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Volume 620: debated on Thursday 21 December 2000

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4.45 p.m.

My Lords, as I rise to move the adjournment of the House for the Christmas Recess, I find myself brimming over with seasonal good cheer, so perhaps I may say a few words of thanks and appreciation. Before doing so, I can tell my noble friend Lord Bassam that I intend to read Hansard with great care in relation to the previous order. His apparently encyclopaedic knowledge of night-clubs is the sort of information a Chief Whip needs to have about his colleagues!

As ever, I am particularly grateful to the noble Lords the Opposition Chief Whip and the Leader of the Opposition for their constructive approach to the management of business and their unfailing good nature. In a House where the usual channels must operate by agreement, it is a great advantage when they are themselves agreeable. I include also the noble Lords, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, Lord Harris of Greenwich and Lord Craig of Radley in these remarks. It has been a pleasure doing business with them all.

I should also like to record my warmest thanks to the staff of the House who serve us so diligently. In so doing, I know that I speak for the whole House. The staff have had to work extremely hard over the past year. I am sure that all noble Lords will join me in expressing our appreciation for the work that they do. So much of that work is invisible, but is none the less important for that. Members of the House do realise that Bills are not printed by magic, that corridors do not clean themselves and that late night meals are not conjured out of thin air. Indeed, on one occasion, after an all-night sitting, we had a marvellous breakfast provided for us. I wish all the staff of the House a happy and relaxing Christmas.

I am sure that noble Lords share my delight that I have been able to arrange matters so that none of us will have to be here—unless we want to be— for a full three weeks and one day. I hope that your Lordships will enjoy the break. I wish everyone, both Peers and staff, a very happy Christmas and a good New Year.

My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip for his remarks about myself and my noble friend Lord Strathclyde and the constructive approach that we have taken. I hope that it really has been constructive. We all accept that the Government must get their business through; but they must also allow us a reasonable amount of time to discuss the vast array of business that they bring before us.

I endorse everything that the noble Lord said about the staff of the House. We owe them an enormous debt of thanks, particularly after the Session that we have just been through. I am thinking especially of the spillover period which began at the end of September and went on until the end of November, when we sat more or less until midnight virtually every night. We owe the staff enormous thanks for the vast amount of work that they put in, allowing the Government to get their business through. We must say, however, that it was the Government's own fault for bringing so much business forward, and was due in particular—I see the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, sitting next to the Chief Whip—to the vast amount of legislation that we had from the Home Office. Perhaps the Home Office could cut down the amount in future. I shall not comment on the look that appears on the face of the Government Chief Whip. Perhaps the Home Office will not only reduce the amount of legislation that it brings forward but also make sure that it is properly drafted.

I am grateful to the Government Chief Whip for allowing us, after discussions between the usual channels, a good three-week break. All of us in this House, whether Members or staff, are well in need of that break. I certainly need it; I think the Government Chief Whip needs it; as does the deputy Chief Whip and many others. We all look forward to coming back on 15th January.

My Lords, it was a great 18th century Englishman who said: "I look upon every day to be lost in which I do not make a new acquaintance". Bearing that sentiment in mind, I say on behalf of my colleagues that this first year after the partial reform of this House has been a rich and full one. That could not happen without the wisdom and cheerfulness of this House, which has been maintained in this first year. It would not be maintained, were it not for the support that we have from all those who serve us in this House: Doorkeepers, those who clean, and all the others.

Over the several years in which it has been my duty to give a Christmas message, I have always made it a habit to select some area where I feel that special recognition is required. This year I have chosen the Office of Black Rod. It has done excellent work over a very difficult period. Black Rod and his staff—and this has nothing whatever to do with the small space that he allows me and my friends who come here on two motorised wheels rather than four, to park our machines—are not always appreciated for the breadth of area that they cover and the polite service that they give, sometimes under considerable strain.

Having said that, on behalf of these Benches I should like to join other noble Lords and wish the whole House, especially those who serve us, a very happy Christmas and, as the Scots say, a good New Year.

My Lords, perhaps I may begin by thanking the Government Chief Whip for the kind words that he said about me. On behalf of all Cross-Benchers—perhaps too numberless to name this afternoon—I should like to say that we associate ourselves very much with all the plaudits that have been made and the thanks that have been expressed to the staff and to all those who support us in our work.

As has been said, it has been a very busy time with very many Friday sittings. I had hoped that the Government Chief Whip would have thought it right to avoid Friday sittings in the future; but, clearly, that New Year resolution has yet to pass his lips. Indeed, we shall sit on Friday 19th of January. The last time that the House sat on a Friday in January was in 1997, when one of the Bills that never found its place on the statute book was the harassment Bill. If that Bill had come through we might not be sitting on Friday 19th! Nevertheless, I thank the whole House on behalf of all Cross-Benchers for the support that we have received and wish everyone not only a happy and peaceful New Year, but also a very happy Christmas.

House adjourned for the Christmas Recess at nine minutes before five o'clock until Monday 15th January next.