Since the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 was enacted, over eighty peers have utilised its provisions to retire from the House. This is now the most extensive route by which the House loses members. However, we still lose members through death. Last year, nine peers died. This year has seen a somewhat greater loss. Already, thirteen peers have passed away. The most senior and renowned was Lord Carrington, former Cabinet minister and NATO Secretary-General, who was in effect Father of the House, having taken his seat in 1945. He was also the last of the generation of peers (like Lords Pym and Whitelaw) who had seen service in the Second World War and received the Military Cross.
We have also lost other senior figures, among them former Cabinet ministers Lord Richard, Lord Crickhowell and Baroness Jowell. Ivor Richard was a long-serving Labour member, who was Leader of the House when Labour returned to power in 1997 and later chaired the Richard Commission on Welsh devolution. He also chaired the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill, on which I served, in 2012. Lord Crickhowell (Nick Edwards) was a long-serving Conservative Welsh Secretary under Margaret Thatcher and was an active member of the Lords, including serving on the Constitution Committee. He could be relied upon to make forceful speeches in the chamber – which I usually appreciated as he was arguing on the same side as me, including on drugs reform policy. Baroness Jowell’s moving final speech in the House, shortly before her death, justly received a standing ovation and was widely watched, and admired, on television. It was a tribute in itself that she was able to make it. It was not at all clear until the last moment that she would be able to do it. It was a fitting tribute to a brave parliamentarian.
Others who died reflected the range of experience and expertise in the House, including former trade union leaders Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen and Baroness Dean (whose sudden death came as a shock); senior academic Lord Sutherland of Houndwood; former Commons Speaker Lord Martin; and former civil engineer and Labour MP, Lord Howie of Troon. The most recent loss was of former Ulster Unionist MP, Lord Laird, perhaps best known for holding the record for the number of parliamentary questions tabled, at least by the standards of the Lords.