HL Deb 19 December 1996 vol 576 cc1665-8

2.28 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the whole House will know that one of the duties that I look forward to most is moving the Adjournment, particularly at this time of the year. It is a great pleasure to be able to do so again.

I should also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who work in and around the House to make the workings of this Chamber much easier than would otherwise be the case. In the past I have always thought it unwise to mention those people by name and I shall stick to that. But they know who they are, whether they work in the House visibly or invisibly. We are extremely grateful to them for their work and to all of them I offer many thanks and I wish them a happy Christmas.

Perhaps unusually this year I should like to break the convention by mentioning one who will not be with us when we return at the beginning of next year; that is the Clerk of the Parliaments. He has been a great support to me both professionally and personally and I am indebted to him for the help and advice that he has offered me over the past few years.

I do not know what are your Lordships' plans for the Recess. It is not the time of year for buckets and spades. But I hope that wherever you are and whatever you do, you will have a very happy Christmas and a merry New Year. I hope that your Lordships will return to this House in the New Year refreshed and ready for the remainder of this parliamentary Session which, as Government Chief Whip, I can assure you will be most vigorous. I beg to move that the House do now adjourn.

Moved, That the House do now adjourn.—{Lord Strathclyde.)

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, it is traditional that I get a second bite of the cherry. I should like to say how pleased I am that the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip feels that the Clerk of the Parliaments has been as helpful to him as I know he has been helpful to me; indeed, he has been helpful to all of us in a very impartial and Civil Service kind of way. In these last minutes of the session before we break for the Christmas Recess, it is most appropriate for us to have an opportunity to say so.

This Chief Whip has always been very careful to make his vote of thanks comprehensive and not selective. That is the right way to do it because, however many people you want to mention, there is always someone you should have mentioned but did not. Therefore, I shall not stray into that area. Undoubtedly this is a time of goodwill to all men and all women. I was sorely tempted not to get up and speak because I have a terrible cold. However, I thought that if I breathed hard enough in the direction of the Government Benches, I might bring about some kind of political sensation. But, unfortunately, there are not enough Members sitting on the Government Benches for me to waste my time on.

Of course, we are well served by all the servants of the House and that is not a derogatory term. They are members of the trade unions and members of the organisations who serve us and, uniformly, they serve us very well indeed. This is a time of peace on earth and goodwill to all men. I noted how the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip chose his words most carefully as regards the time when we return after Christmas.

There has been a certain hiatus and problems between the usual channels in another place. They have not affected our activities in this House. Nevertheless, I should tell the noble Lord that, if there had been a whipping up here and the same thing had happened, we would have reacted in exactly the same way. However, we are spared that particular problem as we have good relations in that respect. When we return in January, we very much look forward to giving the Government as hard a time as we can. Today's debate has demonstrated feelings on both sides of the Chamber but I am especially pleased that, on this side of the House, we have some newer Members who are more than capable of holding their own.

We are very pleased with today's debate. Indeed, we are very pleased that the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip has spoken on behalf of all of us. So, I say, Amen; and may we meet again in more prosperous times. I believe that the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip said something sotto voce which I did not hear. In any event, it only remains for me to say, all right, arrivederci!

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, it seems to have become traditional that the Deputy Chief Whip on these Benches gets, to follow the noble Lord's remarks, a third bite of the cherry. I should just like to echo the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip. Of course, business has been conducted with the usual courtesy and good manners that prevails throughout the House.

As I have to pay this particular tribute—and I do it with great pleasure—to those who serve us so well in the House, I should like especially to mention the policemen and the security staff who work throughout the House who have to put up with me coming in every day on my motor cycle. I am often difficult to identify, but, with unfailing politeness, they wave me through to the place which has been so thoughtfully provided for me in one of the forecourts of the Palace of Westminster.

I should also like to break with tradition and say that, so far as concerns the Clerk of the Parliaments, I absolutely share—as, indeed, do all my colleagues on these Benches—the remarks made by both noble Lords. However, I should particularly like to point out that, in recent times, my dear noble friend Lady Seear has been suffering from a very serious illness. Indeed, she has been in hospital just across the river and has been visited by a number of people, but no more so than by the Clerk of the Parliaments, who has visited her on various occasions. She has appreciated that very much. I believe that that illustrates not only the efficient way in which the Clerk of the Parliaments carries out his work (and has always done so) but also what a decent chap he is.

It is always sad to see people come and go in your Lordships' House. It is invidious to mention their names, but we all remember Lord Houghton of Sowerby who nearly reached his century and indeed, from my own Benches, Lord Gladwyn, who has now left us. However, it is cheering to think that these great personalities on our Benches are replaced by others as they come into the House and our great traditions are maintained, and I hope will continue to be maintained. On that non-political note, I wish your Lordships a very happy Christmas and a prosperous and peaceful new year.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, we on these Benches do not have the difficulty of having Whips. Therefore it is my pleasant duty to speak to the Adjournment Motion on behalf of the Cross-Bench Peers. I understand that at a later stage we shall pay tribute to the Clerk of the Parliaments. I am sure that praise will be warm and fulsome. I particularly remember the valuable advice that he had to give us when we were placed in a difficult position on the Railways Bill. We were grateful for his advice.

There is no chance to mention all of our staff, but it is in order to mention a few of them. One of the most enjoyable aspects of life in your Lordships' House is the warm and friendly relations we have with our staff. A good example is the playful banter that one has with Rita Bird, the head housemaid. She does that after having arrived at 5 o'clock in the morning. Possibly as a result of my relatively young age, it was at least a year before she realised that I was a Peer. Then the banter immediately changed—slightly. She now retires as head housemaid, but I am sure noble Lords will be pleased to hear that she will continue to help out in the souvenir shop. Those noble Lords who are involved in high finance can continue to be looked after by Mr. Painter, the doorkeeper, who leaves after two years to go to Cazenoves.

I wish to say a few words about some of the unseen work of the Parliamentary Works Directorate staff. They manage to keep a 140 year-old building in operational condition for whenever we need it, even when we ask to use it with no notice when there is an emergency recall. With their smooth efficiency it is not surprising that many noble Lords are unaware that the Royal Gallery is being completely reroofed. That is a major undertaking. We give our heartfelt thanks to all the staff of the Palace of Westminster, wherever they work. I wish everyone a merry Christmas.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned for the Christmas Recess at twenty-three minutes before three o'clock until Monday, 13th January next.