HC Deb 15 June 1954 vol 528 cc1748-50
The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)

Sir, the House of Commons is obliged to restrict the occasions when it pays formal tributes on the demise of its Members.

It will, I feel sure, be thought fitting by all parties that Arthur Greenwood's death should be marked by our salute of respect and regard. He served 32 years in this House. His patriotism, his unselfishness and his personal charm made him a man of whom it may be said that in the wide circle of his acquaintances few there were who were not his friends.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—for Arthur Greenwood was our common colleague—can speak with greater knowledge than I can of his outstanding services to the Labour Party, to social progress and, in particular, to the Workers' Educational Association.

When I was called upon to form the National Government in 1940, Arthur Greenwood, as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, was an important figure. He was for more than two years a member of the War Cabinet. He shared our counsels and decisions through 1940 and 1941, which included our period of mortal peril. Later in the war, when he became leader of what I must call the formal Opposition of those days, he helped the conduct of affairs with wholehearted integrity, with all his experience and ability and without ever a thought for himself.

To his widow, his daughter and his son who sits among us today, we send out our deep sympathy and record our respect and thanks.

Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)

I desire on behalf of all of us on this side of the House to pay tribute to a very dear friend and close colleague for many years. I can recall Arthur Greenwood before the First World War taking part in a conference on social affairs, and showing at that time an interest in young people which never left him. Then he entered this House in 1922 and he soon made his mark. He served in both the first and second Labour Governments. He lost his seat in 1931, but returned after a very short period, and thereafter continued a Member until his death.

We on this side remember during those years the unselfish and devoted service that he gave to our party, particularly in the field of research. During that time he became possessed of a very wide experience in and knowledge of all social affairs. In 1935 he became Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and I was in very close companionship with him during those difficult years before the Second World War. No one could have had a more loyal colleague. Everyone will recall the famous speech that he made at the critical time of August, 1939, when he declared the unalterable resolve of the Labour Party to do its utmost to support the cause of freedom in the world.

Later he became a member of the Prime Minister's wartime administration, where he gave most valuable counsel. In particular, he was in charge of the plan of reconstruction, as, indeed, he had worked on reconstruction at the time of the First World War. It was largely through him that the proposals for the Beveridge Committee were made. Then in the Labour Government he was charged with a general supervision of social policy, and his monument will remain in the social legislation of that period, legislation which, I think, gave expression to a broad feeling in this country besides being in consonance with the views of the party.

He brought to his work great diligence, great knowledge, unselfishness and great personal charm. I have heard from many people in different walks of life to whom he was particularly ready to give help telling me how kind he was. Perhaps there was never anybody in our movement who so widely earned the deep affection of all the members. In the last few months his failing health had taken him away for some time, but his work will remain and he will always be a fragrant memory to all of us.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

A great number of us would like to pay tribute to the memory of Arthur Greenwood and do it individually and personally, for we had for him a warm and abiding affection. He gave himself completely to the cause in which he believed and, concerning the rightness of the principles of that cause, he never had a shadow of a doubt. His party and its members owe him an incalculable debt.

I was fortunate in his friendship, and I shall always retain cherished memories of our particularly close association during those anxious weeks, days and hours that preceded 3rd September, 1939. He was a man of high honour and a good companion, always courteous and always considerate. I never heard from him an expression of a mean thought. He was incapable of meanness either in thought or in action.

I shall always think of Arthur Greenwood in the words of the Psalmist: He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. We sympathise deeply and sincerely with his family, and particularly with Mrs. Greenwood, who for 50 years has been his devoted partner and who has earned the respect and affection of us all.