HL Deb 03 August 1965 vol 269 cc115-7

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the fact that the Woolsack in this House was last refilled as long ago as 1938, and on that occasion wool given by the woolgrowers of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa was used, consideration will now be given to restuffing the Woolsack with wool produced entirely within the Commonwealth, including the United Kingdom.]


My Lords, the interior condition of the Woolsack, even after 27 years' wear, is quite satisfactory. Although I have not personally inspected the contents of the Woolsack, Her Majesty's Government understand from those who are qualified in these matters that the contents are wearing well, and that even after 27 years they do not need renewal. No complaints have been received from noble Lords who have sat on it during that period. The reason why it was refilled in 1938 was that it was discovered that the stuffing was horsehair, and not wool at all. When the time comes to refurbish the Woolsack, Her Majesty's Government will be happy to act upon the noble Lord's suggestion.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for that informative reply? May I take it that he agrees that, as right from the earliest days the Woolsack has stood for the importance of the wool trade in England, it is only appropriate that wool produced in this country, in Scotland and in Wales should be included in the Woolsack? Would Her Majesty's Government consider an offer from the British Wool Marketing Board to supply wool from England, Scotland and Wales, and also to collect wool from other Commonwealth countries—including a small one that I happen to know well, the Falkland Islands—so that we really have an all-Commonwealth Woolsack? If the British Wool Marketing Board would see to that, and would also have it restuffed at their cost, would that be acceptable to Her Majesty's Government?


My Lords, it would indeed be acceptable to Her Majesty's Government. The Woolsack has at present a wooden frame inside it, as well as the wool, and a certain amount of horsehair on the outside of that, which is necessary for comfort. I should just remind the noble Lord that the number of Commonwealth countries which produce wool is quite substantial, and includes not only the portions of the United Kingdom but also Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Kenya, Cyprus, India and Pakistan, and the Dependencies Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland.


My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the condition of the Woolsack. Is he aware that in 1964, at least, there was the need for a certain amount of refilling—it had sunk a little? Perhaps that has been made good since that time with horsehair or wool.


My Lords, I knew it had been restuffed slightly in 1950, but I did not realise that the noble and learned Viscount had himself made a deep impression on it.


My Lords, could the noble Lord give an assurance that the Government Front Bench is not stuffed with a similar material?


Yes, my Lords.