Lord Speaker: Baroness Hayman

Monday 5th September 2011

(12 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Strathclyde Portrait The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, when the result of the recent election for the office of Lord Speaker was announced, I indicated that there would be an opportunity to pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, our very first Lord Speaker, for the service she has given the House. That opportunity presents itself today.

The familiar sight of the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, in the unfamiliar setting of the Woolsack reminds us that this is a significant day for the House; we have witnessed the first succession in what is by the standards of this House a fledgling office. Taking up the office five years ago, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, ushered in a new era. It is a mark of the respect and confidence that the House placed in her personally that over that period the role of Lord Speaker has become an established element of the way in which the House regulates and governs itself. That alone is a remarkable legacy that will secure her place in the history of this House and of Parliament.

Some noble Lords may recall that on the occasion of her inauguration five years ago, the task facing the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, was likened to that faced by Julie Andrews, on the one hand, and the Archbishop of Canterbury on the other. We were warned that she would require the skills of a nanny and a singing nun, and forbearance on a par with that shown by the most reverend Primate, in order to preside over a self-regulating institution such as ours, vested with wide visibility but patchy authority. However, the House could hardly have known that even that rare mix of qualities would prove insufficient, for the term of office of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, was to coincide with a period of difficulty for this House, for Parliament and for British politics.

We have witnessed the removal of the appellate jurisdiction of this House, allegations of paid advocacy that prompted the House to revive its powers of suspension, and a press campaign that exposed serious abuses of the financial support available to Members of both Houses. As Lord Speaker, Chairman of the House Committee, and a member of the Procedure Committee of the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, was in the eye of the storm on each occasion. She displayed tremendous energy, resolve and patience in helping to steer the House through these episodes. She leaves behind a more resilient and transparent institution, equipped with a new code of conduct for Members, an independent Commissioner for Standards, and a simpler and more transparent system of financial support for Members.

Although less visible to the majority of your Lordships, we can also take pride in the way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, represented the House as our Speaker. She established herself as an energetic and persuasive ambassador for this Chamber. She was the driving force behind the creation of the House’s outreach programme and she herself led by example, engaging in an extensive programme of parliamentary diplomacy in order to build relationships with other parliaments and second chambers, particularly those in the Commonwealth. Many of us particularly admire the poise and elegance with which the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, represented the House on ceremonial and state occasions, most memorably during the recent visits of Pope Benedict and President Obama.

I close by welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, as our new Lord Speaker. She has been chosen by the whole House and can count on the support and confidence of noble Lords on all sides as she resumes her service to the House in a new capacity. Her predecessor has set an exacting standard for what the House can expect from a Lord Speaker. We remain indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for that legacy and can count ourselves fortunate that she will continue to contribute to our work.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Portrait Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House for what he has said about the outgoing Speaker and I know that the whole House will concur with all that he has said. He has rightly emphasised her work in establishing the new post, in carrying out her work both in the Chamber and on the important committees of this House, her work on governance and transparency, and on external engagement. In all those areas, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has carried out her role and responsibilities with energy, conscientiousness and dignity in a way that commanded great respect and affection both here and in the wider world. I understand, however, that occasionally there was amusing confusion with foreign counterparts because the Lord Speaker was clearly neither a Lord nor someone able to speak in her own Chamber.

Perhaps I may touch on three points in particular. The first refers to the considerable difficulty that this House and, indeed, Parliament as a whole have faced over matters of conduct. I believe that this House took the right steps to deal with these matters but in doing so the Lord Speaker had an important but difficult role. She had at once to be apart and above these issues, and, at exactly the same time in terms of her own concerns for the reputation of this House, to be fully involved in helping to resolve them. She struck entirely the right balance in doing so, at once working closely with all parts of the House and its processes, and at the same time maintaining an important detachment from the political parties and other groupings and individuals. I pay tribute to her care and carefulness in doing so.

Secondly, she has been a vital catalyst in helping to improve the way your Lordships’ House does its work. The House now has before it an important set of proposals for reform of its working practices. The fact that it does so can be traced directly and specifically back to initiatives taken by the Lord Speaker. If this House updates, improves and reforms its working practices, as I hope it will, it will be a testament to the outgoing Lord Speaker that it has done so.

The third area which I would mention is young people. The outreach programme which the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, or Helene as she always will be and always has been for many of us on all sides of this House, has successfully established has already been mentioned. It has been of real benefit to this House and to Parliament. I also believe that it has been of genuine benefit to thousands of young people and it has been appreciated up and down this country.

This is not a party political occasion. This is an occasion which is informed by politics—it is, after all, what we do—but it is not governed by them. I hope, however, that we might on this side of the House be given a few seconds of indulgence because we are particularly proud and pleased to be able to pay tribute to the first Lord Speaker. She was a trailblazer in this post of great constitutional significance but, of course, she was also a trailblazer in the other place as the youngest MP—one of only 27 women MPs and one of very, very few women in the House who had babies. The Lord Speaker has been scrupulous in her impartiality and punctilious in her application of that and all aspects of her role.

At the same time, we know that she came from our Benches and from a long record of service to our party. We are proud and pleased that she has been such a credit to the whole House and, in doing so, a credit to our party too. We know that in returning to the House she now has to sit on the Cross Benches and we know that she will carry out her role there with the same impartiality and care that she has shown as Lord Speaker. We hope, however, that from time to time—just as with some of her Cross-Bench colleagues—we will be able to persuade her of some of the arguments which we will be making.

We welcome the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, as the new Lord Speaker, especially on this her first day on the Woolsack. She has a hard act to follow. I hope that the new Lord Speaker will see fit to follow the example of her predecessor in writing annually to all Members of your Lordships’ House. Her letters have been models of clarity and information, and I believe that they have been widely welcomed on all sides of the House. Her scrupulousness has been applied to keeping her own thoughts and views out of these letters, but in her final letter, she does say that it has been a privilege and an honour to serve this House. The real position is the reverse. It has been a privilege and an honour for this House to have the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, serve this House as its first Lord Speaker. We thank her for all that she has done.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is my pleasure to pay tribute from these Benches to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has already referred to the fact that it was me, from the Benches below the Gangway when she was appointed as Lord Speaker, who referred to her as a cross between the Singing Nun and Mary Poppins. She got hold of me immediately afterwards and with some indignation pointed out that she could not sing and that she was certainly no nun. So I shall take this opportunity to withdraw that comparison. However, I refer noble Lords to the Wikipedia entry on Mary Poppins as portrayed by Julie Andrews. There it says that Mary Poppins is:

“‘Practically perfect in every way’. She is not only firm in her use of authority, but kind and gentle as well”.

I rest my case. There could be no more accurate description of our retiring Lord Speaker.

I echo the tributes paid by the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition, particularly when the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, spoke of her behind-the-scenes skills in managing the House through very difficult times. She has trod with delicacy in establishing the authority of the Lord Speaker inside this Chamber while being sensitive and aware of the way the House wishes to safeguard its self-regulation. As has been mentioned, she pioneered the outreach programme to promote better understanding of our work among young people and the voluntary sector, and she initiated a meeting of the Youth Parliament in this House when the other place hesitated and refused to do so. It has now followed our example. And as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said, she has been a first class ambassador for this House abroad and has represented it on major occasions with just the right words and the right sentiments, whether for monarchs, popes or presidents. The noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, knows that she has a hard act to follow, but she should also know that she has both our confidence and our affection in setting out on that road.

As for the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, it is never easy to step down from high office and go to the Back Benches. But my prediction is that she will mellow just as the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, has mellowed. In fact, it is my prediction that she will mellow exactly as the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, has mellowed. We wish her well on the Cross Benches.

It is always difficult to sum up a tribute with a single, simple word, but I will try, and I wish Hansard luck with it. I think that the noble Baroness has been supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Lord Laming Portrait Lord Laming
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am so very pleased that my first formal task as Convenor on behalf of the Cross-Bench group is to contribute to the richly deserved tributes being made to our former Lord Speaker. This is a special pleasure for me, not least because I first met the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, when as far back as 1974 she was elected to be my local Member of Parliament. Her election attracted a great deal of attention, first, because she was a woman, and secondly, because she was so young. Such factors were considered to be remarkable, and that of itself is very noteworthy. But for me, then a chief officer in the local authority, from the outset she demonstrated in abundance a much more significant, third feature. That was her evident energy, drive and unyielding commitment, especially to the well-being of the least fortunate and least able of her constituents.

Later, the noble Baroness was to experience the reality of many a political career, which is that of a marked political swing in an area. Once again, it was demonstrated that being a hard-working and enthusiastic representative of the people does not guarantee re-election.

However, when in 1979 the noble Baroness lost her seat in the other place she did not seek a new life in rich pastures. Instead, she decided to build on her earlier career in Camden social services and with the National Council for One Parent Families. This time, she also tackled with vigour a range of very challenging posts in the National Health Service and with local and national charities. So when in 1996 she was appointed to your Lordships’ House, she had accumulated a wealth of experience both in the public services and the voluntary sector. It was, therefore, hardly surprising that very soon she was appointed a Minister in three different departments of government. But, of course, her work in government that many of us remember best was the time she spent in the Department of Health.

As has been noted, in 2006 the noble Baroness became the first Lord Speaker in your Lordships’ House. As has been said so ably, there can be no doubting that, during the past five years, she has fulfilled her responsibilities with great distinction. All of us have had the benefit of her vast experience and personal qualities.

More than that, the noble Baroness has been a great ambassador and a splendid advocate for this House, both nationally and internationally. To highlight just one example, many of us have had the pleasure of contributing to the Peers in Schools programme. No matter how generous the concluding vote of thanks, I suspect that, on leaving a school, most of us have hoped just that the students have gained as much as us from the visit. The Lord Speaker’s lectures and the involvement of young people have added greatly to the standing of this House.

Looking back over the past five years, each of us will have our own special memories of the work of the former Lord Speaker. For my part, I hold dear the occasion when, on behalf of both Houses of Parliament, she thanked President Obama with such warmth, grace and evident sincerity. It was a moving conclusion to a memorable event.

We all look forward to the time when we welcome back the noble Baroness to these Benches. Then, the whole House will once again benefit from her vast experience and great ability. What is for sure is that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has our warmest thanks for all she has done for us during her time as Lord Speaker.

I feel sure that our former Lord Speaker would approve of me adding a brief word of welcome to her successor. It goes without saying that we in the Cross-Bench group take particular pleasure in the election of the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza. She must be the first Cross-Bencher to hold this post either in its previous or in its current form. We are delighted. It gives us huge pleasure in her achievement and we wish her great success. However, perhaps I may take the opportunity to reassure the House that trying to step into the footsteps of the noble Baroness once is challenge enough—I have no ambition to try to do it a second time.

Lord Bishop of Bristol Portrait The Lord Bishop of Bristol
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, bishops are used to bringing up the rear in formal processions. Today, I find myself bringing up the rear of a procession of worthy tributes to the work and character of the outgoing Lord Speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. In consequence, I shall seek to avoid, as far as is seemly, hesitation, repetition or deviation.

It is with great pleasure and humility that I add my appreciation on behalf of these Benches to that expressed by others for the Lord Speaker as she retires from this role in your Lordships' House. On these Benches, we have been extremely grateful for all that she has so graciously and ably offered to the life of your Lordships’ House. Those charged with responsibility for convening the Lords spiritual have in particular been grateful for the Lord Speaker’s warmth, help and support. The present Convenor, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, is deeply apologetic that he cannot be here today.

Our outgoing Lord Speaker has been an excellent ambassador for your Lordships’ House. In her work promoting overseas all that is good about your Lordships’ House, she has delivered with great imagination and diligence. Travel seems an increasingly wearisome business, yet the Lord Speaker showed herself willing to go wherever and whenever she could to promote your Lordships’ House. Her efforts in seeking to inspire and inform young people in understanding our work have found her again to be an exemplar. This has been a passion if not a healthy obsession. We are particularly grateful for her diligence in this.

At all times, the Lord Speaker has attempted to inform and communicate with your Lordships on matters of concern and interest. In this, the Lord Speaker has again achieved a high standard. Her hosting of a series of seminars, including recently one on the interaction between religion and politics, is but one example of her willingness to engage with issues of significance by using her office to create a thoughtful and impressive space for the airing of pressing current issues. As has been said, she will be the proverbial hard act to follow. With your Lordships, we on these Benches look forward to welcoming and working with the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, in her newly elected role.

To conclude, on behalf of these Benches I am more than happy to add our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, the former Lord Speaker, for her efforts on our behalf since she was elected in 2006. We wish her well and hope that, free from the responsibilities that she has so willingly and ably borne, she will enjoy her retirement from this particular role and, who knows, have a little extra time on her hands for family and friends—of whom she has many, not least in your Lordships’ House. We look forward to the noble Baroness’s continued contributions from the Benches of your Lordships’ House, from which I am certain that we will undoubtedly continue to benefit.

Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait Lord Brougham and Vaux
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as the longest-serving Deputy Speaker, may I say, on behalf of all Deputy Speakers, that we would like to be associated with the tributes paid to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, from all sides of the House? It was a great pleasure working with her and we look forward to working with the new Lord Speaker.

Lord Haskel Portrait Lord Haskel
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have had the honour and privilege of working as one of the noble Baroness’s deputies for five years. During that time, she was genuinely concerned about her deputies. She worried about whether we got home on time or had had something to eat if the House sat late. Never since I was a teenager has somebody worried about that on my behalf. I am most thankful to her and look forward to working with the new Lord Speaker.

Baroness D'Souza Portrait The Lord Speaker (Baroness D'Souza)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am extremely happy that my first task in the Chamber today is to add to the tributes already paid to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. The noble Baroness has, as we have already heard, fashioned a role over the last five years into which I can now step with great gratitude. No one should underestimate what hard work it has taken to build such a successful programme, one that I would now like to continue—and even, perhaps in some areas, expand. It is clear from today’s tributes how much we owe the former Lord Speaker and how much she is now welcomed as a Back-Bencher and, particularly, as a Cross-Bencher.