All 3 Debates between Baroness D'Souza and Lord McNally

Clerk of the Parliaments

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Lord McNally
Tuesday 26th April 2011

(13 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord McNally Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally)
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My Lords, this is the first time since the formation of the coalition Government that I have spoken from the Liberal Democrats Benches. The reason I do so is that I want to make it clear that the tribute I wish to pay is on behalf of the Liberal Democrats in this House, although I heartily concur with the remarks of the Leader of the House and, in particular, with the Leader of the Opposition in the way she dealt with the torrid time that Michael Pownall had to endure as he piloted us through some of the most difficult times that this House has ever had to endure.

The phrase that comes to mind is courage under fire, because that is what he showed. Because he showed courage under fire, he was able to give steady advice to the various party leaders. Like the Leader of the House, I believe that when this period in the House is looked back on, although it will be seen as a period of turmoil and of some distress, it will also be seen as a period of genuine reform when we put our House in order, and we did so under the wise guidance of Michael Pownall. I will not try to repeat what the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition said, but I appreciated the passion that the noble Baroness showed in her tribute, which was richly deserved.

It is always difficult to find new things to say in this slot, and I usually rely on my noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester, who is keeper of the blessed memory as far as this House is concerned. She brought two facts to mind. She remembers that, when Michael Pownall was secretary to the noble Lord, Lord Denham—who I am glad to see is in a place if not quite in his place—under stress, he would turn to cigarettes. This surprised me. I could not think that there could be any stressful moments being private secretary to the noble Lord, Lord Denham, but there you are—you never cease to be surprised. I was also told something even more disturbing: Michael Pownall is a mimic of Rory Bremner-type skill and some of his finest mimicry is, in fact, of Members of this House. I am looking forward to getting him in a private place when he returns and asking him to go through his repertoire. There was another thing I found surprising. It did not surprise me that Michael loves Italy and is a good squash player, but I read that he is a supporter of Luton Town. A Clerk of the Parliaments supporting Luton Town! Luton Town is at the Pukka Pies end of football rather than the prawn cocktail end, but that again shows the depths of the man. Luton Town won 4-0 yesterday, so he should be quite pleased about that.

I hope that what has come through is the amazing Clerks we have in this House. They hold this House’s oldest office, yet we attract men and women who are willing to serve this House. Forty years’ service is almost unknown in today’s career paths. Michael Pownall gave 40 years of service to this House including four years of tremendous service as Clerk of the Parliaments during a historic period. I think that again the Leader of the Opposition got it right. Michael Pownall was a great public servant at a time when the term is going out of fashion. He is much appreciated as a public servant and a great servant of this House. Our thanks to Michael Pownall.

Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza
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My Lords, on behalf of the Cross-Benchers, I support the tributes already paid by the Leader of the House, the Deputy Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition. One of the first things that one has to acknowledge about Michael Pownall, or MGP, as we like to call him, is that there is almost nothing that he does not know about the House of Lords both legislatively and procedurally. He, like so many of the Clerks, is a walking Companion to the Standing Orders, in fact, so much so that he is almost a standing order himself. His rise from being a serious young man of 23 in 1971, when one of his first appointments was as private secretary to the Leader of the House, to the culmination of any Clerk’s ambition in this House as Clerk of the Parliaments has been inexorable.

We have all become accustomed to seeing a rather worried-looking MGP speeding along the corridors, but he had much to be worried about, as we have already heard. Two major changes occurred under his watch: the removal of the Law Lords to the Supreme Court and the acquisition and refurbishment of the Millbank site. These seemingly smooth operations have entailed many hundreds of ducks paddling furiously underwater, and Michael was, at all times, their overall leader. We can perhaps repay his and others’ work by persuading some of those still entrenched in fusty corners of this Palace to move into the light, airy offices of Millbank. On behalf of the Cross-Benchers, I thank the Clerk of the Parliaments as was, Michael, for all that he has done, and for all that he is. I trust he will keep in touch with us so that we might all get to enjoy seeing him freed from his clerkly burdens.

House of Lords: Reform

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Lord McNally
Wednesday 21st July 2010

(13 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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I am thinking of those wishing to talk to the Inland Revenue. I go back to what I said. It is very interesting and like Attlee’s definition of an elephant: when you see a working Peer, you recognise one. I recognise a lot around this House.

Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza
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Does the Minister agree that the main functions of this House—to revise legislation and to hold the Government of the day to account—would be adversely affected by the Government having an overall working majority?

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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That is why I think that the present arrangements, where the Government have no overall working majority, work excellently.

House of Lords Reform: Committee Membership

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Lord McNally
Tuesday 8th June 2010

(14 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza
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My Lords, does the noble Lord, Lord McNally, agree that two fundamental issues must, or should, underline the deliberations of the cross-party committee? The first is the need to identify the clear and necessary functions of the House of Lords. The second is that any proposals put forward should necessarily enable this House to do its job more effectively.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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My Lords, when we first meet I will draw those statements to the attention of the chairman, because they give a succinct work-in-progress for us.