Q1 Paul Flynn: I will ask questions briefly and perhaps you could give brief answers because there are a number of subjects I want to raise. Do you think that the Police and Crime Commissioners’ jobs now are so degraded in the eyes of the public that the first election is likely to be the last election on the grounds of the derisory turnout and the shameless cronyism by the Commissioners in appointing their pals as deputies?
Nick Clegg: I think it is an obvious point. They have their work cut out now to prove that they are a worthwhile addition to the policing and political landscape.
Q2 Paul Flynn: St Augustine said in his prayer as a young man—I am sure you are very familiar with the lives of the saints—“God make me chaste, but not yet”. We will have a Bill in the next half an hour going through the House that will have the support of, I think, everyone in the country suggesting we get rid of gender bias from the succession. Why does it not apply immediately?
Miss Smith: The answer to your question is that the agreement will apply retrospectively, dated back to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth last year.
Q3 Paul Flynn: So it will apply to the next succession that comes up on the unfortunate demise of the Queen?
Miss Smith: I beg your pardon, I am misunderstanding you. I am sorry, you are referring to Prince Charles as opposed to the baby of Prince William? In simple terms, because you do have to plan ahead, and we are planning ahead to the next generation.
Q4 Paul Flynn: If it is a reform why do we have to wait decades until it applies? Everyone agrees that it should not be done on the basis of gender. Why not do it straight away?
Miss Smith: Because in this area of constitutional reform, I think it is fair to look to a generation to come. The Palace is content to move forward to this generation and that is a reasonable agreement with which to move forward.
Q5 Paul Flynn: So God make me free of gender discrimination, but not yet.
The House of Commons has changed over the last 20 years. It represents the country in that there are more women there, not enough, and more ethnic minorities there, not enough, but it has few octogenarians there. Is this not a major defect in view of the outrageous ageism of my colleague? Should we not have people in the House of Commons who remember what life was like before there was a health service?
Miss Smith: As I was at one point in my career the youngest MP, and indeed am now the youngest Government Minister, I suppose I ought to answer that from that other end of the scale. I have always said that we need people from all walks of life and that means young and old as well as every other axis in the Commons. St Augustine, if I were to use him on this side of the argument, I suppose would look to time to do its work, and some people will say that time ticks on and those who may be 78 now could look forward to being 80.
I will do, as others have just done, suggest that the Father of the House is doing an admirable job.
Paul Flynn: I believe that was the situation a short while ago. There are about five who are 77, and there might be one or two who have had birthdays recently who might well be 80.
Miss Smith: We wish them all a long and flourishing life, and a happy birthday.
Q6 Paul Flynn: Are you happy about a Bill that will have a cull of the elderly in the House of Lords in this outrageous way that we have heard this morning?
Nick Clegg: Another reason why the Lord Steel Bill might not curry all the favour that Eleanor wishes.
Q7 Paul Flynn: I will stick to my brief. Do you not think when we talk about defects in democracy, and I think you deserve credit for many of the things that you have listed this morning, that the outrageous injustice in our democracy is the cheat of first past the post?
Nick Clegg: Don’t get me on to that. You do not want to invite a Liberal Democrat to talk about the virtues of electoral reform. We will be here all day. The short answer is yes.
Paul Flynn: Thank you, I am very grateful.