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Lords Diary: Lord Kirkhope

4 min read

I remember watching Her late Majesty’s coronation as a child in 1953, in front of a 17-inch black and white television screen. That was a new chapter in our nation’s history, and I feel optimistic as we celebrate the start of this new Carolean age

It was 40 years before I served Her late Majesty as her vice-chamberlain in a historic role acting as a liaison between Parliament and the Palace and providing daily reports to the Sovereign on proceedings in the Commons.
Peers attending this coronation will not disport their usual parliamentary ermine but instead a business suit or dress.
But as my duties to the late Queen were short-lived and formally ended with her death, I will not be present this time, watching the event on a rather larger and more suitable screen than in 1953.

I have been impressed with the performance of the new Prime Minister, but I am hoping he loses the sharp edges from some policies. For instance, the government’s Illegal Immigration Bill will have passed third reading in the Commons by the time you read this and, as a former immigration minister and lawyer, I do not think the current legislation is fair or legally justified. The clue is in the name – “illegal immigration” – because under international law, an asylum seeker cannot be “illegal”.
When the bill enters the Lords, I’ll be working with my colleagues on amendments to suggest changes.
The House of Lords has its critics, but this is due to misunderstandings. It plays a vital role in scrutinising legislation. We are a diverse body with considerable experience to keep governments in check. But we need to communicate more effectively the relevance and effectiveness of our work.

I recently met with H.E. Pedro Serrano, the EU ambassador to London. We discussed the importance of more constructive relationships and working together to tackle shared challenges. The Windsor Framework represents a significant step forward that has allowed UK-EU relations to enter a new, positive phase. Talk of leaving the ECHR would damage our international standing. The Foreign Secretary was right when he said that he did not want the United Kingdom to join Russia in the small club of European countries that are out of the ECHR – and leaving it would cause the loss of our membership of the Council of Europe and affect provisions like the Good Friday Agreement.

I feel optimistic as we celebrate the start of this new Carolean age

As the renovation of Parliament continues, the Peers’ Entrance has been covered with a fake facade. To me it looks like a cross between a Hamilton musical set and a Banksy experiment – certainty not something befitting our Mother of Parliaments. Perhaps the space should be leased to advertisers to help cover the ever-burgeoning repairs costs? 

During a recent debate, I raised the issue of car insurance premiums. Statistics demonstrate that women are better drivers than men. Indeed, four times as many reckless driving cases are brought to our courts against men compared to women. This should be reflected in the insurance premiums women are offered.

It was great to meet a delegation of legislators from the German state of Saxony. In the 1980s I was in the former East Germany, which included Saxony. I was able to reminisce with our visitors about the old GDR, including the Trabant car, the mainstay of domestic travel – if you could get hold of one! Since the unification of Germany, things have changed. No more Trabants; Saxony now builds VWs, Porsches, and BMWs.

I always recommend to anyone seeking to enter politics that they should make sure they have a profession or qualifications first. Ours is a very uncertain occupation. I love flying and have held a pilot licence for 40 years. Last week, I had to renew my proficiency test. A complete contrast to my usual work in Westminster but one which, forgive the apparent contradiction, “keeps my feet firmly on the ground”.

Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate is a Conservative peer

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