I’m excited this blog site is finally going live tomorrow and hope very much ‘you lot out there’ will want to talk to us and tell us what’s on your mind. The peers taking part have been more or less talking to each other while getting the hang of it. Some of us, unlike former MPs like Lord Soley who are old hands, have never blogged before so we don’t know yet what really interests the wider blogging public. The idea is to talk about our work in the Lords and how our other responsibilities and experiences are brought into the work of the House. Having just spent a rather glorious few days in Tarragona in Spain as an accompanying wife while my husband was lecturing in quantum chemistry at the University, I wasn’t in parliament for Budget Day and have been trying to catch up ever since.
In Tarragona, an ancient Roman town on the coast south of Barcelona in the region called Catalonia, university lecturers speak either in Catalan, the local language, or in Spanish, but about 1 in 10 lectures are in English so all scientists in the university can converse happily in English. Young scientists presented their work in English to the seminar my husband was conducting–how different from universities in the UK where foreign languages are scarcely spoken at all. English is now becoming the international language of science so it’s easy to understand why Spaniards learn English but the understanding of a different European culture which comes with speaking a different language is so enriching we really lose out by so few of us learning other languages.
In the light of all the discussions about House of Lords reform, I was interested to learn about the Spanish parliamentary system, a constitutional monarchy like ours and a also like ours a bicameral system of parliamentary democracy. Their Upper House, or Senate, comprises 259 regionally elected members plus about 50 appointed members appointed by the regional governments according to the political party proportional representation rules. It’s complicated but has the merit of transparency and in a country where regional differences are profound—think the Basque Country, the Balearic Islands and Catalonia as well as such diverse provinces as Galicia and Andalucia it seems to be generally approved of;a demonstration that an elected upper house can work well and give solid power to the Regions without undermining the supremacy of their ‘House of Commons’ the House of Deputies.
Do let us know what you think…we’re looking forward to it.