For well over one hundred years people have been arguing about the second chamber of Parliament. What powers should it have? Who should sit in it? And do we need a second chamber at all? If we do, what possible justification can there be for an unelected House, made up largely of superannuated political appointees and people who owe their position in it to an accident of birth? How can such a chamber be representative of the people that it is meant to serve?
Earl Howe is a hereditary peer who first took his seat in the Lords in 1984 and who was elected to remain there following the passage of the House of Lords Act 1999 – the Act which removed the right to sit and vote from 90% of the hereditary peerage. During his parliamentary career he has specialised particularly in health and social care, having been Opposition Spokesman for thirteen years between 1997 and 2010 and a Minister in the Department of Health between 2010 and 2015 during the Coalition Government.
During the latter five years, Lord Howe held policy responsibility for some key areas of the Department’s work including medicines and medical technology; general practice; specialised commissioning; provider policy; dentistry; pharmacy; health research; and NHS efficiency. In addition he answered for the Government in the Lords on all aspects of the Department’s work.
More particularly, in his capacity as a Health Minister, Lord Howe was responsible for steering through the House the Bill which many would rank as the most contested and politically charged piece of legislation introduced by the Coalition: The Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This was the Act devised and championed by Andrew Lansley as Secretary of State for Health – heralding a root and branch revision of NHS commissioning, public health, competition oversight, patient and public involvement and – crucially – the chain of accountability between politicians, the medical professions and the NHS Executive.
The Act reached the statute book after a mammoth passage through both Houses, but it remains to this day a subject of controversy amongst its supporters and detractors.
Over a Melting Pot Lunch, Lord Howe will talk about the House of Lords and the part it plays in the political process; its strengths and weaknesses; its oddities; and to what extent, in his opinion, it is a force for good in our national life. Come along and have your preconceptions of the Lords and its work – whatever those may be – confirmed or thrown to the winds!