…we should, perhaps, say goodbye and thank you to five of our Peers who have retired from the House of Lords in the past month under the terms of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. In order of their declaration of retirement;
Lord (Colin) Sharman retired with effect from 30 April. A former Chairman of the ‘Big 4’ accountancy firm KPMG, he wasn’t terribly active in the House in recent years, but could be relied upon for critical votes.
Lord (Andrew) Phillips of Sudbury retired (again) with effect from 7 May. I say ‘again’ because he took leave of absence in 2006, intending never to return, but clearly realised that his annoyance at both Labour and Conservative efforts to reduce our civil liberties was good enough cause to return. Brave enough to disagree with even Paddy Ashdown on the floor of the House, Andrew spoke strongly against cuts to the legal aid budget and ID cards, and was an expert on charities and the law. Outside the chamber, he was probably most renowned for being Jimmy Young’s ‘Legal Eagle’ for more than a quarter of a century. Personally, I’ll miss him, although, as a near neighbour, I’m hoping that he won’t be a stranger.
Lord (Michael) Sandberg retired with effect from 8 May. A former Chairman of HSBC, he added business acumen to the Parliamentary Party although, again, he was relatively inactive in recent years. Given that he is 87, that might well be excusable…
Lord (William) Goodhart retired with effect from 15 May. One of the original SDP grandees, he fought Kensington in the 1983 and 1987 General Elections, as well as in the 1988 by-election, and Oxford West and Abingdon in 1992, when he got within 3,500 votes of victory. He went on to hold a number of frontbench positions in the Lords, including that of Shadow Lord Chancellor.
And finally, Lord (John) Roper retired with effect from 23 May. A former Labour MP who defected to the SDP in 1991, he served as our Chief Whip in the Lords until 2005, before going on to be Principal Deputy Chairman and thus Chair of the House of Lords European Union Committee, in 2008. In recent years, he was a regular attender at ALDE Congresses, where his knowledge of how Europe works was very impressive, even if his skills were underused. In a situation where opinion is not necessarily supported by knowledge, his modesty regarding his own knowledge meant that it wasn’t utilised by our delegations to its best effect.
I am confident, however, that as far as is possible, they will not be lost to public life altogether. We should be grateful that they contributed as they did to both the Party and to Parliament.