Throughout her two-year internship with Lord Trees, Hannah Jordan has written a monthly diary for Vet Record Careers. This will be her last entry as she moves on to her new role as a policy officer with the BVA.
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To say it has been an interesting recess for the House of Lords would probably be putting it mildly. Business in the Lords wrapped up a few days prior to the extensive news coverage at the end of July, and the peers will not return until September 7. This two-week sitting in September hasn't taken place in the past two years but intends to mimic the sittings of the House of Commons, with both Houses then going into conference recess and returning in earnest on October 12.
The media coverage this summer has once again raised the topic of reform of the Lords. It can prove difficult to tell factually incorrect news stories from those that could be close to the truth, and it is probably unsurprising that I have formed my own opinion on the chamber during my time lurking in the corridors and squinting past the velvet drapes. At the last count there were 781 peers, more than there are seats in the chamber or MPs, and that is arguably too many; for example, in debates the same points can be covered repeatedly, with variable degrees of understanding, in stilted three-minute chunks due to the sheer number of peers signed up to speak. With more political appointees on the way, it is possible that the good work that takes place in the Lords could be further diluted and this feeds the calls that an elected second chamber should take its place. An elected chamber would certainly challenge the primacy of the Commons and probably diminish the role of MPs. Since 1911 the Lords has existed not to legislate or overrule the Commons, but to scrutinise – to apply the brakes and ensure that MPs have truly considered the consequences of legislation – and it is difficult to see how an elected chamber would achieve this vital role. So, Prime Minister, I challenge you to do something different and reduce the size of the chamber to better reflect the Commons.
Since the Queen's speech in May, the Civil Service has been whirring back into action and consultations have been popping up on things like language controls for EU vets (Defra; deadline September 23). We have a new Defra spokesperson in the Lords, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, and although it is good to see wheels in motion once again, it seems the current line is that, unless something is a direct manifesto commitment, it is unlikely to be considered. The Queen's speech itself was rather vague, with little content that is likely to have a major impact on the veterinary profession. On the upside, this gives us time to get our priorities straight and identify opportunities in the schedule of business in which to champion important issues.
This will be my last diary entry and, aside from venting my spleen on Lords reform, I would like to thank anyone still reading these pieces, as well as Lord Trees and the wonderfully eclectic individuals and members of the profession that I have met along the way for their time and patience. The internship has been an incredible experience. In October I will begin as a policy officer for the BVA, alongside my cherished one-day-a-week at the PDSA, I hope to carry on working for the profession in the policy arena – you can continue to read about my adventures at http://unconventionalvet.wordpress.com