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Chairman of Committees

4.34 p.m.

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

Perhaps I may say a word or two about the retiring chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. He took up his work, which is burdensome in the extreme, in 1994, so he served for seven eventful years. A particular legacy of his is that the House will have a new system of domestic management headed by a new committee, the House Committee, which has replaced the old Offices Committee. Certainly, in my work with him I found someone of endless courtesy, patience and calm. He was a good colleague to me.

We on this side of the House are pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has agreed to succeed the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. We know that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, came to their office in unexpected circumstances on the sudden death of Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, a friend still missed by us all. I beg to move.

Moved, That the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, be appointed to take the Chair in all Committees of the House for this Session.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I echo wholeheartedly the words of the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House. I welcome to the role of Chairman of Committees the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. I too express sadness at the retirement of the noble

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Lord, Lord Tordoff. As the noble and learned Lord rightly said, he came to occupy the role of Chairman of Committtees unexpectedly and in tragic circumstances. But he was swift to rise to that challenge. He has conducted himself with the effectiveness and courtesy which all of us who know him so well have seen him demonstrate for over 20 years in this House.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has many notable achievements, the least of which is to be the first Liberal Chairman of Committtees, certainly in living memory; I am not sure exactly when the last one was. He has overseen the introduction of the House Committee and was a Chairman of the Procedure Committee, which had the difficult task of overseeing the modernisation of working practices, which start tomorrow. The noble Lord loyally served the House as Chairman of Committees. On behalf of these Benches I thank him and wish him the warmest of good wishes for the future.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, from these Benches I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, on becoming Chairman of Committees. I should also like to say a few words about the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, who so distinguished himself as Chairman of Committees following Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, a distinguished holder of that office.

I should say straightaway that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, is a kind of white knight. He preceded Martin Bell as a candidate for the distinguished constituency of Knutsford in Cheshire, which seems to attract outstanding people of various kinds, including my noble friend. It is perhaps not widely understood in this House that there is no better training for the post of Chairman of Committees than to have been chairman of the Liberal Party for many years, as was the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff.

The noble Lord also managed to conduct a brilliant chairmanship of COSAC, the grouping of scrutiny committees of the legislators of the European Union, in which he played an extremely distinguished part. I should add two other comments. It may not be widely known that in his multifarious activities as Chairman of Committees the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, not only had to preside over many discussions about the modernisation of this House but over what may have been one of its most serious if little understood crises. I refer to the moment when the noble Lord, Lord St John of Fawsley, rose to his feet and pointed out that last year's Christmas cards of this House had wrongly entitled Westminster Cathedral as Westminster Abbey, and furthermore that they did not fit into the envelopes provided. That particularly serious sottise was dealt with by my noble friend with his usual diplomacy and calm and a serious crisis for the status of this House was avoided.

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Finally, one of the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, though not diminutive, can be described as a dandy owing to the slimness of his figure is due to the fact that he is one of the world's great swimmers. I know that having seen him carve his way across the Aegean Sea in a short break between meetings of the committee to which I referred. I recommend to all Members of this House the mental and physical health of my noble friend!

4.39 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, on behalf of these Benches and myself, I express much thanks and appreciation for the work of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, who stepped up to be chairman to replace the late and much respected Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.

Noble Lords will appreciate the considerable change in interest and the additional load of responsibilities that this sudden transition placed upon the shoulders of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. He quickly demonstrated his ability to grapple with the new range of activities and gave a clear and consistent lead in the many committees he had to chair. His calm and measured approach ensured that even the most contentious items of business were dealt with fully and completely in excellent time.

It is no mean achievement—and a fine measure for the noble Lord's feeling and commitment to your Lordships' House—that he has held such important and responsible offices over a long period, since 1994—a period, as is well known, of major changes in the House and its composition. He is to be most warmly congratulated and thanked for his endeavours. He has been one of the unsung heroes in these restructuring times.

With the noble Lord's retirement from his important post he has made known—as is self-evident now—that he will no longer be counted among the Cross-Benchers. While expressing sorrow at the loss of such a fine Member from these Benches, we wish him well and look forward to seeing him diagonally—as it were—across the Floor. I have no doubt he will continue to make important contributions to the work of the House in his renaissance on the Benches of the Liberal Democrats.

In his place as Chairman of Committees there is a very warm welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and warm good wishes to him in his new post from all on these Benches.

4.41 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. I also add our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for the exemplary way that he has carried out his duties.

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It has been a particular pleasure to the bishops to have him sitting just in front of us before he goes on to the Woolsack. He is able to enlighten us with little pieces of information, which it is well for us to hear and perhaps not altogether good for other people to hear. That has been a particular pleasure of having him in that position.

Perhaps I may also express a brief word of appreciation for the "usual channels". We are not part of the usual channels. Therefore, perhaps we are the one body in the House that is able to say a word of appreciation. I was particularly aware of that in the last week of the last Session. Things were ping-ponging back and forth between ourselves and the Commons, yet in the end concessions were made and agreement was reached. I think people outside the Houses of Parliament do not appreciate that that depends on co-operation as much as antagonism. I genuinely feel very appreciative for the way that those usual channels work, particularly in that last week of the last Session.

The "usual channels" are a bit of a mystery, I have to say, to the bishops. Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote to his friend Robert Bridges:


    "What you mean by a mystery is an interesting uncertainty. What I mean is an incomprehensible certainty".

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We know that the usual channels are a certainty. They remain a little incomprehensible to us, but we are very appreciative to them and of course to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff.

On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente.

Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I beg to move that the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, 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 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 the 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.

        House adjourned at a quarter before five o'clock.

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