Sir Alan Urwick Dies at the Age of 86

Sir Alan Urwick, the former House of Commons Serjeant-at-Arms has died at the age of 86.

Urwick had served as Charge D’Affaires in Egypt in the early 1970s, before becoming the British Ambassador to Jordan from 1979 until 1984, then the British Ambassador to Egypt from 1985 until 1987 and then as the British High Commissioner to Canada from 1987 until 1989. He served as the Serjeant-at-Arms in the House of Commons from 1989 until 1995.

On his retirement as Serjeant-at-Arms, Tony Newton, the then Leader of the House, said in the Commons:

“Unlike his predecessors, Sir Alan came to the House as Serjeant at Arms not from a background in the armed services but from the diplomatic service, which he joined in 1952. After tours of duty in western Europe, the middle east, Moscow and Washington, he reached the highest ranks of his profession, serving as Her Majesty’s ambassador in Amman and in Cairo, and as high commissioner in Ottawa.

Sir Alan took up his appointment as Serjeant at Arms when he left the diplomatic service in 1989. He rapidly found out what life is like in this place during the summer recess: the Serjeant’s usual quarters were uninhabitable, because the builders had taken them over, so he had to set up his office in a corner of one of the Committee Rooms. [HON. MEMBERS: “Oh yes.”] As I sense some other hon. Members may feel, that is a familiar experience, and one which his successor is about to inflict on me and my secretary.

Over the past six years, Sir Alan has responded with the courtesy and skill we would expect of a professional diplomat to the many and varied demands which the House and its Members have made of him personally and of his Department. The security of the House has continued to be one of his major responsibilities, even in the more relaxed atmosphere of recent months, and the pressure on accommodation has been unremitting. I know that you, Madam Speaker, and the whole House have appreciated the way in which Sir Alan has dealt with those continuing concerns, and the effort he has devoted to the service of Members.

One of the major changes with which Sir Alan has had to cope during his term of office has been the implementation of the Ibbs report, which led to the House taking control of its own works programme. The Parliamentary Works Directorate has now been established as an integral part of the Serjeant’s Department, and the evidence of its activities is all around. The ease with which that considerable change has been brought about reflects much credit on all those involved, Sir Alan not least among them.

As we say farewell to Sir Alan, we welcome as his successor Peter Jennings, the Deputy Serjeant, who came here nineteen years ago as Major Jennings of the Royal Marines, and is well known to us all”.