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Chair of the European Union Committee

Volume 799: debated on Monday 9 September 2019

Membership Motion

Moved by

That the Earl of Kinnoull be appointed Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (to be known as Chair of the European Union Committee), in place of Lord Boswell of Aynho.

My Lords, in moving this Motion, it would be remiss of me not to say a few words about the outgoing chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, who I am delighted to see in his place. He has served the EU Committee, and in turn this House, with such distinction.

The noble Lord, Lord Boswell, has been the longest serving chairman in the history of the EU Committee. Over the seven years and three months he has spent in the role, the committee has met 229 times and published 122 reports—he is looking quite pained at the memory. Much of the committee’s recent work and 42 of those reports have been related to Brexit. I suspect that the noble Lord may not have anticipated that Europe would be quite so dominant in the national debate when he took on the chairmanship. That his stewardship of the committee has been so calm and measured has enormously benefited the whole House, especially when tensions on these issues have run high.

The noble Lord’s dedication to European matters is recognised way beyond this House. I was told by his daughter that his eldest granddaughters used to call him Baloo. The family naturally assumed that this was a reference to the character from The Jungle Book. “No”, explained the noble Lord’s granddaughters—It was because he wears blue jumpers and is always talking about the EU. On behalf of this House, I thank him for his service to the committee and wish him well in whatever he undertakes next.

Finally, I welcome the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, into the role. I have no doubt that he will prove an equally able and effective chairman, and I wish him well. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will share the noble Baroness’s confidence, and mine, that the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, will take on this role with enthusiasm and great skill. His expertise in science and the law are key ingredients for evidence-based policy-making and analysis; that is essential, particularly at a time when some consider opinions superior to facts. We warmly welcome him to his new position.

It is also an honour to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, as he stands down. I first engaged with him many years ago when I was a newly elected MP and he was the shadow Minister leading for the then Opposition on the Minimum Wage Bill Committee —he remembers it well. It still holds the record for the longest ever Committee sitting in Parliament. I seem to recall that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, spoke many a night in that same Committee Room. Despite some very long and late nights, then as now, he displayed his customary courtesy and good humour at all times.

At a time when the issue of our membership of the EU has fractured our politics, fragmented political parties, divided society and even split families, the work undertaken by our EU Committee and sub-committees remains essential and valuable. The noble Lord, Lord Boswell, has acted at all times in the interest of your Lordships’ House to ensure that our debates would be well informed and timely. He can be proud of his record.

At times, it has been a difficult role. We hear that it has been seven years, three months—and I am sure he can tell us how many days as well. The noble Lord has always seen his work as service to this House and has been exemplary in fulfilling those responsibilities. We thank him and wish him well.

My Lords, the noble Lord has presided for a long period over the work of the European Union Committee, but I think that it will be the work related to Brexit for which he will be remembered. I am sure that the unprecedented volume of reports from that committee have informed a very large number of people across the country. In particular, the first tranche of reports after the referendum drew to the House’s attention—and mine—a whole raft of detailed issues relating to Brexit, and although I thought I knew something about the subject, I realised that I was ignorant. I would like to thank him personally for my education—and more generally, on behalf of the House and the country, for the immensely educative job that the committee has been able to do.

I also thank him personally for his very open approach to consultation. As Chief Whip and Leader, whenever there has been a particular issue relating to my group or policy more generally facing the committee, he has been able to come and have a confidential discussion about it. I found this extremely valuable, and I believe that the approach is very much in the best traditions of the House.

We welcome the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, to the job and wish him well. At the same time, we look forward to the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, resuming his full voice in future debates on Europe and more generally.

My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, I too welcome the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, to this very important post. I think we can all agree that a safe pair of hands is required in these uncertain times and he can undoubtedly provide us with exactly that quality; I too wish him well for what lies ahead. I join others in paying tribute to the work that has been done on behalf of these Benches by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell. I take particular pleasure in doing so because it was invariably from these Benches that he addressed the House when he was presenting the reports of his committee, as he felt it was appropriate to do. As has been said, he presided over his committee, to the work of which he was utterly devoted, with great skill and authority; these qualities came through time and again when he was presenting these many reports.

Behind the scenes, both at home and abroad, the noble Lord worked tirelessly and always with good humour to maintain his committee’s authority and reputation. It is no exaggeration to say that, having earned the support and admiration of his colleagues, he transformed the work of the committee. He gathered so much into the committee itself, on top of what was being reported to it from its sub-committees. Instead of sitting once a month as was the position to begin with, latterly it was sitting each week and perhaps even more often than once. That is some testament to the qualities that he brought and the importance he attached to its work.

The noble Lord was particularly keen to stress—I am sure he would like me to mention this—that leaving the EU ought not to mean that his committee should cease to exist. That was his response to the challenges of Brexit, along with all the others mentioned. The House owes much to his initiative and dedication. His voice is always a pleasure to listen to and his presence always commands attention. There is so much about his chairmanship to admire and for which to be grateful. I join all those who have already spoken in extending to the noble Lord our warmest thanks and good wishes.

Motion agreed nemine dissentiente.