§ Hon. Members having repaired to their seats, the Sergeant at Arms (Brigadier HOWARD), came with the Mace, and, laid it under the Table.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
(addressing himself to the Clerk of the House, who, standing up, pointed to him, and then sat down): Sir Gilbert Campion, I have to acquaint the House that His Majesty, having been informed of the death of. Captain the Right Honourable Edward Algernon FitzRoy, late Speaker of this House, gives leave to the House to proceed forthwith to the choice of a new Speaker.
§ Mr. George Lambert (South Molton)
Sir Gilbert Campion, it is a melancholy duty to fulfil the King's command. Our late Speaker, who has crossed the bar, was a man devoted to public service, a great English gentleman and a friend of every Member of this House, and his memory will be cherished by us so long as memory lasts. But this House, the emblem of a free people, moves on. The old Chamber was destroyed, but in the shell alone the spirit survives, and the lamp of liberty burns brightly in British bosoms and never will be extinguished by German bombs. The House of Commons existed centuries before this turmoil, and it will exist after, irradiating, I hope, liberty through the civilised world. Lord Randolph Churchill once described this Assembly as "the guardian of our rights and the fortress of our liberties." It was a fine phase; but hon. Members will know, with me, that Lord Randolph Churchill's son has been known at times to coin phrases of arresting aptitude.
It is a great honour for any of us to belong to this House. I was elected a Member in 1891, Any man or woman, constitutionally elected, entering the portals of this Chamber, can rise, whether born in a castle or in a cottage, to the highest position in the land. Therefore we feel it to be one of our great duties to 614 preserve the dignity and the continuity of this House. The House itself has had a great tribute paid to it by an American citizen, who secured 23,000,000 votes in a contest for the Presidency. He came here amidst German bombs and the thud-ding of guns, and found the House of Commons discussing the freedom of the Press—a splendid tribute to our democratic institutions. But the dignity of our procedure must rest largely with Mr. Speaker. We do not need a cold-blooded logician, but we do require a man with human sympathies, a man whose eyesight may be at times a little dim and whose hearing may at other times be a little dull, but who will exercise a wise patience, scrupulous impartiality, tolerance with inflexible strength, and showing respect for minorities.
I have the great honour of proposing, "That Colonel the Right Hon. Douglas Clifton Brown do take the Chair of this House as Speaker."
I have sat under five Speakers—Speakers Peel, Gully, Lowther, Whitley and, lastly, the late lamented Speaker—and I have the utmost confidence in proposing my right hon. and gallant Friend. We have known him, we have tried him, and he has emerged from the crucible pure metal, finely tempered. It is the greatest honour that Members of the House of Commons can pay to one of their number, and I am sure that every Member of this House will be quite convinced that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is eminently well-fitted to follow in the footsteps of his great predecessors.
May I conclude with these words? On 4th August, 1914, Mr. Speaker Lowther presided over the House of Commons. He saw the sword of war drawn from the scabbard. It was an awesome moment, but relieved by a happy suggestion of Will Crooks, that dear soul, who asked us to sing, "God Save the King." We joined in, possibly not tunefully, but with all our hearts. Then, through the various vicissitudes of that war, Mr. Speaker Lowther came to nth November, 1918. By a happy inspiration the then Prime Minister, now Father of the House, moved that we should all adjourn to St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, there to return thanks for victory. Mr. Speaker FitzRoy saw the gathering war clouds in early September, 1939. He saw Britain battered and the good old ship Britannia escaping 615 shipwreck by a shuddering margin. He was not destined to see the end, but there did appear over the hills a bright gleam heralding the dawn of victory. His mantle will descend upon the new Speaker, and may I express the ardent hope glowing in the hearts of millions of our countrymen that the present Prime Minister—and I hope he will soon be back among us again—will be able to move, under the new Speaker, that we again adjourn to St. Margaret's, and there return humble but, reverent thanks for that Divine Providence has crowned our cause with victory. I have to move, "That Colonel the Right Hon. Douglas Clifton Brown do take the Chair of this House as Speaker," and this is a compliment from the whole House, without any pressure from anyone outside.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I ask of the House the privilege to be allowed to second the Motion so ably moved by my right hon. Friend that Colonel Clifton Brown do take the Chair as Mr. Speaker.
As Members of the House of Commons we meet here to-day with very chastened thoughts. Our task is all the more difficult because of the unfortunate death of the late Captain FitzRoy, who had endeared himself by his great character to everyone in the House. Therefore when the time comes to elect a Speaker to fill a position which has been so well filled in the past, it certainly is a difficult matter and causes us great concern to choose the very best man we have among us. I think that in Colonel Clifton Brown we find the right type of man. I have often been asked, "How is it that when we elect a Speaker he has to be chosen from one of the political parties in the House—he must be a Member of the House—and does he act fairly to Members of other political parties?" That question has been put to me very often, because when I take visitors round the House and we get into the silence room, the Library, I generally point out to them the list of Speakers shown on the panel there. I find it started in 1377. Since that time we have elected 138. I also describe the method of election, because it is naturally of interest to all our visitors. Then they question me about the Speaker. They ask, "What party does he belong to?" I tell them "The Conservative Party." Then they say, "Well, do you get the same opportunity 616 of being called upon as the others?" I tell them, "It is rather a curious thing, but from my knowledge of Mr. Whitley as Speaker and of Captain FitzRoy as Speaker both those gentlemen have seemed, when they got into the Chair, to drop all question of party and to try to deal with every Member fairly." In fact it seems to me that those who belong to the smallest political party get the greatest share. It almost seems that Mr. Speaker looks upon himself as the father of the family and that the weakest section must have the most protection. Whether that be so or not, one is bound to admit that when we do elect a Speaker he does rise above all party considerations and acts the true gentleman. That has been our experience.
I want to relate one personal experience in reference to the man whom we are, I hope, going to appoint Speaker to-day. The Beveridge Debate took three days. On the first day I put my name down to speak. I was not called. On the second day I was not called. I happen to be a chess player, and in chess we are taught infinite patience, but on the third day even a chess player begins to get uneasy, and so I ventured to go to the Chair, and I said to Colonel Clifton Brown, "Sir, I put my name down on the first day, and I was not called, nor was I called on the second day, but I intend to speak if I get the opportunity, and I want you to understand that I have not taken my name off the list." He very kindly turned to me and said, "Yes, Tinker, I noticed that you sat there and wanted to get up to speak, and I also noticed your name on the list. I have a large list, and I have them all under consideration. There is some hope, but only if we get a number of short speeches"; and that does not often happen in the House of Commons. So I sat here through the third day, and I was not called.
Nevertheless, here I am, after suffering all that; but, knowing the fairness of the gentleman in question, I am seconding his election as Speaker. I am bound to say that I realised that I was one who had had plenty of opportunities, and that the discrimination had been fair and above board. So I said to myself afterwards, "After all, he has done the best possible." I do not think I could choose a better compliment than to say to him, "Here I am, seconding the Motion, and I do that in all sincerity." 617 Since 1938, I have sat under him in the Standing Orders Committee, and I have learned there the value of his fairmindedness, ability and integrity. When I knew that a Speaker had to be elected I said to myself, after considering the best choice, "The only man I can and will support will be Colonel Clifton Brown." In electing him to-day, the House of Commons will be doing the right and proper thing. From my knowledge of him I believe he will fulfil the high traditions of the great honour we are conferring upon him and will pay honour to us for our confidence in him in asking the House to elect him, and I hope and trust that there will be a unanimous vote.
§ Colonel Gretton (Burton)
My words will be few and short. I most strongly and heartily support everything which has been said by the proposer and seconder of the Motion as to the merits and fitness of Colonel the Right Hon. Douglas Clifton Brown to be Speaker of the House of Commons. He has impressed us all with his competence, his fairness, his complete mastery of all the forms and customs of this House and his sound judgment and courtesy on all occasions. Very high eulogies and commendations have already been paid to him, and I would say only that those with whom I am generally associated in this House desire heartily the election of Colonel the Right Hon. Douglas Clifton Brown.
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid (St. Marylebone)
This is one of the necessary constitutional formalities of this House, but I maintain that the new Mr. Speaker was chosen last week. It appeared in the Press that the Conservative Party had decided that Colonel Clifton Brown should be the Speaker of this House. I would remind those official functionaries in the Conservative Party that there are other Members of this House besides official Conservatives, and, to put it mildly, I do think that it would have been courteous on an occasion such as this if every Member of this House had been previously consulted. After all, this is not a matter which concerns only the Government. It concerns the rights and privileges of individual Members. This is one of those rare occasions in the history of Parliament when we find ourselves without a Speaker, and therefore it is one of those rare and refreshing occasions when certain things 618 can be said which could not be said at other times when observations might be considered disrespectful to the occupant of that Chair. At present there is no occupant of that Chair.
But it is not for reasons such as that that I am rising in my place to oppose the election of Colonel Clifton Brown as Speaker in the future. I should like to say at the outset that, in my opinion, Colonel Clifton Brown may prove a most admirable Speaker; in fact, I have no doubt that when he is elected, as elected he will be, he will prove to be an excellent occupant of that Chair in every way. I even go further, and I say that Colonel Clifton Brown, together with the hon. and gallant Member for South East Leeds (Major Milner), who had only a firefly existence as Deputy-Chairman, have in the past been two occupants of that Chair who have at any rate shown fairness to certain minorities in this House.
I would draw attention to the fact that I am not opposing Colonel Clifton Brown for any personal reason but am doing it because of a principle. The principle is this: This House of Commons is supposed to be the fountainhead of democracy. There are about 615 Members, all of whom are equal, or are supposed to be equal, inasmuch as each one is representative of certain sections of the community. They are all supposed to have equal constitutional rights when it comes to representing the views of their constituents and their own views within this House. Sir Gilbert, I defy any right hon. or hon. Member of this House, in spite of what has been said by the seconder of the Motion, to get up in his place subsequently and be able to prove to the satisfaction of this House that every Member of this House has on all occasions, should he desire, an equal opportunity of addressing the House. Hon. Members know perfectly well that that is not so. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] If there is any doubt about that, let me—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why are you speaking now?"] Why am I speaking now? Because there was no other Member who rose.
Let me remind hon. Members of what occurs in any ordinary Debate. First of all, there are all those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, whose number is legion, who are ex-Ministers from past Governments. In all probability they were dud Ministers in dud Governments. [HON. MEMBERS: 619 "Oh."] In all probability they were inefficient; but the fact remains that, by ancient custom in this House, Mr. Speaker invariably gives those Members priority over others. I notice that there is no dissent about that statement. I go further, and I would also remind the House of that list of Members of Parliament that the official Government Whips desire shall be called and which is given to Mr. Speaker, either in writing or verbally. I agree that it cannot be suggested that Mr. Speaker does not have a complete option as to whom he calls, but it is unfortunate and somewhat significant that practically on all occasions every Member on that list is called. What it comes to is this, that speakers as a whole in this House in the past are not chosen by Mr. Speaker but are chosen by the official party Whips. I would go further and say that there is a growing feeling in the country that Speakers in the past have been looking after the interests of the Government, feeling that that was their function rather than looking after the interests of individual Members. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]
Those people who seldom get called in this House are those Members who cannot bring to bear the influence of great party machines, who cannot get on any lists. Is it a mere coincidence that those minorities who cannot bring to their aid any privilege are the ones who very often are not called? [Interruption.] There is a certain amount of dissent. I am not surprised. And in consequence I draw the attention of the House to just one example. Take the other day, on the Address in reply to the King's Speech. The hon. Baronet the Member for Barn-staple (Sir R. Acland), leader, I understand, of the Common Wealth Party—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman who interrupted need not attempt to practise the rights of a Mr. Speaker. The hon. Baronet desired to draw attention to a policy, and he somewhat optimistically circulated certain Members of this House asking that in the event of being called they would if in the House do him the kindness of coming to listen to what he had to say, that it might be of interest to them, and that he would like to have their reactions. Whether he was wise in doing that or not, I am not prepared to say. [An HON. MEMBER: "He got reactions."] He did not; he was not called. He got no reactions. That is my point.
620 For three days he tried to put his views before this House. He wanted to test the views of Members, to have his policy debated, and I think that this was the right and proper place to do it. As it was, he not being a member of a large political party, not being able to bring to bear any privileges or priorities, and like some of us, not being too popular in this House—[Interruption]—deliberately on the part of those who have something to say in these matters it was seen to that he was not called during the whole of those three days. Therefore, though I do not share the political views of the hon. Baronet, I nevertheless admire him for the strength of his convictions. As you did not allow him a hearing in this House he proceeded to go to the country in an attempt to get the ear of the country, which I think you will agree he has done with some success; and the very people who were instrumental in preventing him from speaking in this House are the same people who to-day are the most apprehensive about' his actions in the country. What I am saying is that if he had been allowed to speak and express his views—and, after all, this House, like Hyde Park, is supposed to be a safety valve of democracy—very likely that menace, as it is now considered by the officials of the Government, would not be so acute. I would only give one further example, a much lesser one. I for many days attempted to speak in this House. I was unable to do so, and the net result was that I felt compelled to write three political books in quick succession. If it had not been for the fact that I was unable to be heard in this House, I would have not had to put my views in a different way.
I suggest to right hon. and hon. Members of this House that the practices of Mr. Speaker in the past have to a large extent been abrogated by others, and I feel the time has come when we should do what is done in some other Parliaments, where there is a certain amount of fairness in the calling of speakers to take part in Debates. As Members know, in some Parliaments speakers are called by ballot, and we already have that precedent in this House. We already ballot for the opportunity of bringing in Motions. Why should there not be a ballot for the opportunity of addressing this House in Debates? The procedure would be that all those who desired to speak, other than the Government speakers of the day, 621 would submit their names to the Clerk at the Table, and when it came to an opportunity for Members of the House to take part the Clerk at the Table, just as on previous occasions, would withdraw a name from those submitted to him, and that would be the first speaker, other than a Government spokesman, and so on through the Debate. I think the argument against that—I can see Members on the front Bench smiling—is that if there was any speaker that the House particularly desired to hear, possibly a specialist on a particular subject, it might be that because he had not won a place, the House would not have the benefit of his special knowledge. That is a fallacious argument, inasmuch that it could quite well happen, if it was found that all who had asked to speak could not be called in the time available, that it would be open to the Government to extend the already very short time that is given to Debates and so enable every Member desiring to speak to take part.
I am therefore led to say this: I would ask right hon. and hon. Members to exclude from their minds just for one moment any prejudicial thoughts and to approach this matter as if they were Members who were seldom able to attract the Speaker's eye. A great number of Members have only to stand up, and they know they will be called. Therefore, I would ask those Members to consider those in this House who are not so fortunate. Has not the time come when we should be ahead of democracy instead of being pushed from behind; when we should move with the times, and when every representative of the people of this country should have a fair and equal opportunity of representing his or her views in this House, because as things are now, as our procedure in this House goes, especially as regards the calling of speakers, this House of Commons is becoming a mockery of democracy.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
I think the whole House has listened with regret to the speech which we have just heard. Perhaps nowhere is the regret keener than among those Members who sit here independent of party. The speech has been answered in advance by the delightful speech and the spirit of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). Those of us who sit as Independent Members have learned to revere 622 the occupant of the Chair and to admire the wonderful skill and impartiality with which he has fulfilled his functions. We are proud of the ancient traditions that have been so well upheld by successive Speakers, who have put aside all thought of their own previous party connections, so far as it is humanly possible to do so, in order to be fair to all parties in the House. All of us must recognise that those who belong to small parties or to no party have had, if anything, more than their share of the time of the House, because of that desire of the occupant of the Chair to show himself impartial and to protect the rights of minorities.
I am sure that all of my colleagues who are in my position in the House will join with me in appreciation of the very high qualities of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whose name has been proposed as the successor to one who has been a very great Speaker. We know that in Colonel Clifton Brown we have one who is, and who has shown himself, perfectly fair and scrupulously desirous of doing justice to all Members of the House, and one who has a wise urbanity. With his fairness he has strength, and with it all he has an inward calm which will help him over times of difficulty. I join with those who have already spoken in expressing the hope that his election will be unanimous.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
When I was contesting West Fife at the General Election it was commonly said, as an argument against me, "It is no use sending one man to the House of Commons; one man will never be heard." With the late Speaker and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who is now proposed as Speaker, in the Chair, I think it can be said that I have been heard. I want only to associate myself with what has been said in support of the Motion. I am sorry, but I did not get into the House until the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) was sitting down, but I heard all that was said by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). So, without any qualifications, but with very high hopes, I would only say that I am certain that in the country there is no feeling at all about the method of electing Speakers. If there is feeling about anything—and I must say that there is a considerable amount of feeling—it is that the House of Commons 623 too easily rises from its labours, especially in view of what is taking place all over the world to-day. Nobody would object in any way to the most solemn recognition and appreciation of the services of the late Speaker, but that should not be allowed to stop our work. When the right hon. and gallant gentleman is elected to the Chair, I should be very pleased if it were said, "We are going right on with the work; no more Adjournments." That is what the country wants said. Let us get the Speaker, and let us get on with the job.
§ Colonel Clifton Brown (Hexham)
(who, standing up in his place, was received with general cheers): Sir Gilbert Campion, I rise to submit myself to the will of the House and of my fellow-Members. I suppose no one could face a situation like this without feeling considerable emotion, and particularly to-day, when our hearts are still sad as we think of the Speaker we have lost. I would like to tell the House that on that Wednesday when he fell sick and I took over, he sent several messages to me, saying how sorry he was that he had to hand over in rather a difficult situation, and that his last thoughts in the whole time were of how the House of Commons was going on. I was glad to be able to send back a message that I thought his conduct, on the first day had helped very considerably to make the Debate smooth on the third day, and that I knew the House of Commons would not mind how long I and the Deputy-Chairman were in the Chair so long as he could come back restored to health. Alas, that was not to be; so to-day we have to hold this sad ceremony.
Might I say one other personal word? I have not been in the office of Chairman of Ways and Means very long. I had worked as Deputy-Chairman for something like four and a half years. It is obvious to anyone that what knowledge I may have I owe to the chief under whom I served. His great experience, his knowledge of procedure, and his calm judgment have been of infinite value to me. More than that, his kindly consideration was something which I shall always value. There are chiefs one serves under with whom you do your work and all goes happily, and that is all there is about it; but there are chiefs you serve under and with whom your 624 work becomes a labour of love. That is what it was for me under Sir Dennis Herbert—who has been called to another place—and under the late Speaker. I can tell you that although I have served 24 years in the House, that period was the happiest of my time in this House. May I thank my proposer and my seconder for the kind things they have said? I am sorry if my seconder has a grievance against me; perhaps I may note it for future occasions. May I say too that I also noticed a little advance request which was put out by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)?
Quite seriously, you have proposed me for what is the most honourable post in this House, a post of very great personal honour and glory. I do not look at it from the personal point of view at all. Here is work which I can do for my fellow Members, and that is what inspires me to submit myself to you. I once read in a book a quotation. I cut out the quotation, and I keep it on my table. It was a book written by a great Chinese lady—Madam Chiang Kai-shek—and the cutting which I read runs as follows:When one works for personal glory the work is bound to suffer. Only work for the sake of the work itself and the good it can do deserves success.It is in that spirit that I offer myself to you. There is one thing which, however wise my conduct may be in the future, would, in my view, make my office an absolute failure and it is this: Now for many years I have known—at least, I feel it in my bones—that I have friends all around me in the House. If I lost your regard and affection, it would mean that my work would be of no value at all, and though I may be in the future somewhat more removed from you than I have been in the past, I do hope sincerely that I shall not lose your regard and your friendship. The Speaker has many duties. The pro-poser mentioned some of them, and therefore I need only enumerate those special ones which appeal to me. Of course, there are times when the Speaker has to be firm; at all times he must be absolutely impartial—that, I think, is most important—and I think on what rests some of the greatness of the House of Commons is the fact that the Chair's first duty is the protection of minorities. We rule by majority rule here. It is the special duty of the Chair to see that all minorities are not browbeaten but also get a fair hearing in Debate, and I 625 believe that Speakers in the past have always carried that out in the most splendid way. I shall do my best to follow along those lines.
And now to turn to a lighter moment. My proposer suggested that I ought to have infirmities. I shall endeavour when the proper occasion arrives to be sufficiently deaf and sufficiently blind to suit the correct occasion. My experience in the Chair is that physical infirmities of this kind, are equally important with other qualities. I have no more to say. I said that I would take this work on in a spirit of work and not in a spirit of self-congratulation or self-confidence. I can only promise one thing, that I will try. I may not be a success. I cannot tell; the future will tell. But I will try, and that is the only pledge that I can give you. One thing I do promise, and that is that always, to the very limit of my ability, I will give to you my very level best, and thereto I pledge you my word.
§ The House then having unanimously called COLONEL the Right Hon. DOUGLAS CLIFTON BROWN to the Chair, he was taken out of his place and conducted to the Chair by Mr. LAMBERT and Mr. TINKER.
(standing on the upper step): Before taking my seat, I have to express my thanks to my fellow Members and my humble acknowledgment of the high honour which they have conferred upon me.
§ Mr. SPEAKER-ELECT sat down in the Chair.
§ Then the Mace (which before lay under the Table) was placed upon the Table.
§ Mr. Eden
Mr. Speaker-Elect, in the much regretted but unavoidable absence of the Prime Minister, I am happy that it should have fallen to my lot as Leader of the House to express to you, on behalf of us all, our congratulations and our sincerest good wishes. Sir, I should doubt whether at any time in the history of Parliament a Speaker has been called upon to accept this high office in conditions at once so personally sad for me and every Member of this House and so momentous for the nation. The late Mr. Speaker, as we all recall, set a standard of justice, humour and fair dealing which you, Sir, as I know, have watched for many years with affectionate admiration, and now it falls to you, by what is, as 626 I am convinced, the general desire of the House, to carry on the tradition which your predecessor not only maintained but enriched. We have every confidence that you will do this. During the last four years Members of this House have watched your work as Deputy-Chairman and Chairman of Committees. The fact that with this experience the invitation to you to accept the burden of this high office has come from Members in all parts of the House is an indication of the confidence and the esteem in which you are held.
I mention this because it may not be inappropriate to emphasise on this occasion that the election of a Speaker is most particularly a matter for the House itself. There is no suggestion to-day—there never has been—that there is any right of succession to the Chair because you, Sir, have been Deputy-Speaker or Chairman of Ways and Means. The House has always looked to the man whom it considers the most suitable to fill the post, carrying with it as it does wide powers and a position of great eminence. Here let me interject, if I may do so on a personal note as Leader of the House, that very great precautions, as I think hon. Members will agree, were taken on this occasion to ensure that the expression of your election, Sir, should be the expression of the Members of the House. There was never any kind of nomination by any party—nothing of the kind—nor was there ever an expression of opinion by the Government. We were most scrupulous to avoid anything of the kind. It is for your personal qualities. Sir, that you have been chosen, and I feel confident that the House will never have cause to regret that decision.
Let me conclude on this note. Now, as Speaker of the House, you will abandon your previous party traditions, and you will become the guardian of the rights of minorities in this House. It is surely more than ever important at this time, when those rights are being denied in many lands and where sometimes minorities are not only denied the rights of speech but condemned to brutal death. Sir, we believe that in your hands those minorities will be protected. We are confident that the rights and liberties of the House will be in safe keeping in your hands and that you will discharge your duty without fear, favour or affection. Those words were true of our late most 627 honoured Speaker; I believe, Sir, that they will prove true of you.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, I should like to associate myself with the tribute which has been paid to you by the Leader of the House. I think we all realise the difficult situation which you have inherited; we realise how exacting and how exhausting are the tasks which you will be called upon to perform. We realise that as the House continues towards peace it may be rather more fractious on occasions, and we should like you to be kindly when we are wayward and to be fair—as I know you will be—in your appreciation of any political situation. I have no doubt myself that any man who is chosen for this high honour grows in stature on his appointment, however great he may have been before. I am sure that you can rely upon all quarters of the House giving you their most loyal support in the Chair. We have had experience of you, and we put ourselves in your hands with the full knowledge that you will carry out your duties with fairness and distinction.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
May I be allowed the privilege, Sir, of congratulating you on your unanimous election to the high post of Speaker? There has been no Member of this House who has been more universally popular, and it is safe to say that you have never had an enemy among the Members. Up to now you have been one of us; you have shared our life, taking part in Committee work and, incidentally, looking after the interests of the House itself as Chairman of its Fire Protection Committee. Henceforth you will be living a life apart. It has been said by your predecessor that Mr. Speaker is a lonely figure largely divorced from other Members by his high office. I know our ancient Privileges and rights will be safe in your hands. You have, if you will allow me to say so, two great gifts which will secure for you a successful term of office. The first is a very keen sense of humour and the second is impartiality of mind.
We know that every section of the House will get a fair deal. It has always been said when a Speaker has relinquished his post that he was a great Speaker. I believe there is every hope that you will prove to be a great Speaker. Difficulties will arise, storms will blow up 628 from unexpected quarters—maybe from this bench, the benches below or the benches behind, or from some other quarter of the House—but we promise you, when those difficulties arise, our loyal support and that we will do everything to ease your difficult responsibility. We wish you well.
§ Mr. Holmes (Harwich)
On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I would like to offer you, Sir, our warmest congratulations. I hope you will allow me to mention that we took the Oath together for the first time in this House on the same day in February, 1919; after the General Election of December, 1918. When you stood there at the Table in view of the Members, waiting to take the Oath, sign the book and shake hands with Mr. Speaker Lowther, you could not for one moment have had in mind that within 25 years you would be sitting in the Chair that Mr. Speaker Lowther then occupied. In the past the House has sometimes chosen a Speaker who was not the man most suitable. There had to be compromises, and on occasions even a Division took place, but to-day there has been complete unity throughout the whole House.
Other Members have told of your qualities. I will not repeat them—I will merely endorse them—but I would like to mention one which has not so far been mentioned, and that is that when you, Mr. Speaker, speak in the House you do so in a clear voice. May I remind the House that this is a historic occasion in another sense, namely, that this is the first time—and will probably be the last—in history that a Speaker of the House of Commons has been chosen by Members of the House of Commons in a place other than the House of Commons Chamber? Once more, Sir, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I beg to offer you our congratulations and wish you God-speed.
§ Brigadier-General Clifton Brown (Newbury)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, I felt that as the oldest member of your family, an old cavalry soldier and a back bencher of, I hope, some standing, I would like to associate myself with the great honour the House has done to you by electing you as their Speaker. I will not go back 62 years to the time when I first saw you. You were not then in the same 629 garb as you will be on our next Sitting Day, but I will say that as an elder brother I have watched with great interest your career in the Army. There you learnt in a good regiment, as did our late lamented Speaker, those qualities which will stand you in good stead in dealing with possible trouble in this House. I refer to the great cavalry motto of service which you were taught and to which you have devoted your life since. I believe that quality is essential to any Speaker. I do not mean service only to superior officers in the Army but service to those whom you command, which in every good regiment is part of the training which makes an officer a good officer and without which he could not be so. It only remains for me to wish you Godspeed and strength in the business which you have been called upon to direct. I hope you may have the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job and be not without the qualities that characterised the work of our late lamented Speaker—kindness of heart and fellowship towards your fellow Members.
§ On resuming—
§ Message to attend the Lords Commissioners.
§ The House went, and having returned.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have to report to the House that this House has been to the House of Peers, where His Majesty has been graciously pleased to signify, by his Royal Commissioners, his approbation of the choice of myself as Speaker of this House. I take this opportunity of repeating to the House my respectful acknowledgment of the honour it has done me and the confidence it has reposed in me, and of renewing the assurance of my entire devotion to the service of the House.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Does that mean that on the next Sitting Day we shall put Mr. Speaker out of the Chair after just putting him into it?
§ Question put, and agreed to.