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Death of a Member: Lord Kingsland

Volume 712: debated on Monday 13 July 2009


My Lords, it is with the deepest regret that I have to inform the House of the death yesterday of Lord Kingsland. On behalf of the whole House, I extend our condolences to his family and friends.

My Lords, I rise to pay tribute to Lord Kingsland. Members of this House, I know, will be shocked to learn of the death of Christopher Kingsland. The House will want to send condolences to his family and friends for their sudden loss, but this House has lost a great deal too. This House has lost one of its most warmly and widely regarded Members. Though the lawyers of this House may find it hard to believe, there are times when this House does not want to listen to lawyers—but not Christopher Kingsland. This House always wanted to listen to Christopher Kingsland, though from these Benches—as I can personally testify—it was not always a comfortable experience. His forensic skills in debating and analysing legislation meant that taking a Bill through this House with Christopher as your opposition was one of the toughest jobs that a Minister has to do. The House always wanted to listen to Christopher Kingsland because Members knew what they would get: clever, thorough, fair-minded and searching analysis. Skilled and rigorous in opposition, Lord Kingsland was positive and constructive in opposition too. As we all know, in this House reaching agreement is often as essential as winning a vote and Christopher Kingsland was as expert and successful a negotiator as he was a debater, and legislation was very often much improved by him being so adept at both.

Lord Kingsland’s illustrious legal career saw him called to the Bar in 1972 and take Silk in 1988. His love of the law and his brilliant legal mind saw him appointed as a recorder and subsequently a deputy High Court judge, work he managed successfully to combine with his work in this House. Before he entered your Lordships’ House in 1994, Lord Kingsland served as a Member of the European Parliament, rising to become his party’s Chief Whip and leader of the Conservative group of MEPs. It was during this time in the European Parliament that I first met Christopher. I still recall the twinkle in his eye and the wonderful sense of humour which he would, in time, use to such great and painful effect against the government Front Bench in this House. I regard it as a great privilege to have sparred with him across the Dispatch Box, as I was doing only last Wednesday at what turned out to be his penultimate appearance in this House.

I am sure the whole House will mourn his death, salute his courage in fighting illness, and celebrate, value and remember his life. This House has lost a fine Member, a man who was a tribute to his party, this House, and the country he served in a range of ways. He leaves a very large gap on the Benches opposite and in this House as a whole. The House will miss him; his insight, his courtesy, his skills and his intelligence. We and his family and friends have lost a very great deal in losing Christopher Kingsland. He was a decent man, a fair man, a good man, and this House is a more diminished place today without him.

My Lords, I echo the sentiments of the Leader of the House. Lord Kingsland was one of the hardest-working Members of the Opposition, balancing his life at the Bar with that of being the shadow legal affairs Minister, which allowed him to be involved in almost any aspect of legislation that he wanted. He used that option with an energy and drive shared by few others. In his 15 years in the Lords, he built up a formidable reputation for his razor-sharp intelligence and eloquence. The House has lost a hard-working servant of the nation, and we on these Benches have lost a good, loyal friend who was always happy to lend a hand, even before he was asked.

He had a tremendous sense of the value of our nation’s ancestral constitution, which he understood deeply, and he was greatly saddened by the destruction of the office of Lord Chancellor—not for himself, as there are few as devoid of ego as was Lord Kingsland, but for the loss of a unique institution that he believed worked so well.

Lord Kingsland made his home in Shropshire, where he concentrated his political career by representing the people of that county in the European Parliament from 1979 to 1994. Europe’s loss was our gain, and once he had re-established his career at the Bar he joined the Opposition in 1997 and led for us on most of the legal and constitutional Bills that came forward from that time to this. Indeed, so great were his enthusiasm and dedication that when I spoke to him last week to try to limit the amount of time that he was spending in the Chamber, he insisted that he was well, enjoying himself and could not bear to sit on the sidelines. It was this tenacious spirit that ensured that the Government did not get their way when they repeatedly tried to remove the right to trial by jury.

Of course, politics was not his only love, but it was his underlying passion. As the noble Lord, Lord West, will affirm, he was a keen sailor in Cowes, and so he could not help but offer a word or two of advice on the Marine and Coastal Access Bill.

In a world of celebrity and intrusiveness, Lord Kingsland was a deeply private individual—not because he had anything to hide; on the contrary, he had much to be proud of, but he never wanted people to make a fuss. He would have been embarrassed by the tributes this House makes today. A couple of years ago, he was quietly married to Carolyn, and to her we send our deepest condolences for a too-brief period of their lives spent together.

It is not too much to say that his loss will be keenly felt across the political boundaries that divide this House. I held Lord Kingsland in the highest esteem and with the greatest affection. His was a life of public duty and public service, and it will be a long time before we see one like him again.

My Lords, I know that our conventions mean that many people who want to pay tribute to Lord Kingsland today will be prevented from so doing. Occasionally, when one gets that phone call that one of our colleagues has died, the feeling is one of sadness, but it has usually been about a life well lived and long lived. I do not think that I have felt a feeling such as that which I felt this morning since I heard of the death of Lord Williams of Mostyn. It was the same feeling that Lord Kingsland had so much more to offer and was someone who stretched across this House to all Benches in terms of friendship and respect for the qualities that he brought to this House.

On these Benches, my noble friends Lord Thomas of Gresford, Lord Goodhart and Lord Lester have expressed to me today their personal sadness. Lord Kingsland was, indeed, a lawyers’ lawyer, but, as has already been hinted, he was also a parliamentarians’ parliamentarian. The last time that I debated with him was during the debate on the Privy Council. I can see him hunched over that Box—well briefed, articulate, devoid of malice or ideology, but razor sharp. It is indeed a loss to those Benches and to any prospective office that he may have held, but, much more, it is the loss of a very decent man and a very good friend to all of us.

My Lords, this is a terrible shock for us all, but I think immediately of Lord Kingsland’s wife and stepchildren and of his many devoted friends and colleagues in your Lordships’ House and far beyond. I offer them my sympathies on behalf of the Cross Benches.

In my short time here, I was lucky enough to have had the benefit of his wise counsel and to witness time and again his fierce adherence to principle, whether on matters of legal precedence, free speech or parliamentary procedure. He seemed to always have time to listen and to be a very good listener, and he was prepared to change his mind if the facts warranted it.

It must be a comfort to all that he had returned to his beloved Shropshire for his final hours. I, with many others, was at a dinner which he and his wife also attended on Saturday evening in Oxfordshire. He was his usual modest, sociable and urbane self. Although, once again, the shock is very great, I and his friends and family may be comforted to know that his last night was a happy one, spent among those who deeply respected him during his long and very distinguished career in Europe, in the Territorial Army, at the Bar and in this House.

My Lords, from these Benches we add our tribute to and give thanks for the life of Lord Kingsland and the very considerable contribution that he made to the public life of this country. He was a dedicated public servant and I, for one, marvelled at his mastery of legal affairs, his skill in debate and the clarity of his mind, especially, as far as I could see, as he never ever used written notes. Meticulous attention to detail and careful and thorough preparation were his hallmarks. He was never polemical and was genuinely warmly regarded on all sides of this House. We remember his integrity, his graciousness, his humility and his lightness of touch, as befits a skilled and passionate sailor. He will be much missed by all of us, and from these Benches we send our prayers and deepest sympathy to Lady Kingsland and her family.

My Lords, I spoke earlier on behalf of the House, but perhaps I may be allowed one personal sentence of sorrow at the loss of a wise and generous man and an admirable parliamentarian.