There was a long speakers’ list on Tuesday for the Second Reading of the Public Bodies Bill. Over 55 peers took part. There is no time limit on Second Reading debates. Each back-bench speech should not last more than 15 minutes, but if every speaker used up their fifteen minutes we would be sitting well into the early hours. Recognising this, most speakers kept their contributions to ten minutes or less. I spoke for eight minutes. Given that I was the 41st speaker on the list, I didn’t want to test the patience of the House. One can have a greater impact by keeping a speech short than by droning on at length. I made the points I wanted – addressing the problems with having Henry VIII provisions in the Bill – and sat down. The criticisms of the Bill, from all parts of the House, were so extensive that the minister in replying had little option but to concede that the Government would be bringing forward amendments to address our concerns.
I spoke again on Wednesday. Lord Grocott had a Question for Short Debate (QSD) on the effect of an elected House of Lords for the relations between the two Houses. QSDs are time limited – this one to 90 minutes – and given the large number of speakers, each – other than Lord Grocott and the minister replying – had two minutes.
Shortly before I spoke, Lord Bates came in and joined me on my bench. Seeing I was on the speakers’ list, he said he would stay to listen to me. I leaned over and warned him ‘I may take my full two minutes’. ‘That’s all right’, he said, ‘string it out’.
In the event, I kept well within my two minutes.