HL Deb 06 May 1992 vol 537 cc25-7

4.49 p.m.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, I beg to move that the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, be appointed to take the Chair in all Committees of this House for this Session.

In moving this Motion I take the opportunity to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. Although I am a newcomer to the House I am already well aware that one of the great pleasures and privileges of the Leader is to convey the gratitude of the House to its greatest servants. I am sure that the whole House regards the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, as one who has been essential to the smooth running of the House and the efficient conduct of its business.

The Chairman of Committees holds an ancient office, first defined by standing orders at the start of the 19th century. But few Lord Chairmen can have seen their role develop as rapidly as the noble Lord. In the 16 years since he was first appointed, the noble Lord has presided over a quiet revolution in the duties of the Lord Chairman, and in the demands placed on him.

We are all aware of the work of the Lord Chairman on the Woolsack and in the Chair. We see him sitting there day after day. The Lord Chairman not only follows the Lord Chancellor in sitting for long hours to ensure that we get through our business in an orderly manner; he also organises the panel of Deputy Chairmen and Deputy Speakers to maintain a continuous presence in the Chamber. As the hours of sitting in the House have grown longer and longer, so the pressures have intensified, but the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has made sure that the business of the House has not suffered. He has, in addition, presided over the introduction of television cameras to your Lordships' House. It is a testament to the noble Lord that this process was achieved with so little disruption to your Lordships' Chamber. If I may say so, when I had similar responsibilities in another place, the noble Lord gave me a great deal of very helpful advice of which I was always very appreciative.

But much of the Lord Chairman's work is necessarily away from the Chamber. He exercises control and supervision over private legislation. The activities of Private Bill Committees and Unopposed Bill Committees may be unfamiliar to some of us, but members of the public have long depended for the protection of their interests on the scrupulous and detailed examination of Bills in such committees under the chairmanship and guidance of the noble Lord. The Lord Chairman also acts as the chairman of many other committees, such as those which manage the procedure and the domestic affairs of the House.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has graced all these tasks with application, scrupulous impartiality and good humour. Away from the House, his work with the Football Trust and elsewhere is well known. In my short time in the House, I have been left in no doubt about the deep affection and sincere admiration in which the noble Lord is held. I look forward to the noble Lord's continuing contributions to our debates and am sure that the whole House would wish to join me in wishing him and Lady Aberdare our best wishes for the future. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Lord Ampthill be appointed to take the Chair in all Committees for this Session.—(Lord Wakeham.)

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends, I most warmly support the appropriate and very well earned tribute paid by the noble Lord the Leader of the House to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for his long and distinguished service as Chairman of Committees in this House.

His family, as I well know, have a long and notable record of public service in Wales and the noble Lord himself has lived up to that reputation in his service to this House and to Parliament. He has graced the office for a long period and his service has been distinguished. I am not aware of a hitch or an error in his conduct of it. He has always been particularly kind and thoughtful to new Members, and all of us in all parts of the House will miss him from his office although we shall look forward to his company here.

I join with the noble Lord in wishing the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and Lady Aberdare a long and happy life; and the noble Lord must visit us every day in future from now on.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, will always remain for me the model of what the Chairman of Committees of your Lordships' House should be. Normally one fixes such benchmarks early in life, as I did for Prime Ministers, masters of colleges and colonels of regiments, whereas I did not see the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, in action until five years ago. Nonetheless, for me, he will be the criterion, whether looking forward or looking back. We have admired his crispness, his courtesy, his erect bearing—so suitable to a rackets and real tennis champion—his acute intelligence and his high sense of public duty.

We thank him for his 16 years of public service and wish his successor well in performing what is bound to be a very difficult act to follow.

Baroness Hylton-Foster

My Lords, the Cross-Bench Peers—the unusual channels, I am afraid—on this occasion would very much like to agree with all the tributes already paid to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the noble Baroness, Lady Serota. Speaking personally—I believe that we all feel this personally—the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has been a perfectly splendid chairman. He has been fair. He has listened to people. His way is an example for those noble Lords who have had, as I have had, the opportunity of serving on committees under him. He says very little himself except to explain the problem. He then listens and comes to a conclusion which, because we all respect him, is accepted.

The noble Baroness, Lady Serota, has done an absolutely superb job. Many Cross-Bench Peers who have served on the European Committees with her will know what a wonderful job she has done in Europe. We owe them both a very great deal of thanks.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, the Lord Chancellor owes a very special debt to the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees and to the Deputy Chairman of Committees. I should not like the occasion to pass without making it absolutely plain that I have found their contribution a tremendous support in ways that it is quite difficult briefly to describe. However, I should like to join with the good wishes that have been very happily expressed already. The reason that I wish to be brief is not because I do not feel that much could be said but that it has already been so well said that I do not wish to spoil it.

Lord Aberdare

My Lords, I am deeply grateful for the very kind words that have been spoken about me by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, by the Leader of the Opposition—perhaps I may use a foreign tongue, diolch yn fawr—the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, the noble Lord on the Woolsack, and the Convenor of the Cross-Benches. I can only say that, although I have heard a great many tributes in this House over the years, I really had to keep pinching myself to see whether I was still alive!

It has been the most enormous privilege to be Chairman of Committees over these past few years and I have very much enjoyed and valued the privilege of holding that office. I have found it very satisfactory that for 16 years at the beginning of each Session your Lordships have been good enough to reappoint me nemine dissentience.

One of the most pleasant aspects of the job is that it has brought me in touch with so many Members of your Lordships' House, of all parties and of none. I have made a great many friends for which I am very grateful. It would, however, be impossible for me to do anything without the help that I have had from so many other people. I mention all those who have served as Deputy Chairmen in my time. It was their help and assistance which on many occasions avoided a number of sleepless nights for me.

I should also like to thank all those of your Lordships who have been so co-operative and helpful in the field of private legislation. That is, after all, a very important aspect of the work of this House and it would be impossible to carry it out were it not for your Lordships' generosity in giving your services to those often time-consuming committees on opposed Bills.

My own private office has been a great joy to work with. My brilliant counsel has given me incredibly good advice on Private Bill work. There are all those clerks who have worked with me as clerks of the Private Bills and in other respects, on the Broadcasting Committee, and so forth, and we have been a very happy team.

I am very sad to give up this important office and I wish my successor well.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentience.