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Arrangement of Business

Volume 814: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021


My Lords, before we start the main business of the day, I rise to say a few words with the agreement of my noble friend the Leader of the House, the usual channels and the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers. Since 21 April 2020, the House has sat virtually or in hybrid fashion. Following the decisions taken by the House last week, from September we will to all intents and purposes return to our normal physical ways of working. This means that today is likely to be the last day of hybrid proceedings.

As noble Lords acknowledged in our debate in May, creating and maintaining the hybrid House was the work of many. While the hybrid House has had its frustrations and flaws for all of us, it is right to pay tribute to the staff of the House who have worked, seen and unseen, to ensure that the House continued to function for so many months. Today, at the end of the hybrid House, I thank some of the staff who have worked to maintain the hybrid proceedings. This includes those who managed the daily invitations to Members to participate; those who assisted Members with technical difficulties; and those who worked in the hub, to link the broadcasters to the Chamber. They include Eleanor Clements, who ably led the behind-the-scenes co-ordination and administration of the virtual proceedings, as well as her colleagues Maggie Barnes, Alex Brocklehurst, Simon Nicholls and Seonaid Still. I also thank Sally Freestone, David Loader and their colleagues in the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit, and our contractors, NEP Bow Tie. I also thank all those in the Virtual Participation Administration Team and the Hub Clerk Team, which were created at the start of the pandemic to enable Members to participate virtually in the Chamber and Grand Committee. The staff on these teams volunteered to take on this work in addition to busy day jobs to keep the House running.

I am sure I speak for the whole House when I pay tribute to their unstinting professionalism, hard work and dedication—and, not least, their patience. We are very grateful, and we thank them all.

My Lords, I thank the Chief Whip for those remarks and echo his thanks to the staff of the House, the Digital Service, the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit, the Virtual Participation Administration Team and the Hub Clerk Team. I also thank the Members of the House. This has not been an easy 18 months but technologically we have achieved much more than we ever thought possible. Our virtual and hybrid House arrangements were world leading and, importantly, we have continued to carry out our constitutional duty.

Chief Whips are not accustomed to being thanked in the Chamber, but today I do just that. The Chief Whip, together with the Leader of the House and all members of the usual channels and the Convenor, deserve our thanks. The work they do to build consensus, often in very difficult circumstances, is a great service to the House. During this period, they have worked tirelessly. Ahead of the rise of the House today, I wish all noble Lords and staff a very restful and enjoyable Summer Recess. It has never been more well deserved.