Monday, 15 February 2010

A curious intervention

Oscar Wilde once said that there was only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about. Certainly this could apply to parliamentary exchanges. Surely, any noble Lord that is not there but is mentioned during an exchange and positively at that, ought to be pleased.

This happened on February 9, during the short debate occasioned by Baroness Rendell's Starred Question (yes, she is Ruth Rendell, the prolific thriller writer). Baroness Rendell was asking whether HMG had any plans of introducing some socialist system of sending "poor people" on holiday at the taxpayers' expense. In the course of the discussion afterwards Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville asked, one assumes with his tongue firmly in his cheek:
My Lords, is the Minister aware, in the unexpected absence of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, that the European Parliament is considering amending the scheme under which almost 100 of their highest paid officials have their children taken on holiday at half price, so that it goes to low-paid officials instead
Naturally, we are all very pleased at this sign of benevolence on the part of the EU's institutions who are using our money for such charitable purposes. The Minister, Lord Davies of Oldham, was not entirely amused:
My Lords, I never thought that the House would miss the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. The noble Lord has stepped into the breach. We can all draw some satisfaction from the point that he makes, but I am talking here about a benign concept of holidays for the less well off and the disabled, rather than holidays for those who may be regarded as somewhat overprivileged.
Still, he rallied admirably and even showed appreciation of Lord Pearson's role in the House.

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