Tag Archives: derek ezra

David Steel pays tribute to Derek Ezra, emphasising his pro-European views

Derek EzraIn twelve years as Liberal Leader, David Steel only got to nominate eight peers. One of them was former National Coal Board chairman Derek Ezra, who died last December.

In London this week, Lord Steel gave a speech at Haberdashers’ Hall (Derek Ezra was an honorary Liveryman) in which he paid tribute to Derek Ezra. He also explained why his colleague was so in favour of a European organisation that worked together and kept the peace.

During my twelve years as party leader Prime Minister Thatcher was notoriously mean in Liberal peerages, allowing me only eight during that time in spite of the encouragement of the Tory leader in the Lords – Willie Whitelaw – to do better. Subsequent Prime Ministers were much kinder to Ashdown, Kennedy and Clegg and allowed them several nominations in each list. Inevitably my eight nominations were all either former senior MP’s or party office-bearers – with one exception – Derek Ezra.

In his memoirs he says that I nominated him “in order to introduce some industrial experience on to the Liberal benches” and that is true but not the whole truth – I thought it important for the public to see that we had people of his calibre in public life. He was known as chairman of the National Coal Board but few knew he was an ardent Liberal, arguing against the pattern of “them and us” in so much of British business. And what a success he was, one colleague saying “Derek ought to give lessons to the rest of us on how to put questions in the Lords” and another describing his contributions – even from his wheelchair in later life – as combining “integrity, clarity and relevance”. I always considered his expertise on energy and conservation debates as adding greatly to the prestige of our party.

Lord Ezra was an active and committed European from his earliest days as a student at Cambridge, as Major Ezra during the war and in his four-year service in the European Coal and Steel Community in Luxembourg. Delivering a lecture in this very hall in 2005 he mentioned his earlier work with Jean Monnet “one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century” who “was convinced that in order to avoid future wars and promote stability and prosperity, European countries would have to cooperate on a more integrated basis than ever before”. Derek added “Britain remained a reluctant participant – in my opinion much to our disadvantage”.

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Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Derek Ezra 1919-2015

Liberal Democrat peer Derek Ezra died on 22 December 2015 at the age of 96. Celia Thomas remembers him.

Liberal Peers were absolutely delighted when Derek Ezra took the Liberal whip on becoming a Peer in 1983. He was one of the best known men in public life at the time, having been a well-respected Chairman of the Coal Board from 1972 to 1982. He had been a Liberal since university days, he told us, where he joined the Cambridge University Liberal Club in 1936. There he was a friend of Richard Wainwright, who was later to become the Liberal MP for Colne Valley.

A few years later, when war broke out, Derek became a gunner, rising eventually to the rank of Lt. Colonel; he later joined British Intelligence, where he was secretary of the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee. After the war, he spent four years in Luxembourg as a member of the UK delegation to the European Coal and Steel Community where he worked with Jean Monnet, largely regarded as the founding father of the European Community. From that time on, Derek was a passionate, but not uncritical, supporter of the European Union.

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Next week in the Lords: 15-18 October

It looks as though this column may be going down in flames, now that the Lords have appointed a new Media & PR Officer, but until we do…

Days 7 and 8 of the Committee Stage of the Financial Services Bill dominate the week. And, as I still don’t understand it, I’m going to see if I can get an explanation. Watch, hopefully, this space… However, Amendment 197, to be moved by Lord Flight, requires banks to transfer accounts to a new institution, if requested, within ten working …

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