Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Friday, 9 December 2011
Speaker's lectures: Centenary of the Parliament Act

Full coverage of the Speaker's lecture series about key political figures of the 100 years since the Parliament Act was passed:

Tristram Hunt on Tony Benn

Tristram Hunt on Tony Benn

The historian turned Labour MP Tristram Hunt described former Labour MP as a "reluctant peer and persistent commoner".

Tony Benn's campaign to renounce his peerage led to a change in the law, allowing him to later enter the Labour government of Harold Wilson as an MP.

Mr Hunt noted Tony Benn's renowned diary-keeping, describing it as "a moral responsibility to give an account of his life".

John Whittingdale on Baroness Thatcher


John Whittingdale on Baroness Thatcher

The former political secretary to Baroness Thatcher, John Whittingdale, gave an account of the atmosphere in Downing Street at the time of her resignation.

He revealed how she had "briefly" considered continuing as prime minister without being leader of the Conservative Party, feeling that it was "improper" that she had been forced to leave office in that way.

Mr Whittingdale, now the Conservative MP for Maldon, was political secretary to Lady Thatcher at the time of her resignation from 10 Downing Street.

He stressed the influence of her father on her personal and political development, including "his sense of duty and his devotion to family and civic duty, and the importance of standing by one's convictions".

Baroness Thatcher was prime minister between 1979 and 1990, standing down from the House of Commons in 1992.

Lord Adonis on Roy Jenkins


Lord Adonis on Roy Jenkins

Lord Adonis, an advisor to Tony Blair and minister under Gordon Brown, describes the career of SDP founder and former Labour Home Secretary and Chancellor Roy Jenkins.

The most powerful part of the late Lord Jenkins' legacy, argues Lord Adonis, is not his body of work as a writer, although he was, apart from Winston Churchill, "the most prolific and successful author to hold high office in the 20th century" and his books are still widely read.

Rather, it was in government that Lord Jenkins' energy and talents would have most impact.

"As home secretary in the 1960s, he was the model of a transformational minister," Lord Adonis argued, citing his ability "to mobilise middle as well as radical opinion".

In his first stint as home secretary, which lasted just one year and 11 months, he oversaw the decriminalisation of abortion and homosexuality, the liberalisation of divorce laws and theatre censorship, the banning of racial discrimination and flogging in prisons, and the introduction of majority verdicts in criminal trials.

"He and his allies changed the face of society," Lord Adonis concludes.

Lord Hurd on Iain Macleod

Lord Hurd on Iain Macleod

Former cabinet minister in the Thatcher government - and one time political secretary to Ted Heath - Lord Hurd said the death of Iain Macleod at the age of 56 shortly after becoming chancellor in 1970 robbed the Conservative government of a "remarkable man of great ability".

Lord Hurd said that Iain Macleod was a talented enough bridge player to have made a decent living out of his winnings and had succeeded in politics despite suffering physical pain as a result of injuries sustained during the Second World War.

He was a great communicator with a sharp mind who built up early ministerial experience in the late 50s and early 60s Conservative government, including as a colonial secretary who believed in the "brotherhood of man", Lord Hurd said.

He fell out with many in the leadership of the party after the election of Alec Douglas-Home, but his sharp mind and turn of phrase, his spell as editor of The Spectator and his passionate One Nation Conservatism mean he remains an influential figures four decades after his death.

Lord Hurd said that Iain Macleod's death had left people asking the question "what if"?

Would his survival have altered the fortunes of the Heath government? In his lecture, Lord Hurd looked at various versions of what might have happened, concluding that whatever the effect, it would have been substantial.

Lord Kinnock on Michael Foot

Lord Kinnock spoke about his predecessor as Labour leader

Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock delivered a lecture on his predecessor as Labour leader Michael Foot, in July 2011.

He said that Mr Foot, who died last year, was admired across the political spectrum as "a great House of Commons man".

Mr Foot, who came from a political family, was a journalist before entering Parliament in 1945, editing the Evening Standard from 1942 at the age of 28.

Lord Kinnock said Mr Foot believed in the power of the House of Commons and he became known as an MP willing to stick by his beliefs - he refused to serve in Harold Wilson's first two administrations, as he opposed Labour's policies on Vietnam, pay restraint and the Common Market.

He also formed an alliance with Conservative MP Enoch Powell to foil plans to axe hereditary peers from the House of Lords.

Mr Foot, who helped keep the 1974 Labour government in power as Commons leader until 1979, became Labour leader after the party suffered defeat at the hands of Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives.

He took over a party divided, but although he led them to their worst election defeat in modern times in 1983 Lord Kinnock said Mr Foot had, by his leadership, "saved the party that he loved" and ensured it survived as a political entity.

Lord Norton on Enoch Powell

Lord Norton delivering the Speaker's lecture on Enoch Powell

The Conservative peer Lord Norton of Louth, who is Professor of Government at the University of Hull, delivered a lecture on Enoch Powell in June.

He noted that Enoch Powell, best known for his "rivers of blood" speech from 1968, excelled in three different careers, firstly as an academic where he excelled as a classics scholar and became the youngest professor in the Empire, when he was aged just 25.

With the outbreak of war he began a swift rise through the military ranks, being one of just two people thought to have risen from the rank of private to Brigadier during the course of the war.

After the war Powell, who spoke eight languages, moved into politics. Lord Norton said he became one of the great parliamentarians of the 20th Century, although he failed to become one of the great politicians, because he put his beliefs before ambition, notably when he declined government jobs - and resigned once - because of disagreements over policy.

Lord Norton says Powell was a "complex man if ever there was one", uniting with another great parliamentarian, Labour's Michael Foot, on issues such as opposing House of Lords reforms and on Europe. His rivers of blood speech made and destroyed him politically, he adds.

Gordon Marsden on Aneurin Bevan

Gordon Marsden on Aneurin Bevan

The Labour MP for Blackpool South, Gordon Marsden, who is a former editor of History Today, delivered a lecture on Aneurin Bevan in May.

Aneurin Bevan was the chief architect of the establishment of the National Health Service during the post-war Labour government. He was born in 1897 in Tredegar in Wales, the son of a miner. He left school at 13 and began working in a local colliery before becoming a trade union activist, then a Labour MP and minister of health after the landslide Labour win in 1945. In 1951, Bevan was moved to become minister of labour.

Shortly afterwards he resigned from the government in protest at the introduction of prescription charges for dental care and spectacles, after which he led the left wing of the Labour Party, known as the 'Bevanites'. In 1955, he stood for party leader but was defeated by Hugh Gaitskell and became shadow foreign secretary.

In 1959, Bevan was elected deputy leader of the Labour Party, although he was already suffering from terminal cancer. He died the following year.

Nicholas Soames on Sir Winston Churchill

Nicholas Soames on Sir Winston Churchill

Nicholas Soames MP delivered a lecture about his grandfather and wartime prime minister Sir Winston Churchill in the State Apartments of the Palace of Westminster in April.

Sir Winston Churchill, whose time as an MP spanned 1901 to 1964, backed the Parliament Act in 1911.

Mr Soames, who has himself been an MP for 27 years, said Sir Winston was a man for the difficult times and indeed for all times, concluding that his grandfather was "at one with all people of courage and goodwill no matter what their rank, their race or their nation".

Baroness Williams on Nancy Astor

Baroness Williams on Nancy Astor

Baroness Williams, the former Labour cabinet minister and co-founder of the SDP, delivered a lecture about Nancy Astor in the State Apartments of the Palace of Westminster, on 28 March, 2011.

The 45 minute lecture by Lib Dem peer Baroness Williams focused on the political life of Astor, who became the first woman to sit as an MP in 1919.

Nancy Astor remained a high profile - and controversial - figure in the build-up to the Second World War, being a vocal backer of appeasement and peace with Nazi Germany, although she voted against the government in 1940, helping bring Winston Churchill to power.

Sir Peter Tapsell on F E Smith

Sir Peter Tapsell on F E Smith

Conservative MP Sir Peter Tapsell analysed the legacy of former MP F E Smith in the events of 1911.

F E Smith was a Conservative statesman and MP in the first part of the 20th century and a close friend of Winston Churchill. He was a staunch Unionist and an opponent of Irish Home Rule.

Comparing the era of Smith with modern politics, Sir Peter Tapsell described how F E Smith was staunchly against "any move to a unicameral Parliament" and had been a supporter of a coalition between the Conservative and Liberal parties.

Lord Morgan on David Lloyd George


Lord Morgan on David Lloyd George

Political historian Lord Morgan began the lecture series by assessing the impact and legacy of former prime minister David Lloyd George. Speaking in the state apartments of the Palace of Westminster, he said the Liberal PM "inaugurated the crises that led to the passing of the act".

The Parliament Act prevented the House of Lords from vetoing any public legislation that had originated in and had been approved by the Commons, and imposed a maximum legislative delay of two years (or one month for money bills).

It therefore asserted the supremacy of the House of Commons after years of arguments between the two Houses.

Lord Morgan - a Labour peer - is a trustee of the History of Parliament Trust and a fellow in Modern History and Politics at Queen's College Oxford.

Lessons learned from the Parliament Act
01 Nov 10 |  Blogs and comment


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