Someone commented on our odd hours; I think it was in response to Lord Norton’s blog about our especially early start at noon next Tuesday for the long Lisbon Treaty Debate, which I am looking forward to. We have had lots of ministerial and opposition briefing about it and while I started out as quite sceptical I think I’m coming round to the more efficient management of EU business which it will lead to. Lord Willamson of Horton (dare I call him an ex-EU Mandarin?) set out for crossbenchers in brief but exemplary fashion how the new treaty proposals compare with the old treaty, which saved us all a great deal of reading.
But back to our hours. The House hours are one of the things I personally dislike about the Lords. I’m basically an early bird and my husband likes to start work early so we are both up to hear Farming Today at 5.45am. Since we don’t start in the Chamber normally until 2.30pm, 3.00pm Wednesdays, any bill committee work always goes on long into the evening when I personally would prefer to be at home with my family. It means that I don’t stay to vote on a bill unless I am very committed to one or other side of the argument and I observe that many other peers do not either. It’s true that I do other work, and the mornings are available for those other responsibilities but I would prefer we worked on specific bills at predictable times during normal working hours on predictably timetabled days. I am sure there are many other women (and men too) who would like more conventional working hours. The current arrangements are a hangover from when the Lords was full of men who stayed in London during the week and went back to their wives and estates at weekends and were quite happy to hang about the Lords club in the evenings. There are not so many of them left now; I wonder why we can’t meet at more usual working times?
What a long debate we had for the second reading of the Health and Social Care bill last Monday; 37 speakers, finishing at 10.00pm and I was much in need of a nap by the time the Minister had finished his final response speech. I sat through most of it (well I did nip out for a sandwich when rumblies in the tumblies set in at 8.00pm) since I wanted to understand who my allies might be in tabling amendments. The vast majority of peers who spoke were lukewarm about the bill but willing to work on it to improve it. I learnt on Wednesday that the Committee stages of the Bill will be on the first day day back after the spring two week recess, when I shall be abroad. This gives three days next week to table amendments. Not enough time to do much more than table a whole lot and sort out later. This is not how it should be.