Friday, 27 September 2013

House of Lords Tour and Dinner Wednesday 25th September

Organised by Liveryman Simon Campbell-Davies, some eighty Marketors and guests wended their way through Black Rod's entrance into the Palace of Westminster, through to the Cholmondeley Room and Terrace for the Master's evening at the House of Lords.  Five tour guides whisked us off in groups to see this "Palace of Variety" from Bar to Bar (from the Lords to the Commons) allowing us to soak up the many interesting features of both Houses.  Why does only one of the red benches in the House of Lords have arms and which is it? We found out.  It was interesting to note that the opportunity was being taken for replacement of some of the many floor tiles, Pugin's patterns worn off by the passage of many feet. 

Parliament was in recess, MPs and Peers have headed off to Party Conferences or else a spell away from the onerous daily work of running the country. It was a beautiful evening and on return from our tours, including the chambers of both houses we had a spell on the terrace, all to ourselves, accompanied by a glass of champagne, looking at a tranquil Thames in the twilight, with Lambeth Palace on the far side of the Thames (we are visiting there on 1 October) set the scene for dinner.

Dinner was served and musical accompaniment was provided by a pianist and singer from a local London church.  Our host for the evening was Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE.  Michael is Global Head of Corporate Citizenship and Diversity for KPMG, and was formerly Head of Corporate Responsibility and Public Affairs at the BBC and on the Board of several significant charities. Michael and I found that we share a Degree in Theology.  Lord Hastings gave a sterling and often amusing exposition of the workings of Parliament, particularly the House of Lords, ending his talk with a toast to the Company. One guest remarked afterwards 'I don't think I have ever heard our Constitutional arrangements expounded so succinctly and so positively, as they rightly deserve'. After dinner there was much discussion on the subject of democracy, particularly after noting that 80% of our legislation now comes from Brussels and is rarely debated at all in either house! A thoroughly good evening of fellowship and good humour, as well as some education in both the fabric and the practices of Parliament. Pugin abounds! The picture below is with Professor Andrew Briggs of Oxford University, one of my distinguished guests.

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