HL Deb 22 May 1991 vol 529 cc231-3
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Waddington)

My Lords, it is unusual to pay tribute in this House to one of our colleagues until he has gone to another place—and I do not mean along the corridor to the other end of this building! However, this is a very unusual occasion. Today my noble friend Lord Denham is resigning as Captain of the Gentlemen at Arms and Government Chief Whip, having served as such for 12 years and as Opposition Chief Whip before that.

I have known my noble friend for a long time. I know his fads and his foibles, and I have even read his books—well, one of them. I was his opposite number in another place for some years and I know how he fought tenaciously for the rights of this House and for all he believed in.

My noble friend has given conspicuous service to his party, to his Government and to his country. He is a great character who loves this place and has added lustre to it. He will not be sorely missed because I am sure that he will not go missing. We shall see plenty of him in the future, and thank goodness for that.

My noble friend Lord Whitelaw is unable to be present today but he has asked me to associate him with this tribute. He gives his personal thanks to my noble friend for all the help that he gave him when in government and as Leader of this House.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the Leader of the House has paid a suitably warm tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Denham, for his years of service both as Government Chief Whip and before that as a member of the Whips' Office.

In contemplating the noble Lord, Lord Denham, I cannot help but think of the old song—and I do not propose to sing it: We've been together now for 30 years and it don't seem a day too much". The noble Lord has decided that 30 years is enough. I believe that we all sympathise with him, although we shall miss him from his high office.

Throughout, the noble Lord has been a loyal servant to this House and to his party. He has stood up for the traditions and conventions of the House of Lords and in doing so has helped those of us who have entered here from another place to adapt to its atmosphere and to respect its ways. We shall continue to see the noble Lord and he will be able to pursue his many interests outside politics.

The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, mentioned that the noble Lord is an author and we look forward to reading more of his books. I understand that the title of his next volume will be, The Mystery of the Lost Divisions. We shall also study his future Division record with great care. Most important, we wish Lady Denham and the noble Lord many years of happiness.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

My Lords, I echo the opening words of the noble Lord the Leader of the House. This is the first occasion in my relatively short experience of your Lordships' House on which I have had the opportunity of paying tribute to a man in his presence. Mostly such occasions are rather melancholy. However, this is not melancholy except that we shall miss the noble Lord when he is not sitting in that familiar place in which he sits today. We hope to see much of him in other places and in other parts of the House.

His style of whipping and leadership has never been melancholy. It has been rumbustious and invigorating. He has provoked many varying reactions but he has never bored or depressed us and has left a stamp on our conduct of business. I thank the noble Lord and wish him well.

Baroness Hylton-Foster

My Lords, the Cross-Bench Peers would also like to thank the noble Lord for his 12 years of very active service. We hope that the unwhippable and unpredictable 250 Cross-Bench Peers, not counting the Bishops and Law Lords, have not been too much of a thorn in his flesh. As far as we are concerned, he has always done his duty, enabling us to play an active part as both dogs and bitches in this revising Chamber! We hope that he will go on writing books. I gather that the latest is called The Mystery of the Lost Divisions. I hope that there will be plenty of them in the Library for us to read. On a personal note, I hope that the noble Lord will start this Recess with a very tight line and catch lots of fish.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I am delighted to add a brief tribute from these Benches to the noble Lord, Lord Denham. Whips do not come out very well in the Bible, if I remember rightly. We are told that we will be chastised with whips. It is recorded that Christ used whips to drive the traders out of the temple. Therefore, I did not know quite what to expect when coming to meet a Government Chief Whip for the first time. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all the Lords Spiritual when I say that we have always valued tremendously his friendliness, kindliness and the way in which he has helped us along the road in this House. He has a wonderful knack of drawing attention to the ways in which he would like us to go. I remember that not long after I became a Member of this House he took me gently by the arm and said, "Bishop, I do not think that you have quite discovered every place in this House. For example, the way to vote for the Government is over there". I hope that I have not disappointed him too much over the years. If I have, then I am sure that it has been made up for by many of my colleagues. We wish him every blessing in the time to come.

Lord Denham

My Lords, it is given to few corpses to have the privilege of being able to listen to their own obituary, let alone to say a word of thanks for it. I thank my noble friend the Leader of the House, the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers and the right reverend Prelate. I also thank every Member of this House both past and present for the forbearance and kindness that they have shown over the past 30 years and particularly over the past 12 years. Thank you very much indeed.