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Services, Procedure and Selection Committees

Volume 799: debated on Thursday 3 October 2019

Membership Motion

Moved by

That Lord Ashton of Hyde be appointed to the following Select Committees in place of Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Services, Procedure, Selection.

My Lords, given that one of these Motions relates to the new Convenor of the Cross Benches, I wanted to say a few words about the outgoing Convenor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead.

All noble Lords will know that the noble and learned Lord had a long and distinguished career as a lawyer, playing an instrumental role in the transfer of judicial authority from this House to the newly created Supreme Court. Over his four years as Convenor, the whole House has benefited from the measured and constructive way in which he has stood up for the interests of the Cross Benches and approached the work we have done together, not least via the work of our domestic committees. He has been a committed and constructive part of the usual channels, and I thank him sincerely for that. I know that these thanks are echoed by my noble friend the Chief Whip and his predecessor, my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach.

Noble Lords may not be aware that the noble and learned Lord is a keen diarist, and I am sure we will all look forward to the volume on his years as Convenor. I particularly thank him for his involvement in the cross-House, cross-party working group which helped develop the new independent complaints and grievance scheme. His counsel and advice were certainly invaluable to us all.

On behalf of the whole House, I would like to wish the noble and learned Lord well and hope that he will be able to spend more time enjoying his hobby of bird-watching, without having to be in the range of a computer or hunting for what I understand is an elusive phone signal in the local Tesco in Craighead.

Finally, I look forward to working with his successor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. I am sure we will have an equally constructive and positive relationship.

My Lords, I concur with the comments of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has been Convenor since 2015 and he has served this House, as well as his group, with distinction during that time. These have been interesting and at times very demanding times for your Lordships’ House.

In so many debates, the noble and learned Lord’s forensic and very wise legal mind has been of enormous benefit in improving legislation. I hope he will enjoy, and we will welcome, further such contributions, just from a different seat in your Lordships’ House. His gentle manner has sometimes hidden his understated humour, often found in the most unlikely of debates. If noble Lords missed it, I urge them to read his contribution to the debate on the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill. I will not repeat his words, as I could never do justice to his story, but it will bring on quite a chuckle.

The Convenor speaks for an independent-minded group of disparate, different and at times contradictory views—of course, that is not something that the noble Baroness and I would at all recognise. I am intrigued, although others may be fearful, that the noble and learned Lord lists in his hobbies that he is writing Lord Hope’s Diaries. The last month alone could create a whole volume and I just ask that he be gentle with us. He took over as Convenor at the same time as I became leader of my group. I have greatly appreciated our conversations, his integrity and his sound advice.

I give a warm welcome to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. He also combines that sharp, forensic legal brain with a warm wit, and we look forward to working with him.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Newby, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, is in Australia. In his absence, I am delighted to associate my party with the tributes paid to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead.

As the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers, the noble and learned Lord has provided distinguished service to the work of your Lordships’ House. He brought his independent judgment to the meetings of the usual channels. His contributions, and those of his colleagues on the Cross Benches, have continued to enhance the reputation of your Lordships’ House, for which we thank him. It is difficult to believe that he was often self-conscious and had a fear of public speaking. Despite this, he went on to accomplish major achievements in the legal and political sphere. As his title indicates, he is a real source of hope.

The noble and learned Lord and I have common threads running in our hobbies. He loves walking in the Scottish countryside and is an avid bird-watcher, and so am I. I invite him to join me and other twitchers in my village and join me on the South Downs Way, which is probably the finest ramble in Sussex.

I also welcome the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, to his new role. I have known him since my involvement in the committee of the Judicial Studies Board. He follows, like his predecessors, with a distinguished career in this appointment and we wish him well.

My Lords, may I say something which is not about me? Apart from the things that noble Lords have said about me—and thank you all for being so kind—I agree with everything that has been said about my noble and learned friend Lord Hope. The custom is, certainly in my experience, that where you agree with everything that has been said, you say so and sit down. I am not going to. I will hold you up a little longer, because I enthusiastically support what each of you has had to say in the very generous tributes to the Convenor who—it is lovely to see so many Cross-Benchers here—has led us. Sorry, I have made a mistake; Convenors do not lead. He has guided us—I am not sure my colleagues would even agree with that. At any rate, to be neutral, he has been there: he has been ever available, ever helpful and, a lovely characteristic, self-effacing as Convenor of the Cross Benches. He is having a few days away. If he had been here today, he would have been profoundly embarrassed at what you have all had to say about him, so it is wonderful that he is not here. But he will be here next week and thereafter, and I for one will be rushing away from the very important corridor which you all inhabit, and I do now, to find him in his room to seek his advice and guidance in order that I can do a better job as the Convenor.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for the tributes to the outgoing Convenor. I would like to add my personal thanks to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, with whom I have worked very closely since I have taken up this job. I hugely welcome the profound, ready and wise advice he has given to me—all pro bono—and which I am sure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, will continue in the same fashion.

Motion agreed.