HC Deb 21 July 1970 vol 804 cc240-6
The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I rise with a heavy heart to pay tribute to Iain Macleod, whose death last night has come to us all as such a great shock.

He assumed office as Chancellor of the Exchequer barely a month ago. With that courage and determination in the face of pain which had become familiar to his friends and colleagues for many years, he persisted in making his first major speech in that office in the debate on the Address a fortnight ago, before allowing himself to be taken to hospital for an operation for appendicitis. He seemed to be making good progress. He had come home to Downing Street and was with his wife when he suffered the heart attack from which he died late last evening.

His death comes as a great personal sadness to me. We had been friends and colleagues in Parliament, in Government and in Opposition, since we were first elected in 1950. Together we had become members of that group which was known as One Nation. When he came to No. 10 to see me as I began to form this Administration, he recalled those days and said, quite simply, "That is where we began and now that is where we are carrying on".

He was a man of many parts. He was a lawyer by training, he had a most distinguished record of service in the war—during which he suffered those injuries which left him with the pain which dogged him for the rest of his life—he was a man of acute and subtle intelligence, and he was a hard-working and extremely capable Minister. He was a writer of distinction and a speaker of passionate eloquence, trenchancy and wit, but mixed with it was a puckishness which enchanted everyone and disarmed his opponents.

Iain Macleod was a master of oratory, respected and enjoyed as much outside this House as within. Those who were present on that occasion will never forget the way in which he made the speech which led to him being made Minister of Health by Sir Winston Churchill, the then Prime Minister.

With all his gifts, for me and I think for most of us it is his tremendous courage which stands out at this time, courage which he showed in his personal life and which he carried through into his public positions. None of us will forget his outstanding record as Colonial Secretary, both in the implementation of his policies and in expounding, in a series of brilliant and persuasive speeches, the principles which underlay them.

Those who disagreed with him no less than those who supported him respected the qualities which all of us recognised lay in him. Looking back, I think it was really the Ministry of Labour which in office was his real love. Constantly he spoke about it, both in public and in private.

Those who worked with him, as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, in Opposition, and who followed the characteristic combination of thoroughness, clarity and courtesy with which he led the Opposition in Finance Bill debates as well as in our discussions in the Shadow Cabinet, will know how well he had equipped himself to discharge the duties of Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is a tragedy, not just for his colleagues and for the House of Commons, but for the whole country, that he should have died just as he assumed the office for which most of his work in recent years had been a preparation.

Above all, of course, it is a tragedy for his wife and family. The thoughts of all of us today are with them as we salute, here in the House of Commons, which he loved so dearly, the memory of a fine colleague, a skilled and devoted Parliamentarian, and a good and gallant man.

Mr. Harold Wilson

I wish to associate my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself with the tribute which the Prime Minister has so movingly paid to Iain Macleod.

The right hon. Gentleman was able to talk of him as a colleague; as a member of his party and Government. Although we on this side of the House knew him as a political adversary, our perspective is, perhaps, just as important as that of his political friends in forming a representative House of Commons tribute to a very great Member and colleague.

There are no political friends or political foes who can be sparing in their tributes to Iain Macleod as a debater or orator. He was among the best of our post-war political debaters in this House, and at the same time—something which is rare—he was a great speaker at conferences—where, of course. I have seen him only on television—and at public meetings. His wit could be biting and rough. He enjoyed the fight. But it was strife without malice, strife directed to the very clear end he had in view: the victory of his party and the cause for which he fought.

It is a mark of the very real tragedy that the Government as well as we on this side of the House have suffered that we shall never now be able to judge his capacity in one of the highest Offices of State to which he was recently appointed, although all of us will remember the courage of that last speech the week before last.

All the tributes that have so far been paid to Iain Macleod today, from his colleagues and friends and from his political adversaries, single out the one word "courage" as the hallmark of his political and personal life. It was a courage all of us saw day by day and all of us respected, although he never sought to trade on his disabilities. He asked no quarter, just as he gave none.

In his political philosophy he was essentially a rounded, composite character, and when the histories and biographies come to be written to replace these ephemeral tributes, they will record his political no less than his physical courage.

He showed his courage in his willingness to go out into the wilderness on an issue which he regarded as a principle—and when the choice of what is and what is not a principle has to be made, with all that that involves, it is a lonely choice that has to be taken.

He showed his courage, combined with his ineradicable liberalism, on such matters as race, human equality and in the significant contribution which he made to decolonisation and his work in bringing one ex-colony after another to nationhood and sovereignty.

Politics apart—and tragedies like this transcend politics—the House is today very much poorer for this loss, and everyone will join the right hon. Gentleman in expressing our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Macleod and to their family.

Mr. Thorpe

One of the supreme qualities of the House of Commons is that when misfortune strikes a colleague the House, individually and collectively, reacts as a family, and its kindness, its understanding and its readiness to share in sorrows is something which is deeply comforting, and for which I myself have cause to be moved and grateful. It is my fervent hope that Eve Macleod will be similarly sustained and helped by the feelings of the House as she faces the agony of separation.

There were many issues on which I found myself in accord with Iain Macleod, and also many on which I was in disagreement, but for me he was one of the most courageous men in Parliament. We can say with Joseph Addison that he had Unbounded courage and compassion joined". He treated his own physical sufferings with total disregard—and it was not only in his speech on the Address. Those who sat near him on many occasions would see the sweat on his brow as the only indication of his suffering. But he made light of it. He was asked on television in Scotland before the election about his own physical disabilities, and with that caustic humour which gave so much pleasure in all quarters of the House he replied that his physical inability to look over his left shoulder was possibly helpful for a Tory politician.

But his courage was intellectual as well. As Colonial Secretary he encountered bitter hostility, but he said that one of the proudest dividends of his career was the trust and friendship which he had built up throughout the continent of Africa. In Opposition likewise, on Home Office reforms, on issues of race relations—and I think particularly of the Kenyan Asians—his conscience was his only guide and master.

He was a formidable debater and opponent. But he was also a very loyal friend. I think that I was most moved upon an occasion when one of his colleagues had been publicly disgraced. On arrival at London Airport Iain Macleod was asked for a comment and he said of that colleague, He was my friend, he is my friend, and he remains my friend. He died as he would have wished; he had regained one of the highest offices of the realm, I think that if he had been asked where he would wish to end his life he would probably have said, "No. 11, Downing Street", and then perhaps with his puckish eyebrows raised would have added, "Or next door—either will do." We can say, then, with Milton, that he had the … courage never to submit or yield. This afternoon our hearts go out to his equally courageous wife. Our sympathy goes out to her, to her family, and, indeed, to his party. I hope today that it will be of some comfort to his family to know that they are in our thoughts and prayers.

Mr. Turton

The three qualities I always associated with Iain Macleod were his brillance in debate, his compassion and his courage. Some of the older Members will remember his maiden speech on 14th March 20 years ago, when he rose, to most of the House completely unknown, and spoke on the Supplementary Estimates for health. In that one speech he made his mark in the House and in the Conservative Party, and this led to his becoming the Minister of Health when Sir Winston Churchill formed his Government.

I should like to recall to the House one passage near the end of that speech which I think illustrates the principles that dominated his life and his career. He said: … I believe that the conception of the … duty … of the strong to help the weak, not only forms a nobler and juster basis for our social services, but is a basis that is infinitely better matched to the independence and the character of our countrymen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 964.] That was a good illustration of his political thought, which made him one of the founders of the One Nation Group in our party.

Of his courage, as my right hon Friend the Prime Minister has said, there can be no better illustration than the debate just a fortnight ago today when he made that masterly exposition of the economy of the nation.

If I may end on a personal note, there were two occasions when my life crossed with kin Macleod's. The first was at the time of the Battle of Alamein, when I left my division to take another appointment and Iain Macleod was my successor on the staff of 50th Division. Then in 1955, after he had had four years as Minister of Health, I was appointed his successor by Sir Anthony Eden. From those two periods in my life, I learnt the high regard in which he was held by those who served with him in the Army and in the Ministry of Health.

I should like on behalf of Members of the House to associate myself with the expressions of sympathy with his wife. His death is a tremendous loss to the House and to the nation.

Mr. Mackie

I am truly sorry to be grateful for this opportunity, in conjunction with my colleagues, to pay tribute to my political neighbour in the borough of Enfield, Iain Macleod. There is nothing we can add to the tributes that have already been paid by right hon. and hon. Members, except to reiterate our knowledge of his great courage, particularly in overcoming the disability which he had. If I may say so, this was greatly helped by a very courageous wife. She and her family have our deep sympathy.

I spoke to the Mayor of Enfield this morning, and she wished me to put on record in the House how much the London borough of Enfield mourns Iain Macleod, one of its M.P.s for 20 years and a man for whom the whole borough had the very highest respect. The borough, like the House, is the poorer by his tragic death.

Sir E. Brown

I am very grateful, Mr. Speaker, that you have enabled me to say just a few words this afternoon. I was a constituent of Iain Macleod's, and I received him many times in my constituency of Bath.

I wanted to join in a personal tribute this afternoon on behalf of all the Conservatives that he represented beyond the general public in his constituency, because I was involved with him in a number of public commitments in the borough of Enfield, such as the Conservative Clubs and similar bodies.

I knew Iain Macleod for some 20 years, and he was a mentor to me, in that his love for industrial relations and his pursuance of peace with both the employers' and employees' sides of industry were an inspiration to me in the work I did on behalf of the Conservative Party.

I have sat for many years with his wife, Eve, as a magistrate on the Enfield Bench, and I should like to join my colleagues in paying tribute to her for her great courage and the inspiration that kept her husband going over these years.

May I say one final thing before we add his name to the roll of great people in this House. I do not ever think that Iain Macleod was just fractionally clever, I think he was clever, a clever man who has passed from us today.