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House of Lords

Wednesday, 12th July 2000.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Gloucester.

Lord Morgan

Kenneth Owen Morgan Esquire, having been created Baron Morgan, of Aberdyfi in the County of Gwynedd, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Merlyn-Rees and the Lord Williams of Mostyn, and made the solemn Affirmation.

Baroness Noakes

Sheila Valerie Masters, DBE, having been created Baroness Noakes, of Goudhurst in the County of Kent, for life--Was, in her robes, introduced between the Lord Harris of Peckham and the Baroness Wilcox.

The Lord Chancellor: Leave of Absence

2.50 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, before business begins, I take the opportunity to inform the House that I am to host a visit by the Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Germany on Friday 14th July when the House will sit. Accordingly, I trust that the House will grant me leave of absence.

Tributes to the late Lord Runcie

The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, the whole House will have been saddened, as I was, to hear this morning of the death of Lord Runcie, our friend and colleague for so many years.

Lord Runcie first took his seat in this House in 1973 as Bishop of St Albans, and sat as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1980 to 1991 and thereafter as a life Peer. He was a man of great courage and deep conviction. He early in life shone academically and at sport. In 1941 he won a scholarship to Oxford. He studied there for a year and then enlisted in the Army. During the Second World War he served in the Scots Guards and, as all your Lordships know, in 1945 he was awarded the Military Cross for bravery under fire. That bravery continued throughout his ministry, particularly during his time as Archbishop.

His sympathies were always with the poor and the oppressed. He commissioned the Faith in the City report which drew attention to poverty in urban areas in days when perhaps consciousness of social exclusion was much lower than it is today. Lord Runcie was shown indeed to be far-sighted when urban deprivation and disadvantage became much more the

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centre of political attention and debate. He ensured that the report was followed up by action, setting up the Church Urban Fund which has subsequently done so much.

It is sometimes said that Lord Runcie was thought of as a reluctant archbishop. He said, I think with a wry smile, that his misfortune was that he was always able to see both sides of the argument--not a universal experience in your Lordships' House! He ensured that the voice of the Church was heard clearly in all public debates, and his preaching of the Gospel, in which he had such a deep belief, was always uncompromising and direct. He was not afraid of controversy when he thought that conscience required it. I know that he is remembered most fondly by his brother bishops as a man of faith and humanity; as a man of humour; and as a man who had a lively sense of the absurd.

Lord Runcie was a deeply caring pastor, which would probably have pleased him most to have heard. We shall all miss him here and I know that your Lordships will want to join me in sending our affectionate sympathy to Lady Runcie and to his family. His was a good life well lived.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition Benches, I endorse the worthy, warm and full tribute paid by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, to the late Lord Runcie. As the noble and learned Lord said, Lord Runcie had been a Member of this House since 1973 and was held in great affection and much respect on all sides of the House.

I did not have the privilege of knowing him closely, although, as is well known, he served with bravery and distinction in the Scots Guards along with a former leader of the Conservative Party in this House, the late Lord Whitelaw. He also shared with my immediate predecessor, my noble friend Lord Cranborne, an enthusiasm for owning and breeding pigs.

One has only to cite his war service--I wonder whether there will ever again be an Archbishop of Canterbury who holds the Military Cross--and also his rare private enthusiasm to have a sense of the range of the man which went far beyond his tiring achievements in the Church of England and in public life. He was a man of courage, wisdom, clear spirituality and distinguished scholarship, leavened always with common sense and good humour.

I cannot speak with full authority of his time as a skilful leader of the Anglican Church in a testing period but, in all the challenges he faced, his integrity and burning desire to bind people together never failed. In the wider world he had a deep insight into the importance of the orthodox tradition in Christianity and of those common threads from the early centuries of the Church that bind Christians of all denominations. He was known and respected across the whole Christian world.

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People inside and outside the Anglican Church will miss him. But, above all, our deep sympathy goes to Lady Runcie and to his family at home.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, from these Benches I add to the tributes paid by the Attorney-General and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I hope the House will forgive me if I say just a few words of personal tribute because Lord Runcie was a friend of mine throughout my life.

We first met in 1948 when he came to Oxford University almost directly from a long service in the Scots Guards, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said, carrying with him a Military Cross about which he never spoke. Together we discussed for many hours whether he should enter the Church. He did not doubt his Christianity; but he doubted even then whether he was fit to enter holy orders. That was a mark of the modesty of the man.

We met again and saw a good deal of each other when he became Bishop of St. Albans in 1970. Shortly after he became Bishop, he opened, I believe, one of the very first churches in Pin Green--an area of Stevenage for which I was Member of Parliament--which allowed for almost the first time in this country the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Free Churches to share one building for their services. Today, under the shadow of Drumcree, that was a model that stood as a beacon in the world and is still one well worth following.

Subsequently, as we all remember, when he spoke at the service held with regard to the Falklands war, he had the courage to bring the Argentinian dead within the scope of his mercy--surely a proper thing for a Christian leader to do.

Then, at the time of Faith in the City, when the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, acted strongly in Liverpool to bear out that witness, I was the Member of Parliament for Crosby and saw something of the remarkable example that the Church set out in one of the poorest cities of England. Again, many of us know that Lord Runcie entered into controversy and was attacked and criticised for Faith in the City. But he never at any time yielded or gave way on his belief and commitment to the concept of helping the poor, which he believed was central to the Christian faith.

Finally, in 1987, when Terry Waite insisted on going out to the Middle East to try to rescue the five hostages being held by the guerrilla forces of Iran, he went despite the Archbishop's strong advice. For years afterwards the Archbishop not only prayed for him but took into his employment my former political adviser, John Little, who travelled around some of the most remote souks of the Arab world seeking the release of the hostages.

Lord Runcie said,

    "The Christian voice must be loud and clear on the great political issues of the time: on race relations, unemployment, disarmament and the proper distribution of the world's resources".

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He was a man who did not recognise the meaning of the word "hypocrisy" but lived his faith completely and every day.

In April this year he said:

    "I am dying cheerfully".

I believe that he did die cheerfully and I believe, in the immortal words of John Bunyan, that the trumpets will sound for him on the other side.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, as Convenor of the Cross Benches, I associate Cross-Bench Peers and myself with the eloquent and well deserved tributes expressed on all sides of the House to Lord Runcie. I also express our very sincere condolences to his wife and family.

Lord Runcie sat on these Benches. He was an archetypal Cross-Bencher with a wide and sympathetic understanding of all points of view. I can say how much Cross-Benchers enjoyed the presence of Lord Runcie among us. He was always ready with a smile and friendly greeting. On many occasions in the past he impressed me with his wit and humility, not least when he was referring to his time during the war in the Scots Guards. He served with distinction and, as has been mentioned, he was awarded the Military Cross in 1945.

He bore his last illness with great strength. He deserves your Lordships' admiration and praise. He will be greatly missed.

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, it was with great sadness that I heard the news earlier today of the death of Lord Runcie. It is a great privilege for me to pay tribute to him in the House on behalf of these Benches and to associate myself fully with the other tributes we have heard from all sides of the House.

Archbishop Robert, as I knew him then, consecrated me at the end of July 1986 in Southwark Cathedral as Bishop of Lynn to serve in the diocese of Norwich. It was a wonderful day for me and my family, enhanced for us all by the customary invitation to stay for the night before the consecration service as guests of the Archbishop and his wife at Lambeth Palace.

My previous 25 years of ordained ministry had been spent entirely as a parish priest, so I had never even been to Lambeth Palace, let alone stayed the night. It could so easily have been intimidating and over-formal for us, but the warmth and friendliness of Archbishop Robert and his wife Lindy and their daughter Rebecca, who I remember was the waitress for the evening dinner, put us all entirely at ease and made us feel at home. That lovely occasion remains one of our family highlights, even 14 years on. I also remember with deep appreciation the personal talk that the Archbishop had with me in his study on the eve of my consecration. He was natural, very human and deeply reassuring.

Lord Runcie was comfortable with all sorts and conditions of men and women. He was gracious and generous in his dealings with others and had a

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delightful and very witty sense of humour. His after-dinner speeches and his farewell tributes to retiring members of General Synod were always a great joy. Many were the anecdotes that circulated during his long and fruitful ministry. He was sometimes indiscreet, which some enjoyed and others thought improper for an archbishop, but for me it showed his wonderful humanity and how deeply he loved people, with all their faults and frailties. He had a great memory for people whom he had met and particular things they had shared with him. They would often be surprised following their meeting with a postcard or a letter.

In all the various ministries that he graced during his 50 years of ordained life, he always exemplified a true and deep understanding of priesthood which enabled him to relate pastorally and naturally to countless men and women, not only in our own Church of England and with our ecumenical partners, but throughout the Anglican communion. He had a great love and respect for fellow Christians in other countries and spent much of his time visiting and encouraging the Churches there, giving a high priority to the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in our world-wide and expanding communion.

Among his many contributions to the life of our Church and nation, at least two stand out in importance. One, as we have already heard, was his initiative in achieving the publication of Faith in the City and the setting up of the Church Urban Fund that followed from it. That was a highly significant recommitment to the people of the inner cities which gave our Church a renewed confidence in its task of mission, particularly to those who are poor and often on the margins of society.

The other important contribution was his invitation to Pope John Paul II to pay a historic visit here in 1982. I still remember those wonderful pictures of two great Christian leaders praying together in Canterbury Cathedral. We are all very grateful for all that has flowed from that meeting in the years that have followed.

My Lords, you do not need me to tell you that the job of Archbishop of Canterbury is probably the most difficult in the Church of England. It is certainly the busiest, the most demanding and the one with the most expectations thrust upon it. Lord Runcie had his share of criticism, not least for what was called his caution on certain issues. He was cautious about the ordination of women to the priesthood and about the proposed covenant of the Church of England with the Methodist Church. However, that was not because he had no opinion. It was because he had a deep love for unity--the unity of our Church and nation--and felt great pain at any action that could lead to disunity or schism. In the best sense of the words, he was a liberal catholic. He was not woolly or indecisive, but open and ready to listen to all points of view, able to understand both sides of most questions, always able to affirm an opinion that he did not hold himself and always approaching any

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issue from a profoundly theological point of view. For Archbishop Robert, life did not easily fit into rigid categories.

As we have heard, he was also a very courageous man with a fine war record. His stand during the Falklands war did not find universal favour, but it won him much respect. His long battle against cancer for the greater part of his retirement was another example of his courage, which he coupled with great cheerfulness and the maintaining of such a full diary that few of us were aware of how serious his last illness was. He was a very fine man and a greatly loved and respected archbishop with a deep Christian faith.

I thank God, as we all do, for the life and ministry of Lord Runcie and join other Members of this House in assuring Lady Runcie and her family of our sympathy, thoughts and prayers today and in the days to come.

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