|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, on behalf of all Cross-Bench Peers and myself, I add our sincerest condolences and sympathy to the family of Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. Words fail to describe adequately the sense of shock and loss which the House has experienced. Well-known and much admired, even maybe politically feared by some, for his trenchant and perceptive handling of business from the then government Front-Bench and, more recently, in opposition, Lord Mackay was much liked and respected on all sides of this House.
His transition to Chairman of Committees and so to these Benches only a few weeks ago was smooth and full of hope for a period of reforming leadership as Chairman. The evening before his death I had a long conversation with him about some of the issues which he felt were most urgently in need of attention. I, and all on these Benches, greatly regret that he is no longer here to take the helm of revision and reform.
But our conversation that evening was not all about committees and their structures. I remarked that I had noticed a photograph in the office of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, of the two of them, each sporting a fishing success. Two large healthy looking salmon, held by two large and apparently very healthy and smiling Members of your Lordships' House. Lord Mackay's fish was definitely the larger of the two fish displayed and caught that day on the Tay. But, typically, as I congratulated him on outshining his erstwhile leader, he volunteered that the picture did not reveal the full story. He told me that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, had landed two fine fish to his one. That was surely typical of his generosity of spirit.
The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: My Lords, from these Benches I wish to pay tribute to Lord Mackay. With Scottish blood in my own veins, I always resonated strongly to the power of his Celtic oratory, which I memorably recall once late at night here in this Chamber. He had the ability to inject real adrenaline, as I witnessed, into the debates of the House. I sensed also, as other speakers have said, that he was deeply loyal to his own roots. From these Benches, too, I know that we would want to extend deep sympathy to his wife and to his family in the circumstances of sudden death.
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I, too, wish to pay tribute to John Mackay. John was a Scot from Lochgilphead in Argyll. I first met him over 40 years ago at Glasgow University. He was among a unique generation of natural debaters, which included the late John Smith and Donald Dewar as well as Menzies Campbell and Jimmy Gordon, now the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane. His hallmarks were acuity, wit, good humour and warmth, which were ever on display in this Chamber. His generosity of spirit most recently stood out in his moving tribute to Donald Dewar.
As has been remarked, on the evening before his death he attended a party in his honour to celebrate his new role as Chairman of Committees. He was on top form, happy and full of fun. He spoke enthusiastically of Scotland, his planned summer fishing trip there and his forthcoming 40th wedding anniversary. He was a good man, of great personal kindness, liked by all and a splendid companion. He had a talent for friendship across party divides. There was no one better qualified to win the confidence of the whole House in his new role. So, for this House, his premature death is an appalling loss; for his mother, widow and family, for whom we feel deeply, it is a personal tragedy.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I should like to add a short sentence of tribute to the gracious and indeed beautiful tributes already paid to John Mackay. David Steel and I probably knew him as well as anyone, from long ago in the Scottish Liberal Party, where he was a lively and active thorn in the flesh of the management, of which I was unfortunately one. But one could not help admire and see the promise in John. He was an original thinker and, of course, the wit was there already. I was very sorry when he left to join the Tory Party, but I did realise that the Tory Party needed him.
He had everything that it takes. He had the spark. We have all enjoyed listening to him. We have all been put down by him. We have all tried to get in a dig and never entirely succeeded. I have never been so struck down by a death. It is fate dealing as cruel a blow as ever I saw. He was a man ready to do a job that would have been excellently done. It would have been a credit
Earl Russell: My Lords, I once heard Lord Whitelaw remark that one of the things wrong with politics is that so few of us now are friends with our opposite numbers. That reproach was never addressed to Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. He was my opposite number for five years. He never gave us an easy time. His defence was so impenetrable that one of his own Back-Benchers nicknamed him "slasher Mackay", after the great Australian stonewaller. But at the same time he was utterly relaxed with anything that any of us could throw at him; he was totally attuned to the mood of the House.
I remember him once answering a question from the noble Baroness, Lady Castle of Blackburn, on the closure of the Road Research Laboratory. As the noble Baroness's volume grew greater and greater, the noble Lord grew quieter and quieter; a very exact piece of judgment. When we were outside the Chamber, never was there one moment's irritation at having had an extremely hard time inside it. Never was there one moment when he did anything gratuitously annoying to those who were opposite him. And when you least expected it, there was that sudden little serpentine flicker of the tongue, which heralded a joke that left you in helpless laughter. We are all the poorer for his absence and it has been a privilege to serve opposite him.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, last Thursday, we faced the less unexpected but nonetheless extremely sad news of Cledwyn's death. Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, to give him his proper title, was a true political leader, and he was a friend and mentor to so many. His life of public service and his commitment to Wales and to the Labour Party spanned several generations. He was, in the best sense of the word, a tribal politician and, personally, I feel that I have known Cledwyn, in his many wide-ranging roles, for the whole of my adult life. It came as no surprise to me to hear from my father this weekend that he first met Cledwyn in 1949 at the home of Glenys Kinnock's parents.
As Cledwyn Hughes, it is exactly 50 years ago that he was elected as MP for his home seat of Anglesey, winning a famous election against Lady Megan Lloyd George. When Labour came to power in 1964, he was appointed Minister for Commonwealth Relations. From that role grew a love as well as a deep knowledge of Africa and the African nations, and over two decades Prime Ministers used him to undertake important missions to African states. But it was in
In the 1970s, Cledwyn played an essential role in the Parliamentary Labour Party and became a most distinguished chairman of the PLP in 1974. His skills of organisation and conciliation were crucial to the complicated dynamics of the minority Labour government. In 1979, he came to your Lordships' House and served as Leader of the Opposition for 10 years. He forged a great partnership with, first, Tom Ponsonby as his Chief Whip and later with Ted Graham. Together, they energised the Labour Benches to create an effective opposition, where many of us who are now in government served our apprenticeship on the Front Bench. I know that we all value and remember his kindness and support, his encouraging words in the corridor and his unfailing personal warmth.
In later years, Cledwyn's devotion to Wales was as strong as ever. His concern was for all aspects of Welsh life, its political and economic advancement and the progress of the university, of which he was deeply proud to be pro-chancellor. He was deeply respected and loved throughout the Principality, culminating in the honour of the freedom of the capital city, Cardiff, last December, just before he became ill.
I hope your Lordships will allow me, but it was through my father, the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, that I first knew Cledwyn as a family friend, and he has asked me to add his own tribute this afternoon. He said: