Lord Mawson: My Lords, I still feel a bit of a new boy in your Lordships’ House. As an entrepreneur and practical person I am still trying to understand the inner workings of this place, but I am getting there, at least a little. However, when it comes to the constitutional issues mentioned in the gracious Speech, I am an absolute beginner, but naivety and inexperience in this area might be no bad thing, particularly if they encourage us to look again at some of the basic arguments and practice that underpin the present constitutional debate.
I have a bit of a reputation, I think, as a moderniser of public services and for taking outdated health and education systems and applying to them entrepreneurial thinking and practice. My colleagues and I, both in east London and nationally, have produced results over the past 30 years which demonstrate some success. At the core of this work has often been the empowerment of disfranchised local communities and individual citizens so that they might take more responsibility for their personal lives and families and their local community. This is what citizenship is all about. In the eyes of local people you become a good citizen not through which committees you sit on or what you talk about but by what you do to improve local people’s lives. Doing this work has taught me a little about empowering communities and organisations in an area of the country where the majority of people had almost given up on the democratic process altogether.
There is not time today to delve into the detail of what we experienced at a local level when we stayed around to observe the long-
What lessons have we learnt over the years from the front edge? First, our experience is that we can create whatever political structures we want but if we do not have the right people in the right places running them, little will change in practice. Indeed, it may get worse-
Our local East End community has been offered countless new structures and processes by successive Governments over the years. I have lived through at least 19 restructures of the NHS alone. When you stay around for a quarter of a century in one place and you watch the cumulative effect of this endless democratic merry-
Unless we understand the micro level in more detail-
The second lesson is to make sure that what you say and what you do are the same. Integrity matters to local people. Too many promises have been made that came to nothing. Will the proposed changes make your Lordships’ House more effective at what it does? We should change the rules only if we can demonstrate that they will. Thirdly, will such changes enable us to build upon what we know works, and thus strengthen the hand of the calibre of people who inhabit this House? What counts with local people at the end of the day is what works in practice. The working out of theories is irrelevant. In my experience, you work out what really works only through many hard years of practice-