Obituary: Baroness Ewart-Biggs

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FOR MANY years I was a lecturer at the Civil Service College, and Jane Ewart-Biggs was one of my regular speakers, describing the workings of the House of Lords, writes Dennis L. Bird (further to the obituary by Baroness Birk, 9 October). It was a task she took very seriously, just as she took everything - but she enlivened every talk with her marvellous sense of humour.

She loved to describe an incident concerning her ennoblement. She had accepted Michael Foot's offer to put her name forward, but did not know exactly when the announcement would be made. She was abroad with her children when she heard an English couple at the next table fulminating over a newspaper. 'Well, what do you know?' said one to the other - 'they've made that Ronnie Biggs's wife a life peer]'

She loved the House of Lords, and she regaled my courses with some hilarious anecdotes. On one occasion, soon after she had taken her seat, she rose to leave the House, and was passing the Liberal benches when an elderly peer grasped her and pulled her on to his knee. She thought this was a bit over-friendly - but the explanation was soon forthcoming. 'The Lord Chancellor is on his feet,' she was told; 'you mustn't stand when he is.'

As a frontbench spokesman on home and foreign affairs and later a whip, she was diligent in her research and convincingly sincere in her speeches. She had a tremendous range of activities outside the House too and was always enthusiastic in enlisting other people's support. Everyone who knew Jane will always remember that lovely smile, that impish sense of fun, and that selfless devotion to the causes which she held dear.

(Photograph omitted)