Tag Archives: house of lords

In full: Baroness Margaret Sharp’s valedictory Lords speech – on relationship between poor education and poverty

Margaret SharpAs Mark told us yesterday, Margaret Sharp has retired form her position as a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords. Yesterday she made her valedictory speech in a debate on poverty. She emphasised the importance of improving education, making the curriculum more vocationally orientated, as a tool to get people out of poverty. Here is her speech in full:

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for initiating what has proved to be a very timely debate, given the commitment made by our new Prime Minister yesterday evening. I applaud the work the noble Lord has been doing over such a long time with the Big Issue and with fighting poverty. I congratulate him on his determination to use his time in this Chamber to continue that fight

As noble Lords are aware, this is my last speech in this Chamber. I was introduced in October 1998, so I have served nearly 18 years and, as many noble Lords know, I am leaving because my husband has just celebrated his 85th birthday and I want to spend more time doing things with him: going to plays and concerts, travelling, seeing friends, reading books—not papers—and even perhaps watching television more often. In saying farewell, I want to say what a privilege it has been to be a Member of this Chamber over this time and how much I have valued the companionship and intellectual stimulus that it has given me. I would like to add a special note of thanks to the staff of the House: the clerks, many of whom I have got to know through work on Select Committees; the officers under Black Rod who are for ever helpful, patient and courteous; and the catering staff who have looked after me and my guests so well over the years. Thank you very much.

The subject of today’s debate is to take note of the causes of poverty. I have spent much of my time in this Chamber on issues of education, being a Front-Bench spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats between 2000 and 2010 and pursuing in particular the cause of part-time, further and adult education. It therefore seems appropriate that I should say a few words about education, or perhaps more importantly the lack of education, as a cause of poverty. This becomes increasingly relevant in this world of globalisation, where we observe a growing dichotomy between the well-qualified who hold down professional and managerial jobs and those with low or no educational qualifications who move in and out of low-paid jobs, often on zero-hours contracts and earning the minimum wage. Many call it the “hour- glass economy” and it helps to explain the phenomenon we see these days of poverty among those who are fully employed. As I think two other speakers have mentioned—the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, certainly raised it—it is reckoned that 20% of UK full-time employees are in low-paid jobs and 1.5 million children live in families with working parents who do not earn enough to provide for their basic needs.

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A few words of gratitude as Margaret Sharp takes her leave

Margaret SharpIt does seem that the news over the past fortnight or so has been dominated by people saying goodbye to spend more time with their families or whatever. In some cases, they will be more missed than in others, and, on this occasion, it is time to mark the retirement from the House of Lords of our longtime spokesperson on Universities, Baroness (Margaret) Sharp of Guildford, who has decided to take up the option to retire at the still relatively spritely age of 77.

Margaret is another of those whose work over many years led to a triumph celebrated by others, in that it was her success in reducing the Conservative majority in Guildford from over 20,000 to a rather more slender 4,500 that helped Sue Doughty to her famous success in 2001.

An economist of some regard, Margaret taught at the London School of Economics, as well as working in the National Economic Development Office in the 1970s, before becoming politically active with the onset of the Social Democrats.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes: Chilcot and Iraq: The Verdict

The House of Lords debated the Chilcot Report on 12th July 2016: here are some of the key quotes from Peers who spoke, giving some flavour of the debate:-

“The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, said that there was an atmosphere of mutual respect at the time of the vote. I beg leave to question that judgment. Charles Kennedy was described as being guilty of appeasement. He was told that he was similar to Neville Chamberlain, and a national newspaper printed a photograph of him with the word “Traitor” underneath. There was by no means mutual respect. So the reactions on these Benches to the report from Sir John Chilcot are, as might be imagined, somewhat mixed. But the one thing on which I hope we can all agree is that Charles Kennedy’s principled leadership on this issue has been vindicated, as indeed has the similarly principled stance taken by Robin Cook.”- Lord (Ming) Campbell of Pittenweem (Liberal Democrat)

“In Parliament, as we have rightly been told, the Liberal Democrats—the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and his colleagues—stood out. Charles Kennedy was a great party leader, who showed great courage. It was the Liberal Democrats’ finest hour, and reminds me of the South African war, when Campbell-Bannerman and Lloyd George condemned the British Government for “methods of barbarism”. In government there was, of course, Robin Cook. Chilcot is a complete vindication of what he said on every aspect—on weapons, on security and on the flouting of the United Nations. He was indeed a great man, and a very considerable loss.” – Lord (Ken) Morgan (Labour)

“ I note that last weekend the noble Lord, Lord Prescott —second-in-command in the Blair Government —wrote:

In 2004, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that as regime change was the prime aim of the Iraq war, it was illegal. With great sadness and anger, I now believe him to be right.

I salute the noble Lord for that. I would be even more impressed by his candour if he admitted that Charles Kennedy, and Liberal Democrat MPs, of whom I was one, took precisely that same view in March 2003.”- Lord (Paul) Tyler (Liberal Democrat)

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+++Breaking: Jim Wallace steps down as Lib Dem Leader in the House of Lords

Jim WallaceJim Wallace has announced this afternoon that he is to step down as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

Jim, the former MP and MSP for Orkney & Shetland, has been leader of the group of 107 Liberal Democrat peers since October 2013, during which time he was also Advocate General for Scotland and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords in the Coalition Government. he of course previously served as Deputy First Minister of Scotland between 1999 and 2007.

Jim explained his decision:

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Ming Campbell on Chilcot: “My ally right or wrong is not sustainable”

The House of Lords has been debating Chilcot this week.

Ming Campbell, our foreign affairs spokesperson at the time, spoke in the debate. Here’s his speech:

Contrary to popular belief, I have never believed that what we were presented with was a false premise—implying that there was some effort at deception—but I have always believed that it was flawed, and the distinction is important. But it is clear that throughout these events Mr Blair thought that it was the right thing to do—and he still does. That was inevitably a moral judgment, but the strength of it gave rise to the error of making the evidence fit the judgment rather than the judgment fit the evidence.

The belief that the United Kingdom should be with the United States “whatever” was a flawed belief. Indeed, some would say that that single word reveals all that lay at the heart of the disastrous decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein. On reflection, there seems to have been a complete misunderstanding of the position of the United States. George W Bush always wanted regime change—it was no secret—but why was that? It was because around him was a cluster of influential neocons who thought that his father had made a fatal error in not instructing American forces to go to Baghdad at the end of the first Gulf War. If anyone doubts the good reasons for that decision, I suggest they read the memoirs of Sir John Major, who sets out with great clarity his support for that decision.

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Why our peers need to embrace rather than shun social media

 

There has never been a day when the Liberal Democrats have been happy with their media coverage. We just don’t get our fair share, and when we do our liberal ideals are often squeezed in a way that makes us uncomfortable. It has always been hard talking about liberalism. It is why we focus so much attention to get our own message out through leaflet and now via email and social media. It is amazing to now have access to channels where we can broadcast what we are doing that can get to a mass audience without the filter of a biased media.

So I am disappointed to see that another Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords announced they are pulling the plug on their social media account. As our presence in the upper chamber has grown, our ability to communicate our every day liberal deeds seems to diminish. Ex Chief Executive and communications professional Chris Fox announced the closing of his social media accounts on the day he was elevated (thanks mate!). Others have never even tried to get to grips with sending out an email, let alone new form of social media. Every day our peers are working hard and telling no one. I despair.

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Jonny Oates on rejecting the easy option of cynicism and taking the harder route of making the world a better place

Late on Thursday night, Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates put his very powerful reaction to Jo Cox’s murder on his Facebook page. With his permission, it’s reproduced here.

Enough, now, with the angry people. Enough with the raging and the cries of betrayal. Enough with the cynicism. Enough with the shout that every politician is dodgy, or on the take or untruthful. Enough with those who fuel the cynicism in their puerile, childish headlines or their languid, over-sophisticated commentaries. Enough with those who would never step up to the plate, do the work or accept the accountability. Enough with those who twist the slightest openness in the words of politicians and then complain when their words become closed and their language obtuse. Enough with those who have never done anything for anyone but are happy to question the motives of any person who attempts to do so. Enough of those people who listen only to their own opinion and then castigate MPs for being out of touch – MPs who week in and week out are in their towns and villages, on the doorsteps, in their surgeries, listening to others, soaking up pain and grief and suffering and often abuse. Enough of the people who fuel the rage, enough of those who can take the image of suffering and desperate people, robbed of dignity and hope and of the lives of those they love and use it for their political advantage. Enough of all the rage and division and hatred.

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