HL Deb 17 December 1970 vol 313 cc1515-9

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, it would be pleasant, at least for me, to think that the Leader of your Lordships' House was more or less incapable of being out of order. I am unfortunately only too well aware that this is not the case. I hope that, with the leave of the House, what I am about to say will be regarded as a Statement of business and so be in order. Your Lordships will doubtless be aware that at the end of this year Sir Kenneth Mackintosh will be handing over his duties to the Gentleman Usher of the Rod. He will then be going on a period of very well earned leave. The sad fact is that when we come back in January we shall no longer find Sir Kenneth in charge of our administrative affairs. I should not like to let this occasion pass without a word of appreciation and gratitude to Sir Kenneth for his 17 years' service to your Lordships.

He came here as Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain and Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod in 1953. That was at a time when the Lord Great Chamberlain was Housekeeper and Administrator to the House of Lords and, as the Queen's representative, had certain responsibilities for the whole of the Palace of Westminster. Sir Kenneth became Serjeant at Arms in 1962 and when, in 1965, most of the Lord Great Chamberlain's administrative responsibilities were divided between the two Houses he continued to carry out, on behalf of the Administration Committee of your Lordships' House, many of the functions which he had previously exercised on behalf of the Lord Great Chamberlain.

I do not know what we should have done without Sir Kenneth's knowledge and experience during this transitional period. He has seen many changes during his service: some have, no doubt, been more palatable to him than others may have been, but he has accepted all these changes with unfailing grace and good humour. It is my belief—and I am sure that this belief is shared by your Lordships—that we owe him deep gratitude for the way in which he has discharged his many and varied responsibilities. Whether it is in carrying the Mace with due pomp and ceremony, or arranging the Opening of Parliament, or solving many of those difficult administrative problems in which it is virtually impossible to satisfy everybody—as, for example, the allocation of offices—we shall miss his firm and friendly guidance. I am sure that it will be the wish of everyone that we should extend to him on the eve of his retirement a special message of warm thanks and good wishes. We wish him and Lady Mackintosh every happiness in the future.

My Lords, at the same time it may be the appropriate moment to announce to your Lordships that, after consultation with all concerned, our other Naval person, Sir Frank Twiss, has appointed Colonel Charles Sayers to be Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod from January 1, 1971, and that the Lord Chancellor has from that date appointed Colonel Sayers to be also the Deputy Serjeant at Arms. This means that Colonel Sayers will be Black Rod's deputy for all purposes and, in particular, will attend the Lord Chancellor in carrying the Mace.


My Lords, as always, the Leader of the House will receive the leave of the House to make a Statement, and I can assure him that he was entirely in order in what he was doing. His Statement was, as usual, expressed in amiable and appropriate terms. I should like to share in the tribute that he has paid to Sir Kenneth Mackintosh. When I first came to your Lordships' House I was rather frightened of Sir Kenneth—and I think some other noble Lords have been, too. We then moved into the new arrangement and the powers of the Lord Great Chamberlain were changed, although it is worth recalling that the Lord Great Chamberlain still has certain responsibilities and Sir Kenneth Mackintosh has carried them out on his behalf. As a result of the change, Sir Kenneth Mackintosh has had an exceedingly difficult job with no fewer than four—or it may be three—separate masters.

When I became Leader of the House it fell to my lot to give some consideration, along with certain other noble Lords, to the arrangements for the administration, and the roles of Black Rod and the Serjeant at Arms. In order to study this, it was necessary to investigate in some depth the duties of Sir Kenneth. I do not believe that any of your Lordships will ever know how hard Sir Kenneth has had to work in these past few years. It was quite staggering to look at the list of duties drawn up for this careful, objective analysis. However large or small the task, Sir Kenneth was always ready to take the responsibility.

It is in the nature of the job, dealing as its holder has to do with a large number of different people, Members of your Lordships' House of varying temperaments (if I may put it so), that it imposes a great strain and responsibility to ensure that everything works perfectly. We can say with confidence that the very high standards of decorum and efficiency required for the duties which were carried out by Sir Kenneth, under the late Lord Cholmondeley who did so much for your Lordships' House, have been fully maintained. We owe him a great debt of gratitude. When I was Leader of the House I was conscious of the extent to which one could always rely on his discharging any task, however minor or however important, with great efficiency.

It is a fact that we have now settled on new arrangements, which I believe are more efficient, centralising the responsibility on Black Rod, with the new Yeoman Usher as his deputy. I would hasten to add—and this was always the view of those who were concerned in this connection—that at no time did this in any way reflect on Sir Kenneth's discharge of his responsibilities.

He will now be retiring; and Lady Mackintosh, a most charming person—and I sometimes wish we had been able to see more of her—will be leaving us. I am happy to think that those charming girls who work in Sir Kenneth Mackintosh's office are likely to remain, although how long they will be allowed to remain I do not know. At any rate, I should like to express my personal gratitude, and I am sure that we all share the views expressed by the noble Earl the Leader of the House.

My Lords, we should like, too, to wish the new Yeoman Usher all good luck under Sir Frank Twiss. I would only add that I am still a little bothered about the method of appointment, which appears to be shared, for historic reasons, between the Lord Chancellor and Sir Frank Twiss. It is of course a fact that the Lord Chancellor carries a special responsibility for your Lordships' House, but I think that at some stage we shall have to make clear that responsibility for these appointments does rest with the House.


My Lords, from these Benches we should certainly wish to be associated with the eloquent tributes which have already been paid to Sir Kenneth Mackintosh. He has upheld the highest possible traditions of a very important office. I often wonder how many of your Lordships appreciate the exacting nature of some of these jobs behind the scenes, and indeed on the scene itself, which go to make the proper and efficient working of this House. Sir Kenneth has certainly discharged his duties with great distinction. We should also like to associate ourselves with the thought that Sir Kenneth and Lady Mackintosh will live a long time to enjoy a well deserved retirement.


My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Salisbury, I am sure I speak for him as well as for myself when I say that during the whole time that we shared the Leadership of this House we owed a very great deal to Sir Kenneth Mackintosh. I do not know whether it was his efficiency or his humanity which was more prominent, but both were always there in full measure at the disposal of all of us in this House. Therefore, on behalf of my noble friend and myself, I should very much like to be associated with the proper tribute which has been paid to him and to Lady Mackintosh.


My Lords, I am sure that those who, like myself, sit on the Cross-Benches would wish to endorse and support all that has been said about Sir Kenneth Mackintosh. We wish him well in the future and join with all that has been said.