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Lords Diary – Lord Etherton

Pride demonstration, London, July 2023: Under proposed new Ugandan anti-LGBT legislation those engaging in same-sex sexual activity would face the death penalty | Alamy

Lord Etherton

Lord Etherton

4 min read

From LGBT veterans to the Illegal Migration Bill, the work of the House of Lords has not abated in its intensity at all during the relatively short period that I have been a member

Last year I was appointed the chair of the LGBT Veterans Independent Review, considering the experiences of LGBT veterans, who served in HM armed forces between 1967 and 2000 (in the context of the blanket ban that then existed on their presence in the armed forces) and to make recommendations to the government. The requirement to complete the review within one year was a great challenge. There were 1,128 responses to a call for evidence, many of which were lengthy (one running to over 50 pages). I read every one of them and, together with my support secretariat, visited all constituent parts of the United Kingdom to discuss LGBT veterans’ experiences.

My final report was formally handed to government in May. I and many others are waiting for the government to publish the final report and to respond to its contents. The politics surrounding publication and response have been both fascinating and frustrating: matters were not helped by a leak of an early draft.

We had a very successful end of review party at the Imperial War Museum last month. It was attended by a significant number of LGBT veterans who had suffered from the ban, others who had given assistance to the review, and military personnel. The short speeches by defence minister Andrew Murrison and Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of Defence Staff, were delivered with manifest sincerity and empathy.

The work of the House of Lords does not seem to me to have abated in its intensity at all during the relatively short period that I have been a member. I am currently engaged in the Illegal Migration Bill, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, and the Non-Domestic Rating Bill.

Work in the Lords is not, of course, confined to debates in the chamber or grand committee. Former senior judges have at least two special roles, usually chairing the bill committee under the special procedure for non-contentious Law Commission Bills and also, where a private bill is opposed, chairing the Opposed Bill Committee.

Under proposed new Ugandan legislation those engaging in same-sex sexual activity would face the death penalty

I have been appointed the chair of the Opposed Bill Committee for the Bishop’s Stortford Cemetery Bill which concerns the removal of graves and monuments and the disinterring of human remains in certain circumstances. It will be an interesting learning experience both procedurally and substantively. 

I was very sorry to hear the recent announcement of the retirement from the House of Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. Simon was an outstanding jurist and judge. He could sometimes be rather intimidating but his true character was one of great generosity and kindness. He was exceptionally welcoming when I was introduced to the House. He loved being in the House and was an industrious member and a gregarious colleague. It was only a few weeks ago that he had a jolly book launch at his old chambers for the revised second part of his excellent memoirs, Second Helpings and Last Scrapings.

The two small lemon trees and the orange tree on my terrace in Marylebone continue to astonish me with their vibrancy. They have remained outside all year long for several years and produce lemons which are perfectly useable and oranges which are attractive but inedible.

I attended the Pride Reception organised by British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union, the APPG for Global LGBT+ Rights, the APPG for HIV and Aids and Amnesty, and hosted by Lord Cashman. I managed to speak to Sacha Deshmukh, the chief executive of Amnesty International UK, and Arthur Kayima, a Ugandan gay asylum seeker and activist. He arrived last September but is still waiting for his asylum application to be processed. He explained that under proposed new Ugandan anti-LGBT legislation those engaging in same-sex sexual activity would face the death penalty. What a terrible prospect for the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda. 

Lord Etherton is a Crossbench peer

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