HL Deb 29 November 1990 vol 523 cc1059-61
Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, before we proceed to the day's business, I hope that I may on behalf of my noble friends and noble Lords in all parts of the House pay a warm tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for the way he has conducted the affairs of this House as its Leader over the past three years. The noble Lord brought great experience to that Office because he had served in a number of departments. That became clear during his tenure, especially when he took part in our debates. In my view he has proved himself a splendid parliamentarian, with the ability to open and wind up debates on a variety of subjects and to think on his feet. However, his greatest gift was his readiness to see every point of view and to help us all to the greatest extent. I believe he is the only Leader in the history of the House who was kind enough to smile even when he lost a Division. I greatly hope that Mr. David Waddington will follow his example. We wish the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, every success in his new Office. We also wish Mr. David Waddington every success when he takes up his new Office in this House.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, we on these Benches also wish to pay tribute to the work that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has done as Leader of the House. It must have been extraordinarily difficult to take over from the noble Viscount, Lord Whitehead, the previous Leader of the House. I apologise to the House. I meant to say the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw. However, the noble Lord certainly followed the example of the noble Viscount in one most important respect—we all greatly welcomed that— in that he has been not only the Leader of the Conservative Party in this House but also and pre-eminently the Leader of your Lordships' House. That is a tradition which noble Lords in all parts of the House are grateful for. We welcomed it and we are confident that it will be continued.

Apart from that continuation of the tradition of the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has wisely handled the House in his own unique way. We on these Benches, trained by my noble friend Lord Grimond, have always considered that the primary duty of Opposition is to make life as disagreeable as possible for those on the Government Benches and for the Leader on the Government Benches. However, it has been extremely difficult to be disagreeable with the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. His particular quality was that he was a great practitioner of the doctrine that the soft answer turneth away wrath. To try to pick a quarrel with the noble Lord has been quite extraordinarily difficult. He had such a great appreciation of the point of view put forward from other sections of the House that one had to agree with him more often than one wished.

We are glad and we congratulate the noble Lord on the fact that he continues to be a Minister of State. His peculiar qualities of friendliness and peacemaking may not perhaps be in immediate demand now that the Conservative Party is demonstrating brotherly love—I underline the word "brotherly"—on all sides. However, there can be no doubt that sooner or later the noble Lord's peculiar talent for peacemaking will be required again.

Baroness Hylton-Foster

My Lords, noble Lords on the Cross-Benches warmly support all the tributes that have been paid to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. We admired tremendously his constant attendance in the House, his patience and his kind way of reminding noble Lords if they were breaking the rules or customs of the House. We are grateful to him for understanding and protecting the rights of noble Lords on the Cross-Benches. The noble Lord was never too busy to listen to our problems or to give advice. We thank him for all that he has done for all of us in the House. We shall all miss the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, very much.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

My Lords, I wish to add from these Benches a further tribute to those which have already been paid to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. Other noble Lords have already paid homage to his skill as a parliamentarian. I wish to underline that skill and also to mention my own sense of great gratitude for the noble Lord's unfailing courtesy to every Member of the House. He was certainly courteous to me and to others on these Benches. We have been profoundly grateful for the way he has always taken the care and the trouble to talk to each one of us and to help us. We wish him well in his new Office.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity to thank those noble Lords who have been kind enough to make such generous remarks about my noble friend Lord Belstead. I remember the occasion of his maiden speech back in 1964 on the subject of education. He has held office in the Department of Education and Science, the Northern Ireland Office, the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Department of the Environment, as Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, as Leader of the House of Lords and as Lord Privy Seal. That is a remarkable achievement. I am most grateful for the remarks that noble Lords have so generously made.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, might have put it, my noble friend Lord Belslaw followed my noble friend Lord Whitehead. Those were difficult footsteps to follow but he did so with remarkable success. As the right reverend Prelate said, my noble friend always treated the House with courtesy, charm and good humour. When events such as those we have witnessed over the past few days occur it takes me back to my childhood when one used to play a game called pass the parcel. The great thing was to make sure that when the music stopped one did not hold the parcel. In politics the reverse seems to be the case. When the music stops one has to hold the parcel, or at least a parcel.

I am glad that my noble friend Lord Belstead, who has held such distinguished office, will still be a member of the Government. As noble Lords have so rightly said, he has tried to do his best for all parties in the House. The House only runs on co-operation by all parties. I should like to thank noble Lords not only on this side of the House but also on the other side for the help they gave my noble friend when he was Leader of the House.

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