I hold several positions, with the result that I often find I have a fairly full diary as a result of working to fulfil them. Yesterday was a day for rushing around as a result of wearing several hats. In the morning it was a case of getting over to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in Victoria Street – a rare opportunity to get out of the Palace – for a meeting wearing my hat as co-chair of the Higher Education Commission, for a preliminary discussion on the funding of taught postgraduate degrees prior to a meeting with the minister next month. The Commission produced a well-received report in the subject a couple of years ago.
It was then back to the Palace for lunch and then, wearing my dual academic/parliamentarian hat, to the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House to chair a panel on bicameral legislatures, part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s 63rd Westminster Seminar on Parliamentary Practice and Procedure. The panel comprised parliamentarians from two bicameral systems (Lord Richard from the UK, Senator Omondi from Kenya’s new second chamber) and one unicameral system (New Zealand MP Andrew Williams). There were several questions, but it was one of those occasions which could have run on for ages. Andrew Williams conceded that what could be seen as the benefit of a unicameral system (speed in getting measures through) could also be seen as a problem.
I was able to spend some time in the chamber before, wearing my academic hat (teaching), I chaired the final session of the semester with my students on placement in Westminster. I then headed to the Speaker’s State Rooms for the Speaker’s Lecture by Lord Heseltine on ‘Parliament and Industrial Policy’. It was a professional performance, detailing and justifying his approach to industrial regeneration. I attended in my capacity as a parliamentarian, though I have acquired the status of attender-in-chief, the Speaker (not for the first time) drawing attention to the fact I have endeavoured to attend every lecture since they began in January 2011.
The day was unusual, though, in that I managed to get away from the Palace shortly before 10.00 p.m. – by my standards, an early finish.
Today was somewhat different in that I only had one major commitment. As a peer, and particularly as convenor of the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber, I was in the chamber for a five-hour debate on the report of the Labour Peers Working Group on The Future of the House and its Place in the Wider Constitution. I was one of just over thirty speakers. It was a useful debate, with a measure of agreement on a number of reforms that could be implemented to strengthen the House.
As for the evening commitment – that’s catching the last Hull Trains service to Hull. There’s an exam board tomorrow…