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Lords Diary: Baroness Smith of Llanfaes

Affordable housing protest | Image by: Gruffydd Thomas / Alamy Stock Photo

Baroness Smith of Llanfaes

Baroness Smith of Llanfaes

4 min read

I am young. I am a woman. And I am from Wales. Many of you will know well that is not the norm in the House of Lords

When my nomination for a peerage was announced, much comment was made on my age (28), the colour of my hair, and my choice of footwear. However, I hope to give you a flavour of what I hope to contribute during my time here. 

It has been two months since I was introduced as the youngest member of the Lords. My first opportunity to vote was amid the Rwanda Bill ping-pong.

I am now one of only 36 members of the Lords who is below the age of 50. One of only six below the age of 40. And the only one below the age of 30.

I am conscious of the particular responsibility I hold, as not only the youngest current member of the Lords, but also the youngest life peer ever to have been created. 

My responsibility, as I see it, is to not just be my own voice, or that of my party, or my country, but to be a voice of my generation.

When my colleague, Lord Wigley, gave his maiden speech in the Lords in 2011, he spoke of his election, alongside Lord Elis-Thomas, to the Commons in 1974. He said: “It was once suggested that the two of us entered the place as revolutionaries and departed as mere reformers. But if the objectives which we then had, and to which I still aspire, of a new relationship between the nations of these islands can be achieved by reforming the structures of government, that is all to the good.”

And: “If the process of devolution allows Wales… to take appropriate decisions on an all-Wales level, and to have its voice heard when other decisions are taken on a wider basis, that is also to the good.”

As I begin my time in the Lords, I associate myself with those words.

I do not believe that an unelected Upper Chamber has a place in a modern, democratic society

My own experience is that of growing up on a council estate in Llanfaes, Ynys Môn, as a young carer to my late father. These experiences are not unique to me and we know that many people continue to face barriers every day. That is particularly true for those from backgrounds that are largely under-represented in our corridors of power and where decisions are made. 

Experiencing and witnessing injustice is what drove me to campaigning and politics, to influence change and make a difference. This mission is what continues to drive me.

My generation has a particular experience, a particular perspective, which deserves and needs to be reflected in Parliament with a seat around the table. 

I was particularly pleased to be able to deliver my maiden speech last month during a debate on affordable housing, raising how young people are often exploited by landlords and struggle to afford to buy their own home. 

I have also recently pressed the government in the Chamber on other issues, such as on period dignity for all and the under-25s rate cap on Universal Credit. I hope to continue pressing on matters of importance to young people and also to use my platform to demystify politics, where I can, and promote politics as a place for all – especially a place for those with diverse experiences. 

There is a job of work to do, and I have got stuck in.

Since joining the Lords, I have been quite open in my view that, although I believe Welsh voices are necessary in here now, while this place has a say in the laws that govern Wales, I do not believe that an unelected Upper Chamber has a place in a modern, democratic society.

While I may be in the minority within the corridors of Westminster in holding that view – and it is my intention to be constructive in my contributions – I would not be doing my job if I did not continue to express it. 

Baroness Smith of Llanfaes is a Plaid Cymru peer

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