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Lord Greenhill of Harrow: My Lords, for many years the Cross-Bench Peers have included several Members who served under Lord Home. I am one of them, and I hope I may be permitted to recall some of our experiences and impressions of him. Strangely enough I have the clearest recollection of seeing, over 70 years ago, a picture of the Eton team in the Cricketer weekly magazine. Seated in the centre was Lord Dunglass wearing the captain's cap. I knew that our lives would never cross on the cricket field, but I did not imagine that I would ever work with that captain if he became Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary of our government at some distant date.
It is of the period 1970 to 1973 that I now briefly want to speakwhen I knew him best and when I was his Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The calm and friendly atmosphere of his Whitehall office was unique. His desk was usually clear of official papers. Within easy reach of his right hand was a copy of Ruff's Guide to the Turf. Often there was a welcoming smile on his face as he came off the 'phone after advising his brother William where to place their money. If there was a morning meeting of officials he usually put the first question of the day to the most junior officer in the room, who rose visibly in stature. Many of those who saw Lord Home working in Whitehall know how encouraging he could be. There were no short tempers and no rebukes, even when justified. And those of us who were fortunate enough to travel with him abroad know what an inspiration he was and what an asset he could be to this country.
Lord Home's foreign opposite numbers, either friends or potential foes, clearly held him in great respect, often even affection, whether it be Gromyko, Cho En Lai in China or Ian Smith in Rhodesia, to say nothing of American, European or Commonwealth leaders. Those of us who were with him could not but be proud of him. I refer to two dramas in which he played a central role, one success and one setback. The first was the expulsion from this country of 105 Soviet intelligence agents, which has already been mentioned: the second was his attempt to solve the problem of Rhodesia.
The mass expulsion of Soviet agents was opposed by certain fellow Cabinet Members who claimed that we would be the laughing-stock of the world. They were fearful of the extent of Russian reaction. Lord Home stuck to his guns and in the event his action was fully justified. Other friendly countries followed suit. Marshal Tito expelled one Soviet agent who had worked in London. Lord Home sent the marshal a telegram of congratulation saying, "Well done. Keep them moving".
Lord Home's failure to settle the Rhodesian problem was a great disappointment to him. At one time he thought he was being obstructed by some of those who claimed to be his friends. But the sincerity of the Secretary of State could be questioned neither by people at home nor by the suspicious Africans when he accepted at once the negative conclusions of the Pearce Report which had been delayed by events beyond the control of any of the parties. It was a most important action for the Commonwealth and for our international relations worldwide.
Finally, Lord Home's stamina at home and on exhaustive tours was remarkable. When abroad it was characteristic that he did not hesitate to eat and enjoy the most exotic oriental food without the slightest damage while others fell by the wayside. Alec Home and his wife Elizabeth always acted as a team. From the angle of my life and my profession I can think of no political pair who have made a comparable contribution to the interests of this country.
On his 70th birthday we in the Foreign Office, with the assistance of Kew Gardens and Sir Anthony Acland, gave him 91 trees and plants to mark the variety of the countries he had visited on his official duties. They are now planted in the grounds of The Hirsel, his family home, for all to see in the years to come.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, many years ago I was privileged to spend an evening with Lord and Lady Home at the home of one of my parishioners. I wish now that I could recall more of the conversation but even after 25 years the impression upon a young rector remains vivida kind of wonder that this man of eminence should be such easy and delightful company. Before my hostess had a chance, he introduced himself as though he expected I would have no idea who he was. That simple and humble courtesy was of course characteristic. I remember regretting afterwards that I had not asked him more questions because, as those of your Lordships who knew him will remember, he was a generous listener who had the endearing gift of making one feel that what one said was interesting and important, even if it was not.
Much has been made by journalists of his privileged upbringing. But it was not that which marked the man; rather it was his total and unselfconscious dedication to the service of his fellow human beings. That sprang of course from long family tradition, but beneath was a profound faith in God which was transparent though never exhibited. Nor was his faith merely the inheritance of a Christian upbringing. He valued the habit of churchgoing and spoke more than once of the benefit of habit closely allied to duty, that much derided virtue. He made his own journey of faith, not evading hard questions but, through a combination of intellect and
Among those who share his faith and who had the privilege of knowing, even slightly, Lord Home, none can doubt that passing from this life he earned that simplest and noblest of all accolades, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant".
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): No, my Lords, because we believe that although a standard prescription charge may mean that in some cases patients pay more than the cost of an item, in others they will pay less.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. In view of the reply to my Question on pharmaceutical matters during the summer months, when it was confirmed that 80 per cent. of National Health prescriptions are totally free, can she state what is the element of beneficial cross-subsidisation that results from this fixed charge for NHS prescriptions?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the main point is the one that she mentioned in her reply to the noble Baroness's supplementary questionthat more than half the number of existing prescriptions are charged at less than the NHS prescription charge? Surely this must lead to completely unnecessary administrative costs. The new Secretary of State for Health is, I understand, conducting a 90-day review of unnecessary costs and administrative burdens in the Health Serviceburdens which have presumably grown up under his predecessor. Will the Minister try to find a way to include the issue of prescription costs in that 90-day review?
Lord Avebury: My Lords, by how much would it be necessary to increase the national insurance contribution to cover the total cost of prescriptions? What administrative saving would be made by doing that?
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that a great many people on the poverty line who are not receiving income support, and thus the passported benefits, are going to pharmacists and saying, "What can I do without on this prescription because I cannot afford to pay for the whole of it?"? Can the Minister say whether any research is being conducted within the Department of Health to find a more equitable way of charging people? For example, some pensioners can afford to pay for prescriptions. Can she say what is being done?
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, many groups of people are exempted from prescription charges. As my noble friend mentioned, 80 per cent. of the medicines dispensed do not attract a charge. With regard to old age pensioners, the Government have no intention of introducing prescription charges for old age pensioners.
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