I have posted a quick note on Lords of the Blog about the death of Norman St John-Stevas, the Lord St John of Fawsley. Though frail, he was intellectually alert to the end and continued attending the Lords. He was well able to contribute effectively to debate. He is one of several notable members that the House has lost recently. The other most notable death in recent days was that of Lord Carr, who as Robert Carr was at one time in the 1970s spoken off as a future leader of the Conservative party. The election of Margaret Thatcher as party leader put paid to his prospects of advancement. He was decidely in the Heathite camp. He continued attending the Lords into his nineties and at one point I was told he had injured himself when clambering on to his roof.
I knew Norman St.John-Stevas – we were chatting recently about Lords reform – and his passing marks the disappearance of a distinctive parliamentary figure. I was reflecting recently on some of the people we have lost over the time I have been in the House, not least those who would join me for lunch when they came into the Bishop’s Bar – peers like Lord Dearing, always keen to know how the University of Hull was doing (he was a Hull graduate), and Lord Biffen, always keen to combine his wit with a wry view of what was going on – he was always good value. I was also occasionally joined by Lord Strabolgi, who had a great grasp of parliamentary procedure – he had been in the Lords for more than half-a-century and whose father was a Labour MP for Hull in the inter-war years.
Given this line of thought, I had perhaps better not mention who variously join me for lunch nowadays! My principal point, though, is that the Lords has an array of remarkable members, who have contributed a lot to public life, from a range of positions. It is difficult to think of a body that can draw them together in the way that the House does and utilise their experience despite the passing of the years. All the peers I have mentioned were active in the House until shortly before their deaths.