Have you ever wondered what the House of Lords does, how it works and who makes up its membership?
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Behind the scenes of Lords Hansard
How do you know what a member said in the House of Lords, or Commons?
And did you know that you could once be arrested for reporting what was happening in Parliament?
In this month’s episode of the House of Lords Podcast, we meet the team behind the Official Report, known as Hansard, who ensure written proceedings are made available and accessible to the public each sitting day.
We hear about everything from the history of Hansard, why you might hear ‘can I have some ears please?’ in their office, the unusual name of where the reporters sit in the chamber and what they do if a member bursts into song.
Find out more about House of Lords Hansard
Read 'The History of Hansard' by John Vice and Stephen Farrell (PDF)
Private Members’ Bills
Did you know that it’s not just the government that can propose new laws in Parliament?
This month we are looking at how members campaign for change via private members’ bills. These are bills that can be introduced by any member of the House of Lords, who is not a government minister, to change the law.
Amy and Matt speak to Lord Farmer, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff and Lord Wills about their bills, covering subjects from child benefit to preventing suicide to creating an advocate for the victims of major incidents. They each explain what they are trying to achieve with their proposed law, and why they have put them forward.
We also speak to Alasdair in the House of Lords Legislation Office and Ed in the Lords Library about the process for putting forward a bill, why they tend to be shorter than government bills, and how they can be about more than getting on the statute books.
Find out more about private members’ bills in the House of Lords during this session of ParliamentRead more from the House of Lords Library
Women in Parliament, equality online, famous faces and tackling fraud
In this month’s House of Lords podcast we talk to Labour’s Angela Smith, Baroness Smith of Basildon and Conservative peer Nicky Morgan, Baroness Morgan of Cotes.
First up, we hear from Baroness Morgan about the new Lords committee investigating how we tackle digital fraud, how you can get involved in the committee’s work and what former minister Lord Agnew of Oulton told the committee about the government’s work on fraud.
‘This was chosen as the topic because of the scale of fraud. It now accounts of 42% of all crime against individuals and it's the most commonly experienced crime in England and Wales.’ Baroness Morgan of CotesWe also discuss Baroness Morgan’s change to the Domestic Abuse Bill to tackle revenge porn, plus what she thinks of the upcoming Online Safety Bill and equality online. We also find out whether it is MPs or members of the Lords who ask the toughest questions to ministers.
‘Sadly, I think there is a lot more to be done. I think that our online spaces are still too unfriendly to lots of people, but women included… I still hear too much, 'if you don't like it, then don't participate', well, we don't tell women, we shouldn't tell women not to participate in our public offline spaces so why would we expect women not to participate online?’ Baroness Morgan of CotesNext up, we speak to the Leader of the Opposition in the Lords, Baroness Smith of Basildon. She talks about what has changed for women in Parliament since she was elected in 1997 and what she thinks still needs to change for representation.
‘The sad thing was how often the press liked talking about what we wore, and if we wore certain kind of nail varnish… There was a lot of interest in that, and some of it wasn't healthy. We were always referred to as the women MPs… Nobody ever uses that awful term now, you're just an MP. And I think that's one of the shifts. No one thinks being a female MP is unusual.’ Baroness Smith of BasildonWe also discuss what the role of Leader of the Opposition involves, why it’s good to be a bit nervous and discuss some of the famous faces who have visited the Lords, from Harry Styles to Robert Redford and Bradley Whitford.
‘I don't think you ever lose the nerves. And I think the day you are never nervous about doing anything is the day you've lost your edge… when there's a really important debate on, statements on the big political issues of the day, there's a nervousness for me, and that's that sort of anticipation that I've got to get this right, people are relying on me.’ Baroness Smith of Basildon
Being a whip, being a rebel, and how do you amuse the Monarch?
This month, we hear from Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate why the House of Lords is the best place for checking draft laws, his experiences as a whip and as a rebel, plus updating the Queen on what’s happening in Parliament.
‘This is a bit like Deja-vu, this particular legislation’
Lord Kirkhope also explains why he is putting forward changes to the Nationality and Borders Bill based upon his experience as a former immigration minister.
‘It is House of Lords, which in my opinion, and from my experience, now does better and more full scrutiny of legislation than the House of Commons.’
He also explains what happens in the chamber and behind the scenes at each stage of the legislative process in the House of Lords as members consider draft laws and try to help the government refine them.
‘I was a whip and my job was to make sure that legislation got through… and what I've got to watch out for now is the operation of the whips.’
Lord Kirkhope is also a former whip in the House of Commons. He explains how the job worked and what, in his view, was the worst thing an MP could do.
‘It's quite a... What can I say, quite a challenge? How are you going to amuse the monarch?’
Finally, we ask Lord Kirkhope about his time writing to Her Majesty The Queen to inform her on what was happening each day in Parliament, and we find out what she thought of his updates.
· Find out more about Lord Kirkhope’s parliamentary career
· Follow Lord Kirkhope on Twitter
Protecting children and strengthening the Union
In this month’s episode of the House of Lords Podcast, we are talking about protecting children and strengthening the Union, plus RuPaul’s Drag Race and seeing yourself on stage.
Children and the internet‘I saw in the attention economy that, in order to create as much value as possible from data… you created features of the system that were unsafe or exposing for children… They should not be working for the man in Silicon Valley.’
First, we speak to Baroness Kidron about her work to protect children online. She explains why she led the way on creating ground-breaking protections for young people. In this interview, Baroness Kidron explains the need to carry on pressing the issues created by a lack of regulation for tech companies, and the need for a series of interventions, likening the situation to the industrial revolution and a need for 17 Factory Acts at the time.
‘We've done a lot of the work of taking a draft bill, which was really approaching one of the most difficult issues of our time and actually taking it up a level into being a pragmatic and implementable bill’
Baroness Kidron also talks about the way forward for regulating social media giants, her hopes for the Online Safety Bill and the findings of the committee she served on to scrutinise the draft law.
‘It’s one of the joys of my life to have been embraced by that community’
Baroness Kidron also talks about her experience as a filmmaker, including directing the renowned To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. She explains how pleased she is to see drag and its stars such as RuPaul (who appeared in the film) doing so well today.
The Union‘It really is time that we release the trap that central government has on law-making and indeed, on spending and delivering services’
We also speak to Baroness Taylor of Bolton and Lord Dunlop this month. They are discussing the Lords Constitution Committee’s report on resetting relations across the UK’s parliaments and governments.
‘The biggest threat to the Union is people feeling they're not sharing equally in the Union's benefits and that they feel powerless to make their voices heard… We're waiting as we speak, for the government's leveling up white paper. And I think that's going to be very important and it needs to be ambitious.’
They also discuss the threats to the Union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and how the dynamic can be improved.
‘Government doesn't always understand Parliament can actually be helpful in terms of getting the legislation into the right shape’
We also talk about the importance of legislative scrutiny and the recent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and, keeping to a cultural theme, we discuss with Baroness Taylor what it is like to see yourself portrayed on stage.
Find out more about the Joint Online Safety Bill CommitteeFind out more about the Lords Constitution CommitteeRead an introduction to the Constitution Committee’s latest report
A healthier nation, and ‘government by diktat'
What is needed to make England a healthier nation? And why are two committees concerned about government use of secondary legislation? Find out in this month's House of Lords Podcast.
What is needed to make England a healthier nation? We hear from Karren Brady and Phil Willis – Baroness Brady and Lord Willis of Knaresborough – this month on the report just issued by their committee.
The Lords Sport and Recreation Committee has called for a new national plan for sport, health and wellbeing. Matt and Amy find out why this is needed and what more needs to be done.
‘We have some of the greatest sporting leagues in the world… We're producing world-class people at the top end, but in reality, that is a very small pool of people. And whilst they are excelling, the vast majority who are going to our schools, who are going into our youth clubs and our sports clubs, and indeed those who are doing nothing at all, are flatlining. And the result of which is that we are seeing a more obese nation, a less active nation, an unhealthy nation. And the cost on the NHS of all that is absolutely enormous… We're not asking for billions of pounds, we're asking basically for you to reorganize the money that is spent and to focus it where it is best needed at grassroots.’ Lord Willis
Baroness Brady also shares her thoughts on her experience on the Sport and Recreation Committee
‘It was also great that everybody on the committee came from a very different perspective and has very different expertise, which is what the Lords is all about. We're invited to come here by using our lifelong experience in our chosen field to look at legislation and hopefully make it better and recommend amendments to the government to change to improve them. So it was great to work with so many talented and incredibly knowledgeable people about their areas and come together with conclusions that cross-party we agreed.’ Baroness Brady
‘Government by diktat’This month we also speak to Lord Blencathra and Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots about the government’s use of secondary legislation. The two committees they chair have recently warned about abuses of power by the executive and the need for a rebalancing of power back towards Parliament.
Over the course of their discussion, they explain in detail the different concerns the committees have on the changing use of secondary legislation and why we should all be concerned at how it is being used.
Go and read Hilary MantelThey also explain what secondary legislation is, other terms you may have heard like skeleton bills and Henry VIII powers and unlikely places to learn about them.
‘Well, I'd give you one sentence. Go and read Hilary Mantel on the work of Thomas Cromwell and his relationship with the king.’ Lord Hodgson
Guidance or law?We also hear about recent examples of confusion that have arisen from secondary legislation and the use of guidance.
‘SLSC are really concerned about guidance, which is advice, and regulation which is law. You have to obey the law, but do you have to obey guidance?... ‘Right back in the beginning [of the pandemic], there was a restriction on only one form of exercise per day to every person in the country, quite an important issue, but that was in guidance. The regulation had no restriction at all. So technically you could exercise as many times as you'd like, but the guidance said only once a day.‘Now, how is the man in the street gain understand the difference between those two?’ Lord Hodgson