§ 2.26 p.m.
§ Lord Grocott
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn. As is traditional at this time, I shall take just a few moments of the House's time, as shall several other noble Lords, to perform the pleasant duty of thanking staff for the services that they have provided for us so efficiently throughout the year.
By its nature, political life is unpredictable, in this House as in the other place. We appreciate the reassuring stability and calm of the Clerk of the Parliaments and his department, including all who work therein—I shall not list everyone. In the knowledge that I would say a few words, I listed all the other departments that serve us, among which are some Cinderellas as regards the mentions that they receive from time to time. In addition to the Clerk of the Parliaments' Office are other familiar departments, such as the Refreshment Department, to which I express many thanks. I am sure that the former chairman of that department, who is present, will endorse that. I thank the Parliamentary Works Services Directorate, which had the job of dealing with September sittings. I shall say no more about September sittings, other than that we dealt with them. I also thank the Library, the Computer Office and the Accountant's Office—do not ask me about computers, but I am certain that that department does a terrific job for us all. I think that I am allowed to mention the 1336 Government Whip's Office—at any rate, the front office—which works extraordinarily hard. Hansard, which manages to make all speeches including this one much better than they actually sounded, does a terrific job.
I cannot mention Black Rod's Department without referring to the Doorkeepers. Some longstanding Members of this House still make the mistake, when they are unsure what is happening, of asking the Government Chief Whip. The Government Chief Whip asks the Doorkeepers and then relays the information back to the Member. If new Members join us in the new year, as rumours say they might, I shall advise them of that short-circuit procedure for discovering how things are going.
It is a mistake to mention too many names, but I will mention just three people who retired during the course of the year, one of whom has given quite phenomenal service to the House. Liz Murray has been here for a staggering 35 years. Prior to that, she ran the garden rooms at Number 10. That is an unparalleled record of service, including service to six Clerks. I am sure that all the other speakers will want to join me in wishing her all the very best indeed and our superlative thanks for all those years' work.
I also wish to mention Brigadier Alastair Clark, who cannot be here at the moment. Many of us were with him a short time ago while he was enjoying a well earned drink, as were some of the rest of us. He has also given sterling service to the House during the 10 years that he has been here. From the few comments that I exchanged with him, I am sure that he will have a very happy retirement.
I hope that I shall be allowed one more small indulgence to mention one other name—of the person who helped me into the mysteries of Lords' procedure. I thought that I might know something about that, having come from the Commons, but I discovered that knowing about Commons procedure was nothing but a disadvantage in operating here. Mary Robertson had the responsibility of being the private secretary to my noble friend Lord Carter before me and briefly to me. She moved on to the legal profession after leaving here, so it seems inevitable that she will return to the red Benches sooner or later. As I look around from time to time, most Members here seem to be members of the legal profession. She would certainly manage the job very well.
I conclude by doing what I promised to do—to be brief—because I know that everyone wants to go. However, the thanks that I have given to everyone are heartfelt and sincere.
Moved, That the House do now adjourn.—(Lord Grocott.)
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, I should like to associate myself both personally and on behalf of those on this side of the House in my party with the tributes that have been rightly paid by the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms to all the staff who serve us so 1337 well here. It has been a very busy year and all the departments that he listed—I will not go through them all—have served us extremely well.
I always like showing visitors round, because one sees the House in a different way. One gets used to coming here every day, but when one shows visitors around, one sees the building through their eyes. One suddenly appreciates the tremendous amount of work that goes into keeping this place so nice and into running it all so smoothly. Visitors are looked after very well by the Doorkeepers who show them into the Galleries and so forth, and they see the Clerks in action. However, there are also the people who they do not see—who clean the House for us, look after the stonework and the gilding and keep it so well—at the works department. A tremendous amount of work goes on and we really do appreciate it.
The Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms mentioned three people in particular. Liz Murray has worked for six Clerks. I have been searching in my mind for the collective noun for Clerks of the Parliament. However, I realised that it would be in Latin, which is out of favour, quite apart from the fact that my Latin is extremely rusty, so I gave up the search. However, she has given tremendous service.
Brigadier Clark came here after distinguished military service on the right of the line in the Royal Regiment of Artillery—I cannot help pointing out— with which I also had the honour of serving very briefly, but not in as distinguished a way as Brigadier Clark. However, as has been said, he has been here for 10 years and given us great service as well.
I had to deal with Mary Robertson on many occasions. People define the usual channels as the Chief Whips, and sometimes the Leader of the Party and the Convenor are included. However, in her last job in the House, Mary Robertson was the usual channels in an almost more important respect than those of us speaking today. I certainly wish all three of them and everyone else who serves the House, especially those who have left our employment, the very best in their future lives, and in their retirement in the case of those who are retiring.
I should like to wish a Happy Christmas to all the staff of the House and, for that matter, all the Members of the House. Next year will no doubt be busy, but I wish you all as happy a new year as we can possibly have.
§ Lord Roper
My Lords, from these Benches, I join the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms and the noble Lord, Lord Cope, in reinforcing what they have said. However, I begin by thanking them and the Convenor for the co-operation that has operated among us. In spite of having, from time to time, a slightly bumpy year, useful work goes on between offices. That enables me to pay particular tribute to Mary Robertson, who was responsible for educating the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, and me in what the usual channels could and could not do. That is an important function. The private secretary to the Government Chief Whip is, effectively, private 1338 secretary to the usual channels. She or he keeps the operation going, which is extremely important and ensures that we have the House functions effectively.
Apart from the people who work for the House, there are other people who chair and look after the committees that make sure that the House operates effectively. As the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms said, the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, has ensured for a long time that we had good catering. He has left a tough challenge for his successor, and we are grateful for all that he has done.
I thank those who provide the framework in which we work. Obviously, first, there is the Parliament Office. Like others, I want to refer particularly to the extraordinary contribution made by Liz Murray over 35 years. She was a wonderful example of quiet efficiency—a Rolls-Royce of a secretary, if I may say so. I wish that I had ever had a secretary quite as efficient. There are the other parts of the House: the Library, Hansard, the various dimensions of Black Rod's office and, of course, Alastair Clark, who is returning to Salisbury—not too far from Larkhill. From the point of view of those of us who are responsible for accommodation, he did a very good job until now of making sure that we had enough places for our colleagues at the right time. There is also the Refreshment Department.
I also thank the Metropolitan Police. I am pleased to see that the noble Earl, Lord Rosslyn, is present, as he is so often, on this occasion. He and his colleagues have done extraordinary things in a difficult situation. I hope that he will be able to pass on to them our appreciation for all that they have done in this difficult period.
Those people make up what I call the family of the House. We are, in a sense, a family. Such people ensure that the House is not only an efficient legislature but an extraordinarily pleasant place in which to work. Happy Christmas.
§ Lord Craig of Radley
My Lords, I am delighted to endorse, on behalf of all Cross-Benchers, the words of the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms and the two opposition Chief Whips, in expressing our thanks and appreciation for the excellent support that we enjoy from the staff in all departments of the House.
There have been new working arrangements, extensive re-building of kitchen facilities, boiler replacements and many other fabric maintenance activities and expectations of regular rising at ten o'clock—observed more frequently in the breach than seems reasonable. All were part of a package of reforms to working practices that demands great tolerance and willingness at all levels. This House— indeed, this Parliament—still expects and gets service of the most devoted and loyal kind. In a society that too often seems to put self before all, the House is fortunate in the attitude and sense of duty of the staff that work here. Getting to work on time and getting home at some unprogrammed late hour is becoming harder, given less reliable public transport. I place on record heart-felt thanks and appreciation from these Benches.
1339 Finally, I add the warm thanks and good wishes of myself and all on these Benches, in particular, to Liz Murray, Mary Robertson and to Brigadier Alastair Clark, the Administration Officer, who has worked so assiduously behind the scenes for the good of us all. Not all of his efforts were unseen: I believe that he had much to do with the arrangements for the lying in state of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, a classic example of all that can be done so well and so appropriately by the nation. The country has been well 1340 served both in the Army and in your Lordships' House by Brigadier Clark. We wish him and his family well in his new retirement. Perhaps I may also add my thanks to those in the usual channels for their support to me as Convenor. It has been enormously helpful. On that note, Happy Christmas to one and all.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before three o'clock until Monday 5th January at half-past two o'clock.