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Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): May I on behalf of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party associate myself fully and sincerely with all the tributes paid this afternoon? They have been full and generous, and deserved in my view and that of many people outside the Chamber.
As the Prime Minister said, the late Jim Callaghan did not have the benefit of a university education, but none the less held all four major offices of state. That is no mean achievement. His life is an inspiring example of social mobility. His achievements were the result of his abilities and not of privilege, birth or family background. We believe that we must fight to maintain the possibility for other people to be inspired by his example and to achieve as near as possible what he achieved in his full life.
May I associate myself with the tributes to the family? There will be a great loss throughout Wales, not just in Cardiff. A square in Cardiff has already been named after the late Lord Callaghan. That is a fitting tribute, and I have no doubt that there will be others.
A great loss will also be felt across the political spectrum. My predecessor, Dafydd Wigley, had many discussions with James Callaghan and his Administration in 1974. Those culminated in compensation for quarrymen and miners affected by dust, and eventually to the inception of the Welsh language television channel, S4C. He was, to coin a phrase, a man you could do business with. He was certainly a man of his word. He also had a very human side to him, as recalled by Dafydd Wigley recently, and was often hurt by criticism, particularly from his own side.
Lord Callaghan was a major figure in British politics. He will be sorely missed. He also had a good grasp of the art of surprise in choosing the date of a general electionan example that we might follow today.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab):
Jim Callaghan cared desperately about the House of Commons and other things that are important to me, because for him the Labour party was the fount of many of his commitments not only to moral political views but to changing the role and quality of life of those whom he felt he represented. He was a clever man, and one who was frequently sadly underestimated. Although he had
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warmth and wit and could display them, he nevertheless had an intellectual toughness that enabled him frequently to survive very real pressures.
Jim Callaghan knew that the Labour party and, above all, the House of Commons needed to represent that which was decent, honest and fair. His commitment to that desire for equality remained the centrepiece of his life, no matter which of the Houses he served in. He had, of course, a wicked sense of humour. He stopped me in the Lobby on one occasion and said, "Would your mother like to be the first woman Lord Lieutenant of London?" I said, "I should think she'd be like a cat with two tails," and he said, "It's secret. You can't tell anybody. And anyway, she was the very first person I thought of." There was a slightly pregnant pause, and then he said, "Well, no, that's actually not true. I thought of dozens of people before her."
Jim Callaghan worked closely with my family, and he and my father had some good old rows, but he did something that is, perhaps, underestimated: he kept together a very large political party that always represented many strands of the people of the United Kingdom. He kept together his faith in parliamentary democracy. He put his commitment to this House, above all, at the very forefront of everything that he did. He served this country well. He loved and served his family well. We are honoured to have known him.
David Burnside (South Antrim) (UUP): On behalf of the Ulster Unionist party and, I am sure, of all Ulster Members, may I add my words to those of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. and hon. Members?
The Prime Minister referred to the one connection that most linked Jim Callaghan to Irelandthat fateful August in 1969, when the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, James Chichester-Clark, requested the troops to come in to halt the anarchy developing on our streets throughout the Provincebut one other instance, which I noticed in the obituaries, should be highlighted further.
At a much earlier stage, Jim Callaghan, on behalf of the Labour partynot the Governmentwent to Northern Ireland and visited the old Northern Ireland Labour party, which was strong in Belfast, and the old Republican Labour party. It was no different from the Labour party in the great industrial cities of the north of England or in Scotland or Wales. He tried to develop the Labour party organisation as a normal Labour party organisation standing for election throughout Northern Ireland, as it was throughout the rest of the UK.
With the benefit of hindsight and looking back over history, I wonder whether the Conservative and Unionist party and the Liberal partyas it was thenwould still be organised in Northern Ireland had the Labour party been successful in organising from the working-class areas of Belfast and the non-sectarian trade union movement in the old great industries of Belfast. I wonder whether the past 30 years in Northern Ireland might have been slightly different. It was Jim Callaghan who went across, much earlier, on behalf of the old Labour party, to organise Labour in the Province. He will be greatly missed. He was a great gentleman in politics.
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Dr. Jack Cunningham (Copeland) (Lab): I had the honour and the pleasure of serving as James Callaghan's Parliamentary Private Secretary throughout his time at the Foreign Office and during his first year as Prime Minister in 10 Downing street. I came to know him very well in that time, of course, but I recall that earlier, when I barely knew him at all, the first time that I heard him speak was when he made his last speech as Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Labour party conference in the autumn of 1967. I think it was the last Labour party conference held in Scarborough. Jim was expounding the difficulties of trying to grapple with the manifest economic problems of the time, and in almost an aside said, "Take the banks," and a wag from the delegates section said, "We wish you would." He recovered from that hilarity and went on to make a speech about how grave were the circumstances of the British economy, but I do not think that too many people were convinced.
When I was elected to this House in 1970, I had met Jim only a couple of times and was sitting in the Members' Dining Room with some contemporaries when a message came to me that Jim would like me to become his Parliamentary Private Secretary. Of course, only the grandees in opposition had a PPS in those days. I said that I would like to think about it, and the messenger, Gregor Mackenzie, said, "I wouldn't be taking too long if I was you." [Laughter.] Forgive the attempt at a Glaswegian accent.
I accepted. Some of my friends said, "Jack, you must be mad. Jim Callaghan is yesterday's man. He's over the hill." Well, he was so far over the hill that two years later he became the Foreign Secretary in the Wilson Administration. He took me to the Foreign Office with him; he took me, literally, all over the world, to Africa, Europe, the middle east, the United Nations and the Cyprus peace talks. It was an enormous learning curve and a great apprenticeship. His kindness, generosity, support and advice were legendary.
I recall that, one new year's eve, we were in Zambia, staying near Victoria falls, and Jim insisted on paying for a dinner and a party for the whole party from the Foreign Office, including the secretaries. He then insisted on us all singing "Auld Lang Syne". He shook hands with all the men and kissed all the ladies. As our Zambian hosts were watching this, I said to him, "What do you think they make of all this?" He said, "Well, they probably think these ancient national customs are all very well, but are we fit to govern ourselves?"
Just when I thought that it was probably time for me to change, Harold Wilson resigned as Prime Minister, and Jim appointed me as his campaign manager. I think that it was one of those elections where, if the candidate won, it was of course all down to the candidate's merits, and if the candidate had lost, it would all have been the fault of the agent. Fortunately, we had a winning candidate. I then went off to work with Jim in 10 Downing street, another huge learning curve for me. Again, his personal support, his advice, his courage and his commitment were simply fantastic. During those years, I also came to know Audrey and Jim's family very well. I offer my sincere condolences and those of my family to Jim's family on the tragic loss of their mother and their father in such a short space of time.
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Jim Callaghan brought to the premiership vast, unparalleled experience of Government and of Parliament. He was a dedicated servant of the country, deeply patriotic and committed to the well-being of the nation as a whole, but throughout his time in that high office he remained a faithful servant of this House.
I believe that history will treat Lord Callaghan with great kindness. He will be remembered as a giant of the post-war political era, leading his party and the country through some tremendously difficult and challenging international and national situations. Sadly, although he had himself been totally dedicated to the trade unions and the Labour party, some trade unions and some sections of the Labour party failed to learn the obvious lessons of the difficulties that the country and the party faced. Those organisations and some individuals certainly contributed to the downfall of his Government. He deserved a better fate. His wisdom, courage, generosity and personal friendship taught me a great deal about politics, government and this place. I shall always remember him with the very greatest of affection.
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