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I should like to refer for a moment to the ancient lineage of Sir Michael himself. His grandfather was a cleric in the Church of Wales and was one of the great antiquarians of Welsh history. His father was a distinguished member of the Indian Civil Service, and in that capacity learned to love India very deeply and to bring up his son with a similar affection for that great subcontinent. His mother was a niece of the great Archbishop Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was once referred to by the late Sir Winston Churchill as the only half-crown item in a sixpenny bazaar. Of course, no insult is intended to the right reverend Prelates with whom we work so closely.
In addition to Sir Michael's very distinguished and committed service to the House, there beats beneath his impeccable attire a somewhat more rebellious heart. Many of your Lordships will know of his great passion in the field of team gamesa man who loves cricket, croquet and hockey and who, in the love of those games, combines three of the most gentlemanly forms of team sport with some of the most vicious manipulation known to man. Some of your Lordships may also know that Sir Michael is extremely fond of attending parties and is a thoroughly engaging, attractive and charming person to have at a party.
Finally, your Lordships may not know, as I have recently discovered from my research, that his parents travelled overland to India when they were already in their late 60s, and that Sir Michael's favourite form of travel is to live in small tents in Greenland. I trust that in his happy retirement he and Lady Davies will have further opportunities to take their tents to remote parts of the world.
His career and achievements have already been covered. I should like to mention in particular his unfailing courtesy and approachability. All on these Benches will have had occasion to seek or read his sound advice. The Clerk of the Parliaments must be non-party political, as are Cross-Benchers. But whereas Peers who sit on these Benches may and do indicate a preference for one or other party's view when they go through the Division Lobbies, Clerks of the Parliaments are never at liberty to indicate their political bias. They are the unrivalled independents and are therefore able to serve under both main political parties, when in government, with equal and unbiased loyalty.
Such a sense of duty is a very special and admirable trait, which has served this country well over many generations. But to ensure that it continues, we need to be able to encourage and develop those uniquely valuable qualities in each succeeding generation. We have clearly benefited greatly from it in the case of Sir Michael and in the ranks of the high grade Clerks
If I could single out just one of many pieces of advice that Sir Michael has given for the benefit of this House it would be a minute that he wrote to the usual channels immediately following the announcement of the Government's intended changes to the responsibilities of the Lord Chancellor. He and his colleagues had little forward knowledge of what was afoot, but they produced a most helpful and comprehensive guide to the many issues that would need to be addressed. He has also done much to ensure that the support and backing that we enjoy in this House from the authorities who look after the Palace as a whole is dovetailed with the needs of the other place. His has been a productive time in an area that for many years has been a tricky and testing part of the Clerk's many responsibilities.
The workload of this House has undoubtedly grown in Sir Michael's time. He holds a number of statutory and regulatory positions, including Accounting Officer, Corporate Officer, employer of the staff of the House, Registrar of the Court of Parliament and custodian of the records of the House. The whole House has been fortunate to have his guidance and leadership though these testing times.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford would very much have liked to pay tribute to Sir Michael. Bishop Richard has had a prior engagement with an orthopaedic surgeon and a new hip on Monday. I know that the House will wish him a speedy recovery and return to the fray in the autumn.
As noble Lords will be aware, the turnover on these Benches is a little quicker than elsewhere in the House. That gives the Clerk of the Parliaments the regular task of inducting fresh-faced prelates, most recently the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry, into the manners and morals of the House. We are all grateful for Sir Michael's skill in keeping us on the straight and narrowwhich is no mean taskaround the rather windy corridors of Westminster and generally for all his warm and ready advice.
Reference has already been made to Sir Michael's ecclesiastical pedigree. I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was going to say that Sir Michael was the only half-crown item in a six-penny bazaar. She could have gone back a generation further: Sir Michael's great-grandfather, Frederick Temple, was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the turn of the century. Aged 81, in 1902, he had to organise the
Three main problems emerged. First, how could the service be conducted as efficiently and quickly as possible, as the King demanded, within the bounds of dignity and decorum? Secondly, what were the bishops to wear? Some things never change, my Lords. Those were the days before cope and mitre were de rigeur. How many parts of the King's anatomy were to be anointed? Those delicate questions were carefully resolved by the archbishop after extensive consultation, including an instruction to the Bishop of London, his preacher, to stay within five minutes' contact from him.
I doubt very much that his great-grandson has ever staggered and reeled these past 39 years, as he has rendered such exceptional service to Parliament. However, Sir Michael has followed in his great-grandfather's footsteps in the practical wisdom and grasp of detail that Temple is said to have shown at the coronation. We shall miss many aspects of his character. Perhaps above all, from these Benches, as we look directly at Sir Michael, we shall miss the wry smile that sometimes came across his face when some particularly poignant or significant moment was reached in the affairs of the House. By God's grace, we wish Sir Michael and Lady Davies a long and happy retirement.
Lord Windlesham: My Lords, since I am one of the only 17 survivors whom the Leader has discovered were Members of the House when the young Michael Davies first joined the Parliament Office in 1964, perhaps I may add a further tribute. We worked together closely in the early 1970s, during the time that I had succeeded the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who is in his place, as Leader of the House, when Sir Edward Heath was Prime Minister. During those years, Michael Davies was my private secretary.
We were near contemporaries at the time. We had children of the same age. I remember vividly at a State Opening of Parliament his children and mine from that little-known balcony adjoining the Leader's room, getting a bird's eye view of the procession when the
Throughout that period, I am confident that we can all agree Sir Michael has been a fine public servant. He has been accessible to provide sound, wise advice to all those who consulted him but never pressed it on those who did not wish to hear whatever advice he might be expected to give. There can be no doubt that the legacy of his long period of exceptional service to the House will endure.
On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente; it was ordered that the Lord Chancellor do communicate this resolution to the said Sir John Michael Davies, KCB.
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