Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Birth of a 'Rebel'?

It really is difficult concept for me to grasp - being grouped with other MPs as members of what is being referred to as the 'Brokeback Club'. How could such a thing happen. My aim when setting out on my first journey to Westminster on the morning of 10th May was to give total support to David Cameron, and over the next few days it morphed into giving total support to the Liberal Democrat Conservaive Coalition Government. I remain totally committed to supporting the Prime Minister and the Coalition Government. Even though in Montgomeryshire, the Conservative's opponents have always been the Liberal Democrats. Its all a bit odd. But my commitment to working with the Lib Dems at Westminster is solid, and I readily admit to being impressed by all the Lib Dem members of the Cabinet. So what's gone wrong. I'll tell you what's gone wrong. It's the date of the proposed AV referendum (May 5th) that's gone wrong. It's totally unacceptable to me. May 5th is the date of the general election to the National Assembly for Wales. For three years I have argued that another constitutional referendum (on law making powers for the Assembly) should not be held on May 5th 2011, so how on earth can I accept that an AV referendum can be held on the same date. In fact this new proposal is much much worse.

In my opinion, there should be public coverage of, and voter engagement with the campaign before the Welsh General Election - and do you think it will get a sniff if there's an AV referendum on the same day. No way, Jose. And there's going to be one hell of a row about the equalisation of constituencies as part of the Bill as well. Most of the newspapers read in Wales are printed outside of Wales, and the Welsh General Election is going to be the biggest non event since National Tiddlywinks Week. In my opinion, if the date is not changed the AV referendum will be lost. The voters never like being treated like dupes.

Since I'm looking for ways to be nice to Lib Dems, I watched Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain being completely demolished by the Lib Dems Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes on Newsnight as I was writing this post. Simon won about 10-0. And that's even with a bit of me starting off on on Peter's side. The argument was about whether the proposal to equalise the size of constituencies (part of the AV Bill) amounts to 'gerrymandering'. And Peter knows a bit about 'gerrymandering' of course. He was the politician who banned dual candidacy (as constituency and regional candidates) in Welsh Assembly elections to suit Labour - as good an example of 'gerrymandering' as you will ever encounter. He does not have a case. The truth is that if constituencies are equalised across the UK, the number of MPs representing Welsh constituencies will fall from 40 to about 30. Simple arithmetic Peter - and no amount of synthetic bluster will change.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. All I've done is repeat what I've been saying for years (and which was supported by everyone apart from some Plaid Cymru supporters who may have spotted some scope for electoral advantage) - and then sign an Early Day Motion (that's right - just about the most innocuous form of writing its possible to devise) and I'm a 'rebel'. Trouble is that this sort of thing makes me that bit more bloody minded.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Surprise Selection in the Vale of Glamorgan.

I'm being told that the Conservatives in the Vale of Glamorgan have selected Angela Jones-Evans to contest the seat in the General Election to the National Assembly for Wales. Angela is a great politician, who I feel sure will win the seat, and make a great contribution to Welsh politics on behalf of the Conservative Party over the next few years. I plan to help her when I can - if she wants me that is! But I must admit that I'm a bit surprised. To win she had to defeat David Melding, who has been such a fantastic tribune and 'thinker' for the Conservatives in the National Assembly over the last 11 years. I admire David on many levels.

Tonight's result makes the selection of the slate of candidates on the South Wales Central 'regional list' very interesting indeed. Observers, such as me, are wondering whether both Andrew Davies and David Melding will fight it out for the top spot - or whether a new name will emerge. Montgomeryshire is choosing its Assembly Candidate on Thursday. There are so many surprise selections happening at present (surprising to me anyway) that anything could happen.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Best Approach to the Maiden Speech.

Last Tuesday evening, just as Big Ben was preparing to strike ten-o-clock, I rose from the green benches of the most prestigious debating chamber in the world to deliver my maiden speech. It was a special occasion in that it was the first debate initiated by the Backbench Business Committee. I began by outlining the catalogue of misadventure that had left me as one of the last of the new MPs to make my maiden speech. This tardiness raises two points of interest.

Firstly, the most widely read Conservative blog, ConservativeHome gave my maiden speech rather more coverage than most others. It would be nice to think that this was because of its excellence, or my natural oratory, but I think it was because all the maiden speech competition was over and forgotten. Perhaps being late resulted in much more coverage by Jonathon Isaby. Even I'm not going to claim this was a brilliantly conceived strategy on my part!

And the second point (more a question) is whether its better to carefully prepare a maiden speech so that it reads well, or just stand up and speak naturally, which engages better with the chamber. If I'd spoken when I'd planned to speak, I would have prepared a carefully crafted speech. But in the end I just arrived late from the Royal Welsh Show, and didn't bother with a written speech at all. Result was that it went down quite well in the chamber (at least I thought so) but does not read so well, and has one factual error (which I'm going to let go) - though Phill has arranged for the Welsh Language error to be corrected. But then I always reckoned that John Prescott was a good speaker. The transcript of any of his speeches was gibberish, but there was never any doubt about what he meant when you listened to him. I've always said that "B*****r off" is a good speech - concise and clear in its message.

Although I've done a fair bit of public speaking, delivering a maiden speech in the House of Commons is still a pretty big deal. The other 649 MP's should be warned that I rather enjoyed it, and I'd like some more.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

S4/C's Budget.

The BBC and Western Mail have really gone to town today on a story that the budget of S4/C is to be cut by 25%. Where on earth did they get this from. Same last week with a story about 500 (or was it 800) jobs going at Powys County Council. That was an old (very old) story and there are to be no compulsory redundancies. I think the Beeb just lifted it from a local newspaper. Dropping standards to accommodate cuts perhaps. But let's return to the funding position of S4/C. Earlier today, I published on Facebook, and its already stimulated quite a bit of comment - so I'm asking the same question here. I have not been keen to join in the media frenzy, because it looks like a completed dreamed up story - and the media loves talking about itself. Only reason I can blog about the issue is that I don't have the slightest idea what this is all about.

The S4/C budget is a touch over £100 million per year. Broadcasting is not devolved, so it comes out of the DCMS budget, which may well be subject to a massive cut in the Comprehensive Spending Review, expected on October 20th (I think). The sort of percentages we've seen mentioned are 25% (and even 40%). The question I asked on my Facebook profile was whether S4/C should be shielded from any reduction in its budget in these circumstances. There has already been a cut of £2 million, which threatened to blow the top off 'the Elfynometer' (a special sort of temperature gauge resident in Meirionydd Nant Conwy for those of you unfamiliar with Mr Llwyd MP). Just imagine what 25% would do. There'd be a volcanic ash cloud over Bala.

Best comment on my Facebook site was that S4/C should be devolved - so that the National Assembly Government could decide whether to protect the channel's budget, while cutting education and health! I think there might be a bit less bluster coming from the Plaid Cymru direction. All the conversations I've had with people close to the action are that devolution of broadcasting is the last thing that broadcasters want. Anyway, its your chance to comment.

P.S. I notice that the BBC use S4C rather than S4/C. I thought a small fortune had been spent coming up with the extra slash. Anyone know what happened.


Its been one hell of a week. Just like when I used to play rugby. Chase the ball for 80 minutes (its what open sides do), get into all sorts of mauls and fights (they do that as well) and stagger off at the final whistle, knackered but content. The 30 years I played squash was the same sort of thing - but without the fights (mostly).

It started with 12 hours on the road over Mon/Tues, just to spend half a day at the Royal Welsh Show. I'm afraid that my party's managers do not realise how important the Royal Welsh is. Over 200,000 visitors - and every single Welsh organisation, including the entire Welsh media. The three most important days in Welsh political life are the first three days of the Royal Welsh - and the fourth day is in the top ten. I should have been under a three line whip to be there for three days. Anyway, it wasn't to be - and I made it back to Westminster on Tuesday in time for the first ever back bench inspired debate, and made my maiden speech - which seemed to go down rather well. Two more days in London, and off home at six in the morning on Friday. First relaxation was a coffee with Nick Knight, Editor of the County Times late morning. We had things to talk about. And then off to Newtown to look at office possibilities. Problem is that my allowances just don't cover the costs of a decent office on the street. Sins of the fathers etc....

After a Saturday coffee morning, most of today has been labouring in the garden. Bit of a thank you do next Saturday, and I need to tidy things up a bit. At least two of the boys are home to clear up behind me. I just pretend I'm Lord Mandelson, creating chaos with my saw, spade and secateurs, while Eb and Tim clear up behind me. Tomorrow will be another labouring day, before back to London Monday morning - for two more days before the final whistle. Let me tell you something about being a Member of Parliament. Its what I tried to convey in my maiden speech. Its a very very special privilege, but its bl***y hard work. Playing open side for 15 years, and squash for another 30 was the perfect preparation.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Carrying on the fight after the bell.

Must admit that I'm feeling a bit naggy. Here I am, confined to Westminster at approaching 5.00 on a Thursday afternoon, subject to a 3-line whip on the Finance Bill. Been here since 2.00 Monday. And just been given a copy of an article written by the former MP for Montgomeryshire in my local County Times, accusing me of not 'pulling my weight' - at least of not being prepared to travel to a public meeting at Llanidloes last night. Normally, I try to ignore this sort of petty sniping, but this is just too sly and devious to ignore.

The truth of the matter is that when Lembit Opik was MP for Montgomeryshire, his actual presence in the House made little difference. He could come and go as he pleased. I well recall him just driving off and missing a hugely important vote on Post Office closures, while campaigning vociferously at a local level - ignoring the job he was elected to do. No-one at Westminster seemed to care. As a member of the governing party, I cannot leave the House without permission from the whips. A Government cannot lose it's business. The former MP knows this only too well. He will have known that I could not travel to Montgomeryshire last night. The whip was lifted at 7.00. His article is a disgrace. Truth is, I was very keen to travel to Llanidloes last night, and have maintained a close interest in what was said there - by telephone and email. Also I will be going home later tonight, so that I can speak at a Newtown School at 9.00 in the morning, and travelling back to Westminster at midday tomorrow. My commitment to the job is total.

The former MP was up to the same tricks in his County Times 'column' last week. He referred to his having a very late night conversation with me in a House of Commons bar. Reason I know about this is that several of my friends mentioned it to me, assuming that I was 'enjoying' myself in what they thought was an inappropriate way. That may well have been the underlying intention behind the article. Now lets look at what actually happened. The Opposition had decided to continue a debate on the Finance Bill into the middle of the night (entirely within its right), and all Government MPs had no choice but to stay for the votes. No MP was happy about it - but it was our job. Its the rough end of what we're paid for - hanging around until after 2.00 in the morning waiting for a vote to be called. Nothing wrong with a glass of wine while you wait, but so happens that I was not drinking at all - because I'm currently on a 6 week course of medication. Anyway, for some unexplained reason, Lembit Opik 'appeared' from somewhere at around 1.00 in the morning. I exchanged the briefest of pleasantries with him and his companion before moving off to 'hang around' somewhere else.

I fully accept that the former MP can adopt a policy of trying to undermine his successor - if he hasn't got anything better to do with his time. The one issue that does concern me is that my local weekly newspaper allows disingenuous comments about me to be made on a weekly basis, without giving me the opportunity to challenge what's written. If this carries on, we could be heading for a bit of a rumpus. Perhaps I should call a local press conference next week to get a few things straight.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cameron the Charmer

David Cameron is a leader who knows how to make a man feel valued. Tonight, he was speaking to the 1922 Committee and was waiting outside when I skipped by - skipping because I was a bit late. Didn't notice him until the last minute, and threw a casual "Hello" when I saw him. He immediately asked me how I was, and that he hoped I'd fully recovered, and implored me to look after myself. And he looked as if he said it because he cared. I would not have expected my little health issue to have registered at all. Now if it had been one of the whips, I might have suspected concern about a possible by-election!!

And I'm not the only bird that the Prime Minister has charmed out of the trees. I see that he's pulled off the same feat with Lord Elis Thomas, Presiding Officer at the National Assembly for Wales - according to Betsan of the BBC. When the PM first offered to speak to the assembled AMs in June 2009, his Lordship was very 'sniffy' about it. No way! Dim Ffordd! (?) Words like impractical and preposterous, and demeaning to the Assembly fell contemptuously from his lips. He even suggested that such an event would turn the National Assembly for Wales into the equivalent of the Welsh Grand Committee - and you really cannot be more dismissive than that.

But it all change now. It seems that Lord Elis Thomas has issued an invitation to the Prime Minister to address the third Assembly sometime over the next year. Rightly in my opinion, he has recognised that David Cameron (and the rest of us in the Conservative team down the other end of the M4) are all fully supportive of the National Assembly, hold it in great respect, and want it to succeed in its work serving the people of Wales. And I refect that just like the M4, respect is a two way street.

"Pull 'em up Ladies".

Went to the races over the weekend - the Trotting Races, held on the land owned by County Councillor Rachel Davies at Caersws. Brilliant day out. The 'bookies' were there, as were S4/C. Limited my losses to £15. Must tell you about the commentary on the Ladies Final.

Picture the scene. The start is a complicated business - involving a van approaching the start from 200 yards out. The idea is that at the start, all the competitors are running with the right handicapped distances between them, at which point the van veers right and lets them go. But the start of the Ladies Final was faulty - so the van stopped rather than veered right. And all the time, the commentator was issuing instructions over the loudspeaker. "Pull them up ladies" he screamed out several times. This is a family blog - so I cannot repeat some of the comments I heard from neighbouring spectators.

Cutting the cost of Democracy.

In my opinion the 'bravest' decision taken by the Liberal Democrat - Conservative Coalition has been to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 - while equalising the electorates at around 75,000. And all to be completed by 2013. Its all linked to a change in our Westminster voting system from 'First Past The Post' to an 'Alternative Vote' system in time for the next General Election in 2015. The 50 reduction in MPs is to reduce the cost of democracy. The same thing is happening within my local council.

This blog tries to keep you up to date with the significant happenings at Powys County Council. Today, the draft proposals by the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales to review electoral arrangements in Powys landed on my desk. Nothing like as radical as I'd expected - and I'm told not as radical as the Councillors themselves expected either.

The draft proposals are to reduce the number of Councillors from 73 to 64. A drop to 60, or even less, had been expected. In Montgomeryshire, the number of Councillors is proposed to drop just 3 - from 33 to 30. Its proposed that the average electorate per councillor should rise from 1,417 to 1,616. A rise to 1,750 had been expected.

All we're really interested in is whether the changes throw up any juicy battles. I fear there will be surprisingly few bloodbaths. Perhaps Stephen Hayes (Montgomery) against Linda Corfield (Forden) could be the best as their two constituencies are proposed to be merged. Other battles may emerge between Bobby Morgan and Beryl Vaughan, Roche Davies and Rachel Davies, and Simon Baynes against Barry Thomas. I fear retirements may well deprive us of the spectator sport that these battles would provide. A shortage of such sport will not be the case in respect of the new Parliamentary constituencies.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Powers Referendum - Bring it on.

My opinion has been consistent since the second Government of Wales Act was passed in 2006. Law making powers in devolved policy areas should be transferred from the UK Parliament to the National Assembly for Wales as soon as it reasonably can be. In fact, the 2006 Act did implement such a 'powers' transfer, but by a ridiculously complex system, and only 'bit by bit'. The 2006 Act also allowed for the National Assembly for Wales to ask the Secretary of State for Wales to bring forward a referendum, seeking the approval of the Welsh people to the transfer (all in one go) of law making powers in those devolved policy areas. Straight forward you would think. Well, think again dear readers.

In 2007, the new Labour-Plaid Cymru Coalition Government in Cardiff Bay decided that this referendum should be sought 'on or before' the Welsh General Election on May 5th, 2011. I, and many others were encouraged. But the Coalition (by various prevarications) delayed asking the question of the Secretary of State until February 2010 - almost three years later. You will have to try and work out why. A convincing answer you will not find - but it probably had something to do with party political calculation. Even as early as Feb. 2010, I was reading legal advice given to AMs that it would be very difficult to hold the referendum until early 2011.

After this, opinion emanating from the Assembly Coalition partners seems to lose all direction. Firstly, First Minister, Carwyn Jones (supposedly speaking on behalf of the Assembly Government) demands that the referendum be held in October 2010 (despite having legal advice that this would not be possible). When the Secretary of State pointed out this inconvenient fact, the Presiding Officer, who is a senior Plaid Cymru politician, said it should be delayed until the autumn of 2011. And today, it seems that he's called for it to be held on the same day as the Welsh General Election. And this despite his Party leader at Westminster, Elfyn Llwyd, MP being opposed (probably - outraged as only Elfyn can be)that another referendum (on the adoption of an AV voting system) is to distract from the election by being held on May 5th as well. They're all over the place.

So what do I want to see happen. Easy. I want the Secretary of State for Wales to hold the referendum on the earliest day possible, consistent with Electoral Commission advice. Let them veer like drunken cyclists on black ice, while we act in a steady and deliberate way to give the people of Wales what they have been promised. Let the referendum go ahead next March.

My 'take' on the Emergency Budget

Been too otherwise occupied of late to blog, but will have time later today. Just catching up on things. Google Alerts reminded me of this article I wrote about the Emergency Budget a few days ago. Since its the current dominating issue at Westminster, thought I'd share it with you.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Clegg shows his mettle.

Fair play. Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister was in very impressive form in the House of Commons today. To him fell the task of informing a very sceptical House of Commons that on May 5th 2011 there will be a referendum on changing the system of election at General Elections. Its not easy when all sides of the House are against you. For some reason, into my mind came an image of old Yorkshire cricketer, Brian Close being battered by a quartet of West Indian fast bowlers. Wonder if anyone else remembers that. The only question he received during the entire hour and a quarter that indicated some support was from Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The Statement didn't start well for Clegg. Began with a sweeping gesture over his right shoulder to embrace the Prime Minister, who was present offering support - only to discover he was over his left shoulder. "Where is he" came there from the benches opposite. Then Jack Straw, who opened for the Opposition recalled an article written fairly recently by the Deputy Prime Minister for the Independent when he described the Alternative Vote he was proposing today as as a "miserable little compromise". That one found the target. After announcing that the AV referendum would take place on May 5th 2011, he went on to propose the equalisation of constituencies, which he informed us was inextricably linked with the introduction of AV. All constituencies must have equal electorates (within 5% at least) and the number of MPs must fall from 649 to 600. Except of course this would not apply to the Orkney's and Shetlands or to the Western Isles. When Charles Kennedy asked a question later, some wise cracker on the Labour benches shouted out "Whatever you want Charles".

Anyway, there were perhaps 60 questions/responses - almost all hostile, from both sides. Bouncers, beamers and swerve balls were coming at him from all directions. Even the Lib Dems seemed to have nothing to say. But none of it seemed to bother our Nick. He fended them off with growing confidence I thought. And when a Labourite from Sheffield asked him a nasty question about his failure to support the town, he let fly with an assault, Botham would have been proud of. Impressed me anyway.

Personally, I think going for May 5th is a mistake. It should have been October. So now we have the choice in Wales - or at least the Secretary of Wales does. Do we have the Welsh General Election and a referendum on the same day (May 5th) or do we ask voters to venture out to the booths in March, May and June next year. I marginally prefer the latter - but its not an easy choice.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Votes a-plenty next year.

Been doing lots of radio today about the anticipated announcement that a referendum be held on May 5th 2011 to decide whether the Alternative Vote system should be used at UK general elections. Its being reported that Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg is going to confirm this date shortly. My view is that a referendum must be held early in this Parliament - even though I'm personally supportive of the First Past the Post system. It was promised as part of the Conservative - Lib Dem Coalition agreement and must be honoured. A deal's a deal.

I also think that no more than one election (or referendum) should take place at the same time. Never been very keen on referendums. When we do have one, the only point of it is to establish what the people actually, genuinely believe - and so often the water surrounding referendums is muddied with red herrings galore. The vote itself usually ends up being about tangential to the question actually put. Its about what the campaigns manage to persuade people that the question is. This haziness is inevitably multiplied when there's more than one vote. And its often the case that one vote influences another - which is exactly the thinking behind the proposition that the referendum on AV be held on May 5th 2011.

So there's a choice. Either the AV vote is held later than May 5th (which is my preference) - or the Welsh General Election should be postponed by a month (as it is allowed to be). If the AV referendum is held on May 5th there could be a real danger of vote-overload amongst the electorate. We would have a referendum on moving to Part 4 of the Government of Wales Act (usually described as extra powers for the Assembly) in March, a vote on AV in May and the Welsh General Election in June. And Vaughan Roderick (who must never be discounted) thinks there might be a UK General Election in June if the AV referendum is lost.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Young Farmers setting MPs an example.

The depressing thing is that there is no way I can recover the four hours that I lost through attending the Welsh Grand Committee in Parliament yesterday. In my opinion, it was one of the worst meetings that I have ever attended. It began with half an hour of unbearably childish and boorish behaviour by MPs who really should know better. It was a performance which diminished them. The debate ended with an utterly pointless vote, where the Queen's Speech and the Emergency Budget were voted down by 21 votes to 7 - at least I think that's what happened. What can those who watched the spectacle have thought. I hope Mr Speaker wasn't watching. He's making a valiant effort to make the proceedings of the House of Commons more understandable and worthy in the eyes of observers. Yesterday he would have been in despair.

I should make honourable exception of some of the contributors. Plaid Cymru's Elfyn Llwyd was constructive, as was Labour's Albert Owen and David Davies and Jonathon Evans from my side. But the way in which some Labour MPs treated the Chair of the meeting, Graham Brady was a disgrace. I suppose my background as a rugby player has given me absolute respect for the referee. Without acceptance that the ref. is right (even when he's wrong) chaos reigns. And yesterday chaos reigned. I hope no primary school children were watching. It was an appalling example of uncivil behaviour.

The source of the trouble seemed to be that the Secretary of State for Wales had invited the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander to address the meeting, and answer questions - but had not given Labour MPs sufficient notice that she had done so. Don't know what the protocols are, but the response was utterly pathetic. Shadow Secretary of State, Peter Hain decided not to engage at all - bit like a child who won't play ball because she hadn't been told beforehand what colour it was. His no 2, Wayne David then insulted the Sec. of State within the hearing of Mr Brady, but refused to withdraw the 'offensive' remark when asked to do so. Personally, I'd have thrown him out.

Tonight, I attended the AGM of the Montgomeryshire YFC, where the behaviour was impeccable - as always. I spent many years competing in YFC competitions, and over recent years have often served as a judge of public speaking competitions. Never in my experience, has behaviour anything like that used by Labour MPs in yesterday's Welsh Grand Committee been used by any YFC member. The YFC movement remains Europe's best young people's movement. Yesterday's experience at Westminster has only increased my pride in my association with YFC'S.

I was really struck by one comment made by the mellowing David Davies, MP for Monmouth. He condemned the ridiculous parliamentary practice whereby the House meets from 2.30 until 10.00, and sometimes after 11.00. In the National Assembly for Wales, we carried the idea of family friendly hours too far I thought, but the House of Commons seems to be set up in a way specifically designed to break families. The House should sit from 10.00 til 2.00 rather than from 2.00 until 10.00. I totally agree with David about this.

Lord Peter Walker 1932 - 2010

I first met Peter Walker when he was Secretary of State for Wales. It was 1987, and I was Chairman of Montgomeryshire District Council. The occasion was a meeting between him and leaders of Welsh local authorities in Cardiff City Hall. I made a contribution which caught the ear of the Secretary of State, and he came over for a chat after the meeting was over. The next time I met him, he invited me to become Chairman of the Development Board for Rural Wales, and a Board Member of the WDA and Wales Tourist Board. I daresay I'd been 'checked out', but he must have been taking something of a 'flyer' on me. From then on I saw quite a lot of him, and considered him to be a good friend. He was incredibly decisive and dynamic, but disguised it all in a laid back style. Both he and his successor as Welsh Secretary, Lord David Hunt were hugely kind and supportive to me, at what was a very difficult time for those of us who were working for the Welsh 'Quangocracy' at the time. When I later became involved in active party politics in Montgomeryshire, Peter always came to support me in elections. He was one of the kindest and most wise politicians I ever had the privilege to meet. The party that a small group of us gave in his honour when he retired from the Cabinet in 1990, will live on in my memory for ever. I've never heard a single negative word from any of those who worked with him at that time. The last time I saw Peter was when he himself arranged a 'retirement party' for Lord Roberts of Conwy at the Carleton Club a couple of years ago.

Peter Edward Walker, Baron Walker of Worcester was buried at a private funeral today. He has come into my mind several times during the day. I hope there will be a memeorial service that I can attend. Not only was Peter Wlker a man I greatly admired, and a good friend, but his vision of what constitutes Conservative politics was very much the same as mine. In my opinion, one of the foremost influences on Conservative Party thinking in the twentieth century has gone. I sense that we have lost something special.