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Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees

Volume 737: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2012

Moved By

That the noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho, be appointed Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees for this Session.

My Lords, with his vast experience, I know that my noble friend Lord Boswell of Aynho will take on this role exceedingly ably.

It is a great pleasure at this point to pay tribute to his predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Roper. The work of the European Union Committee is very highly regarded not only within this House but among national parliaments across the EU, and that is due in no small part to the skill and dedication of its chairman. The noble Lord was exceptionally well qualified for the chairmanship of the European Union Committee. To pick just two highlights from his CV, in the 1990s he was the first director of the Institute for Security Studies in Paris, and in this House he was the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip from 2001 to 2005. From there it was a natural progression to becoming the chairman of the foreign affairs sub-committee, and in December 2008 the chairman of the Select Committee. As chairman, the noble Lord has steered the committee through a pivotal time for national parliaments in the EU, not to mention testing times for the European Union as a whole. Under the Lisbon treaty, national parliaments were given new powers as the guardians of subsidiarity, and the noble Lord, Lord Roper, directed the adaptation of the committee’s work to these new powers and responsibilities. He has done that, as he has done all his work, with good humour, good sense and impressive attention to detail. I know that the whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to him.

My Lords, I, too, warmly welcome to the role of Deputy Chairman of Committees the noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho. I know that his long-standing interest in and involvement with Europe will stand him in good stead for the job, as of course it did for the noble Lord, Lord Roper. He has extraordinary and deep knowledge, and he is held in the highest regard throughout the European Union as well as in this House. The noble Lord, Lord Roper, has steered the European Union Committee with his customary skill, knowledge and courtesy throughout his period as its chair. He has been applying all of those qualities to managing the House’s current proposals to do some redrawing of its committees with considerable success. I know that that has caused the noble Lord and members of the committee pain, but I am grateful for the way in which he carried out the change.

We on these Benches, where, we suspect, despite his shift 30 years ago, perhaps part of his heart still lies, thank him for all that he has done and we wish him well for the future.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Roper, has made a journey not unlike my own, to which the noble Baroness has just referred. I am still smarting from that stiletto in the ribs delivered some time ago by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. I would only remind him of the story of the young Conservative candidate fighting his first election in one of the Welsh valley seats who started his adoption meeting by saying, “I was a born a Tory, I am a Tory, and I will die a Tory”, and a voice came from the back saying, “Why, man, have you no ambitions?”. Certainly I have no ambitions to join the Conservative Party but I am very pleased to see the noble Lord, Lord Roper, back on our Benches.

I am very proud of the way the noble Lord has carried out the chairmanship of the European Union Committee. I think all sides of the House take pleasure in the reputation that that committee has for its diligence and objectivity in dealing with the issues of Europe, and much of that has been, over the last few years, due to the skill of John Roper. As the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, indicated, that skill comes from a deep and long involvement in European affairs as an academic and a politician, and we have all benefited from it.

As for the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, when the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, e-mailed me to say that he would be asking the noble Lord to take this job, I replied with just one word: “Excellent”, and that is what I think it is—excellent.

My Lords, on behalf of the Cross-Bench group, I also welcome the noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho, to this most important post. I also associate myself with the very warm tributes that have been paid to the noble Lord, Lord Roper.

The European credentials of the noble Lord, Lord Roper, run very deep. Visitors to the European Parliament or the Council of Europe, both in Strasbourg, may well have noticed the boulevard du Président Edwards, which runs from the Palais de l’Europe beside the beautiful Orangerie park. Understandably, they may have wondered exactly who was Président Edwards. Many of you will know that he was John Edwards, a Labour MP, who in 1959 became the president of the Assembly of the Council of Europe, and very sadly died in office that same year. John Edwards was the father-in-law of the noble Lord, Lord Roper, so the noble Lord’s credentials could not have been better.

The noble Lord, Lord Roper, has handled with great skill and tenacity a number of matters arising particularly from the Lisbon treaty, and a whole range of matters in the area between the national parliaments and the European Parliament. He has shown great personal qualities and determination. Only last week in Warsaw—and before that, in Copenhagen—he received a very warm welcome from delegates, who recognised not only the contribution he had made but his commitment and enthusiasm for the task.

This House has been extremely well served by the noble Lord, Lord Roper, and we thank him for that most warmly and wish his successor great success.

Motion agreed nemine dissentiente.