Saturday we celebrated with an old friend who thinks he has been appointed to the Supreme Court. I say “thinks” because although the appointment is all over the internet, there has been no official announcement. The appointment has been brewing for about 5 months, and still no formal announcement. Apparently it cannot be announced until the Queen – the Pope – NATO – Uncle Tom Cobley and all have been informed and agreed. The entire system of judicial appointments seems to have become much more political under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 than when it was in the hands of the old-style Lord Chancellor, and certainly slower. In any case, we drank to him and hope we have got it right.
Sunday: spent most of the day drafting a speech in support of my amendment to the Public Bodies Bill, which is designed to rescue the Human Fertilisation & Embyology Authority from dismemberment. Difficult, because one does not know how many other peers will speak, or what issues they will cover, or at what time of day the amendment will come on for debate. The Government’s future intentions in relation to the regulation of IVF and embryology appear hazy, and depend on the creation of yet another new regulatory body.
Monday: spent some 12 hours in Parliament waiting for my amendment to come up, which it did at 11pm. We had a good debate and it is not over yet. We will return to the defence before the Bill is passed. I had to cancel chairing an outside meeting scheduled long ago for that evening because of the uncertainty over the timing of the debate, which I felt very bad about, but could not help. Last train home, arrived at 2am.
Tuesday: in the morning gave some ladies a tour of Parliament in aid of an educational charity. Lunchtime was spent learning about the latest developments in BBC Radio. Then it was the regular meeting of the Select Committee on Communications, which is examining the governance of the BBC. We interviewed Sir Michael Lyons, outgoing Chairman of the Trust, and Lord (Michael) Grade, former Chairman of the Governors (of whom I had been one), which made for a lively and revealing session. It was reported in the newspapers the next day. At 5 I went to a briefing about the proposed reform of universal jurisdiction, a welcome move. At 6.30 I co-chaired the latest meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law. The subject matter was Transparency in the Family Courts, and the audience was in a high state of emotion and passion, and we nearly had to cut the meeting short. Rightly or wrongly, there is a depth of unhappiness about decisions in the family courts and the uncertainty of the law. Family law is not an area that any government is keen to tackle, and much of it has remained unreformed for decades.
Wednesday: attended a conference about the Middle East and heard both Shimon Peres and William Hague speak. Hurried to the Lords at the end of the day in time to vote to preserve expected pension rights for women. Unfortunately both amendments failed by 12 votes. If there were more women in the Lords the result might have been different.
Only half the week has passed. I mention all this because the work of peers is often assessed only by how many votes they have cast. There is a lot more to it than that.