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Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute on behalf of Conservative Members to the memory of Sir Edward Heath, and also in paying tribute to those at Oxley Care who looked after him so devotedly in the last few years.
Ted Heath was one of the political giants of the 20th century. As Chief Whip during Suez, as a Cabinet Minister under Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home, and above all as the Prime Minister whose single-minded determination took us into the European Economic Community, he made an historic contribution to our country. He was the last leader of the Conservative party to have served in the second world war. In common with the rest of his generation, his whole outlook on life was shaped by that titanic conflict. Even before it began, he was aware of the dangers that lay ahead. As a young man, he heard Hitler address a Nuremberg rally, and he actually met Goering, Goebbels and Himmler, whom he described as
In the famous 1938 Oxford by-election, Ted Heath opposed the Conservative candidate, Quintin Hogg, and campaigned instead for A. D. Lindsay, the master of Balliol, who stood on an anti-appeasement platform. After the war, he saw political integration in Europe as the best way to avoid a repeat of its horrors. That became the moving force of his political career, and as Prime Minister he succeeded where Macmillan had failed, by taking Britain into the Common Market. It was controversial when he did sohe needed the votes of Members of other parties to get the legislation through the Houseand it has remained controversial ever since. But Ted never wavered in his attachment to the European dream. He was utterly and unswervingly consistent. His maiden speech in this House was in the debate on the Schuman plan; his final speech was dominated by the same issue.
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Ted was less successful in achieving his other political objectives. Before the 1970 election, he outlined an exciting programme to revitalise the nation's economy based on a smaller state, lower taxes, less regulation and trade union reform. That platform, designed at the Selsdon Park hotel, provoked Labour into caricaturing his position. They depicted him as "Selsdon man" or a dangerous reactionary. Ted went through what every Conservative leader always faces in Oppositionthe accusation just a few months before the election that they are lurching to the right. However, he won the 1970 election against the tide of expectation. It was a tribute to his determination to try to pursue the course that he believed to be right. His task was made much harder when Ian Macleod, his first choice as Chancellor and another political giant of the age, died tragically just weeks after the election. The problems of rampant inflation and overweening trade union power that were to dog his four years in office made him change course, and adopt instead policies that were unequal to the challenge. Yet many of the changes that he originally tried and failed to put in place were made 10 years later by his successor, Margaret Thatcher. The BBC's political editor said last night that Margaret Thatcher was a grocer's daughter in more senses than one. The fact that neither of them would perhaps welcome that thought made it no less appropriate.
After leaving office, Ted remained true to his character and continued to court controversy, especially in the Conservative party, but he did so more often mischievously than wilfully. He never lost his wit, even if it was displayed in ways not always likely to be appreciated by his successors. When speaking at the Conservative party conference in 1981, at the height of the first Thatcher Government's unpopularity, he advised the conference representatives:
Whatever disagreements he had or manufactured, he was a Conservative all his life. He remained a remarkable House of Commons man, serving as a Member continuously for 51 years. He became Father of the House, and it was fitting that one of his final acts as a Member of Parliament was to preside in October 2000 over the election of a new Speakersomething that he clearly enjoyed hugely, and which showed him in his element. He lamented the declining influence of Parliament in holding the Executive to accounta trend which he noted had taken place under Governments of both parties, and a development that many of us, indeed, regret.
Ted was remarkable for the width and breadth of his outside interests and skills. How many leading politicians could have won the Sydney to Hobart race? How many Prime Ministers could have captained the British team to win the Admiral's cup? How many could have conducted world-class orchestras? He came from a humble background, and followed the then familiar route from grammar school to Oxford, but he never forgot his origins. Every year, Ted used to return to his home town of Broadstairs to conduct the Christmas carol concert. Music for him was not just a source of personal solace. It embodied the deeper harmonies which we, as human beings, live by. Because Ted was a private man, who did not wear his emotions on his
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sleeve, people often did not see his personal side, but we gain an occasional glimpse from his autobiography. His father, he wrote,
"was an excellent craftsman, and his work was greatly admired by all who saw it. The earliest examples that I can remember were the money boxesmine of mahogany, my brother's of oakwhich he made in order that we might collect our small savings in them. Each was inscribed with our name, and I still have my beautiful mahogany box in my study".
Today, we remember a Prime Minister who was a most distinguished parliamentarian, who was fearless in his views and rock-like in his integrity, and who always sought to serve his country to the very best of his ability. In this House we join together to mourn his passing.
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): Despite the sadness of the occasion, I think that Sir Edward would want the House, as both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have said, to remember his sense of optimism as well as his warmth and wit, and very often his wisdom. I think that the Prime Minister was right to mention on a couple of occasions Roy Jenkins. Sir Edward and Roy were two politicians whom I knew from afar. In Roy's case, I came to know him extremely well, and in Sir Edward's, somewhat. They shared so much throughout their different political careers that paralleled each other. They knew each other well, not least on the issue of Europe.
Many of us of a further generation have been motivated by and cared passionately about Europe. We look to a politician such as Sir Edward Heath and what he achieved. We look also at the present circumstances within the democratic Europe of today, including the difficulties that it is facing precisely because of democratic choices made in recent referendums in other countries. We must contrast these difficultieswhich we hope are being reconciled peacefully through discussionwith the difficulties that motivated a previous generation, the members of which saw the differences within Europe being resolved only by bloodshed and war. That motivation for them and for the founding fathers that they looked to will, I hope, be one that motivates also the generation of European leaders today.
In many respects, as I have said, the careers of Sir Edward and Roy Jenkins ran in parallel, not only through Europe. They remained confidantes and colleagues as well as being competitors right to the end, when they went head to head in a final run-off for the chancellorship of Oxford university. After that final democratic contest between the two of them, Roy used to tell the story of Sir Edward inviting him to his marvellous house in Salisbury, next to the cathedral and proudly showing Roy roundjust the two of them were having dinner together as elder statesmen.
At one point they ended up in the master bedroom. Sir Edward pointed out the view of the cathedral spire from the window. Roy being Roy said, "Ted, I think that this must be one of the 10 best bedroom views in England." There was silence. Then Sir Edward replied, "And what would be the other nine?"
Sir Edward, in that Denis Healey sense, had a hinterland as a politician and as a statesman. In his case it was a hinterland that can literally be described as
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oceanic in every sense. On a personal level, when the Conservatives went into Opposition and I found myself elected leader of my party, for a number of years I sat during Prime Minister's questions where my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) now sits. Sir Edward sat where I am now standing. I have to share with the House something that for me summed him up. If there is a book to be published in future when perhaps none of us is in this place, it is the book of Sir Edward's running commentary in my right ear of the contributions in advance of my own during Prime Minister's questions, particularly his insightful running commentary of the contributions from the parliamentary Conservative party. One particular occasion comes to mind. The Prime Minister had just returned from a much-vaunted third-way summit involving Chancellor Schröder, President Clinton and Prime Minister Jospin. At the beginning of that week the French behaved in a completely unacceptable way. It was declared illegal in due course, and was very sensibly handled by the Prime Minister. It was a flouting of European law and a refusal to readmit British beef. The then leader of the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), was on to the issue like a shot at Prime Minister's questions. He had a cavalcade of questions and was making extremely good headway over this difficulty, understandably at the Government's expense. He finished with a great flourish, saying that it was so much for the Prime Minister's "much-vaunted third way", and that as far as his socialist friend Mr. Jospin was concerned, it was more a "case of two fingers."
The right hon. Gentleman sat down to great cheers and the waving of Order Papers from the more Euro-sceptical sections of the parliamentary Conservative party. At that point, sitting in the place now occupied by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife, the sphinx sitting next to me moved imperceptively. He flicked a disapproving look, leaned over and said, "Such a vulgar little man." The House will adjourn todayI do not think it will divide on that proposition.
With regard to Sir Edward, both on a very human level and on a statesman-like level, he was a gifted man, a good man and a very great man. One cannot say of many politicians of whatever persuasion that they changed the course of history, but he did, and for the better. We miss him very much.
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