Wednesday 15 May: Defence, international development, foreign and commonwealth affairs
Baroness Northover (Liberal Democrat), spokesperson for the Department of International Development, opened the debate and outlined the government’s foreign policy priorities. She identified the current humanitarian disaster in Syria as the most urgent crisis and spoke more widely about efforts to secure a lasting peace in the Middle East.
She also highlighted specific areas where the government is committed to supporting and defending democracy and human rights, including the prevention of sexual violence in conflict.
Former Defence Secretary, Lord Browne of Ladyton (Labour), used his speech to call for a new international approach to security and defence, while recognising current economic constraints. Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (Liberal Democrat) drew attention to the current predicament of Afghan interpreters working with British forces and urged that they be extended the same rights as their Iraqi counterparts. Lord Freeman (Conservative), former president of the Reserve Forces Association, welcomed the government's commitment to expanding the UK's reserve forces.
Lord Triesman (Labour), opposition spokesperson for foreign and commonwealth affairs, welcomed the broad debate, but warned that the government needs to be bold to ensure that Britain’s voice remains audible within international institutions.
Tuesday 14 May: Agriculture, culture, education, energy, health, welfare
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, Lord Freud (Conservative) opened the debate. He started by outlining government measures around social care and pensions, including the Pensions Bill and the Care Bill, which seeks to create a cap on care costs. He also provided an overview of the reforms on culture, agriculture, energy and education, including measures concerning gambling and childcare.
Lord Berkeley of Knighton (Crossbench) made his maiden speech during the debate, and spoke about investment in the arts and the balance between the need for renewable energy and the preservation of the countryside. Viscount Ridley (Conservative), also made his maiden speech, covering the cost of energy and the importance of economic competitiveness. Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour), opposition spokesperson for education, culture, media and sport, spoke of the importance of the arts and creativity in education and raised concerns around government welfare reforms.
Monday 13 May: Business, the economy, local government and transport
Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, Lord Deighton (Conservative) began the debate, explaining some of the specific initiatives within the government’s broader programme to boost economic growth. He spoke of measures to strengthen the UK’s financial system, expand the transport network – including HS2 – and address housing shortages.
Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho (Crossbench) made her maiden speech during the debate, and focused on the need for digital growth – both skills and infrastructure – to help individuals and the economy as a whole. Lord Mitchell (Labour), opposition spokesperson for business, innovation and skills, also spoke of the potential of the digital revolution and the importance of supporting small businesses.
Thursday 9 May: constitutional affairs, equalities, home affairs, justice and law
Lord McNally (Liberal Democrat), Minister of State for Justice and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, opened the debate to set out the government's strategy in these subject areas. Lord Trimble (Conservative), former First Minister of Northern Ireland, spoke on constitutional affairs and the effects of devolution. Lord Fowler (Conservative) led contributions urging the government to pursue recommendations from the Leveson Inquiry, and raised prejudice facing gay and lesbian people: arguing that a law permitting gay marriage will help promote equal and fair treatment.
Wednesday 8 May (after the State Opening): Formal thank you in reply to the Queen's Speech
The first debate was a ‘motion for humble address’ or a formal thank you, moved by Lord Lang of Monkton (Conservative), who welcomed the measures outlined in the Queen’s Speech, particularly those on pensions, immigration and business. Lord German (Liberal Democrat) followed, also offering his support to the government’s proposals.
The Leader of the Opposition, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Labour), however, stated that she felt the government’s planned legislation doesn’t address the problems facing the people of the UK.
Image: Copyright House of Lords 2013/Roger Harris