HL Deb 16 December 1999 vol 608 cc387-90

4.53 p.m.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity to say a few words of thanks and express my gratitude to all Members of the House and others who work here. I am sure that the whole House will share my delight in the fact that we are managing to adjourn for Christmas in such good time. Our thoughts and commiserations are with our colleagues in another place as they sit into Christmas week while we are able to get on with our Christmas shopping. The way that Christmas falls this year allows us to have a full three weeks off and I hope that everyone will enjoy it very much.

In particular, I extend my good wishes for the festive season to the staff who look after us so well. As ever, their dedication, loyalty and professionalism has been second to none. I thank them on behalf of the whole House for their help and support over the past year. I wish them all a well-deserved rest and a very merry Christmas.

I should like to say a personal word of thanks to the Opposition Chief Whip, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for the friendly and co-operative way in which they have, as always, helped the usual channels to flow. Sometimes the usual channels look as though they are heading for a dam and then somehow another channel is found and business proceeds.

I thank also the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, the former Convenor of the Cross Benches, for his help and co-operation during my time as Chief Whip, and welcome the noble Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, to his new post as Convenor.

It is not every year that we adjourn in the knowledge that we shall not reconvene until the next millennium. This year has been one of great change in this House. It seems fitting that it should end not only with the arrival of a new century but at the beginning of the third millennium. The House now goes forward as a new and different House, but one in which I hope friendship and civility are at a premium. I am sure that this House, steeped as it is in history and tradition, will embrace the challenges of the new century with all its customary zeal and enthusiasm.

It only remains for me, on behalf of the Government, to wish all of your Lordships a very happy Christmas and an exciting, challenging and fulfilling New Year.

Lord Henley

My Lords, I offer my support to the Government Chief Whip's Motion that the House do now adjourn. I tender my apologies in advance for the fact that I shall not be here when the House resumes at 7.15 this evening. I doubt that any members of my Front Bench will be here to offer their support. No doubt the Government will get their business through and the Government Chief Whip will be able to persuade some of his colleagues to stay on until 7.15 to see the Consolidated Fund Bill proceed through this House.

We echo the noble Lord's words in offering our thanks to all those in this House who have done so much to keep us going over long hours in what has been a fairly extraordinary year, certainly in terms of the changes to this House. They have put in an enormous amount of hard work to make it possible for us to conduct our business. I understand that our hours of sitting are now the second longest of any legislative body in the world. I believe that we now sit longer than even another place on at least a third of our sitting days. But in offering our thanks to the staff we should warn them that, given the size of the Government's legislative programme, they will probably be working even longer hours in the coming year.

This has been a busy year, which has seen some fairly fundamental changes to the composition of this House. There have been some very difficult moments. I offer my thanks and congratulations to the Government Chief Whip who has done his best to calm things down and run a stable ship in fairly difficult times. We shall return in a new millennium after a happy three-week break over Christmas and new year to what I believe the Leader of the House described as a more legitimate House. We therefore look forward to a very exciting year in which we shall exercise those greatly legitimised powers. I can assure the Government Chief Whip that he will require all his charm and powers of persuasion in negotiating with us as he attempts to push through a fairly enormous government programme.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, on behalf of my Chief Whip, we on these Benches echo the sentiments of the Government Chief Whip and the Opposition Chief Whip. In some ways this has been an exciting but difficult year. Perhaps I may pay two personal tributes. First, I believe that in every way the Government Chief Whip has behaved with extreme courtesy and sensitivity throughout the difficult changes to the composition of the House. Secondly, without wanting to appear patronising, I believe that in the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, we have the emergence of a leader of the Conservative Benches of real quality.

Having said that and acknowledged the service given by all those who help us in our work in this House, it has been a difficult time. I give the example of the Doorkeepers and bar staff. Over a number of years they have formed close relationships with Members of this House, many of whom have left and many of whom remain, sometimes over more than one generation. This has been a difficult time for them. Perhaps sometimes we do not appreciate how changes have affected them.

As always, each year I select with great pleasure two groups of people who need to be recognised. First, I think of Hansard whose staff, sometimes for long hours and often in difficult circumstances, report the proceedings of this House. From my own point of view, often what is reported is better than I believed it to be at the time. I congratulate them on that. I also congratulate the staff of the Library. We continue to be served extremely well by the Library of this House, particularly the research department which I understand is now well used by the hereditary Peers who remain. I believe that that is a heartening sign for next year.

In conclusion, as it is the season of resolutions, and I am quite good at them, perhaps I may share a resolution. Next year when using and scanning the newspapers—as I do like other noble Lords—which are supplied for us by the taxpayer, and which are carefully and well arranged by the Library staff, I resolve that on every occasion I shall seek to return those papers in a clean and folded fashion, and not leave them around the floor in pieces.

On that rather schoolmasterly note, it remains only for me to wish everyone in the House a very happy Christmas and a good new year.

5 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, I thank the Chief Whip for his kind personal remarks. On behalf of the Cross-Benchers I should like to add our message of thanks and seasonal greetings to all those in the Palace who work before and behind the scenes to keep everything running for this House as smoothly and efficiently as they do. As always, it is invidious to single out individuals by name because so much is done in a spirit of teamwork and we all owe so much to everyone involved. However, perhaps on this occasion I hope that noble Lords will not think me out of order in mentioning our previous Redcoat by name.

Mr Kendrick, a former member of the Royal Marines, stood his ground at the Peers' Entrance in fair weather and foul for almost 20 years, ever cheerful and helpful to all noble Lords and their visitors. He cut a fine figure and I know was much admired. He has a fine successor in Mr Evans.

Perhaps I may also express our Cross-Bench thanks to Jill Baronti, who is leaving the Whips Office. For a long time she has been sending out the weekly Cross-Bench notices. We do not call them Whips. We wish both Mr Kendrick and Ms Baronti well.

I add my own good wishes and greetings for the festive season. I hope that all noble Lords return in good heart in the year 2000, and that no millennium bug nor horrible beastie has dared to spoil the Recess for any noble Lord.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am extremely grateful for all the kind words spoken. As noble Lords know, we now have to await the arrival of the Consolidated Fund Bill. The procedures in another place are not as flexible as ours. I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 7.15 p.m.

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

[The Sitting was suspended from 5.3 to 7.15 p.m.]