Tributes to Mr Keith Phipps

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:31 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 3:31 pm, 5th November 2019

My Lords, before we move on to the rest of our business, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to a loyal servant of the House, our Principal Doorkeeper, Mr Phipps. I know that the whole House will join me in thanking him for his 25 years of outstanding service.

A dedicated public servant, Mr Phipps left school at 18 and joined the Coldstream Guards. He served in the Army for 22 years and in December 2000 enlisted as a Yeoman of the Queen’s Bodyguard. In 1994, Mr Phipps joined the House as a Doorkeeper and was promoted to Principal Doorkeeper in 2005. As he rose in seniority, he consistently served Members of the House with his characteristic charm, good nature and unfailing politeness. He handles colleagues with the utmost courtesy, while at the same time making it clear that there is an underlying message of authority, along the lines of, “Don’t mess with me”—some might say, the original strong and stable. Over the years he has provided Members, long-standing and new, with his wise counsel, as my noble friend Lord Robathan attested in his maiden speech. During their time in the Army in Hong Kong and Northern Ireland, my noble friend found that Company Sergeant-Major Phipps was right about most matters and could be relied upon to steer his company commander in the right direction. Many noble Lords will recognise that description of Mr Phipps, who has been a source of wisdom on procedure and custom, helping to steer us all in the right direction; and of course, his commanding presence made him the ideal candidate to act as the master of ceremonies during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee lunch, which hosted Her Majesty the Queen and 700 guests in Westminster Hall.

When I joined this House in 2014, Mr Phipps and his team made me feel very welcome. He has always been willing to help out and on several occasions has taken pity on my poor guests, who invariably get the most uninformative tour of this place, taking over as tour guide with panache and more anecdotes than I could ever remember. His generosity and good humour are, I am sure, valued by all noble Lords.

Our remarks today come earlier than expected. Mr Phipps officially leaves on 13 December, but today is our last day with him as our Principal Doorkeeper. As the season’s festivities get under way in the coming month, I am sure that the Cirencester Salvation Army will want to seize the opportunity to sign him up for a starring role as Joseph in the nativity play, a role that I understand he played successfully some years ago.

Mr Phipps, on behalf of the whole House, thank you for your incredible service to us. We wish you and Sue all the very best for the future; enjoy your well-deserved retirement.