My Lords, Lord Soley retired from the House today. He served this House for 17 years and, prior to that, had a distinguished career in the House of Commons for more than two decades. He always intended to make his valedictory speech in the debate in the name of my noble friend Lady Verma.
However, a misunderstanding arose as a result of certain ambiguities in the Companion. None the less, the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 is clear that a retirement takes place at 0.01 am, and therefore Lord Soley was advised, quite correctly, that he would no longer be a Member of the House and could not make a valedictory speech. Lord Soley had not appreciated this, and I understand that a misunderstanding of this type has arisen before.
I believe the sense of the House is that it would wish to hear a valedictory speech from such a long-standing and well-respected Member. I therefore felt, as your Lordships’ Leader, that we should seek to address the situation that had arisen in a creative way. After due consultation, I concluded that I should suggest to your Lordships that, on this single occasion, special arrangements be made. So after my noble friend concludes her opening remarks—I congratulate her on securing this important debate—I will move that the House adjourns during pleasure. Lord Soley will then make his contribution and his valedictory speech. I hope noble Lords will remain to hear his remarks. The House will then resume and continue the debate.
I am particularly grateful to the clerks and the House authorities for their work to accommodate this. Measures will be taken to avoid any future ambiguity as to the time of retirement and ensure that retiring Members are fully aware of the consequences of their choice of date, which is irrevocable under the 2014 Act. Today’s proceedings should not set any precedent, but I venture to hope that noble Lords believe this an appropriate course in the circumstances.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal and the Government Chief Whip for their intervention in this matter. I am grateful for the noble Lord’s comments about Lord Soley, who has been a highly regarded, well-respected and much-loved Member of this House, and we wish to hear his valedictory speech. He and the Chief Whip, working with us, have made this possible, and we are very grateful.