There have been 5 exchanges involving Lord Polak and the Leader of the House
|Mon 12th April 2021||His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (880 words)|
|Wed 23rd September 2020||Covid-19 (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (99 words)|
|Thu 25th June 2020||Covid-19 Update (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (125 words)|
|Mon 22nd July 2019||Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill (Lords Chamber)||9 interactions (682 words)|
|Wed 23rd November 2016||Royal Navy: Harpoon Anti-ship Missiles (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (85 words)|
My Lords, I am most grateful for this opportunity to support the humble Address to Her Majesty and join the expression of this House’s deepest regret and sympathy to Her Majesty and the Royal Family. All noble Lords who have contributed to this Address have rightly paid tribute to the unflinching support given by His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to Her Majesty throughout her reign. Without doubt, that support has been a central plank in the success and stability of the monarchy over seven decades. I join all noble Lords in our expression of deep sympathy and sincere condolence to Her Majesty and the family. But in addition, His Royal Highness was a man of an extraordinary range of interests and singular talents, and it is to some of those—particularly on behalf of people in Caithness, where I serve as lord-lieutenant, as well as more personally—that I want to pay tribute.
For some 40 years, the royal yacht “Britannia” came to Scrabster each summer so that the Royal Family could visit the Queen Mother at her home, the Castle of Mey. His Royal Highness, an accomplished artist, often used the time to paint, and, indeed, to this day visitors to the Castle of Mey can see the works he gave to the Queen Mother hanging in the dining room. His ability as an artist was perhaps lesser known than some of his interests but none the less was a vital part of his character.
Another great interest was in innovation and engineering, and he made several visits to Caithness in 1957. One was to tour the new Dounreay, Britain’s first experimental fast breeder reactor facility—a technology in which Britain led the world at the time. His Royal Highness spoke knowledgeably with those on site and was deeply interested in what was happening. My father, who was there, often told me about it. An interest in and support for innovation, engineering and technology were the hallmark of all the work that he did.
On a personal level, I had the great privilege of being His Royal Highness’s host at a reception on your Lordships’ Terrace given by the Institute of Management Services, of which he had been president. The institute is dedicated to productivity and the study of methods of productivity and management. His Royal Highness was a highly engaged president who, as with all organisations he was associated with, took a keen interest in all the institute did. At the time, I was patron and had the task of making a presentation, which I did with what I thought were appropriate words. However, it was clearly too long, and he said loudly, but with a big smile, “Oh bloody well get on with it!”
While we mark his departure with great sadness, we also celebrate the long and remarkable life of a great polymath. We give thanks for a lifetime of support to Her Majesty, a lifetime of service to the nation, and a lifetime of encouragement to young people. His attitude was: get on with it. He made the most of the cards dealt and did not worry about the cards that were not dealt. That is an example to us all, and if we can live by that, it will be a fitting memorial to a long and productive life.
My Lords, it is a sad honour to speak today in this tribute. Like all noble Lords, I express my deepest condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and all members of the Royal Family. His Royal Highness Prince Philip is, first and foremost, a loss to Her Majesty and his family. It is a family loss above all.
It is also a huge loss to this nation and the Commonwealth. As a former Commonwealth Minister, I know how deeply he was respected through this unique family of nations. I have no doubt that many of the memories that we are sharing are personal, but they have to be seen in the setting of our collective memory. We have rightly reflected today on his contribution to national and international life, to the forces, to the protection of the natural world, to science, to intellectual life itself and to knowledge itself.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award somehow missed me as a teenager, unlike the many hundreds of thousands of my contemporaries who enjoyed so many new experiences. But as a keen climber and mountain walker myself, I was persuaded to take part and to observe from a suitable alpine distance a group of 16 year-olds pick their way across the icy slopes of Mont Blanc in pursuit of their gold badge. Our role was just to keep our distance and keep a weather eye on their progress without being seen. A weather eye is the right description; the weather closed in. The youngsters were fine. Those observing them from about 500 metres higher had eventually to be guided off the mountain. When I described this to His Royal Highness some years later, he found it hilarious and clear evidence that not having been an award holder in my own right had all but sealed my fate on that mountain. Kindly, he then quickly turned to me and said he wanted to know which animals I had seen apart from the humans, who were probably the least interesting.
I hugely admired his interest in higher education. His detailed knowledge of science and technology were directly integrated into his passion for a diverse group of institutions. Whether Cambridge, Edinburgh or London Guildhall, he saw no hierarchy. I recall that at all three he told audiences that the city they should most focus on was Liverpool. It was the hard-working endeavour of Liverpool which he extolled, a lesson for universities in the City of London or the huge historic institutions in Edinburgh and Cambridge.
He was always grounded, a great combination of intellect and practicality. Most of all, it is important to remember his directness, his plain dislike of pomposity and his down-to-earth personality. I do not think you find people who relate to anyone so personally and get such feedback from their warmth unless it is what they experience from the person providing it. That was Prince Philip’s way.
Allow me, if I may, to share one more memory. When President Lula of Brazil made his state visit to the United Kingdom in March 2006, there was the usual carriage parade passing a ceremonial platform in Horse Guards. The welcoming party included Prince Philip, my very good friend Charles Clarke, then the Home Secretary, and me substituting for the ailing Jack Straw on behalf of the FCO. It was bitterly cold, with flurries of icy rain. Charles and I had arrived early and thought we should not wear overcoats, so we left them in the pavilion. Prince Philip arrived really properly dressed, in the warmest coat possible, and asked us, as both of us were shivering uncontrollably, whether we were completely mad. To put it in his words, he said that he thought we were “certifiable”. We all laughed at the absurdity of this, because we were absurd, and he would not let us forget it. Whenever Charles Clarke and I had the honour and the fun of meeting His Royal Highness, he never failed to ask, among many gales of laughter, whether we had recovered yet from the pneumonia and pleurisy we must surely have as a result of our own foolishness.
Fun is not unimportant in leadership, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, said. Great leadership—bringing people to and through change, understanding the future, its possibilities and challenges—is so much more effective with humour, energy and straightforward irritation at anything pompous or showy. I respectfully thank him, and I am sure we will all miss him.
I am sorry if the noble Baroness did not think I gave due weight to that response. As I have said, we are very concerned to ensure we have scrutiny. We have ensured that each SI has undergone full scrutiny, in line with the parent Act, and worked around the appropriate parliamentary procedures. At this point I also thank the House authorities for all the work they have done to help us ensure we are a Covid-secure workplace. I hope noble Lords, while finding it frustrating, will continue to appreciate that we are working in a hybrid way and doing remote voting in an attempt to make sure that as many noble Lords as possible can continue the important work we do in this House in scrutinising legislation.
Businesses in England required to close due to local lockdowns or targeted restrictions can now receive grants worth £1,500 every three weeks. To be eligible for the grant, a business must have been required to close due to local Covid-19 restrictions. The largest businesses will receive £1,500; smaller businesses will receive £1,000. Payments are triggered by a national decision to close businesses in a high-incidence area. That is specific help for businesses within local lockdowns but, as I alluded to in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, we are keeping the broader package of national support under review. That is why we have introduced things such as the £2 billion Kickstart Scheme, paying employers £2,000 for every apprentice they hire. There will be national measures and those specific measures I mentioned for local lockdown areas.
I am sure that, like me, the noble Lord has seen pictures of the England cricket team being tested this morning as they went into their bubble in advance of their series against the West Indies. That is happening and it is a small step in the right direction. The noble Lord will know that testing capacity has increased to over 200,000 tests a day and that around 8 million tests have been delivered through our testing programme, so nationwide testing is moving in the right direction. That will be critical as we start to unlock the economy further. The noble Lord is right that a series of schemes have been in place during the lockdown. The Chancellor will be making further Statements in this area in the next couple of weeks.
I thank my noble friend. While I entirely agree with him about professional sport returning, as Norwich City fan the return of the Premier League has not been a happy experience so far, but let us hope a corner has been turned. My noble friend is right. It is great news. It is welcome that parts of the economy that we want to see unlocked are doing so. Of course, 1.1 million employers have used the job retention scheme, which has protected 9.2 million jobs. That has been an extremely important help. From the start of August workers will be able to return to work part-time, and as we slowly unlock the economy and open up key elements of hospitality and other sectors, we want to see that people can start to get to back to their working life and people can enjoy the services that they provide.
My Lords, there is another amendment in this group in my name, but I am afraid it is nothing to do with the Holocaust memorial, so forgive me for changing the topic. It is about co-ordination of major programmes and projects.
At Second Reading I raised the need for clarity on responsibility and accountability for all the major programmes of work ongoing at the Palace. As we know, we currently have the roof works, there is the masonry project and Big Ben, and soon to start will be the Northern Estate. My concern is the scope for confusion and the potential for all manner of things to go wrong if there is not a single body responsible for all these separate programmes to make sure they are co-ordinated properly.
Clause 1(1) makes provision for the sponsor body and the delivery authority to be responsible for building works beyond the restoration and renewal project itself. Since the Second Reading debate, I was pleased to receive a letter from the noble Earl confirming that responsibility for the Northern Estate will soon transfer to the sponsor body, so one of those major projects will now be within the remit of this new body. That is very welcome. I have also learned since Second Reading that within the House authorities, Strategic Estates is responsible for the other projects which are expected to be completed before the decant.
None the less, I have tabled my amendment because of the scope for things to go wrong when these big works eventually commence. I would like some reassurance from the noble Earl, or from the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, that the Strategic Estates team has a formal responsibility for proper engagement with the sponsor body on all these projects; and that if there is any question that responsibility should shift to the sponsor body in the best interests of the future of the Palace of Westminster in the round, it will be considered swiftly. I would also be grateful if the Minister could let us know to whom Strategic Estates is accountable. If there was to be any change in responsibility for those major projects which could impact on the restoration and renewal project itself, which decision-making body would make that decision?
I have been to the site in Berlin. Does the noble Lord not agree that it is on a much bigger footprint than is postulated for Victoria Tower Gardens? It is a rectangular site, occupying a great space, which is very different from what is proposed here.
My Lords, I have played no part in previous deliberations on the location of the Holocaust memorial. I have listened to the discussions very much for the first time. I say at the outset that I understand some of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has made. I also strongly identify with the points that the noble Lord, Lord Polak, has made. What is unacceptable about this amendment is that something as big as the location of the Holocaust memorial is not being decided by a planning authority, but by a back-door route as an amendment to this legislation. This is a national memorial at the heart of London.
By the way, it has taken a long time to set this up. It should have been set up a generation ago, but, as this is a national memorial, it is of such importance that Parliament should decide, and on an express vote. If this is still unresolved—and, from listening to the debate, perhaps the Leader will tell us that it is more resolved than appears—there should be a procedure for Parliament to decide on the location, on a positive vote of both Houses, taking account of all the issues, including those which have been raised on security and accessibility, and on the aesthetic elements by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. What he said about the Berlin memorial was interesting. This is a hugely important decision that the nation should take, from looking at what other nations have done with their memorials and how ours matches up.
If I have understood the situation correctly, construction is not going to start imminently. It sounds unlikely, given the other work that is going to happen on the site. Perhaps the noble Lord will correct me but, if that is the case, Parliament should decide what happens with this memorial. We should not leave it to Westminster City Council, by using an amendment to the Bill in this indirect way.
Break in Debate
I am afraid that because this project does not relate specifically to the R&R programme, I do not have that information. But I am sure I will be able to find out and will write to the noble Lord.
My noble friend Lord Cormack raised the issue of the decant. We will come to that in a later group so, if it is okay with noble Lords, I will now turn to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady Stowell.
My noble friend’s amendment would obligate the House authorities to consult the sponsor body about major works to the Parliamentary Estate which sit outside of R&R, if they are likely to have an impact on delivering the programme. Noble Lords will be aware that the Strategic Estates team is a bicameral service, accountable to the clerks of both Houses and to the relevant domestic committees. In the case of this House, those are the Services Committee, the Finance Committee and ultimately the commission. At present, the shadow sponsor body sits within the House authorities and under the Strategic Estates team, which means that both parties have a head start in looking ahead and being aware of what ongoing projects might have an impact on R&R.
My noble friend’s amendment is to Clause 6, which concerns the parliamentary relationship agreement that the House authorities and the sponsor body will have to sign once the sponsor body is formed on a statutory basis. This agreement will set out the arrangements to hand over the Palace for decant and to hand it back once the Palace has been restored. It will also cover issues relating to staff transfers, insurance, security and the control of data, among other matters.
In the light of its purpose, we consider that this agreement is the natural place for the House authorities and the sponsor body to determine how they will keep each other informed about ongoing estate works which might affect the R&R programme and provide the clarity that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, rightly said was important. As this agreement already has to cover “consultation and co-operation” between the sponsor body and the corporate officers of the House, we do not think it is necessary to prescribe in this Bill what that consultation and co-operation should cover.
Ian Ailles and the two clerks currently co-ordinate estates projects through the Parliamentary Estate and public realm oversight group. Once the sponsor body is established, if Parliament and the sponsor body wish for this group to continue to play a co-ordinating role, it would then need to be covered by the parliamentary relationship agreement. In addition, if, over the course of the R&R programme, it became apparent that there was support for current separate House authority estates programmes such as the archives project to fall under R&R, the Bill makes provision for this under Clause 1.
Adding another project to R&R could happen but only with the agreement of the commissions of both Houses, the sponsor body and the delivery authority. As was discussed during this debate, that is precisely the process that is currently being followed to integrate the Northern Estate programme, which includes Richmond House, into the R&R programme. The reason it was not included from the beginning is that the NEP predates important decisions on R&R.
I hope that my response reassures my noble friend, and I ask that he withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, Royal Navy ships habitually work in task groups with a range of offensive and defensive assets. A task group can be made up of a number of different platforms, including submarines, surface ships, helicopters and, from 2021, our new Queen Elizabeth carriers. In turn, those platforms host a variety of complementary capabilities, such as anti-surface warfare, air defence, intelligence and so on. It is important to look at the overall context.