HL Deb 25 July 1996 vol 574 cc1586-8

3.40 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn.

It is the most pleasurable duty of the Government Chief Whip to move the Adjournment for the Summer Recess. This summer it is something to which I have been looking forward with great anticipation. Indeed, I came to the conclusion that July had started some time after Easter, given the torrid debates that we have had on a whole number of subjects between then and now. I was also hoping that the House could rise rather earlier this afternoon than it has done. However, I am sure that the whole House will have been very grateful to my noble friend Lord Howe for making a Statement which contained such very good news for the United Kingdom and which noble Lords obviously found of very great interest. In fact, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, the Opposition Chief Whip, and whoever will reply from the Liberal Benches and the Convener will feel rather pleased that we are making this Statement with a rather more full House than is usually the case at this stage of the Session.

In moving this Motion, I take the traditional opportunity to thank the staff in all quarters of the House who serve us so admirably and to whom we owe so much. Their endeavours enable us to carry out our business. I am sure that I speak for all noble Lords in expressing our very great gratitude.

I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for the friendly co-operation that we have enjoyed. From time to time usual channels relationships come under strain. I am glad to tell the House that our personal relations are, nevertheless, always cordial, and I am grateful for that.

This year my statement is tinged with a hint of sadness. It will be known to your Lordships that my private secretary, Mary 011ard, is leaving my office to return to the Clerks' Office. However, she is being replaced by the very able and capable Simon Burton, who I am sure will serve the interests of the whole House as expertly as his predecessor.

The Session is, of course, not yet over. There are three days to go when we return in October. I hope that all noble Lords will return with renewed vigour and excitement as we prepare for the final Session before the general election.

I end by wishing all your Lordships and all our staff a very peaceful Summer Recess. I am sure that those of you who have not yet unpacked your buckets and spades will do so in the very near future.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, the Government Chief Whip has brought into the open something that he and I promised to keep confidential; that is, that we enjoy cordial relations. I can assure the House that that will do my career path no good at all.

It is my great pleasure to speak for these Benches, as it has been over seven years as Chief Whip here, 14 years in this House, and 23 years all told in another place. I have news for those who feel that this summer has been either exhausting or exciting: the summers of 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1991 were the same as this one—they were all summers before a general election. This House does not escape the heightened interest and partisanship which are displayed from time to time. None of us would want that to be diminished. However, as the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip said with absolute sincerity, we could not enjoy our work here, as well as receiving satisfaction from it, without the full-hearted support of staff all round the House. I was grateful indeed that there was not, as a few years ago, a repetition of names and departments. We want to take them all in.

But he did make the exception, which was quite right, about his private secretary, Mary 011ard. As we know, her husband, Ed, also served in the same position with as much distinction as she did. The Government have, of course, lost a pair of 011ards and gone for a Burton! In case anyone thinks what a clever lad I am, I should say that I saw it written on a card to Mary last night and I was determined to use it myself.

Nevertheless, outside the sharp political differences which are part and parcel of why we are here and why the House is here, there remain, on a very firm foundation, good personal relations, not merely at the Chief Whip's Office, but also at ministerial and shadow ministerial level, without which this would be a poorer place. On behalf of my noble friends, I warmly welcome and endorse the remarks of the Government Chief Whip and of course, in addition, wish him, Jane and the children a happy summer too.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, in the temporary absence of both of our Whips who seem to have slipped away, it falls to me to wish a very happy Recess to everybody. It has not been, in some ways, the easiest of Sessions. There has been a great deal of very controversial legislation, but I think your Lordships' House has, on a number of occasions, been shown at its very best in the way in which it has handled these controversial matters.

That is enough of serious matters for the present. We are now all looking forward, not in my case, thank God! to buckets and spades—I cannot imagine why anybody wants buckets and spades—but to enjoying whatever is our form of enjoyment during the Recess before us.

I would especially like to join in the thanks to the staff. We are quite extraordinarily fortunate in the staff which we have in your Lordships' House. The staff combines remarkable efficiency with an unbelievable knowledge of what is going on. I do not know from where they obtain this knowledge, but if you wish to know anything you ask one of the attendants. They can tell you where people are, even if in the most unlikely of places. I do not know whether they have some sort of spy system. They will say, "No, he has not gone out this way, he has gone out that way", or "You will not find him in the bar because he doesn't drink, but you will probably find him in the library". That is the sort of information which is absolutely invaluable. I cannot imagine anywhere where the staff can give you such detailed, well informed, up to date and extremely useful information. Also, they are extraordinarily helpful. If one ever needs any kind of personal assistance there is no trouble to which they will not go. We are all extremely grateful to them.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, it very happily falls to me, on behalf of the Cross Benches, at the generous invitation of our Convenor, to follow up and reinforce what has already been said about the staff who make this Chamber so unique. I willingly endorse the sentiments expressed for the support we have received, but I would particularly like to mention the Doorkeepers and Mr. Bailey, whom we wish very well in his retirement. His was the first friendly face I saw in this House, and certainly has not been the last. We wish him well.

I would also like to mention the house-keeping staff and those who are invisible behind the scenes, the Hansard reporters, the librarians, whom I have always found obliging and highly competent.

I have also been asked to mention the changes that have been taking place and to welcome them. A particular one which I have noticed is in the computing room. I would like to offer congratulations to all concerned and to the Hansard reporters who have had to work there in extra time.

I must briefly mention the beef in the dining room. It is British beef and it is excellent.

It is perhaps worth noting, very briefly, that as your Lordships may have noticed, the numbers of Cross-Benchers have steadily been increasing. We are 306 now and we will be 308.

It may be of some comfort that over time we could see develop a more finely balanced House, numerically speaking. I myself believe that that would be in the long-term interests of the House. Of course we speak as individuals and the speech today by the noble Lord, Lord Gillmore, was a paragon in that regard. We feel some satisfaction that we are not subject to the disciplines that prevail elsewhere in the House.

Finally, let me add, as a newcomer, that I personally have appreciated the kindness extended from all sides. I have begun to distinguish between the traditional courtesies, which are important, and the sincere good will which underpins the whole work of this House. On behalf of the Cross Benchers of all ages and persuasions, I wish the House a happy Summer Recess.

House adjourned for the Summer Recess at ten minutes before four o'clock, until Tuesday 15th October next.