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This is one of those occasions where I feel bound to point out beforehand that the Lords do a lot of genuinely good and useful work. Indeed, specifically, the Lords European Select Committee Sub-Committee B on the Internal Market, Energy and Transport does a lot of useful work—the following extract really isn’t representative. But something like this is probably inevitable if for some reason your select committee includes a wild card like Lord James of Blackheath.

No mysterious foundations, not this time. Just pure, unadulterated Lord James, cranked up to 11. Earlier this week the select committee was taking evidence from Karen Clements of the British Chambers of Commerce about the European single market. Bear in mind that none of the following had any relevance to anything that they otherwise talked about. Bear in mind also that Karen Clements has never encountered Lord James before.

Lord James of Blackheath: This question asks you to compare the progress of market liberalisation with the impact it is going to have on the European social model. I will have a particular question I’d like you to consider with that, and you touched on it and got very close to it in one of the first things you said.

In the post-banking crisis market, when we all settle down and we start to get back to normal borrowing again, we hope that the British banks will get back to a disciplined affair in which it is no longer possible for somebody to take a second mortgage without the knowledge of his wife in order either to pay for his mistress or a lot of white powder and, by doing so, we can arrange that in this country by insisting upon the signature of the wife to the consent of every loan against the security of the family asset.

That does not apply in Germany and it does not apply in France, where you can do what you like, and so, if you happen to be a guy with a big mistress problem and you can’t get the money out of the Lloyds Bank or the NatWest here, you’ve just to get into a German bank or a French bank and you can get it.

Karen Clements: Right.

Lord James of Blackheath: I would say that’s a sociological problem arising out of liberalisation.

Karen Clements: Well, there is a mortgage directive in the Single Market Act.

Lord James of Blackheath: I should have added, in putting the question, “so I’m told”, rather than from personal experience.

Karen Clements: Right. Okay. Yes, of course. I would say that proposal would be the logical place to start, wouldn’t it? I’m not sure what bearing that has on the European social model or the market.

Lord James of Blackheath: We need a simple standardisation of the principles of lending, and it ought to be bought into by all the banks. But could you also look beyond that because, with the comments you’ve made on e-procurement and everything else, the great danger that we go into here is the easier access to porn and to gambling across the whole of the European markets as well, and I’m quite certain at the moment that nothing like enough is being done to keep those under control.

Karen Clements: Well, I absolutely agree that should be kept under control, and I’m afraid I don’t know enough about that to help you. Sorry.

Lord James of Blackheath: Well, the point is it’s not happening at the moment, so where can it happen?

The Chairman: It’s not an SME [small or medium enterprise].

Lord James of Blackheath: All porn operations are SMEs.

The Chairman: I think we should pass, don’t you?

Lord James of Blackheath: No, it’s a big problem. I’d like to know where the thrust will come to address this, because it’ll spread like a disease through Europe.

Karen Clements: Well, as far as I’m aware… I don’t know. I haven’t looked through the Single Market Act to look at the rules that it’s proposing in order to deal with those issues, but I absolutely agree it will have to be done.

The Chairman: Thank you, Lord James. [Transcript]

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