HC Deb 29 October 1936 vol 316 cc33-5

Before the House proceeds to its ordinary business to-day, it is the duty of the Leader of the House to make a few observations about a colleague who has but lately passed away. Godfrey Collins was well known to every Member of this House. It so happens that, each time when I have had to speak on such an occasion in the last four years, it has been with regard to a Liberal colleague; and between these two Liberal colleagues there were certain obvious points in common—a simplicity, in the true sense of the word, of nature, and a kindliness of disposition which endeared them to their own friends and earned for them the respect of the whole House. Godfrey Collins had had, perhaps, a greater variety of experience than Donald Maclean, for he served many years in the Royal Navy, and I think that love of the sea remained a romance for him for the rest of his life. Then he passed several years in the great publishing business that bore his name, and there he took his share in a work than which there can be no better, in providing good literature for the people of this country in an acceptable form and within the reach of their means. Then it was that he attained what, I think, really was his desire after he had left the Navy, and that was a seat in this House. For a quarter of a century he was a House of Commons man—a House of Commons man in every way, one who entered into the life of it heart and soul, a keen party man, although not a man of very controversial nature. He enjoyed the human comradeship of it, and he spent many years as a private Member. It is no secret to many of us that he had more than his share of private sorrow, and it rejoiced us to know that the work he was allowed to do in these last years of his life was work that not only was good in itself, but work that brought him full consolation and great happiness. I never said good-bye to him, when we were separating for a holiday, without some such words passing as passed only last July between us. He said: "I want to tell you how I enjoy my work, how I love working for Scotland, and with what pleasure I work with all of you." I think that no more need be said by me to-day, but it is right that I and the House should pay this acknowledgment, and show, by doing so, that these gifts of kindliness and of courtesy are gifts that we always recognise and for which we are grateful; for they soften the necessary asperities of life in its full tide of political controversy, and the owner of these qualities leaves behind a sweet and a fragrant memory which we shall always treasure.


I should like to associate with the words of the Prime Minister those who sit on this side of the House, and to express our regret at the passing of an old friend and colleague in this House. Godfrey Collins had no enemies in this House. He did his work quietly and well. My colleagues from Scotland have often told me how courteous and helpful he was in every way when they had to go to see him with regard to the work of his office, and how they were impressed by his enthusiasm for working for Scotland. He had a long term of work in this House, and, as the Prime Minister has said, he leaves behind a memory which will remain dear to us.


The memory of Sir Godfrey Collins is so fresh, and as the Prime Minister has said, so fragrant in the minds of all of us, that there is little which it would be appropriate for me to add to the eloquent tributes which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have already paid to him. In associating my hon. Friends and myself with those tributes, let me only say, as one who stood to him at different times in different relationships, that as a colleague he was true and unselfish, as an opponent he was straightforward, courteous and considerate, and as a Scotsman he was a loyal and devoted public servant who spent himself in the service of his native land. In this House, as the Prime Minister has said, he will be rightly remembered as a House of Commons man, steeped in its traditions, always jealous of its privileges, and ever sensitive to those currents of opinion which in blending from the general sense and feeling of the House, and by respect for which on the part of the Government the authority of the House and the smooth working of our representative institutions are maintained. We mourn a colleague and a friend, but we know that, in the long procession of Parliament men, Godfrey Collins will hold all honoured place with modesty, gentleness, and dignity.