Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Owen: My Lords, from the Cross Benches it is a pleasure to endorse what was said by the previous three speakers from the three political parties. For me, it is a particular pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, who was undoubtedly Roy's longest-standing political friend—a frank and faithful friend and someone who contributed greatly to his political life.

I do not want to cover all the different things that have been said today in the House and I speak only of two legacies. One is permanent, and that is his contribution to Britain's membership of the European Community. I suppose that three people will be judged by history to have taken this country fully into the European Union: Prime Minister Edward Heath for getting us through the parliamentary legislation and Prime Minister Harold Wilson for carrying the full-hearted consent of the British people in the referendum. But without the contribution of Roy Jenkins, we would certainly never have gone in at that time.

Lord Jenkins played a crucial part in rallying 69 Labour MPs to vote. It was a very difficult vote in very difficult circumstances. I admit that, at the time, I was rather tempted by an abstention, but he convinced me unequivocally that that would be falling below the level of events. Then, when he resigned as deputy leader and when, again, it was tempting—as I was tempted—to go for the referendum amendment which we were being asked to support, he made it abundantly clear that, if we did so, we would ditch our chances of going in at that time. We had to face the issue of sustaining parliamentary authority. From the moment that he resigned, any doubt that we would go in was over. That was a great achievement, and he followed it as president of the Commission and in many other ways. That, I believe, is a permanent legacy—one of which historically he would be extremely proud.

7 Jan 2003 : Column 878

It is difficult to be sure that the other legacy will last. As a Cross-Bencher now, it is interesting to watch the political parties exaggerate the divisions. But in the 1980s there was no exaggeration of the divisions in party politics. They were immensely deep and covered every aspect of our political life: defence, foreign and economic policy. Looking back—how long the new politics of a greater readiness to find a compromise, a consensus, between the parties will last I do not know but it certainly started during the 1990s—there have been genuine and real differences of opinion and long may they last: they are the stuff of politics and of democracy. But the bitterness, the division and the inability to find a consensus and common ground were absent—perhaps that divisiveness started in the 1970s but it went on certainly all through the 1980s.

In his Dimbleby lecture, in being the first leader of the SDP and in being an SDP MP for five years, Roy helped that party and the country to make what I hope will be a long legacy of ending that raw, vicious divisiveness which damaged our country, our economic strength and our political weight in the world. I should like to think that that will be as important a legacy as the one that he gave to this country through our membership of the European Community.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, from these Benches I want to say quite simply but as strongly as I can that we shall miss Lord Jenkins. His was, indeed, A Life at the Centre, as the title of his autobiography puts it. His was a presence that we felt on the Benches opposite, even when he was just sitting there quietly. Despite, or perhaps because of, his great distinction, he was, from a personal point of view, not only friendly but enormously and warmly encouraging.

Of his political career, I make a single point: his willingness to put his democratic principles to the test by standing for election. Whatever future historians may make of his decision to leave the Labour Party and found the SDP, he was prepared to go to Warrington and Glasgow to ascertain the will of the people. In a similar spirit, he was willing to submit himself for election as Chancellor of the University of Oxford—a post which we know gave him the most enormous pride and pleasure.

Of his role within this House, some words of Dean Stanley, which he quoted, about Gladstone's parliamentary style apply no less to him. Stanley wrote:

    "One great charm of his speaking is its exceeding good humour. There is great vehemence but no bitterness".

At a more trivial level I always marvelled at his capacity to read his notes, in the most minuscule handwriting on tiny cards; and when he was clearly having great difficulty reading them, allowing the eloquence of his body to carry him through.

Finally, there is his style as a person and as a writer, as befits someone who was President of the Royal Society of Literature. My fellow Bishop, the right revered Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, described one sentence in his book on Gladstone as:

    "Laced with self-deprecating irony and a charming and paradoxical immodesty."

7 Jan 2003 : Column 879

One of my favourite sentences occurs in his biography of Churchill. In 1915 Churchill went on holiday to a farmhouse in what was then countryside near Godalming.

    "We lived very simply here",

he wrote to his brother on 19th June,

    "But with all the essentials of life well understood and well provided for—hot baths, cold champagne, new peas and old brandy".

This combination of relish for the simple pleasures of life described in such an elegant and finely-balanced sentence entirely fits the late Lord Jenkins. His was a constructive, productive life right to the end. As the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, pointed out, he signed a contract for a major biography only last Friday.

Our sympathy goes to Dame Jennifer and other members of his family and close friends as we thank God for his outstanding achievements in so many spheres and for the fact that his life, lived with such vigour and purpose, enhanced the political life of the nation in so many ways. My prayer is that as he enjoyed the hospitality of the earth so he might, with even greater relish, enjoy the hospitality of heaven.

Lord Neill of Bladen: My Lords, I should like to add a brief footnote to the eloquent tributes paid, which deals with Lord Jenkins's interest in higher education. When the Earl of Stockton died in December 1986 the University of Oxford lost its chancellor. I was then vice-chancellor. We organised an election. It was a three-cornered fight. Lord Jenkins won the contest.

Mention has been made of style. When Lord Jenkins assumed office he organised a special degree ceremony, as the rubric stated in the Gazette,

    "to mark the start of the period of office of the new Chancellor of the University".

Noble Lords will be the judges of whether the list of those who received degrees is characteristic of the Jenkins' style. He began with two degrees by diploma, the first to His Majesty King Baudouin, Knight of the Garter, King of the Belgians, and the second to His Excellency Professor Francesco Cossiga, President of the Italian Republic.

He then moved to the second tier: honorary degrees. In the list as doctor of civil law was the former Taoiseach of Ireland, Dr Garret Fitzgerald. Across the Atlantic was Robert McNamara, former president of the World Bank. Then came one of our own ambassadors, a close friend, ambassador in four embassies: Warsaw, Bonn, Paris and Washington—you will have guessed—Sir Nicholas Henderson. As Doctors of Letters were Sir Isaiah Berlin, Order of Merit; Dame (but not comrade) Iris Murdoch; and Arthur Schlessinger Junior. As Doctor of Science was emeritus Professor Dorothy Hodgkin, Order of Merit. That gives the flavour of the list and of the Jenkins' style within the university. Others were included in the list for reasons of piety or tradition.

On becoming a Member of this House, the noble Lord threw his energies into trying to improve the Education Reform Bill, which was then passing

7 Jan 2003 : Column 880

through this House, and made many notable contributions to that. I shall refer to only one, which became known as the "Jenkins amendment"; a clause on academic freedom. Noble Lords will recall that academic tenure was being abolished. Fears were expressed in the university that that would lead to people being pushed out of their posts if they were writing heterodox or controversial views or experimenting in doubtful areas. Great alarm was spread. Lord Jenkins moved the amendment which embodied these simple words; that the university commissioners, to whom relevant powers were given, must have regard for the need,

    "to ensure that academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at their institutions".—[Official Report, 19/5/88; col. 471.]

That was put to a vote and carried by quite a narrow majority. Surprisingly, no subsequent effort was made in another place to remove it. Perhaps it was thought it would be like voting against motherhood. That passage stood and Lord Jenkins gave tremendous support to the academic community by having achieved that. He made many subsequent contributions to education Bills, but I say nothing of that today.

Back at Oxford, he was an outstanding chancellor, as everyone agreed. He was dignified and witty on all public occasions. Behind the scenes and in private he was a constant support, a friend and a wise counsellor to successive vice-chancellors.

Saville Inquiry

3.6 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the cost of the Saville inquiry into the Bloody Sunday incident has yet exceeded 150 million; and, if not, whether both Houses of Parliament will be notified when it does.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, no. The total cost of the inquiry to government was 94.8 million up to the end of November 2002. It is estimated that the final cost will be 155 million, subject to the outcome of the judicial reviews of decisions on lawyers' costs. The costs of the inquiry have been made available and will continue to be provided to Members of either House on request.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page