By Paul Goodman
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I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, "Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!
The words in a speech that move most deeply, more often than not, aren't actually deployed in it. They are: I was there. Lords Jopling, Wakeham, Fowler, Waddington and Tebbit have spoken in the Lords, as has Lady Williams from the Liberal Democrat benches. My old boss Lord King of Bridgwater is there, and has spoken, too; Lord Howe was present, but has apparently left. Lord Heseltine is absent. But in that other sense, he was there.
By Jonathan Isaby
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Yesterday saw the first day of a two-day debate in the House of Lords on the Government's recently published proposals for introducing a predominantly elected second chamber.
Over 100 peers are due to speak in the debate over the two days and yesterday a number of senior Tories - including many former Cabinet ministers - contributed to the discussion with more than note of scepticism.
Here's a flavour of the debate...
Lord St John of Fawsley
"The beginning of wisdom is to leave well alone. What on earth is this House doing spending two precious days debating an issue that has no interest outside the Westminster village and for which there is no demand in this country at a time when we are facing a domestic crisis of major proportions? We have problems with the health service-the mind boggles at how we are going to get through that-and a world economic crisis. What kind of a world are we living in when we give priority to this subject which, however interesting to the few, is of no major importance?"
Lord Lawson of Blaby
"Understandably, most people of ability are disinclined to enter the overexposed hurly-burly of electoral politics. Some of us have been sufficiently mad to do so, but there is a limited supply of such mad men and women. The best of those few who are prepared to take the plunge will rightly seek to enter the House of Commons, where political power overwhelmingly resides, at least in principle, on whose support the Government of the day depend and from whose Benches high government offices are filled. There may also be some men and women of ability who, recognising the importance that the institutions of the European Union now play in our national life, may be attracted to membership of the European Parliament. In Scotland and Wales, the devolved Assemblies offer another possibility of a worthwhile and high-profile role. Even local government in England provides a greater opportunity to influence real events on the ground than does membership of the second Chamber at Westminster. That is the reality.
Lord Jopling, a Conservative peer and former minister, has asked the Government how much it is spending on bailing out banks:
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): RBS Group plc, Lloyds TSB plc and HBOS Group plc have announced the terms on which they are participating in the Government's recapitalisation scheme. Details are set out in the placing and open offer agreements that were placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament on 18 November.
These banks are also eligible to use the Government's credit guarantee scheme (CGS). By the end of December, in total, participating banks will have accessed some £100 billion of funding under the CGS. Figures for individual banks are confidential."
Should these figures really be confidential? If banks are to be nationalised - in whole or part - does not the public have a right to know how much money we are stumping up for each of them? Shouldn't we be able to assess whether a bank is getting too much?
Would someone care to explain why commercial confidentiality should apply here?
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