Tributes - Announcement

– in the House of Lords am 11:50 am ar 19 Rhagfyr 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 11:50, 19 Rhagfyr 2023

My Lords, as we move towards the Recess, we should take time to pay tribute to members of staff who are leaving your Lordships’ House after periods of long and exemplary service. It goes without saying that we in the usual channels, and noble Lords from across the House, are in debt to staff of all grades and tenure for keeping this workplace functioning. Every year, they wrestle with new challenges. We are thankful for their support.

Having said that, as is traditional, I also want to take the opportunity to start tributes to individuals who have retired from their duties this year. My eyes turn first to the marshalled forces that guard this great Chamber. I have the privilege of first commending Karen Bridgman, who has served as a doorkeeper for over 10 years. When Karen left on 30 November 2023, she left an imprint of kindness and generosity on the doorkeepers’ team. Karen was proactive and she sought to fix a problem before it burdened the team. Her colleagues praised her pleasant attitude and the time she made available for everyone who came across her path. These characteristics, when twinned together, made her into an incomparable doorkeeper and friend. The truest compliments are those that are said about you in your absence. The mark that Karen has left in this House continues to be felt and voiced by those who worked closest with her.

I now turn to Tim Banting, who retired this year from the Parliamentary Archives team. Tim joined the archives in 2010, where he became a much-valued member of the heritage photographers’ branch of the office. Tim was renowned for creating high-quality images of archival documents for users of the archives, as well as for exhibitions and other forms of public engagement. He was instrumental in supporting the move from microfilm to digital cameras, and in the modernisation of the digitisation studio. I am told that his passion for photography went beyond his professional capacity. Tim created then and now images of the Palace. One of Tim’s photographs of the Commons Chamber was subsequently shortlisted for the 2018 Historic Photographer of the Year awards. I am sure it was Tim’s ability to crop out the scaffolding boards and construction hoardings from his parliamentary photographs that endeared him to the Administration. After 13 years in this place, Tim will be much missed and we wish him well in his retirement.

Finally, I would like to thank the team in the Government Whips’ Office and colleagues across the usual channels for their support in the last year, and in particular for me personally over the last couple of weeks. As you know, the Whips’ Office serves not just the Front Bench but the entire House. My colleagues and I are grateful for their hard work and I wish them, all the staff of the House and all noble Lords a very merry Christmas.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Shadow Chief Whip (Lords), Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I associate myself with all the remarks made by the noble Earl, the Government Deputy Chief Whip. He has done a very good job in the last couple of weeks, and I want to pay tribute to the Opposition Whips’ Office and the usual channels. We work well together and I always appreciate how we work together during the year in sometimes difficult situations. With courtesy and friendship, we can usually resolve most problems.

It is my privilege to mention two particular people who have served the House well over many years. The first is Stephen Perkins, who joined as the Head of the Catering and Retail Service in the House of Lords eight years ago, bringing with him many years of experience within the catering industry, working for companies within the contract catering sector, notably the Zoological Society of London. One of his first achievements after joining was to successfully deliver the outcomes of the catering change programme. This was a significant body of work, focusing on changes to the catering service, including flexible working patterns for staff and adjustments to the style and types of catering provided, the positive outcome being a catering service that was efficient and effective and that well supported the needs of the House.

During his time with the catering service, Stephen was also responsible for the implementation of the Cater 2020 digital project, delivering technological improvements to the catering operations that benefited both catering staff and users of the service. In more recent times, Stephen ably led the team to ensure that appropriate catering was provided as part of Operation Marquee, after the passing of Her Majesty the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Stephen had a warm, personable approach and, as such, was very well respected by colleagues within the catering service, but also by Members of the House, members of staff and more widely through other offices within the Administration. We have calculated that, throughout his eight years with the service, Stephen will have been directly responsible for over 2.1 million transactions within the catering venues in the House, as well as over 7,000 catered private events, attended by over 600,000 visitors to Parliament.

We wish Stephen well in his retirement, with the knowledge that he will have more time to spend on some of his other interests, including golf and Liverpool Football Club. He will also be able to further his appreciation of good food and wine, thankfully now from the perspective of a guest.

John Hanlon, who recently retired as a doorkeeper, for me epitomises public service. I first got to know John when he was a serving Metropolitan Police Officer, based here at the Palace of Westminster. He was friendly, approachable, kind and always prepared to go the extra mile to help people on the Parliamentary Estate, be they Members of either House, staff or members of the public visiting for the day. In total, John served as a Metropolitan Police Officer for 32 years. During his time as a police officer, he worked on many incidents, including the King’s Cross fire and the Clapham Junction train crash. He then spent 10 years in the vice unit at Charing Cross police station, dealing with vulnerable and trafficked women, before joining the police unit based here in the Palace of Westminster. John is a person who knows someone in every walk of life and was always willing to help others, while always aware that his primary duty as a police officer was to keep people safe and secure.

He has a very dry sense of humour, and there are many stories one could tell about John. He has been a supporter and non-playing member of the parliamentary rugby team for many years, travelling when he could to support them, and I recall many occasions when we would both be at Murrayfield to watch either Scotland v England or Scotland v Ireland games during the Six Nations.

On retirement from the Metropolitan Police, John joined us as a doorkeeper. In that role, he excelled, using his natural friendliness to help Members, staff and the public. The doorkeepers are a very special part of the parliamentary family, and John excelled at the job and very quickly gave the impression that he had been doing it for many years.

John grew up in Edinburgh and plans to move back to that wonderful city next year. He is a proud Scotsman, but he is also proud of being British and proud of his Irish heritage—something I share with John. I last saw John at the Irish embassy party last Wednesday, wearing his London Irish tie and enjoying a well-deserved pint of Guinness. He is a Celtic Football Club supporter and gets to Celtic Park whenever he can—although I do not think we should dwell on last Saturday’s results. I fear his good friend the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, might remind him of the Hearts win when he next sees him.

He was a regular in the Woolsack after work and, when he retired, his friends named an area in the Woolsack “Hanlon’s Corner”, in recognition of his service to this Palace and the Members here, as a police officer and doorkeeper for many years. He will be greatly missed by all of his friends, including me. I hope though for many years to be meeting John at rugby events, Irish embassy functions, and even a home game or two at Celtic Park.

We wish John all the very best for the future, and a long and happy retirement in Edinburgh where he plans to spend more time with his children, Kate and Sean. He is a keen amateur photographer, and he told me only a couple of days ago that he intends to climb as many Munros as possible before the mountain rescue unit tells him to stop. He also plans to travel extensively around the world. I wish him a long and happy retirement.

I also wish all Members of the House, all members of staff and everyone who works on the estate to keep us safe and secure a safe and joyful Christmas and new year.

Photo of Baroness Thornhill Baroness Thornhill Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Housing) 12:00, 19 Rhagfyr 2023

My Lords, I would love to join John in the rugby, for sure.

It is a privilege to be asked to give these tributes on behalf of these Benches. The quality and professionalism of the staff who serve this House is indeed one of its hallmarks. It is something that struck me forcefully when I first joined your Lordships’ House, and something that we are reminded of every day.

Yet, like the iceberg, we mainly see those with whom we come into contact. For every one of those visible people, there are many more whom we never or rarely see and yet on whom the smooth running of this House depends. As is demonstrated day after day, year after year, they always deliver. It has been yet another busy year.

My two retirees fit into one of each category: Trudy Collins, a principal attendant, who was very visible, and Mary Cruickshank, a freelance reporter, beavering quietly away in Hansard. Trudy left us in May, having given almost 27 years’ service from 1999, when she made her own little piece of history by being the first female attendant. That must have been quite something, working originally in Black Rod’s department, to her leaving us at a time when we now have the first female Black Rod; that is long overdue, of course.

Trudy rose through the ranks to principal attendant, spending much of her time in the Palace but latterly at Millbank House. It was said of her that she was the first to offer a cup of tea and a friendly chat and was always willing to help, which of course made her very popular with both staff and Members, as such kindnesses were noted and valued. She also worked with many young starters and apprentice attendants, acting as a mentor, giving much support and valuable advice, and showing similar kindnesses to new Members. I am sure the same was bestowed upon her apparently numerous animal friends, including dogs, chickens, tropical fish and parrots, which must have helped her when herding us cats in your Lordships’ House.

Now, to Mary. She joined Hansard as a freelance reporter, following a successful career in journalism. She clearly enjoyed the change, as she stayed with us for over 10 years. That previous role meant that she brought with her a wealth of experience, which she swiftly and ably transferred to the parliamentary context. During challenging times—especially, her colleagues said, during the tough times of the pandemic—they were grateful for her steady hand. Most importantly, they felt that she brought great personal warmth and congeniality to the office, which they will undoubtedly miss. Both these valued members of staff have earned their retirement, and we wish them well in the next chapter of their lives.

Finally, I know that the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Stoneham, would want me to thank all those in the Government Whips’ Office for all their work this year and particularly for their patience in making sure that things run smoothly in the usual channels. I also thank our own office staff in the Liberal Democrat office. They have much to put up with, and they do it so well.

I wish everyone a joyful Christmas. We know that whatever 2024 throws at us, we are indeed in capable hands.

Photo of The Earl of Kinnoull The Earl of Kinnoull Deputy Chairman of Committees, Convenor of the Crossbench Peers

My Lords, I join my colleagues very much in thanking all the staff, both in and of the House, not just for their hard work this year but for the good humour that bubbles up so often, which has enabled the House to function very well, even during our rather regularly odd hours.

I pay tribute to Carl Woodall, recently our Director of Facilities, who retired in March. He worked in the House for 14 years and was the first ever Director of Facilities. At an early stage of my time in the House, I used to call on him in room 25, a rather splendid room just at the top of the stairs, having no idea at all that Carl had 200 staff working for him and that he ran a very large number of bits and pieces of the House. I got it completely wrong. I went to his room regularly, asking him about a dustbin or whatever it was, and he would always have time for me, he would always be polite, and the dustbin, or whatever it was, would appear. That was him to a T.

Carl was instrumental in bringing on our successful banqueting department, and in revitalising the shop, which was very helpful for me for my Christmas shopping this year. I find that there are many things in it that are a pleasure to give and a pleasure to own. He oversaw many initiatives, including, importantly, several addressing fire safety, such as the Mobility Impaired Persons project. Each of these initiatives has resulted in a better and safer Westminster for Members, staff and the public.

When Covid-19 hit, Carl was key in enabling the House to continue to exercise its core functions. He worked extremely hard to ensure that the House was operatable and safe. He was the man putting up all the arrows in the various different passageways so that we did not run into each other. He virtually slept here while that was being set up. He was the longest serving member of the management board, and indeed the chair of its health and safety committee. He was known for always standing up for his staff, especially staff who did not have a desk. His warm smile, consistent work ethic and collaborative approach mean that he will be missed.

Finally, on behalf of the Cross Benches, I add my own version of Happy Christmas to all the staff and Members who have helped us throughout the year. I wish everyone a Happy Christmas.