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Lord Palumbo of Southwark makes maiden speech in House of Lords

New Liberal Democrat peer Lord Palumbo of Southwark has delivered his maiden speech in the House of Lords.

The entrepreneur James Palumbo – a Liberal Democrat donor – received a peerage last summer and chose Lord Palumbo of Southwark as his new title last autumn.

The Ministry of Sound nightclub founder last Thursday spoke in the House of Lords for the first time in a debate to mark International Women's Day.

"Twenty-five years ago, I started a nightclub in a disused warehouse five minutes from where your Lordships now sit, on the other side of the river," he told peers.

"It did not open until midnight and served no alcohol. It was a difficult beginning and had all the problems of a late-night business, not least frequent visits from the right honourable member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

"Building a business from scratch has been the biggest challenge of my life. Trying things out, making mistakes too numerous to mention, has been a difficult but also life-enhancing experience.

"Over the years, the business has expanded into live events, recorded music and digital media. What was previously a disused warehouse is now the proud headquarters of a global enterprise. It is this journey which has shaped my views on the topic of today's proceedings.

"The late-night entertainment and music industries are by their nature male dominated.

"While my own appearance might not immediately give this away, the world I inhabit is as muscular as you can imagine.

"At the Ministry of Sound, women occupy four of the nine most senior director positions and there is roughly a 50:50 male to female ratio at intermediary and junior levels.

"I do not hold up my organisation as an exemplar, but the empathy and common sense of women has played a key part in building my business over the years."

Lord Palumbo went on to call for a change of attitude among business owners towards women who want to start families: "We will have done our job if starting a family is seen as career enhancing, not a problem, and something which goes beyond the strictures of HR – support rather than compromise," he said.

Read Lord Palumbo's maiden speech in full

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