Tribute to Sir Edward Heath

House of Commons

Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): I certainly wish to associate myself with all the generous tributes given by right hon. and hon. Members today. Speaking as someone who had the great privilege of working for Sir Edward for three years as head of his private office, I would point out that there is one aspect that has not been mentioned today or in the tributes in the national media.

There is much I could say about his courage, which I saw, at first hand, between 1980 and 1982 when I worked for him. For example, there was his courage in warning South Africa of the dangers of apartheid and also his courageous role in conveying to the British Government the basis on which the Chinese were prepared to settle the future of Hong Kong. I was there. After his comments on apartheid, we were bundled out of South Africa and I was there in the Great Hall of the People with Deng Xiaoping, when he revealed his plans to Sir Edward. Margaret Thatcher chose not to believe that the Chinese could use Sir Edward as a vehicle for communication and negotiations were stalled for some years as a result.

I was also with him at the time of the publication of "North-South: A Programme for Survival", better known as the Brandt report. I accompanied Sir Edward—or "EH" as his staff were privileged to call him—on many of his UK tours to raise awareness of the importance of tackling world poverty. In his later years, that became a cause that was every bit as important to him as membership of the European Union. His dedication to it, long before it was as fashionable as it is today, is something that should be remembered and honoured. Making poverty history was his objective long before the phrase was coined. This loyal member of his staff will miss him greatly.

Back to Speeches