Monday 3rd March 2014

(10 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness D'Souza Portrait The Lord Speaker (Baroness D'Souza)
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My Lords, as I informed the House on 11 February, I have appointed Mr Simon Peter Burton to be Reading Clerk in place of Mr Rhodri Havard Walters. I therefore beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The Question is that this Motion be agreed to.

Lord Hill of Oareford Portrait The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Hill of Oareford) (Con)
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My Lords, we often talk in this House of the debt we owe to the staff. Today we have the opportunity to pay tribute to one who served us with great distinction for more than 38 years, Rhodri Walters—or perhaps I should say, using that well known phrase from our Letters Patent, our trusty and well beloved Dr Rhodri Havard Walters. Over those 38 years Rhodri served the House in many senior roles, including as private secretary to the Viscount Whitelaw; as Establishment Officer—now less elegantly known as Director of Human Resources; and as Clerk of Committees. He has also overseen the recruitment and development of many of the younger clerks in this House, a task which I know he much enjoyed. But he is perhaps best known to most of us as the Reading Clerk who so beautifully read out our punctuation-free Letters Patent as we were each introduced to the House. It was in this guise that he was described by a parliamentary sketch writer as the,

“master of ceremonies … A figure almost from Dickens. With his wig and spectacles and parchment voice, he was the learned town mouse, nose twitching as he waited”.

Dickensian, perhaps, but how reassuring to us as we stood there nervously.

Beyond the House, Rhodri has many interests, including rowing, skiing—indeed, he is on the slopes of St Anton as we speak—singing, gardening and his native Wales, where he has a house at which he will now be able to spend more time. I know the whole House will want to join me in thanking him for his long and loyal service and in wishing him a very happy retirement.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Portrait Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab)
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My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, I thank and pay tribute to Rhodri Walters for his excellent and indefatigable work throughout his career communicating the work of Parliament to a wider audience. He has led in the delivery of learning materials for the parliamentary studies module, an innovative educational partnership between the Houses of Parliament and universities which was launched in 2012. As many noble Lords will know, he was the author, together with Sir Robert Rogers, of How Parliament Works, a uniquely authoritative yet accessible account of how Parliament works. The seventh edition, I can tell noble Lords, will be available in all good bookshops soon. The sixth edition, labelled a “a rare treat” by one commentator, was described by Andrew Marr as,

“clear, elegant, invaluable, bang up-to-date and full of dry wit”.

I can think of no better way of describing one of its authors, Rhodri Walters, and I wish him well in his retirement.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness Portrait The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) (LD)
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My Lords, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats I wish to associate myself with the words of the Leader of the House and of the Leader of the Opposition in thanking Rhodri Walters for his long and distinguished service to the House, not just as Reading Clerk but in the many offices that he held in the House.

As the Leader of the House said, we have all become very familiar with Rhodri Walters reading out the Letters Patent. After a bit of research, I discovered that I was possibly the first Life Peer whose Letters Patent he read out when I was introduced in November 2007. I once asked him whether he could do that blindfolded after all the times he had done it. He replied that he probably could but would never dare try.

We should also recognise the many different roles that the Reading Clerk plays. One of Rhodri’s roles was as Clerk of the Overseas Office, where he helped the first two Lord Speakers build their roles as the House’s ambassadors overseas. He also helped the House to deepen its ties with Commonwealth Parliaments and to forge new links elsewhere, most notably with Russia, having organised a very successful visit to Westminster of the President of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation.

Rhodri Walters was also instrumental in the House’s engagement with Parliaments of European Union member states, culminating in organising a very successful meeting of the Association of European Senates last year, when this House played host to the Speakers of 15 European upper Chambers.

Reference has also been made to Rhodri’s recreation. I am told by a former member of his staff—it is right to say that those who worked for him held him in highest regard—that he was able to jump, both feet together, from a floor on to a table. For the past six and a half years, his feet were very firmly under the table except when he was standing up reading. For his loyal service we are very grateful and we wish him well in his retirement.