Last week I wrote an article for the ‘House’ Magazine chronicling my week in the House of Lords. To give an idea of the sort of work that I do, I have reproduced it here:
Thursday 14 February
The holiday week hasn’t started well. Already two days have been accounted for by meetings of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. Last week, as a Trustee of the Pallant House Gallery, I attended Choral Evensong at Chichester Cathedral in a celebration of thanksgiving for the life of Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson RA (1922-2007) followed by a delightful dinner in the Gallery itself. However, it was a crowded event and impossible to view Sir Colin’s outstanding collection of twentieth century British Art. Ann and I therefore decide to drive to Chichester to view this remarkable collection.
Stefan Van Raay, the director, and Lady Nicholas Gordon Lennox, our chairman, have done wonders in bringing the works of famous artists to Pallant House. I felt a degree of pride that we were awarded the 2007 Gulbenkian Prize for Museums and Galleries, the largest single art prize in the UK.
Friday 15 February
Just received an email from the editor of Guravi Gujarat magazine, Mr Sailesh Solanki, requesting an article to commemorate the 40th anniversary of this publication. The special issue will chronicle the progress of the Asian community during all these years. This is topical as community cohesion has been the flavour of the month with differing views from Ministers and our diverse communities about multiculturalism. Politicians seem to be reacting to events.
I recall meeting the former Conservative Home Secretary Lord Carr of Hedley in the Division Lobby on one of the frequent immigration debates. He said that the Heath Government took less than ten minutes to accept its obligations relating to the admission of East African Asians. That sort of leadership is lacking at the moment.
The East African Asian community has made remarkable progress in all walks of life. In Parliament we have Baroness Prashar, Lord Bhatia, Lord Patel and Lord Sheikh, all from East Africa. Perhaps we could examine what factors are responsible for the success of this community.
In the evening we dine with the Madhavani family who were victims of Idi Amins lunacy and yet today have businesses stretching all over the globe.
Saturday 16 February
A very frosty morning but the sun is out and this gives me the opportunity to clear all the debris from the garden.
This evening we are the dinner guests of Rachel Adams, President Elect of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales. We meet in the Labouring Man, a delightful local where Phil Beckett and his wife Lynn have worked hard to ensure that this only amenity in the village is not lost.
And what a wonderful social institution it is. No need to look for the proverbial Polish plumber. David the Gravedigger will dig the hole and Gareth will fix the pipes. Long live the village pub.
Sunday 17 February
Back to nature by visiting the RSPB nature reserve at Pulborough Brooks. This is a sheltered valley not far from our home. The nature trail leads to views over the Arun Valley. Ann and I walk some distance and are delighted to catch sight of several visiting birds, including a Peregrine.
Lunch is an outdoor event at the Brooks with the temperature below -2°C but the beautiful sunshine and the distant herds of deer make it worthwhile.
Monday 18 February
Back to Parliament at 10am. The mail has not been touched for a week and the computer has not been able to cope with the backlog of emails. By 5pm we have broken the back of all outstanding work, almost.
In the evening, we visit the Nehru Centre for a dinner with Madhava Chandra, Minister with the High Commission of India.
Tuesday 19 February
I attend an all-Party briefing with Israeli Knesset members Ephraim Sneh and Silvan Shalom, then straight to an interview with the YouTube pilot project, with a focus on the relevance, role and business in and out of the Lords’ chamber. The aim of the project is to showcase the essential work of the Lords through the rich tapestry of membership.
Gitesh Sarma, Minister Political at India House, joins us for tea. The evening is spent with the North London Chinese Association celebrating the Chinese New Year (Year of the Rat).
Wednesday 20 February
An excellent early morning start with a viewing of China’s Terracotta Army in the British Museum, accompanied by Ann and my lovely researcher, Bobbi. This exhibition is said to be the most successful ever, selling out every day.
The next appointment is with Dr Defty of the Department of Policy Studies at the University of Lincoln. He is researching Peers’ attitudes to the role of the State and the Welfare Society. Afterwards, I chair the Peers’ weekly meeting.
Another meeting and tea with Diana Christian of Cancerbackup. There is a donor fatigue in the charity field and the organisation is looking for more funds to promote its activities.
Later in the evening, I attend the screening of ‘In Prison my Whole Life’. This is about the life of imprisoned political activist, journalist and former Black Panther member, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was found guilty of the murder of a police officer in Philadelphia in 1982 and sentenced to death. He has been awaiting execution ever since.