A 'man for all seasons': a tribute to Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
Lord Montgomery will be
remembered for his championship of Latin America, writes Baroness Hooper
His humour, friendliness and positivity made him a great all party operator: Baroness Hooper remembers Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, 18th August 1928 - 8th January 2020
One of the sad consequences of Covid 19 is that the family, friends and colleagues of David Montgomery have been deprived of the opportunity to celebrate his life in time honoured fashion with an uplifting memorial service in St Margaret’s. A date had been fixed, first in June, and then in October, but with so many restrictions still in place that too was impossible. To be able to pay tribute here is therefore appreciated.
The second Viscount Montgomery of Alamein made his Maiden Speech in the House of Lords, in December 1976, following the death of his famous father. He made his Valedictory on his retirement in July 2015. In both speeches his main theme was Latin America – his championship of that continent is undoubtedly what most colleagues remember him for. He had lived and worked in Chile and El Salvador but left his footprints in every country. A fluent Spanish speaker he was well known to leading politicians, academics, and industrialists throughout the region and led parliamentary and trade delegations on a regular basis. Most significant was his part in founding the Argentine British Conferences which did much to bring about a revival in relations after the 1982 conflict. As president of Canning House and of the Anglo Latin American Foundation – and with his involvement in LATAG and numerous bi-lateral societies and chambers of commerce – he was highly esteemed by the ambassadors and constantly in touch with people and events until the very end of his life. In recognition of his services to Latin America he was appointed CMG by the British government and received distinguished decorations and honours from countries in the region.
Most significant was his part in founding the Argentine British Conferences which did much to bring about a revival in relations after the 1982 conflict
Apart from these Hispanic interests, and having been a Conservative councillor in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, David was actively involved in domestic matters such as licensing reform, Sunday trading, and arts and heritage. He was particularly proud of his part in breaking the monopoly of ophthalmologists to prescribe reading glasses. He introduced the Western European Time Bill and successfully piloted The Antarctica Bill through the Lords. On one memorable occasion he tabled an amendment to the 1988 Education Bill – after a formal dinner he returned to the House in full evening dress, expecting to speak to his amendment soon after midnight. When he eventually did so at 9am the next morning – and was explaining that since this was the first time he had intervened he was not going to curtail his remarks – a voice from the Opposition Benches said: “Well no need to dress up for it!” Tired as we all were after an all-night sitting, the mood lightened.
Following the Lords Reform Act 1998, David decided not to participate in the election of the 92 hereditary peers on the grounds that had had a good innings and that the expected further reforms leading to an elected Second Chamber would come rapidly. Had he stood he would undoubtedly have been one of the 92 as an active, popular, and enthusiastic member. In the event it was remarked that he was seen more in the House in the following few years than some who had been elected. When a by-election came up in 2005 he was persuaded to stand and joined the heirs of other famous war heroes on the Cross Benches. David’s good humour, friendliness and positive approach made him a great all party operator. He could rely on support from all sides. His election meant that he could continue to champion Latin America and his other international interests, as a long serving IPU Executive Council member and as chair of the Anglo Belgian APPG amongst other things.
Outside Parliament he enjoyed a happy family circle and took great pleasure in having a home in France where he specialised in making plum jam! He also spoke French.
So, a man for all seasons, David Montgomery will be remembered by his many friends and colleagues with affection and appreciation.
Baroness Hooper is a Conservative peer