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Chairman of Committees

4.47 p.m.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I beg to move that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, be appointed to take the Chair in all Committees of the House for this Session.

In moving the Motion, I wish to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, who is retiring today. The six years during which the noble Lord has presided as Chairman of Committees have been years of great change, one might even say of turbulence. Throughout it all the noble Lord has preserved his resolute calm.

I have known the noble Lord for a very long time--perhaps longer than either of us now cares to contemplate. I must admit that I can certainly remember the noble Lord nearly half a century ago, when I was a schoolgirl in the 1950s and he was a dashing young man in the local south London Labour Party. Noble Lords know that the noble Lord went on to pursue an active political career and served as a

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Member of another place for six years in the 1960s. However, my own sense is that the noble Lord's characteristic measured and, perhaps I may say, elegant style is probably better suited to the red Benches than to the green.

Since 1976, when the noble Lord came to your Lordships' House, he has played an active role, serving initially as Minister of State in the Home Office, then becoming a Deputy Chairman, followed by Principal Deputy Chairman and finally Chairman of Committees. As Chairman, the noble Lord has of course had a very public role, taking the Chair in the Chamber as well as in Committees, as well as regularly taking his turn on the Woolsack. He has also worked extremely hard behind the scenes, presiding over the many domestic committees of the House which deal with what are called housekeeping issues, which are nonetheless important, along with the nuts and bolts of running this House which are so significant.

I hope that I can say, without fear of contradiction this afternoon, that some of those committee meetings, important though they are, can be somewhat lengthy and a little frustrating. The noble Lord chaired them all with patience and good humour and it is to his credit that he usually found a way to make decisions that have kept us all on the road. I am sure that the whole House will join with me in offering our most sincere thanks and appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Boston, and wish him a happy retirement. I hope that we shall continue to see a great deal of him in the House, even though he has relinquished his duties.

Perhaps I may go on to say that we on this side of the House are extremely pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, has agreed to succeed the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham. We are equally grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition for being sufficiently selfless about the good state of the whole House and as regards service to it by giving up a colleague whom most of us would regard as among his party's most able and effective Front-Bench performers. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, will bring his characteristic energy and powerful forensic skills to the issues that will occupy him in his new position. I look forward very much to working with him in this new role and, indeed, with the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, whom we are all delighted to know will continue to make his important contribution as Principal Deputy Chairman.

Moved, That the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, be appointed to take the Chair in all Committees of the House for this Session.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I rise to follow the noble Baroness the Leader of the House and to speak for the whole of the Opposition in paying a fulsome tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, who has been Chairman of Committees for the past six years. We shall all miss his figure speaking from the Government Dispatch Box over the course of the next few years. He has been a great servant of this House and he has proved that time and time again.

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I believe that all of us would recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Boston, has a style which is all his own. It is something which I hope that we shall see in more of a political vein in the future rather than on matters simply to do with the management of this House. As the noble Baroness the Leader of the House pointed out, over the past few years he has presided over a difficult and changing period in the House, not concerned only with the nature and composition of the House, but also with the management committees which rule our lives in this part of the Palace of Westminster. In chairing those committees, the noble Lord has always employed a certain skill and tact and has spoken with great feeling. He has had to handle some extremely difficult decisions in terms of the management of the House. Furthermore, he has always played his full part on the Woolsack, including his willingness to stay up very late indeed and to take the late shift--not one for which many of his Deputy Chairmen colleagues have been first to volunteer.

Although I wish to support this Motion, there is just the slightest thought that perhaps I should not do so. It is, of course, my former deputy, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, who has agreed to stand in the shoes of the noble Lord, Lord Boston. As the noble Baroness correctly pointed out, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, will be very much missed from this Front Bench for his skill, his judgment, his forensic abilities, his wit, his wisdom and, indeed, his charm. However, I venture to suggest that he will not be missed at all by government Ministers in this House.

Instead, the noble Lord will go on to fulfil a new function and a new role. I know that all the skills that he has used as a government Minister and in Opposition will be put to full force in that new role. This is a time of change for the House. The noble Lord leaves our Benches to sit on the Cross Benches with our full support. We wish him every success in the future. It is a pleasure to support the Motion.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, perhaps I may briefly associate these Benches with the sentiments expressed by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House and by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I have not known the noble Lord, Lord Boston, for as long as the noble Baroness, but I remember that I first met him during the Faversham by-election which was, I believe, practically the last to take place during the 1959 Parliament. I served with him in the House of Commons for some years.

The noble Lord has been a very ecumenical and conciliatory Chairman of Committees. He has been anxious to hear all views and to collect all voices. I think that he has made an extremely characteristic and memorable contribution to this House in so doing. Like the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, I hope that he will now come out of the shadows and play a full part in the normal proceedings of the House.

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As regards the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, I think that this is a most unusual transition; namely, to come as a controversial and forceful debater from the Opposition Front Bench straight into the Chair. However, I welcome this. He will be a radical influence--perhaps a radical and conservative influence, but coming from a long tradition of Tory radicalism. Perhaps he will demonstrate that from the Chair, which is an important point at which to help to direct the fortunes of this House.

It is a special delight that we shall see not only the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, as Chairman, but my noble friend Lord Tordoff as Deputy Chairman, working as a team to conduct the affairs of our House. They will form an extremely good team and I think that the House is fortunate to have both noble Lords in the roles that they will play.

4.58 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, on behalf of the Cross Benches, perhaps I may extend our welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, to his place on the Cross Benches. It will be a transformation for him, one in which I hope that he will be able to enjoy a wider-angled view than he has previously enjoyed during his time in the House.

Perhaps I may also express, on behalf of the Cross Benches, our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, and put on the record our appreciation of the work he has carried out and discharged over the past six years. As a member of many of his committees over the past year, I have seen and admired at first hand his ability to discern and grasp the consensus in a partisan atmosphere. I welcome his decision to remain on the Cross-Benches and look forward to benefiting from his very well informed and highly regarded knowledge of your Lordships' House in the years ahead. I support the Motion.

Lord Boston of Faversham: My Lords, I rise briefly to support the Motion and, if your Lordships decide to pass it, to offer my very best wishes to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, on succeeding me. I fully support the next Motion which is to come before your Lordships and offer my warmest thanks to the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, with whom I have served, and to offer him best wishes in that post in future.

I particularly thank the Leader of the House for her most generous words about the service which I have performed. The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, whom we are delighted to see in his place this afternoon, are two of my longest standing friends, but they have never held it against me. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, gave to me the appointment which the noble Baroness mentioned. I thank most warmly the Leader of the Opposition for his very generous words and the support and encouragement which he, along with the noble Baroness, has given me. I also thank the Leader of the

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Liberal Democrats for his words and continuing support. There are many others whom I should also like to thank.

Sometimes the usual channels come in for a little criticism in your Lordships' House. I have never believed that to be justified. I do not believe that this place could work without them. I have benefited from the help of all the members of the usual channels in my time. I also thank another of my colleagues, to whom I can now refer as my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig of Radley, for his words of support and the support of his two predecessors, my noble friends Lord Weatherill and Lady Hylton-Foster.

This is the first time that a life Peer has occupied this post. As the Leader of the House said, it is the first time that one person has successively held both offices of Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees and Chairman of Committees. Your Lordships may be forgiven for regarding that reference as somewhat boastful; I hope not. If your Lordships do regard it as boastful, I hope that your Lordships will consider it to be somewhat uncharacteristic, but I can provide a little more reassurance than that. It is true that it is the first time that one Member of your Lordships' House has held both offices, but look at it this way: it is the first time in the 235-year history of the post that someone has been required to serve an apprenticeship before allowing him to do the job. I am grateful to your Lordships for that.

I thank the other Deputy Speakers who have been such splendid supporters of our work and also the staff of the House. I thank the Clerk of the Parliaments and Black Rod and their respective teams. We are beneficiaries of the high quality service that they perform. I also thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for his support.

I have followed several careers in my time. I have been very lucky in that I have enjoyed each successive one more than the previous one. I have, therefore, enjoyed the past six years more than anything else that I have done. I regard service to your Lordships' House as the highest calling. Thanks are due to your Lordships from me.

On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente.

Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I beg to move that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, be appointed Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees for this Session.

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

Stoppages in the Streets--Ordered, That the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis do take care that during the Session of Parliament the passages through the streets leading to this House be kept free and open; and that no obstruction be permitted to

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hinder the passage of the Lords to and from this House; and that no disorder be allowed in Westminster Hall, or in the passages leading to this House, during sitting of Parliament; and that there be no annoyance therein or thereabouts; and that the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod attending this House do communicate this order to the Commissioner aforesaid.

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Appeal Committees--Two Appeal Committees were appointed pursuant to Standing Order.

Appellate Committees--Two Appellate Committees were appointed pursuant to Standing Order.

        House adjourned at four minutes past five o'clock.



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