different from the one the noble Baroness described. She wore a woolly jumper she had clearly worn habitually for a long time and a plaid skirt. She sat with us in a little group. I was the president of the Boys’ Brigade at the time, and there by her invitation, as she is patron of the Boys’ Brigade. She wanted in her Diamond Jubilee year of office to see all the charities with which she was associated.
It was a week or two after her much-lauded appearance at the opening of the Olympic Games. I had to make a speech and began by saying how much we admired the way she had made that parachuted entrance and come in to surprise everybody, how good it was to see how closely she had worked with James Bond, and that the star role the corgis had played pleased us too. There was a corgi at her feet as I spoke and I said, “Was that one of them?” She nodded. I said, “Where’s the other one?” “Dead,” she said. I promise you that, as an accomplished public speaker—I hope I am accomplished—I was stopped dead in my tracks.
I was furiously inventing the next sentence. It was to send forth a young man who was going to replicate the sending of the Olympic torch around these islands at the opening of the Olympic Games, but ours was to be a message from Her Majesty the Queen to the Boys’ Brigade annual council, which was to take place that year in Cardiff. She, with great pleasure, handed over a baton that had been given to the Boys’ Brigade by her grandfather, King George V, and a champion runner from Scotland then took it on the first leg. Three weeks later in Cardiff, it came in in the hands of another runner and was presented to me. I had given it to her, and I received it back from her. I read how glad she was to greet the president of the Boys’ Brigade, but she had said that before she sent it, and it was lovely to have the circle completed in that way.
The only other time that I have met Her Majesty was when I was introduced to her at a children’s charity by the then Speaker of the House of Commons, George Thomas. He said as he introduced me, “This is the president of the Methodist Conference.” “Oh,” she said, “and what does the president of the Methodist Conference amount to?” I replied, “Well, half my job is cheering up the troops and the other half is representing them to the larger world outside,” to which she said, “Oh, a bit like my job.” Those occasions have shown me her in a light that I would never otherwise have seen her in.
My academic studies were in literature and theology and, in both those disciplines, I learned how important symbols are. The way that I think about symbols has always been a part of the way that I look at life in general. One moment that I want to refer to—I think of it with some feeling—is a mystery that I have been wrestling with all my life, from when I was a child in south Wales. We were in dire circumstances. I was brought up in one room in a brickyard, in penury. I do not tell that tale in order that noble Lords reach for their clean handkerchiefs but to say that, in this rather bare hovel where I lived, with one window and no toilet—we slept, ate and did everything in the same room—the walls were unadorned except for two pictures that had been taken from a newspaper and stuck with flour paste, which we used to make to put up the Christmas decorations. They were pictures of Prince Charles and Princess Anne, both very young, if not babies—Anne was a baby. I have never understood how the most remarkable woman in my life, my mother, who was brought up within the constraints of dire poverty—literally having nothing—could keep a place in her imagination for whatever it was that these two pictures represented. The capacity of the monarchy to free itself from all the stuff about wealth, privilege and all the rest of it and to penetrate to something deeper than those mere mechanistic and arithmetical considerations is astonishing.
On another occasion, when I was 11 and my brother was 10, still living as I have just described, my mother insisted on the wettest of wet Welsh days—I promise you that they can be wetter than anywhere on the earth—that we went through the town from the little place on the building trade supply site where I lived to the top of the town, to Achddu corner, in the shadow of Jerusalem Chapel, the windiest place in Burry Port. Why? Because Her Majesty, just crowned, would be going through in a car from somewhere west of us to somewhere east of us. We caught a glimpse of her as she went past, and I have always struggled to understand how my mother could feel that it was the most important thing she wanted us two boys to do that day.
It is grappling with the mystery of the monarchy, as much as its obvious and wonderful external manifestations, that has been part of my attempt to understand just what happens in these august fields. I shall never forget the picture of Her Majesty, unaided and already in advanced years, walking up the steps to the library at Trinity College, Dublin, and turning around when she got there to greet the assembled company in the Irish language. I shall never forget what that amounted to. When all the backstage discussions, negotiations, quarrels and all the rest of it were taking place, it was a symbol that could achieve more simply by it happening, visually and imaginatively, than quite a lot of what happens in more tedious and circumlocutory ways.
We want to honour such a person, who, on so many levels in the public consciousness and within our national culture, plays a role and touches places that others cannot reach. For a teetotal Methodist, I think that was a good allusion.
My final remark will simply pick up, without developing in quite the same way, what the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, said. I find the way that the Queen manifestly speaks her Christian faith so charming. As a student of theology, I know that it took 450 years to frame what we now call the Nicene Creed. After all the shenanigans that went on and all the circumlocutive language within which it is framed in the different styles of Greek spoken around the Mediterranean world—and after, I think, Pope Leo I sent in his troops to say, “If we don’t get this creed today, we’re going to do something drastic to you all”—we got the Nicene Creed. The Queen opens her mouth and mentions the name of Jesus Christ as if He is her friend, and in a non-excluding way. I know people who mouth the religious language—of course, I do—but sometimes in a way that feels partisan, sectarian or “us against the world”. She is who she is, and the way she says it says to a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu or a person of no faith, “I just want you to know who I am”. For me, all these things are profound. We could add a catalogue of ways in which we could recognise all the this-and-thats. I want to pay my tribute and do so not only from experiences I have had, but out of the disciplines in which I have been immersed for the whole of my life. God bless her.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, who set out so eloquently the mystery of the monarchy. What a wonderful occasion to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I add my good wishes on the Motion for a humble Address, so beautifully moved today by my noble friend the Leader of the House.
First and foremost, the Queen is a fantastic role model, particularly for those of us who are women in public life. In her exceptional and long service spanning 70 years, Her Majesty has managed to embrace both continuity and change. Her reign has been characterised by her remarkable relationship and extraordinary marriage to Prince Philip. Through their extended family, they are related to many of the royal families across Europe. As co-chair of the All-Party Group for Denmark and as a proud half-Dane, I welcome the fact that there is a particularly close relationship between the British and Danish royal families. It is particularly fitting that her cousin, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, celebrates her Golden Jubilee—her own 50 years on the throne. Both offer a shining example of constitutional monarchy at its best. Queen Margrethe’s attendance at the memorial service for Prince Philip reflects the closeness of the two royal families.
The Queen’s love of racing has featured throughout the humble Address, most notably in the speech my noble friend Lord De Mauley, the Master of the Horse. I pay tribute to the occasion of her visit to Royal Ascot in York, which transformed North Yorkshire that week in June 2005 into a state of high fashion of which the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, would be proud. It was also a perfect celebration of all that racing has to offer in the north of England.
Indeed, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley, how fortunate we are to have welcomed the Queen to Parliament on so many state visits. Such occasions are watched over by our ever-vigilant Black Rod and our glorious sovereign’s doorkeepers who always ensure that these visits, and indeed the workings of Parliament, go as smoothly as they do. I remember one occasion when I did not have the good fortune to be introduced to the Queen; I was in the line-up to meet Prince Philip, who was on very good form—immensely charming and as humorous as ever. However, I managed to almost trip the Queen up on her way out of the Palace that day and I said, “Would you not like to have stayed longer?” She said, “Indeed I would, because I now have to go to the dentist.” That sums up her wit, humour and presence of mind.
I for one am pleased to have lived in this Elizabethan age all my life, and pleased to contribute today to the humble Address on the occasion of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. May God bless her and keep her safe.
My Lords, I am very pleased to contribute to today’s debate. I have heard with great interest the range of contributions from noble Lords paying tribute to Her Majesty in celebration of the forthcoming Platinum Jubilee weekend. As usual in your Lordships’ House, as varied as the speeches have been, they have gelled together extremely well to paint a full picture of Her Majesty’s remarkable life and work.
A number of noble Lords have related their own memorable and moving experiences of meeting the Queen. Although I have not had that privilege, my own memory is of being a young working-class child living in south London in the post-war early 1950s and celebrating the Queen’s Coronation Day, with my own Coronation dress, Coronation mug and Coronation doll—but not a beer mug, as the noble Lord, Lord Newby, recollected. I was also convinced that I saw the Queen’s carriage go along the street I lived in. However, unless the carriage passed down the Old Kent Road and Camberwell Green on its way from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, that memory is obviously a mistaken one.
I remember all of us sitting around a very crackly wireless and listening to the Coronation. What was clear to me, even at that young age, was the strong and solid support that the monarchy enjoyed among working-class communities struggling to recover from the devastation of the Second World War. The young princess shortly to become Queen provided people with hope for the future and, as we have heard, has succeeded during her long reign in retaining and building respect, trust and admiration across the UK among our diverse communities and nations.
We have heard much today about the Queen’s famous work ethic. In the short time available, I would like to underline this in respect of her unique role in supporting charities. As we celebrate her long reign, recent research by the Charities Aid Foundation has shown that she is among the world’s greatest supporters of charities, helping to raise more than £1.4 billion. Clearly, she has ensured that the Royal Family maintains this as an essential part of its work. The Queen is a patron of 519 charities, including Cancer Research, the British Red Cross and Barnardo’s; her wider family supports 2,215 charities in Britain, rising to nearly 3,000 worldwide.
The Queen is a patron of one of the excellent charities I am involved in: the Stroke Association. Her role as patron is greatly valued and appreciated by the association. I have been a strong supporter of its work since joining your Lordships’ House in 2010 and as a carer of a disabled adult stroke recoverer. Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK and 100,000 people have strokes each year. It is a leading cause of death and adult disability in the UK, with more than two-thirds of people suffering a stroke leaving hospital with a disability.
The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, died of a stroke after having had several previously. The Princess Margaret Fund for stroke research was established in her name. It provides a unique opportunity for people who care about stroke to invest in areas of stroke research that have the greatest potential to change our understanding of this disease and develop new life-saving treatments. Stroke research is vital to drive improvements in care and treatment but has been historically underfunded, receiving only a fraction of the research investment in other comparable life-threatening conditions. Annual research per stroke patient in the UK is £48 but it is £241 for cancer, so there is a great deal of catching up to do.
Stroke is a complex condition. A wide range of healthcare professionals are involved across the stroke care pathway, from GPs, primary care, ambulance paramedics, hospital doctors, specialists, nurses and support staff through to key rehabilitation specialists. The Stroke Association is campaigning vigorously to ensure that acute staff shortages in many areas of the stroke pathway can be addressed, in particular for the game-changing acute treatment for many strokes of thrombectomy to be available to all who would benefit from it. Thrombectomy is an extremely cost-effective treatment that reduces the chances of disabilities such as paralysis, blindness and aphasia. So watch out for the association’s July campaign on this vital issue, of which I feel certain Her Majesty would fully approve.
I too am very much looking forward to the jubilee celebrations and I pay tribute to all those who have worked so hard and played such a vital part in designing, planning and organising the exciting and imaginative events and initiatives taking place up and down the country. The one I especially commend is the inspirational Queen’s Green Canopy, inviting us to plant a tree for the jubilee. As well as inviting the planting of new trees, the QGC highlights 70 unique and irreplaceable ancient woodlands across the UK. We have seen how hundreds of families, especially children and children’s groups, have taken up the challenge to plant trees, with special environmental and horticultural projects running alongside the canopy initiative to encourage young people in particular to get involved and to think about taking up careers in this important work through such initiatives as the Junior Forester Award. The BBC’s excellent “Countryfile” programme has played a key role in building understanding of how crucial trees are for people and nature and for encouraging communities in all parts of the UK to be a part of the Green Canopy. The need both to protect our existing wood stock and to increase the percentage of the UK under tree cover could not be more important to the future of our planet. Having the Green Canopy as an inspirational and core part of the jubilee celebrations reinforces this crucial message.
Finally, I stress that I am particularly pleased and honoured to be attending the National Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee at St Paul’s Cathedral next weekend. I am looking forward to what will be a very memorable occasion.
My Lords, I join everyone who has spoken in this debate in congratulating Her Majesty on this unique milestone.
It is important to recognise the contribution of the Queen not only to consolidating the position of the monarchy in the UK but also to national and international governance. She has consolidated the position of the monarchy as being above politics. The monarchy has moved from a position of active engagement in the political life of the nation to one of political neutrality. That has been the direction of travel since the late 19th century, but it has been achieved notably during the Queen’s long reign. Some people wonder what the point of the monarch is if she exercises no powers, but by transcending politics she has strengthened the position of the monarchy, and to the benefit of the nation. The noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, captured the position eloquently in his piece in last week’s edition of the House magazine, when he wrote that her role as head of the nation is
“being about the soul of this country”,
embodying expressing identity and national mood, providing a sense of stability and continuity to allow for and facilitate change, recognising success and achievement, and supporting the idea of service to others. She can bring people together in a way that politicians cannot.
The Queen holds prerogative powers that she exercises on advice, and powers that she exercises where she relies on convention or practice, but which serve a purpose for still vesting in the Crown. The fact that, ultimately, she could employ them is important. It is symbolically important in signifying that although Ministers exercise the powers, there remains a higher body to which they owe a duty in exercising them. Loyalty flowing to the Crown is also important for protecting our system of government. Ironically, an unelected monarch serves as the ultimate protector of the political institutions that have displaced the sovereign as the body that governs. As Gerald Kaufman said in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year,
“What she has done in making this United Kingdom a permanent democracy, a democracy that is impregnable, is perhaps the greatest of her many achievements”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/3/2012; col. 862.]
Having a monarch operating above the fray of partisan conflict reflects the value of a parliamentary, as opposed to a presidential, form of government. In a presidential system, the positions of Head of State and Head of Government are vested in one person. In a parliamentary system, the Head of State and Head of Government are separate. The Head of State can thus represent the unity of the nation in a way that a partisan figure cannot. In practical terms, it also makes for a useful division of labour between the monarch, exercising essential state functions, and the Prime Minister, focusing on delivering public policy.
Her Majesty has contributed to national governance, not only by demonstrating, by virtue of holding the Crown, that Ministers have high authority—and that the loyalty of public bodies is to the Crown, not government—but also in being in practice a repository of knowledge, as has been mentioned already in this debate, able to advise successive Prime Ministers. As Tony Blair observed,
“she has got an absolutely unparalleled amount of experience of what it’s like to be at the top of a government.”
Four of her five most recent Prime Ministers had not been born when she ascended the Throne. During her reign, she has known US Presidents from Dwight Eisenhower onwards. The value of her advice has been attested to by successive Prime Ministers. She represents not only a repository of knowledge but also someone who is not a political rival. Judging from occasions when she made public utterances—again, this has been touched upon—she appears to have a knack for asking the right questions. The same would appear to apply to her meetings with Prime Ministers. As Gordon Brown recorded, her questions
“are designed to get the best out of you.”
She has contributed internationally, not only by engaging the interest of other world leaders—an invitation to the palace or to Windsor is something not likely to be turned down—but also at times by soothing tensions at Heads of Government conferences. She has also fulfilled a major role in cementing the relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, as has already been touched upon, not least in her state visit to Dublin in 2011. It was, as Paul Flynn said in the other place,
“a very powerful symbol of reconciliation, which I believe will have a profound effect on healing the wounds that have disfigured life in the island of Ireland for generations.”—[Official Report, Commons, 7/3/12; col. 870.]
She is a major source of the nation’s soft power and enhances the reputation of the United Kingdom. An Ipsos MORI global survey in 2018 found that views of the Royal Family had a net beneficial impact on people’s views of Britain.
The Queen has helped shape the monarchy, being generally deft in knowing when to act and when not to act, and enhancing the position through her dedication and obvious commitment to service. It is worth remembering that she did not ask to be Queen; she was not born to be Queen. However, when circumstances beyond her control led to her becoming heir apparent and then Queen, she dedicated herself to the service of the nation as we have heard so eloquently throughout this debate. I do not know many people—indeed, anyone other than the Queen—who have served in the same job for 70 years and with such dedication.
It is entirely fitting that today we pay tribute to what the Queen has done and the contribution she has made to the life of this nation.
My Lords, the many, varied and heartfelt tributes that we have heard today bear witness to the Queen’s extraordinary service throughout her 70 years on the Throne and the genuine affection in which she is held. For my part, I have found this an uplifting debate to be involved in, which I cannot always say is the case regarding my position at this Dispatch Box. However, I hope that all noble Lords will agree that we have heard some wonderful stories and some heartfelt tributes to Her Majesty. Contributions from all sides of the House demonstrate the real gratitude of this House for all that Her Majesty does and continues to do for the nation. Therefore, on behalf of us all, I send our sincere thanks and good wishes to the Queen, and we are all looking forward to celebrating her Platinum Jubilee next week.
My Lords, I add my warmest congratulations to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of her accession to the Throne. The tributes we have heard today from all sides of the House show the gratitude that this House and the nation owe her for her extraordinary service throughout her reign. It is therefore my honour to put the Question today. The Question is that the Motion for an humble Address be agreed to.
Motion agreed nemine dissentiente, and it was ordered that the Address be presented to Her Majesty by the Lord Chamberlain.
The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Thursday 26 May.
“The high inflation that we are experiencing now is causing acute distress to the people of this country. I know that they are worried. I know that people are struggling. I want to explain what is happening, why it is happening, and what we propose to do about it.
I trust the British people, and I know they understand that no Government can solve every problem, particularly the complex and global challenge of inflation, but this Government will never stop trying to help people, to fix problems where we can and to do what is right, as we did throughout the pandemic. We need to make sure that those for whom the struggle is too hard, and for whom the risks are too great, are supported. This Government will not sit idly by while there is a risk that some in our country might be set so far back that they might never recover. That is simply unacceptable, and we will never allow it to happen.
I want to reassure everybody that we will get through this. We have the tools and the determination we need to combat and reduce inflation. We will make sure that the most vulnerable and least well-off get the support they need at this time of difficulty, and we will also turn this moment of difficulty into a springboard for economic renewal and growth, with more jobs, higher skills and greater investment: our plan for a stronger economy.
Before I turn to the details of our plan, let me put into context for the House the challenge we face. This country is now experiencing the highest rate of inflation we have seen for 40 years. The Bank of England expects inflation to average around 9% this year. Our exposure to global shocks continues to explain most of the inflation above the 2% target. Supply chain disruption as the world reopened from Covid, combined with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and potentially exacerbated by recent lockdowns in China, are all contributing to significant price increases for goods and energy.
However, over the course of the year, the situation has evolved and become more serious. There are areas of particular concern. Even excluding energy and food, core inflation has become broader-based and elevated. Of the basket of goods and services we use to measure inflation, a record proportion is seeing above-average price increases. Also, we are acutely exposed to the European energy price shock and, like the US, we have a tight labour market. Make no mistake, the lowest unemployment in almost 50 years, just months after averting a jobs crisis during the pandemic, is good news, but combined with the shock to European energy prices, it does contribute to the UK’s relatively high rate of inflation.
Lastly, as the Bank has noted, longer-term inflation expectations have risen above their historical averages by more than they are doing in the US and Europe. We cannot and must not allow short-term inflationary pressures to lead people to expect that high inflation will continue over the long term. We can get inflation under control. It is not some abstract force outside our grasp. It may take time, but we have the tools we need and the resolve it will take to reduce inflation. We have three specific tools available to combat and reduce inflation, and we are using them all: independent monetary policy, fiscal responsibility and supply-side activism.
First, our primary tool is a strong independent monetary policy. Since control of monetary policy was taken out of the hands of politicians 25 years ago, inflation has averaged precisely 2%. It is right that the Bank of England is independent, and I know that the governor and his team will take decisive action to get inflation back on target and ensure that inflation expectations remain firmly anchored.
Secondly, we need responsible fiscal policy. That means providing fiscal support where required but not making the situation unnecessarily worse, causing inflation, interest rates and mortgage rates to go up further than they otherwise would. Excessively adding fiscal stimulus into a supply-constrained economy, especially one in which households and businesses have built up over £300 billion of excess savings, risks being counter- productive and increasing inflationary pressures. In other words, fiscal support should be timely, temporary and targeted. Timely because we need to help people when the shock is at its worst, targeted because unconstrained stimulus will make the problem worse, and temporary because if we do not meet our fiscal rules and ensure the public finances are resilient in the longer run, we create even greater risks on inflation, interest rates and the trend rate of economic growth.
Thirdly, we are taking an activist approach to supply-side reforms. This will increase our productive capacity, ease inflationary pressures and raise our long-term growth potential. The Prime Minister’s energy security strategy will reduce bills over time by increasing energy supply and improving energy efficiency. The Work and Pensions Secretary is moving half a million jobseekers off welfare and into work and doing more to support older people back into the jobs market. The Home Secretary is making our visa regime for high-skilled migrants one of the most competitive in the world, and in the autumn we will bring forward tax cuts and reforms to encourage businesses to invest more, train more and innovate more—the path to higher growth. Independent monetary policy, fiscal response ability and supply-side reform—the country should have confidence that using these three tools, we will combat inflation and reduce it over time.
But of course, we know that households are being hit hard right now, so today we will provide significant support to the British people. As I have said, a critical part of how we are dealing with inflation is responsible fiscal policy. What this means in practical terms is that as we support people more, we need to think about the fairest way to fund as much of that cost as possible. The oil and gas sector is making extraordinary profits, not as the result of recent changes to risk taking or innovation or efficiency, but as the result of surging global commodity prices, driven in part by Russia’s war. For that reason, I am sympathetic to the argument to tax those profits fairly, but, as ever, there is a sensible middle ground. We should not be ideological about this; we should be pragmatic. It is possible to both tax extraordinary profits fairly and incentivise investment. So, like previous Governments, including Conservative ones, we will introduce a temporary targeted energy profits levy, but we have built into the new levy a new investment allowance similar to the super-deduction, which means that companies will have a new and significant incentive to reinvest their profits.
The new levy will be charged on the profits of oil and gas companies at a rate of 25%. It will be temporary, and when oil and gas prices return to historically more normal levels, the levy will be phased out, with a sunset clause written into the legislation. And crucially, with our new investment allowance, we are nearly doubling the overall investment relief for oil and gas companies. That means that for every pound a company invests, it will get back 90% in tax relief. So the more a company invests, the less tax it will pay.
We understand that certain parts of the electricity generation sector are also making extraordinary profits. The reason for this is the way our market works. The price our electricity generators are paid is linked not to the costs they incur in providing that electricity but rather to the price of natural gas, which is extraordinarily high right now. Other countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Greece have already taken measures to correct this. As set out in the energy security strategy, we are consulting with the power generation sector and investors to drive forward energy market reforms and ensure that the price paid for electricity is more reflective of the costs of production.
These reforms will take time to implement, so in the meantime, we are urgently evaluating the scale of these extraordinary profits and the appropriate steps to take. So our energy profits levy will encourage investment, not deter it. It will raise around £5 billion of revenue over the next year so that we can help families with the cost of living, and it avoids having to increase our debt burden further. There is nothing noble in burdening future generations with ever more debt today because the politicians of the day were too weak to make the tough decisions.
I know the whole House will agree that we have a responsibility to help those who, through no fault of their own, are paying the highest price for the inflation we face. To help with the cost of living, we are going to provide significant targeted support to millions of the most vulnerable people in our society: those on the lowest incomes, pensioners and disabled people.
First, on people on the lowest incomes, over 8 million households already have incomes low enough for the state to be supporting their cost of living through the welfare system. They could be temporarily unemployed and looking for work; they could be unable to work because of long-term sickness or disability; or they could be on low pay and using benefits to top up their wages. Right now, they face incredibly difficult choices. I can announce today that we will send directly to around 8 million of the lowest-income households a one-off cost of living payment of £650. That support is worth over £5 billion and will give vulnerable people certainty that we are standing by them at this challenging time. The Department for Work and Pensions will make the payment in two lump sums, the first from July and the second in the autumn, with payments from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for those on tax credits following shortly after. There is no need for people to fill out complicated forms or bureaucracy, as we will send the payments straight to their bank account.
Our policy will benefit over 8 million households in receipt of means-tested benefits from July. Uprating in that timeframe could only be done for those on universal credit, and our policy will provide a larger average payment this year of £650, whereas uprating the same benefits by 9% would be worth only £530 on average.
There are two further groups who will need extra targeted support. Many pensioners are disproportionately impacted by higher energy costs. They cannot always increase their income through work and, because they spend more time at home and are more vulnerable, they often need to keep the heating on for longer. We estimate that many people who are eligible for pension credit are not currently claiming it, which means that many vulnerable pensioners will not be receiving means-tested benefits. I can announce today that, from the autumn, we will send over 8 million pensioner households that receive the winter fuel payment an extra one-off pensioner cost of living payment of £300.
Disabled people also face extra costs in their day-to-day lives; for example, they may have energy-intensive equipment around their home or workplace. To help the 6 million people who receive non-means-tested disability benefits, we will send them, from September, an extra one-off disability cost of living payment worth £150. Many disabled people will also receive the payment of £650 I have already announced, taking their total cost of living payment to £800.
I can reassure the House that next year, subject to the review by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, benefits will be uprated by this September’s consumer prices index, which on the current forecast is likely to be significantly higher than the forecast inflation rate for next year. Similarly, the triple lock will apply to the state pension.
Of course, we recognise the risk that, with any policy, there may be small numbers of people who fall between the cracks. For example, it is not possible right now for the DWP or HMRC to identify people on housing benefit who are not also claiming other benefits. To support them and others, we will extend the household support fund delivered by local authorities by £0.5 billion from October.
This is a significant set of interventions to support the most vulnerable in our country. We will legislate to deliver this support on the same terms in every part of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. Taken together, our direct cash payments will help one third of all UK households with cost of living support worth £9 billion.
We are meeting our responsibility to provide the most help to those on the lowest incomes. I believe that is fair, and I am confident that the House will agree, but many other families who do not require state support in normal times are also facing challenging times. Is it fair to leave them unsupported? The answer must surely be no.
Although it is impossible for the Government to solve every problem, we can and will ease the burden as we help the entire country through the worst of this crisis. We will provide more support with the rising cost of energy, and that support will be universal. Earlier this year, we announced £9 billion to help with the cost of energy, including a council tax rebate of £150 for tens of millions of households.
We planned to provide all households with £200 off their energy bills from October, with the cost repaid over the following five years. Since then, the outlook for energy prices has changed. I have heard people’s concerns about the impact of these repayments on future bills, so I have decided that the repayments will be cancelled. For the avoidance of doubt, this support is now unambiguously a grant. Furthermore, we have decided that the £200 of support for household energy bills will be doubled to £400 for everyone. We are on the side of hard-working families with £6 billion of financial support.
To summarise, our strategy is to combat and reduce inflation over time through independent monetary policy, fiscal responsibility and supply-side activism. We are raising emergency funds to help millions of the most vulnerable families who are struggling right now, and all households will benefit from £400 of universal support for energy bills, with not a penny to repay.
In total, the measures I have announced today provide support worth £15 billion. Combined with the plans we have already announced, we are supporting families with the cost of living through £37 billion or 1.5% of GDP. That is more than or similar to the support in countries such as France, Germany, Japan and Italy. I am proud to say that around three quarters of that total support will go to vulnerable households.
As a result of the measures announced today and the action we have already taken this year, the vast majority of households will receive £550, pensioners will receive £850 and almost all of the 8 million most vulnerable households in the country will, in total, receive support of £1,200.
Let me put that in context. The House will have noted the news from Ofgem earlier this week that it expects the energy price cap to rise to £2,800 in October. That implies an average increase in people’s bills this year of just under £1,200, which is the same amount as our policies will provide for the most vulnerable people this year.
I know there are other pressures. I am not trying to claim that we have solved the entire problem for everyone—no Government could—but I hope that when people hear of the significant steps we are taking, and the millions we are helping, they will feel some of the burden eased and some of the pressures lifted. They will know that this Government are standing by them.
Supporting people with the cost of living is only one part of our plan for a stronger economy—a plan that is: creating more jobs; cutting taxes on working people; reducing our borrowing and debt; driving businesses to invest and innovate more; unleashing a skills revolution; seizing the benefits of Brexit; and levelling up growth in all parts of the United Kingdom. The British people can trust this Government because we have a plan for a stronger economy, and I commend it to this House.”
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving us the opportunity to respond to the Statement. These are incredibly difficult times for people across our nation. That much has been clear for several months, so the obvious question is: why is action being taken only now? Many will see this as an attempt to spare the Prime Minister’s blushes after the publication of the Gray report, which we debated last night, rather than a sign that this Government are on their side.
Inflation is running at a 40-year high and is yet to peak. According to recent analysis, the inflation gap between the richest and poorest is growing, meaning that low-income households are bearing the brunt of the cost of living crisis. As the Chancellor acknowledged in his Statement, we expect the energy price cap to rise by a further £800 in October, and this will take energy bills to their highest level since records began. This crisis is hurting everybody, but it will hit those at the bottom of the income distribution the hardest. The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that by October the poorest 10% of households will experience an inflation rate of 14%. By contrast, it will be 8% for the richest 10%. That situation is neither fair nor sustainable.
The various initiatives announced in the Statement are welcome—but of course we would say that as we have been calling for an energy windfall tax for nearly five months. Energy bosses themselves have admitted that they do not know what to do with the unexpected surge in their profits. They have been clear that a windfall tax would not be a disincentive to invest in their operations, and they are already ramping up their investment plans and have money to spare. They can comfortably do both. Despite growing cross-party consensus and the sector’s invitation to act, the Government whipped against a Commons vote on a windfall tax just nine days ago. Of course, the announcement of this temporary targeted energy profit levy is better late than never, but each day of dither and delay has caused unnecessary stress for households and their finances.
We welcome the targeted support for millions of the most vulnerable households across the UK; a significant weight will be lifted when these cost of living payments arrive over the coming months. But this too could have been announced long ago, providing quicker help with April’s cost-cap increase. In the light of Ofgem’s recent announcement, we are also glad that the Government have gone further on universal support. Crucially, the Chancellor has finally dropped the ill-conceived loan element of that scheme. It was wrong to adopt that option and the public immediately saw through his spin. The reduction will no longer be recouped through other increases to bills over the next few years—another Labour policy in action.
One decision ducked by Mr Sunak was on cutting VAT on energy bills. This could have been delivered overnight had the VAT cut been adopted when Labour proposed it last October. It is not the case that many would have had a more comfortable winter? We know that there is growing support for that policy on the Conservative Back Benches, in another place at least. It was even previously touted by the Prime Minister—but I suppose we should not be surprised that he did not keep his word. So can the Minister tell us whether the Treasury will at least be keeping the VAT card up its sleeve should the economic conditions driving increased bills not improve? Can she also confirm whether the Treasury will publish details of how this package is being funded beyond the new windfall tax? Finally, can she give an indication of when enabling legislation for the windfall tax will be brought forward?
In conclusion, we welcome the Government’s U-turns, but there is much more work to be done if people are to be protected from similar price shocks in the future. Given the Government’s willingness to listen to Labour’s ideas, I hope we will soon see aspects of our wider energy plan—for example, rapid action on home insulation and the doubling of onshore wind capacity—put into action.
My Lords, I honestly do not think anybody in this House is seriously fooled. The announcements by the Chancellor today, including the U-turns on a windfall tax and increasing benefits, are basically covering fire for Boris Johnson and his disgraceful role in partygate. The timing gives it away. People have been suffering from a cost of living crunch through much of this winter, making an appalling personal decision on eating or heating. They have needed that help.
The Chancellor says today that he did not know until yesterday that the energy cap would go up by £800 in October. He must be the most out-of-touch person in the country. He could have talked to anybody, on any street, and they would have told him not only that the cap would go up but the amount.
I do welcome today’s package. Anything is needed when a crisis is this urgent and desperate, but one of my concerns is that it covers only the increase in energy costs. The Chancellor’s own speech explains that the average increase in people’s energy bills this year will be just under £1,200. He goes on to say that this is
“the same amount as our policies will provide for the most vulnerable people this year.”
There are other serious pressures, notably the increase in food prices, which are falling most on people on the lowest incomes. I wonder whether the Minister will tell us what experience ordinary people will have and how much more per week it will cost them to deal with those higher food bills. That problem is desperately acute.
There is nothing in here for businesses. I took a quick look at the response from the response from the British Chambers of Commerce, which is usually a very modest group that is always likely to welcome—and does welcome—the actions of the Government. It states:
“For business, the toxic mix of inflation, raw material costs and supply chain disruption”,
largely from Brexit,
“is the flip-side of the coin to the problems facing consumers. Unless steps are also taken to ease business costs, they will likely feed into the inflationary pressure on the economy and quickly eat into the financial support announced today.”
We must not forget that individuals are also facing significant increases in taxes. National insurance contributions are going up 1.25% and, because thresholds have been frozen, many people will find that their income tax bill is shockingly higher than they ever anticipated.
I would like to understand more about why the Chancellor has chosen not to go further. He is going to see £7 billion coming in today from the tax on oil and gas. I agree with others that the oil and gas companies can very much afford to do that. I note that they still plan share buybacks and saw nothing in the market to suggest that that has changed. BP is not cancelling its planned £8 billion in share buybacks this year, nor Shell its £6 billion in announced plans. The Chancellor also now has £8.6 billion in extra VAT due to inflation this year, rising to £40 billion by the end of the Parliament. With that kind of windfall coming into the Treasury itself, there is scope to do a great deal more.
I join others in my party who have called for a cut in VAT, because that would stimulate business, particularly small businesses; take pressure off companies that thought they were going into clear waters coming out of Covid but are now wondering if they are going to survive; and help those on the lowest incomes deal with this severe increase in food prices. Essentially, it is largely paid for by the extra revenues that flow into the Treasury thanks to inflation. Can the Minister explain why that has not happened and why, under those circumstances, the Government are absolutely determined to go ahead with their increase in national insurance contributions, which is going to diminish the pay packet of virtually every working person in the country?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, for their questions and for their welcome, I think, for the announcement made today. It is an important announcement, of significant scale, and it will mean a lot to people up and down the country who have been worrying about their energy bills in particular, as well as wider inflation, which I will come to.
Both noble Lords asked why now and what has changed. I say to them that three things have changed since the Spring Statement. First, the war in Ukraine has developed; we were at an early stage in the conflict then. Secondly, inflation expectations have unfortunately worsened since that time. Thirdly, we now have a much clearer idea of the likely level of the price cap in October. The noble Baroness said that anyone could predict what that would be, but there have actually been quite significant levels of volatility and I think it is right to have the best available information so that we can scale and target our support in the best possible way. That is exactly what we have done.
We have designed a windfall tax that will have significant allowances in it to encourage investment, while still, rightly, raising money that will go to households to support them with the cost of living. In waiting, we have been able to design that investment incentive in it and we also have a tax that will raise more money than the tax proposed by the opposite side, which they estimated to be about £3 billion—our estimates are about £5 billion. It has also allowed us to match the level of support that we intend to provide for the needs that people will have over the coming months. The lowest-income households, which the noble Lord, Lord Collins, rightly referred to in his questions, will receive around double the amount under the Government’s plans than in the plans set out by Labour.
Both noble Lords opposite asked about a VAT cut. A VAT cut on energy would provide, on average, support of around £120 per household. The basic support of a grant to every household of £400 is obviously much more substantial than that, but also, using a VAT cut would mean that more relief would go to those households which are, for the most part, the wealthiest, so I do not think it would be necessarily a well-targeted approach to the problems that we face.
The noble Lord asked when we will legislate for this new levy. The usual channels will, of course, discuss that, and we will bring forward legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows. However, we are clear that the levy starts from today, so there will not be an opportunity to avoid it from that perspective. He also asked about the gap in support for families while we look at what support can be put in place for the October increase in the price cap. Of course, when we knew the April figures and other estimates for the economy, we put more support in place: the national living wage has gone up, and most families have, I think, received their council tax rebate of £150 per household. We had previous cuts in the universal taper rate and an increase in the work allowance, and of course we announced the increase in national insurance thresholds.
I really have to correct the noble Baroness when it comes to national insurance. Yes, we have introduced the health and social care levy that will raise billions of pounds to pay for health and social care spending in years to come, but the increase in the NICs thresholds that will come in in July means that 70% of people will pay less in NICs next year than they would otherwise pay. I do not think it is right for people to get the impression that their pay packets are going to go down in July when they will go up. Also, in increasing thresholds while retaining that levy, we have had to take some difficult decisions that reflect our approach to fiscal responsibility, but we have done it in a targeted and quite redistributive way. I thought that was something that the Liberal Democrats might welcome, and I am disappointed that they still do not feel able to do so.
The noble Baroness talked about pressures beyond the increase in the cost of energy, and she is absolutely right. I have mentioned some of the action we have taken. We have introduced the fuel duty cut to help people with the cost of living. She talked about businesses needing support. We have introduced business rates relief and increased the investment allowance for businesses. We have NICs relief for small businesses employing low numbers of people, which is worth millions of pounds to many small businesses.
I think I have covered most of the points raised by noble Lords. I am glad they have welcomed the action. We have designed it very carefully to recognise that households across the country will be feeling the squeeze in months to come. There is some universal support, but those on the lowest incomes will struggle the most to meet those costs, so we have put in place extra support to help them where we can.
It is important that I close with one thing. The Government cannot meet the cost of living crisis and alleviate all the pain that people will feel over the coming months; I will never pretend that we can. We can put in place targeted interventions to help those least able to meet those rising costs, and that is exactly what we have done with our announcement today.
My Lords, the Chancellor has not really done anything to control inflation. None of the measures will reduce it in any way whatever. Even on the windfall tax, and on tax, it is a sleight of hand. Let me explain how this works.
First, people are taxed to the hilt. The Chancellor then comes along and increases income tax by stealth and national insurance, then gives some of this money back to the people. They then give it to the energy companies, so that they can continue to profiteer and increase their profits, the same as before.
The windfall tax is for only one year; that will not reduce energy costs or the rate of inflation. If the Government were to cap energy prices, as the French Government have, that would definitely reduce the rate of inflation—but that is not what the Government have done. At the same time, they are handing all kinds of tax reliefs to corporations, which means that the tax base of oil and gas companies will also shrink in future—they will pay less tax. It is a very odd kind of strategy.
If a windfall tax on oil and gas companies is good enough—at last the Government have done a U-turn—why is there no windfall tax on supermarkets, banks, railway companies and water companies? They have been profiteering too. That contributes to the rate of inflation, which is damaging to the people, but none of that is being considered by the Government in any way whatever.
I have just spoken to a firm of accountants after the Chancellor’s Statement, and it is rubbing its hands and saying—
I am not sure that I picked up the noble Lord’s questions there, but he did talk about the potential inflationary impact of this announcement and asked what the Government are doing to tackle inflation. I can say to all noble Lords that we have three tools available to us to combat and reduce inflation and we are using them all. First, we have strong, independent monetary policy, overseen by the Bank of England. Secondly, we have responsible fiscal policy from this Government. I am cognisant of the potential inflationary impacts of announcements such as these and that is why we are ensuring that the support we are putting in place is targeted, timely and time-limited. We will continue to take difficult fiscal decisions to ensure that we remain within our fiscal rules. Thirdly, we are taking an activist approach to supply-side reforms, which will increase our productive capacity, ease inflationary pressures and raise our long-term growth potential. I do not think the list of further taxes that the noble Lord said he wanted to apply would encourage more investment in our economy, which is what we need to see the growth that we all want and to support the record lows in, for example, unemployment that this Government have presided over.
My Lords, could my noble friend help me by explaining something? During the Covid lockdown, when there was the furlough scheme and many employers kept people in employment, the Chancellor thought it was appropriate to increase universal credit by £20 a week, which is £1,000 of additional income for some of the poorest people in our country. If that was thought appropriate then, why is it not thought appropriate now, when those people are facing—in the words of the Governor of the Bank of England—“apocalyptic” increases in prices? What is the logic of the Chancellor’s position?
My Lords, the increase in universal credit was always brought forward as a temporary measure as, through the restrictions needed to deal with the Covid pandemic, large parts of our economy were effectively shut down. We face a different set of challenges now. They are severe for many households, but they are to do with inflationary pressures and a large part of that is driven by energy prices, so we are targeting our response towards dealing with that. Under our plans, the lowest-income households will receive around £1,200, which is roughly equivalent to the expected increase in costs for the energy price cap rise. Some people benefited from a UC uprating or temporary uplift, but pensioners who struggle with energy bills did not benefit under that system. People with disabilities, who can face higher energy costs, did not necessarily benefit from that UC uplift. This is a targeted set of measures to deal with a specific set of problems and it should be welcomed.
My Lords, I welcome the support for people with disabilities, but why have the Government taken so long and yet not come to a view or set out the tax on the power generation sector? The peroration from the noble Lord, Lord Sikka, was perhaps overly long, but he made a very important point: one way to deal with the energy price crisis specifically would have been to emulate the French by having a price cap. I accept the point from the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, that it is not only an energy crisis; nevertheless, that would have been far more targeted and directed.
My Lords, the structure of the French energy market is different from our own. Different interventions are appropriate in different circumstances, but the generosity of the approach we have taken is comparable. On electricity generation, it is more complicated. As I have said, we have taken time to design the levy so as not to deter investment and we are looking very carefully at the scale of the extraordinary returns in the electricity sector and measures that could be taken in response. We have longer-term plans to reform that sector, but there may be a case for doing something in the interim and we are working urgently to look at that.
My Lords, the Minister has rightly admitted that a large part of the problem that the Government are facing is driven by energy prices. In that case, why are the Government still resisting the development of onshore wind—a rapid and cheap way of generating more power—when, if we doubled our capacity from this form of power, we could cut £6 billion off households’ energy bills?
My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister remind the House that actions have consequences? If you have spent a long time demanding green levies and net zero—a fine, legitimate position—do not now complain about fuel poverty. If, as Members in this House have done, you have opposed trade deals with Australia and New Zealand because they are going to flood us with cheap food, do not complain about the price of food. If you spent two years during the lockdown demanding longer and stricter measures, then spare us the high moral tone about inflation. If you pay people to stay at home while printing more money, then you are bound to have a cost of living crisis. Will my noble friend the Minister comment a little on the fiscal effect of a windfall tax? Ronald Reagan used to say that businesses do not pay taxes, they collect taxes. In this case, as all taxes are paid by human beings, is it not the case that the windfall tax will be passed on to consumers, customers, staff and employers, and will take more money out of the economy?
I do not think that is necessarily the case because in the specific circumstances that we are talking about, energy companies have benefited not from greater efficiency in their operations or profitability due to their own efforts, but due to global circumstances. I think that my noble friend and I disagree on green levies and net zero. Actually, our investment in renewable energy has reduced the impact of the current crisis on people’s bills.
I welcome this package, although it is belated, and I welcome its focus on lower-income people, with this exception that it is a universal payment to pensioners, including pensioners who pay 40%— and more—rates of tax, as I am sure is the case with many Members of this House, including me. Do the Government think they are doing enough for poor, working families with children? To give an example, I heard on the radio last week about the impact of inflation on the school meals budget, and how schools are having to reduce the content of food because of the squeeze of inflation on those budgets. Is that not something that the Government should have addressed as a priority, to make sure that children from poor families get at least one decent meal a day?
In ensuring that children get decent meals, we have extended free school meals, and we have the holiday support programme that ensures that this is not just during term-time. On the noble Lord’s question about support to pensioners versus families with children, there is a greater deal of support going to those on low incomes, and we have made this a target. There is also a universal payment and a payment for pensioners who are less able to meet rising energy costs. Pension credit take-up in not where I think anyone in this House would want it to be, and simply targeting pension support through pension credit is not necessarily going to reach everyone we need to. We have to have a balance between universal support that ensures that no one slips through the net, and better targeted support that ensures that those who need it most, get the most support. I think we have done that quite carefully in this package and got it right this time.
My Lords, I cannot find anything in the Statement in relation to prepayment meters. There is a lot about those on low incomes and rising energy prices, but for many people on low incomes there is a problem with prepayment meters because it puts the cost they have to pay up. This matter has been raised in your Lordships’ House several times in recent weeks. Can the Minister tell us whether any progress is being made to reduce the pressure for those who have prepayment meters?
I completely understand the point the noble Lord is making and have to apologise; I tried to get an answer in anticipation to this being raised. I do not have one, but I am very happy to write. I reassure him that those on prepayment meters will get the £400 rebate delivered by a different mechanism. We are ensuring that they receive it.
My Lords, I join almost the whole House in welcoming the belated arrival of the energy profits levy, albeit at an inadequate level. I note that the Statement spends almost as much time on the new investment allowance, through which, for every £1 an oil or gas company invests, it gets 90% back in tax relief. From the Treasury factsheet accompanying this, it appears that this tax offset applies only to investment in the oil and gas sector. The Statement makes no reference to renewables. I believe a report is out in the Independent now expressing astonishment that it appears that oil and gas companies, if they chose to invest in renewables, would not get the tax relief on them. Can the Minister confirm that there will be the same tax relief on renewables as the Government are offering on oil and gas?
My Lords, this is a levy on oil and gas producers, but the Government have also been clear that in the medium term, in terms of our energy security, new investment in those sectors will be needed. The investment relief has been designed to ensure that this is not deterred.
I have a couple of concerns about wider financial sustainability and, if I go too wide, perhaps my noble friend could write to me. The first is on monetary policy, picking up on what the noble Lord, Lord Sikka, said. How are we going to get inflation down? The Chancellor seems to be leaving this to the Bank of England, but it has been very slow to increase interest rates or stop QE—it has now done that—and it does not have any proper monetarist economists on the MPC, so I am not quite clear how inflation is going to go down. The second thing, which is also perhaps a little broad, is that 1 million non-British people have arrived in the UK in the last year. I would be interested to know how much of the much-needed aid that has been announced today will in practice go to them.
My Lords, on my noble friend’s first point, she tempts me to comment on the operation of monetary policy by the independent Bank of England. The only comment I will give is this: since control of monetary policy was taken out of the hands of politicians 25 years ago, inflation has averaged precisely 2%. On my noble friend’s second point, I do not have those figures. I am not sure that they would necessarily be available, but I am happy to find out. If they are, I can write to her and supply them.
My Lords, I would like to follow up on the latter point about the tight labour market. Estimates are that we have between 400,000 and 1 million illegal workers in this country. None of them is paying tax, national insurance or into the Exchequer. Could the Government spend a little time looking at that? One solution would be to have an amnesty in the next six months for everyone who is an illegal worker to register. It would make their lives safer. They are here and would come into the system, and it would increase the flow of revenue and national insurance. I hope the noble Baroness will be prepared to take that away. Secondly, we look again at flows of income on page 5, with the “excess savings” we have in the country and what people are doing with them. I suggest we have a look again at what we did at the end of the Second World War, when we introduced post-war credits and raised substantial money as a country for investment. That was of great benefit to the country, and I am sure that people would be prepared to participate in an event of that kind if the Government were prepared to stimulate one.
On the noble Lord’s second point, the Government always welcome new or revisited ideas and I will certainly pass that back to the Treasury. On people who may be working in the black economy or working without paying tax and national insurance, the noble Lord is right that this is an issue. The Government have taken significant steps over recent years to ensure proper minimum wage enforcement. We also have a Director of Labour Market Enforcement because, as well as ensuring that people pay proper taxes, we need to ensure that they are not vulnerable to exploitation and that the proper rights they should have at work are also offered to them.
My Lords, can my noble friend look at the potential of a windfall tax on the excessive profits that electricity companies have been making? One electricity company alone posted a profit of £1.5 billion—a 14% increase. Would it also not have been better to have targeted the money through the warm homes discount to make sure that it reaches those most vulnerable, who are living in the coldest homes?
My Lords, as I have said already, we are looking at certain parts of the energy generation sector that are also making extraordinary profits, because the price that electricity generators are paid is linked to the price of natural gas. So, like many other countries, we are looking at what measures we might want to take to correct that and engaging with industry urgently on it. On how the support we are providing is delivered and targeted, the Chancellor, as my noble friend would expect, looked at many different options for how best to support people. This package strikes the right balance in terms of targeted and universal support, simplicity of delivery mechanism and the speed at which support can get to people, and it should be very welcome.
My Lords, we are told that the windfall tax will raise around £5 billion and that the cost of the £650 for households will total around £5 billion—it is probably £5.2 billion. Can the Minister tell us the cost of the other measures announced today and how those are to be funded? Given that the Chancellor has also said that he will honour the pledge to restore the triple lock on pensions, and that they will go up by CPI at the rate that is likely to be in September, how is that going to be funded?
In terms of the funding, the noble Baroness is absolutely right: the total cost of the package is around £15 billion. It will be part funded by the levy and the rest will be funded by borrowing. As my right honourable friend the Chancellor said, it is part of an overall fiscally responsible approach. We have ensured that our approach is both targeted and time-limited, so that is the case. I am afraid that I have forgotten the noble Baroness’s other—
My Lords, I have remembered the noble Baroness’s second point about increasing benefits next spring in line with September’s CPI inflation. I can confirm that that is the Government’s intention and I think that would be costed by the OBR in the fiscal forecasts already in place. The other spending will be paid for by borrowing, but it is a one- off cost.
My Lords, time is now up for this business.
Evacuations from Afghanistan
Commons Urgent Question
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat an Answer to an Urgent Question in the other place given by my right honourable friend the Minister for Europe and North America. The response is as follows:
“The Government are grateful to the Foreign Affairs Committee for its inquiry and detailed report. We will consider the report carefully and provide a written response on the timeline the committee has requested.
The scale of the crisis in Afghanistan last year was unprecedented in recent times. The report recognises that the Taliban took the country at a pace which surprised themselves, the international community and the former Government of Afghanistan. The many months of planning for the evacuation, and the enormous efforts of staff to deliver it, enabled us to evacuate more than 15,000 people within a fortnight under exceptionally difficult circumstances. The Government could not have delivered this evacuation without planning, grip and leadership.
The evacuation involved processing the details of thousands of individuals by MoD, FCDO and Home Office staff in the UK, and by a team on the ground in Kabul. In anticipation of the situation, the FCDO had reserved the Baron Hotel, so the UK was the only country apart from the United States to have a dedicated emergency handling centre where it could receive and process people at Kabul International Airport. FCDO staff were on the ground in Kabul throughout, alongside other government departments and the military.
RAF flights airlifted people to a dedicated terminal in Dubai, reserved in advance by the FCDO, where evacuees were assisted by another cross-government team. They were then flown on FCDO-chartered flights to the UK where they were received by staff from the Home Office and other departments who ensured they were cared for and quarantined. The evacuation was carefully planned and tightly co-ordinated, and it delivered.
As it does following all crises, the FCDO has conducted a thorough lessons learned exercise. We have written to the FAC with the main findings. Changes have already been implemented by the FCDO, for example in response to the Ukraine crisis.
We all regret that we were not able to help more of those people who worked with us or for us out of Afghanistan during the military evacuation. Since the end of the evacuation last summer, we have helped over 4,600 people to leave Afghanistan. We will continue to work to deliver on our commitment to those eligible for resettlement here in the United Kingdom through the ARAP programme and the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme.”
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Answer to the Urgent Question. I suspect all Ministers will find the report difficult reading, but no doubt the noble Lord will because he worked so hard during the crisis. I know that he was totally committed to helping people escape. However, the Doha agreement was signed 18 months before Kabul fell. It was obvious to many that the Taliban were emboldened by the difficulties faced by the Afghan security forces, yet their success seems to have come as a surprise to the Government. Does the noble Lord accept that this was a fatal flaw in our intelligence, and will he commit to a specific review into those particular failures?
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right: I lived that crisis, and I continue to live and work on the situation and the response to the evacuation of Afghanistan. Even today, it remains the case that there are many people seeking to leave Afghanistan, particularly the most vulnerable, and it is important that we continue to engage. Certainly, through direct engagement and direct briefings—both at the FCDO and in Parliament—I have ensured that our colleagues across both Houses are fully informed.
On the specific issue of planning, I was engaged on this and, of course, I made my own assessments and provided appropriate briefings to the teams in the FCDO and Her Majesty’s Government. I recall that as late as July, I was at a conference in Uzbekistan where I met the then president, President Ghani; Foreign Minister Atmar; other key partners, including the United States, Turkey and all near neighbours; and international organisations. While it was very clear that the Taliban were gaining ground, no one—I repeat, no one—had made an assessment that this would happen so quickly. I fully accept the premise about when the fall of Kabul happened, on 15 August—indeed, I remember speaking to Foreign Minister Atmar on 11, 13 and 15 August, and then again on 16 August. Even as late as Thursday, with Kabul falling on the Saturday, there was an inward- bound Turkish delegation to Kabul.
We continue to work with partners. Undoubtedly there are lessons that have to be learned and improvements to be made—and, yes, some of those have been implemented in the response to Ukraine. But it is equally important to ensure that we remain vigilant to the current situation, which remains live in Afghanistan, including the humanitarian situation. Therefore, I am proud that, notwithstanding the challenges we face, the Government remain committed to providing support, particularly humanitarian support, to the most vulnerable in Afghanistan.
My Lords, the Minister knows that I was involved in evacuating a significant number of women lawyers and judges from Afghanistan, and chartered flights to do that. We managed to get six into the United Kingdom. After the military evacuations, only six of those 103 on the lily pad in Athens were allowed to come into Britain. That was possible because women judges here had mentored some of those judges, so they had received prior letters of evacuation—indeed, the Minister himself had provided some of them. We tried to get women at risk into this country afterwards but we did not succeed. How many visas have been given since the end of last August to women from Afghanistan who are at risk?
My Lords, I first acknowledge all the work that the noble Baroness engaged in both during the crisis and subsequently. She and I have worked on the important issue of vulnerable communities in Afghanistan, particularly the cohort of judges that she refers to. On the specifics of the number of vulnerable identified women, I can certainly write to her after consulting my colleagues at the Home Office. I have quoted an overall figure of 4,600 who have settled here in the UK since the evacuation, but I will write to her on the specific break- down after I have got the detail from the Home Office.
I pay tribute to the Minister’s role in this incident last year, but the report is pretty scathing about the Government’s mismanagement. It says that there were no necessary preparations for the withdrawal and no proper plan. There was mismanagement—indeed there seems to be a cycle of mismanagement in the Government—and I want to know precisely how the Foreign Office and the Government plan to stop this sort of action happening again.
My Lords, as I have always acknowledged, there are always improvements that can be made—the same is true in the current crisis in Ukraine. You cannot say that any Government have a perfect response in every crisis; you do not know, because every crisis is different. We had made plans. I remember myself, after heavy diplomatic engagement with near-neighbours, that I returned via Dubai deliberately on the day that we handed the keys back to the Emiratis. There was no panic in Dubai; there was a massive operation there and we are grateful to the Emirati authorities for the strong co-operation that we saw then. That would not have happened if it had not been planned.
On the issue of lessons learned, I lived through the Covid crisis when we were repatriating, and one challenge that we faced then was chartering flights. In Afghanistan, not only did we have chartered flights ready but we had a reserve option, and indeed a second reserve option with other large carriers. Previous crises fed into the planning. Of course there are improvements to be made, and they are being implemented. We have seen that in the strong cross-government co-operation in the response to Ukraine and in the leadership that we have been able to show within the international community on the Ukraine crisis and more.
My Lords, one reason why the Ghani Government collapsed so quickly was the suddenness of the disappearance of western forces. Can the Minister confirm that the timetable for that withdrawal was decided in Washington DC by the American military and that, for whatever reason—possibly now to their regret—the Americans did not listen to their allies, including the United Kingdom?
My Lords, again, the noble Lord speaks with great insight and knowledge of the situation. Yes, there was a decision that had been taken by the United States in relation to the NATO engagement in Afghanistan, and we were of course part of that engagement. It was very clear that, once the United States had made that decision to withdraw and the timetable had been set, we had to work to those parameters. The challenges that we saw were immense. I turn to the point on the speed, even on the day, at which the Taliban took over Kabul. There are now some incredible women leaders right here in London; they were sitting on planes ready to leave and do their daily business—no one expected the fall of Kabul as quickly as it happened. Equally, it is important that, when partners work together, they share intelligence so that, in extremely challenging and unprecedented situations, decisions can be made to deliver the best possible outcomes.
My Lords, I wish to recognise the incredible work done by the Minister on this issue, particularly since the fall. I want to raise the issue of vulnerable groups. A large number of LGBT people who were hoping to get out of the country are now in hiding. Are the Minister’s Government still in regular contact with Amnesty International, Stonewall, Rainbow Migration and the other organisations that are working very hard and on the ground on this issue?
My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that we continue to work with key groups that have links with NGOs on the ground. I referred earlier to some of the incredible, courageous women leaders; they are also very much part of my formal engagement, and are informing our decisions today and our medium and long-term policy when it comes to Afghanistan. On LGBT people and other minorities, the situation is dire—the noble Lord knows the Taliban’s approach to this issue. However, that does not mean that we should be deterred from our focus on and support for these communities in Afghanistan.