HL Deb 25 April 1988 vol 496 cc1-3
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, the whole House will have been saddened to hear of the death over the weekend of Lord Ramsey of Canterbury. He first entered your Lordships' House on appointment to his first see, Durham, in 1952 and continued to sit as Archbishop of York and Canterbury and since 1974 as a Life Peer. Much has already been said and written about Lord Ramsey as a scholarly and spiritual man. Those of your Lordships who remember him as Archbishop and a frequent attender in this House will recall that those qualities permeated his contributions to debates in this Chamber. However, that is not to say that he did not speak his mind in the House on matters of concern to him and to the Church.

As Archbishop he was called upon for advice on the role of the bishops during the negotiations on Lords' reform in the late 1960s. The adoption of the synodical system of government by the Church, and its assumption of responsibility in 1973 for doctrine and worship, represented a major change in the relationship between Parliament and the established Church.

However, above all, we remember Lord Ramsey today for his remarkable gifts and for his great presence. I am sure that your Lordships will wish to join me in offering every sympathy to his widow.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the noble Lord the Leader of the House has paid a worthy and a warm tribute to Lord Ramsey. On behalf of my noble friends on these Benches I endorse everything that he said.

The impression that I had of Lord Ramsey, although I did not have the privilege of knowing him well, was that he was a cheerful and benevolent Christian leader who sustained the Anglican Church through his personality and his extensive travels. However, although it is true that his travels were significant—especially his historic journey to meet Pope Paul in Rome—he was a far more profound personality than appeared immediately on the surface.

He was a distinguished theologian and a gifted teacher as well as a thoughtful pastoral Archbishop. If he gave the touching impression of vagueness at times, he could also be decisive on great issues. I once heard him make a witty and humorous speech and I realised then that he had a strong sense of humour, although I believe that he hesitated and worried a great deal before he made a speech in this House. Perhaps more of us should follow his example!

There was an innocence and a humility about Lord Ramsey which placed him in a special category. All those who worked closely with him loved and revered him. He takes his place as one of the great Church leaders of this century, and our deep sympathy goes out to Lady Ramsey and his family at this time.

Lord Banks

My Lords, I should like to associate myself and noble friends with the tributes which have been paid to the late Lord Ramsey. I speak as a Non-conformist and I can say that, during his 13 years as Archbishop, Lord Ramsey was held in the highest regard by all branches of the Christian Church and indeed by the general public outside. It was of significance to us on these Benches that in his younger days he was in fact on the list of approved Liberal candidates.

I have two particular memories of Lord Ramsey. He preached the sermon at a service held in Westminster Abbey in 1977 to mark the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the formation of the National Liberal Federation. As I was the organiser on the Liberal Party side on that occasion, it fell to me to invite him to attend and he graciously accepted. I well remember his impressive remarks on that occasion.

The second memory I have is of a dinner in 1968—another commemorative occasion—which was held at the National Liberal Club to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the formation of Gladstone's first government. The two principal speakers were Lord Ramsey and Lady Violet Bonham-Carter. I sat between them because I was presiding. They got into such animated discussion that their heads came closer and closer together and I could scarcely get my fork to my mouth.

The outstanding memory from both those occasions is of a kind, thoughtful and courageous man.

Baroness Stedman

My Lords, from this Bench we should also like to be associated with the tributes being paid to Lord Ramsey. He and I came into this House as Life Peers at about the same time in 1974. He had a brilliant mind and on his day he was an extremely good communicator. He did not intervene often in our debates—some of us felt not often enough—but he was always listened to intently. We always enjoyed his command of the English language and his philosophical and, at times, somewhat radical views.

He enjoyed his holidays in Dartmoor; he liked the solitude of the Devon landscape and he was concerned about our environment. He was a kindly and courteous man, who inspired affection and loyalty in all those who knew him and worked with him. We know that he will be sorely missed in many facets of life. Our sympathy too goes out to his widow and friends.

The Lord Bishop of Ely

My Lords, speaking from these Benches and for noble Lords on the Cross-Benches, I take it as the greatest of privileges to remember someone who was a friend, someone from whose hands I received my own consecration as a bishop, and someone who always conveyed that great sense that things mattered to God. Because of his experience in the Union of the University of Cambridge of which he was once president, Michael Ramsey might have been moved to enter the world of political engagement. Instead he served the ordained ministry of the Church of God but always with the consciousness that it is in the civil order and the actualities of daily life that Christian decisions must be made. He always had respect for those carrying responsibility in the civil order. Therefore, as noble Lords have heard in the tributes which have been given in your Lordships' House, he was loved and respected not only by his fellow churchmen and those of other Churches, but not least by Members of your Lordships' House. He held his membership of this House in most serious regard.

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