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Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, it is a great pleasure on behalf of colleagues to follow that omnibus vote of thanks. The Government Chief Whip is quite right. We are indebted to so many people and a number of them are in the Chamber. I have heard the noble Lord's remarks and we on these Benches certainly wish to be associated with them. The noble Lord took the opportunity of drawing to the attention of the House our indebtedness to the Doorkeepers and to Mr. Emmerson, the Principal Doorkeeper. Mr. Emmerson not only served in the Royal Marines for 21 years--having served there for only four years I know what a service that was--but also served for another 24 years in your Lordships' House. When one reflects on the fact that someone has been in public service for 45 years in those very important positions of security, one realises what a remarkable achievement it is.
My attention was also drawn to the retirement at this time of Mr. James Dalton from the Hansard office. He has served the House for 21 years. It is fitting, while we do not try to choose too many people, to recognise that we are always indebted to the Hansard writers. Most times they get it right; and when they get it wrong it is our fault! Nevertheless, Mr. Dalton and his colleagues have served this House very well indeed.
We are also indebted to the Government Chief Whip and his colleagues for ensuring that the House was able to rise this week and not next week. That is no accident, which those in the usual channels appreciate. It could have gone the other way. We are indebted to the Government Chief Whip and his colleagues for recognising the value to Members of the House of rising this week instead of next week.
We meet on the "mourn" after Dudley. That presages the fact that, while there may be some kind of a peace now, when we get back after Christmas it will be an uneasy peace that will be broken. In the meantime, I certainly respond very well to what the Government Chief Whip said and wish him and his colleagues and noble Lords throughout the House a merry Christmas and happy new year.
The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, it falls to the Deputy Whip of the party I represent on these Benches to be a kind of perpetual stand-in. Sometimes that is not a pleasant role but--and this is the third year that I have done it--it is always pleasant to give the Christmas message.
I hope I will be forgiven by noble Lords if I start my Christmas message by referring to the excellent work that has been done in your Lordships' House this year for motorcyclists. We have a parking area which is surrounded by chains and portcullises. As always, we are given polite and ever-courteous attention by police and security officers alike, which is absolutely in keeping with all the other attention we receive in the work that we do in your Lordships' House.
The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I anticipate. Perhaps we have now found a solution for the proper reform of your Lordships' House. Mr. Emmerson leaves one of the most extraordinarily effective bodies of men in any institution in our public life. I am not shy to say that I have a particular reason for saying that. When my father was here--he was a much liked man but got himself into some difficulties--he was so well treated and looked after by the Doorkeepers in the House that I always think of them with the greatest affection. I hope that I am no embarrassment to them--perhaps I shall become one--but they treat me almost with affection and with great respect and good humour. That is the kind of atmosphere we experience in this House when we follow our duties, which are sometimes not all that easy.
Having said all that and indulged myself in this stand-in position as usual, perhaps I may wish all noble Lords, and everyone who works to make our lives as comfortable and effective as possible, a very happy Christmas and, as they say in Scotland, a guid new year.
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, I am also a stand-in. On behalf of our respected Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers I should like to express our thanks to the officers and staff of the House for the way in which they look after us throughout the year. I refer to those on the principal floor, in Hansard, and those in the Refreshment Department downstairs. I echo the tributes which have been paid to the Doorkeepers. I well remember, shortly after I arrived here, committing a minor offence and being told by one of them, "You may have a Speaker to keep order down the other end, sir, but here we have Doorkeepers"--and very well they do it too!
I am often asked whether the Cross-Bench Peers hunt as a pack and whether we have a united line on issues of the day. I must assure your Lordships that we do not. We are all individuals. But we are united today in wishing your Lordships and the staff of the House a very happy Christmas.