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Lords Diary: Baroness Owen – 'I’m here as a working peer'

Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge (UK Parliament / CC BY 3.0)

3 min read

Having been introduced into the Lords in July, I was advised by some very wise heads that the best way to learn the ropes is to be present for debates – to understand and get familiar with the processes.

I’m here as a working peer and it’s critical I make a contribution that matters. I can’t do that unless I know how the organisation works.

The King’s first State Opening of Parliament was an extraordinary event. I decided that His Majesty’s gracious speech was a great opportunity for me to make my maiden speech. I chose the fourth day of the humble address which covered the themes of science, technology, media and culture. 

It’s fair to say nothing has ever quite matched how nerve-wracking it was as I sat on the red benches waiting to be called. But I was blessed with huge encouragement from friends and colleagues on all benches.

I’m here as a working peer and it’s critical I make a contribution that matters

They listened and even laughed at the right moments, and no sooner had I begun than I was sitting back down, mission accomplished. I got through the experience and felt all the better for it.

At coffee with the Lord Speaker, I heard about the brilliant “Learn with the Lords” scheme. Peers are encouraged to visit schools in their areas to give pupils a flavour of how Parliament works and the work that happens in the Lords.

I’m passionate about youth engagement in politics, and this week I’ll be carrying out my first school visit to a local North West school to speak to their politics class. There couldn’t be a more fascinating time to talk to students about what’s going on in our world.

The teacher informed me it’s Christmas Jumper Day at the school, so I’m digging out something suitably festive from the wardrobe.

Something else that motivates me is man-made climate change. I went to COP28 in Dubai and was delighted to see a number of ambitious pledges made, not least the commitment by 123 countries including the United Kingdom to triple renewable energy generation capacity by 2030.

But also I’m hugely supportive of the plan to treble nuclear power capacity by 2050. This form of low-carbon generation complements the push to dial up on renewables across the globe. Importantly, it signals a move away from fossil fuels to embrace a cleaner, more powerful energy source. This is a vital step if we are to keep to the critical 1.5 degree limit of warming from pre-industrial levels established in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The technology and innovation on offer is a game-changer. In Dubai I was really taken by the way AI will play a critical part in our efforts to meet climate change pledges. Industry will use AI to track emissions as well as spot opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint. It’s exciting. We’re only on the first rung of the ladder of what technology can help us achieve.

I looked around the women’s pavilion, which was very impressive. The experience starts, powerfully, from the perspective of young schoolgirls from across the globe. Sustainability and gender equality go hand in hand as women and girls are disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change.

Christmas is a very special time for me. I’ve loved learning the special traditions and disciplines of the House of Lords. Who knew there was an anonymous stilton cheese donor to The Bishops Bar? The carols in St Mary Undercroft, the parliamentary chapel, are delightful. And of course, as an unashamed bargain-hunter, what’s not to love about discount week in the gift shop?

I look forward to a Christmas spent with my family in the North West and I wish everyone who works on the parliamentary estate a peaceful and restful Christmas.

Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge is a Conservative life peer

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