Motion to Approve
Motion to Adjourn
My Lords, this is an opportunity that the House gives itself each year, so that we can not only depart with the Christmas greetings of the noble Lord, Lord Young, but wish a happy Christmas to all the staff who support this House. We are extremely lucky in this place: the House of Lords is a byword for efficiency, courtesy and politeness, and that is manifested by all our staff in the way in which they look after us. They support us every day, all the time that we are here in session, including when we sit at night, and when the House needs care and attention.
This can often be an unpredictable place to work. I know that my job is to try to make it an entirely predictable place, but I do not always succeed in that objective. This afternoon has been an example: we cannot be sure how the timetable will turn out, and where we shall find ourselves. In that turmoil of political debate and activity, we find ourselves surrounded by people for whom the phrase “Keep calm and carry on” might well have been invented. I thank them for their calmness, their professional manner and their endless dedication.
For my own part, as noble Lords will know, I started this year presenting Bill after Bill, as the Home Office churned out legislation and I was here to answer for the Home Office—successfully, I hope. I think the Home Office, now in the care of my colleague, my noble friend Lord Bates, stands high in this House. But I am now in a different mode, looking after the whole legislative programme and keeping it running in an orderly fashion. Allowing the House to scrutinise, as is its character, what the Government present is part and parcel of the joint activity of all of us involved in the usual channels.
I thank the House for the way in which it has welcomed me into the role. I give it my personal thanks, because the Chief Whip must have a very personal relationship with the House. I give particular thanks for the support I have had from the opposition Chief Whip, who, unfortunately, is not here at the moment. I am sure that he soon will be. I also thank the Convenor—and here is the opposition Chief Whip, just in time, as he always is. The usual channels are very important. A lot goes on behind the scenes, not to fix debates but to make it possible for this House to debate in an orderly fashion.
This Adjournment is also an opportunity for us to recognise those long-serving members of the staff of the House who have retired or are shortly to retire. Before I do so, I have a sad tribute to pay to Ruth Hardwick, who passed away in March this year. Ruth joined the House of Lords Library in 2002 and made an enormous contribution to the work of the Library and her team. Ruth is still hugely missed by her colleagues in the Library, particularly at this time of the year, as she had great generosity and an infectious laugh. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time of the year.
Robert Jelley, Bob, who retired in March this year, was a principal attendant and had served this House for 23 years. He was one of the longest-serving members of staff in the Department of Facilities. During those 23 years, he covered almost every job in the attendants’ office. Many will recognise him from the Committee Corridor, with the big red book of room bookings. He was a very friendly and approachable member of staff, and may be remembered, but will remain unnamed, for providing emergency haircuts for state opening. I have no idea what that refers to, but it is worth asking noble Lords whether they know and can tell me about it. That might come in useful. I am sure that the House will join me in thanking him and wishing him an enjoyable retirement with his wife, Jan.
David Trowbridge retired in March this year. He had many years’ service in reprographics and witnessed a huge amount of technological change—an area where office work has changed enormously. His retirement is allowing him to devote more time to his great interests of gardening—I am all in favour of that—and amateur dramatics, and I hope that he is indulging his passion at this time of year with a pantomime.
Kevan Holland worked for many years as a conservator in the Archives. He was a versatile member of the team, always keen to develop his expertise in new areas. Many of your Lordships will have benefited from his skills in designing and building exhibitions, display mounts for outreach activities, et cetera. In retirement, Kevan has been able to devote more time to golf and his grandchildren.
Lastly, Angelo Conde is due to retire in the new year after 20 years’ service in the catering department. I understand that Angelo is a modest man and has asked that nothing special happen for his retirement, so if he is listening or watching this, perhaps he should cover his ears. In his first week, his line manager told Angelo not to worry about remembering everything on day one. “I am never off sick”, he said and, unfortunately, went home that evening and broke his leg. In 20 years, he has certainly recovered from that. He has shown a great deal of leadership in training new members of staff who have joined the catering department. It has even been commented that he often did such a good job in training new staff that they were poached by other departments. We know all about that. I will not say much more in the hope of not embarrassing him further, but I wish him well in his retirement and hope that he enjoys being able to spend more time in Spain and playing golf. I think we ought to have set up a golf club for former staff members of the House, as it seems to be their favourite hobby.
We know the debt that we owe to the staff, and I thank them on behalf of the whole House. All that remains for me to do is to wish Members and our staff a very restful and enjoyable Christmas. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is my great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, whose presence at the Dispatch Box as Chief Whip I am greatly enjoying. I wish him and his family well for Christmas and the new year. I am sure that they will have a peaceful time growing bulbs—a nice quiet profession. I join the noble Lord in thanking the staff of the House: the doorkeepers, the clerks, the cleaners, the police officers, the security staff, all those who work in our catering service and all those who keep the House running and ticking over. We owe them a great deal and we should do our best to wish them well for all that they do for us.
I, too, have three members of staff to pay tribute to. Some of them will be better known to colleagues and Members than others. The first of them is Stella Devadason, who was appointed as a doorkeeper on 22 February 1999, not long after I joined your Lordships’ House. She was the first woman to be appointed to the position. I remember that very clearly because she was different, and she was very short—but she compensated for her size very capably by the persuasive way in which she conducted her duties. She was extremely effective and gained great respect from Members all around your Lordships’ House.
Stella’s background was this: born in Malaysia, she moved to England as a young woman and enlisted in the Royal Navy as a nurse. She achieved a senior rank through her very hard work, and it was that which led her eventually to joining the House of Lords and taking up her appointment. She became very popular as part of the doorkeeper cadre, and she was willing to give that little bit extra without being asked. For her last years in serving the House, as colleagues will know, she volunteered to become a redcoat—and the first female redcoat at that. It is a very difficult job, actually, but Stella, as with everything she has always done, carried out her duties with great courtesy to both Peers and guests, and was very good at guiding us all around the building and ensuring that we were all well looked after. Since her retirement, Stella has moved back to Plymouth and at present is visiting her family in Malaysia. I am sure that we all wish her the very best in her, hopefully, long, happy and healthy retirement.
The next staff member who has retired in the past year to whom I want to pay tribute is Bill Sinton. He retired in July after a long and illustrious public service career stretching back to 1968, when he entered the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Bill’s Foreign Office appointments included ambassadorial posts in Panama City from 1996 to 1999, Algiers from 1999 to 2001 and Bolivia from 2001 to 2005. He was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1999. In 2006 he joined the House of Lords administration and spent eight years working as a clerk in the Committee Office, first as Lords clerk to the Joint Committee on Human Rights and latterly as clerk to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and Finance Bill Sub-Committee. Bill, as with all our staff, combined modesty with a sense of humour and gained a special commendation for his efforts in the Committee Office’s celebration of Christmas Jumper Day in 2013, in aid of Save the Children Fund. Apparently his retirement plans include having the time to play golf, so I think he is going to find some other retired staffers on the golf course.
Lastly, I pay tribute to Fred Pace. Fred was one of our highly skilled conservators, specialising in bookbinding and repair. Apparently, Fred was particularly renowned for his very engaging and enthusiastic demonstrations of his craft to visitors to his studio. He took all these visits in his stride, and on one occasion had to demonstrate the art of applying gold leaf—there is plenty of that in this building—including the role of egg white as an adhesive, to a visiting group of Chinese archivists who spoke no English. He rose magnificently to the challenge, relying entirely on his powers of mime to provide a memorable and effective presentation of cracking eggs—and cracking jokes, no doubt, as he did it. Fred Pace had a great and special role in your Lordships’ House, and we—and the nation—are extraordinarily grateful for the hard and important work that conservators do to keep this place as it is, in a peerless condition.
That concludes my tributes. I thank everybody in the House for their forbearance—on this national festive footwear day: I have red boots on to celebrate redcoats—and wish everybody a happy and very merry Christmas and a peaceful new year.
My Lords, I apologise, as I cannot match the opposition Chief Whip as regards festive footwear. I join him and the Chief Whip, echoing their words of thanks to the staff. They provide us with a first-rate service, and we do not always get the time to acknowledge that or to thank them properly.
A familiar name to very many Members of this House is Maureen Buck, who retired from the Finance Department earlier in the year after serving the House for just over a decade. Many Peers will have spoken to her over the years, in particular during the period of change in the finance scheme, which I know caused many Peers considerable concern. One member of staff described her as a lioness, and said that she was always firm but fair—ideal qualities for anyone serving in any finance department. I hope that she is enjoying her retirement and has had time to go on at least one of the cruises that she loves to take.
Malcolm Clayton, who retired at the end of September, joined the House after a long career in the Civil Service and was part of the internal audit team. During his time here he made a strong contribution to the unit and, in particular, undertook several useful reviews, including one on voting and Divisions in this House, for which all Whips were particularly grateful. I trust that he is enjoying his retirement in the New Forest.
Mike Thomas retired in March this year after six years as legal adviser to the Select Committee on the European Union. He had a long legal career, joining the Government Legal Service in 1980. During his time he worked for many government departments before joining the House of Lords. I understand that he is already enjoying his retirement with his wife.
Last but not least is Alan Neenan, who retires today. Alan has been an attendant in most of the buildings in and around the Palace, from Old Palace Yard to Tothill Street. He was an integral part of the team that helped get the Millbank building up and running. He will be sorely missed by the team, not just for his attitude to work but for the weekly quizzes that he devised for them. I have been told that he is known to be a rather snappy dresser, so I hope he is wearing his favourite shirt today. I wish him a long and happy retirement.
It remains only for me to wish all Members and staff a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas.
My Lords, I am very happy to follow the noble Lords who have already spoken. On behalf of the Cross Bench group I associate myself with the very well earned tributes that have already been expressed. It is always a pleasure to participate in this important tradition, when the House, rightly, takes a moment to express its gratitude to the many staff who serve us so well, week in and week out, often over many years. They are often unseen, but I hope never unnoticed.
It has been another busy year for the House. We are often reminded that average attendance continues to rise, and more and more Members, understandably, wish to contribute to the valuable work of this House. We have more Select Committees, we ask more parliamentary Questions and, generally, we demand more of our staff, who enable us to continue to function effectively. This greater level of activity inevitably impacts on the administration of the House, particularly given the financial constraints under which it is committed to operate. It is therefore a real achievement, and a tribute to the dedication and resilience of the staff, that we continue to enjoy such a seamless service in every aspect of the work of the House. I am sure we all agree that we are very fortunate and it is entirely appropriate that we take the opportunity this afternoon to recognise the debt we owe the staff of this House.
I will take this opportunity to mention some former members of staff who have served the House in different but equally important roles. The first is Mark Thatcher, who was an executive chef and left the House in October after 31 years of loyal service. Mark began his career as a sous-chef and was promoted to executive chef three years later. During his employment, he oversaw the development of the kitchen operation to what it is today, serving more than 2,000 covers daily. We thank Mark most warmly for the service he has given to the House.
Paul Brightwell, who retired in July this year as a principal attendant, worked in the House for 21 years. In that time he became a well recognised face in the House, recognised by both staff and Members, in particular because, in 2005, Paul was posted to Fielden House and made a great success of establishing the services at this newly opened building. Those of our number who occupy accommodation in Fielden House know very well the contribution Paul made to our well-being. He was always diplomatic and was valued by colleagues and Members alike. During his retirement he is going to return to the gardening that we have already mentioned, and we wish him and his wife, Marian, a very long and happy retirement.
Guillermo Abelleira will also be taking a well earned retirement after 14 years of service to the House. Guillermo works as a waiter in the Peers’ Dining Room, where he is highly regarded by colleagues and Members alike. He is particularly well known for his hard work and his constant politeness to all he serves. Guillermo is looking forward to spending more time in his native Spain and we wish him well.
Terry Eiss will be well known in the House. He has been here since 2007, serving both as the verger of the chapel of St Mary Undercroft and as the manager of the River Room. Terry proved himself invaluable, as many of us will know, to the families of Members of the House in making the arrangements for a number of different services, marriages and baptisms in the chapel. He also presided over a wide range of receptions in the River Room and was always helpful in advising on catering and other arrangements that enabled those important events to run smoothly. Terry has many interests outside the House. We wish him very well in his future and thank him most warmly, as we do all these former colleagues.
Finally, I refer to Francisco De Freitas Nunes, a waiter working in both the Barry Room and the Peers’ Dining Room. Francisco will be leaving the House early next month after five years of exemplary service. He, too, is extremely well regarded by those he serves and will be much missed by his colleagues. I understand that Francisco has decided to pursue other career opportunities outside catering and, whichever way this takes him, we wish him great success and happiness.
From the Cross Benches I take this opportunity to thank you all for the support you give us, and me as Convenor, which I value very greatly. I wish you all a very happy Christmas and good success in 2015.