Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Thursday, 15 November 2012
House of Lords: Pick of the week 12 - 14 November 2012

Disabled peer makes history

Debate on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton made history in the Lords when she delivered a speech in the chamber with the aid of her personal assistant for the first time.

Rules dating back to 1707 state that when the House is sitting "no person shall be on the floor of the House except Lords of Parliament and such other persons as assist or attend the House".

But the Procedure Committee agreed to Lady Campbell's request to dispense with the rule to allow her to draw upon an assistant to provide practical help in the chamber or Grand Committee in taking notes, and sometimes to read out the text on her behalf.

The crossbench peer said she was "delighted" to return to the chamber after a long period of illness and thanked the House for agreeing to the "unique" arrangement.

"This, my Lords, is equality in action," she said.

New Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes banks plan

Financial Services Bill debate

The next Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, spoke in the Lords for the first time since his appointment, on Tuesday.

He addressed peers during committee stage debate on the Financial Services Bill to welcome government moves to force banks to give more details about their lending to small and medium-sized businesses.

Treasury Minister Lord Newby told the bishop he was "delighted" to be the first person to congratulate him "from the despatch box" on his new appointment.

And opposition spokeswoman Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town wished him well "in the challenges ahead".

Bishop Welby, whose appointment was confirmed on 9 November, becomes the head of the Church of England next March.

Earlier in the debate, the government narrowly avoided a defeat when peers voted by just three to reject Labour's call for a code of conduct for the financial services industry.

Sentencing plans under fire

Debate on the Crime and Courts Bill

Government plans to toughen-up community sentences faced a barrage of criticism from peers on Tuesday - with crossbench peer and former Lord Justice of Appeal Baroness Butler-Sloss accusing the government of "gesture politics".

Ministers want to overhaul the system so that all adult community sentences include a punishment, such as curfews, fines or unpaid work, except in "exceptional circumstances".

Lord Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons, said that the move risked damaging the aim of cutting reoffending rates.

Defending the plans, Justice Minister Lord McNally maintained that community orders had to "strike the right balance" between "punishment, rehabilitation and other purposes of sentencing".

"Credit where credit is due"

Question time in the House of Lords

There was a disagreement among peers on Wednesday over who should be credited with keeping the UK out of the euro - but in true Lords style it was a gentlemanly exchange of opinions.

Labour's Lord Dubs prompted the brief discussion telling the government it was down to former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown's efforts.

"Credit where credit is due," he told Minister without Portfolio Baroness Warsi, who responded that Lord Dubs's recollection of history was "very different" to hers.

Lady Warsi said thanks should be paid to former Conservative leader William Hague - now foreign secretary, but Conservative peer Lord Cormack threw John Major's hat into the ring.

"I agree with that comment too," Lady Warsi responded.

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