§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
Mr. Speaker, I have to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the wish of Mr. Speaker to relinquish his office, gives leave to the House to proceed forthwith to the choice of a new Speaker.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
I beg to move,That the right honourable George Thomas do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.I very much regret having to move this motion today. I do not propose to add anything to the eloquent words contained in the resolution which we have just passed and in the speeches which have supported it except to express my personal thanks, Mr. Speaker, and especially those of all Back Benchers, for the consideration, help and sympathy you have given to us during your years of Speakership.
I have moved many motions in this House but none more gladly and confidently than this one—gladly because it is likely to result in one whom I have liked and increasingly admired over 30 years becoming the Speaker of this House, and confidently because, in contrast to most of the motions I have moved in the House, this one is likely to be carried unanimously and enthusiastically. It will certainly be carried with enthusiasm by those who have witnessed the fairness, firmness and the Puckish humour with which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Thomas) has presided over many parliamentary Committees and recently over this House.
The motion will be accepted with enthusiasm by all those who have witnessed the quick wit, which rivals yours, Mr. Speaker, by which my right hon. Friend has been able, and will in future, I am sure, be able, to defuse a near-explosive situation and restore harmony and good will where a few minutes before there was conflict and anger.
Although many of us know my right hon. Friend as a parliamentary colleague, few apart from those of his Welsh compatriots know much 1152 about his background, his extramural activities and those things in his life which, in the modern jargon, make him tick. In the belief that these are important matters which should be within the knowledge of the House, I propose to state them briefly and selectively.
My right hon. Friend's father was a miner who died when my right hon. Friend was a small boy. The three great influences in his life have been his Church, his party and, maybe above all, his mother—a remarkable woman known with effection throughout Wales as "Mam"—who has fully shared her son's public life.
Next in influence has been his Methodist Church, which became, as it did with so many rebellious spirits in Wales at that time, his political nursery. Throughout his adolescence 80 per cent. of the men in the valley in which he lived were unemployed, and the consequential suffering which he saw around him left an indelible mark on his mind.
As a lay preacher he has preached for 40 years in almost every town in Wales, and sometimes in the United States. He attained the highest office open to a layman when he became Vice-President of the Methodist Conference. He was the first Member of Parliament to do so.
My right hon. Friend became a teacher and spent two years at University College, Southampton. Later he taught in the Old Kent Road in London—just outside my constituency—where he spent many evenings queueing for a place in our Public Gallery.
My right hon. Friend early became active in politics on his home ground, and he is still affectionately remembered for the active part that he played in the battle to get rid of the leasehold system in Wales, where its incidence was particularly grievous and widespread.
Finally, as a result of his participation in local politics, my right hon. Friend was elected the Member for Cardiff, West in 1945. But he played no leading rôle here for many years. It was feared at one time that his parliamentary career would be over before it had started, because shortly after his election he went to Greece, then torn by civil war, and fell into the hands of Communists, who held him captive for many weeks. There was at that time good reason to fear that he had been killed. 1153 My right hon. Friend's rise up the parliamentary ladder started when he became a member of the Chairmen's Panel in 1951. He remained a member until 1964. This long period of apprenticeship probably makes him the most experienced Chairman ever to become Speaker.
In 1964 my right hon. Friend was appointed a member of the Government, first as Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department for two years, then in 1966 as Minister of State, Welsh Office, and then as Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs. From 1968 to 1970 he was Secretary of State for Wales. While he was at the Welsh Office the Aberfan disaster occurred, and when he went among the stricken relatives of the victims his warm and friendly approach to people—an outstanding feature of his character—was tremendously appreciated and has never been forgotten.
I am told that he was a popular Minister with his civil servants, not only because of his personality but because of the successful and often unorthodox ways by which he advanced his departmental interests in the Cabinet.
My right hon. Friend played an important part in the Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarvon in 1969. He has represented Cardiff, West in this House for 30 years. He was made a Freeman of that city last year with his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who is sitting next to him and who became the Member for Cardiff, South-East at the same 1945 election.
My right hon. Friend was already a Freeman of the borough of Rhondda, in which lies Tonypandy, his home town. He once bought a tie there at the local Co-op which caused some hilarity on the Benches opposite when he wore it in the House shortly afterwards. Unbeknown to him, it was an exact copy of the Old Etonian tie.
My right hon. Friend has been Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means since 1974. His behaviour in the Chair during that testing period has given convincing proof that he possesses to the full the qualities which this House expects of its Speaker.
In electing him to the Chair we are doing him a great honour—the greatest honour this House can accord to any 1154 of its Members. In doing so, however, we all appreciate that we are imposing upon him severe hardship. Not only will he have to listen hour after hour to speeches in this House from whose repetitiveness all other Members are able to escape when they want, but he will have to undertake much arduous work behind the scenes.
Perhaps the greatest sacrifice that we are imposing upon him is one which, with his temperament, must be particularly irksome. Being an exceptionally sociable person, he will sadly miss the company of his colleagues by his withdrawal to the comparative seclusion to which a Speaker must unfortunately retire. And his colleagues will equally miss his company. He will no longer be be able to enliven the Tea Room with the quip and banter of which he is a master. If at any time one heard laughter at one of the tables, one could be pretty certain that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West was one of the company.
But anyone would make a mistake if he thought that, because of my right hon. Friend's geniality and love of fun, there was anything soft about him. On the contrary, on matters of principle on which he feels keenly, on the ethical and social issues which are engraved deeply in his heart, he is tough and inflexible.
I prophesy that he will make an admirable, if rather unorthodox, Speaker. He lacks the advantages of a legal training, but this, I believe, will be compensated by his reserves of common sense, his long experience in the Chair and his deep sense of justice.
It is usual, Mr. Speaker, when a Member proposes a new Speaker, to offer him advice. I have always considered this rather presumptuous. Nevertheless I intend to follow precedent. But my advice is simple and can be stated in a sentence. It is that in all matters my right hon. Friend should as far as possible emulate you, Sir, the outgoing Speaker, because in my vew, although all the Speakers I have known during the near half century that I have been a Member of this House have been good, none has been as good as yourself or as universally respected.
We can be confident, Mr. Speaker, that your successor will uphold to the full the traditions of this House and its prestige and that he will exercise the authority of 1155 the Chair with humour, with dignity, with modesty, with a light but firm hand and with absolute impartiality. I have much pleasure in moving the motion.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
It is with a keen sense of privilege and pleasure, Mr. Speaker, that I rise to second the motion moved in such persuasive and felicitous terms by my old and valued friend the Father of the House.
To add to what he has so fittingly said is in itself something of a work of supererogation. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the opportunity of voicing my support and adding my meed of praise to the right hon. Gentleman who is the subject of this motion.
Before doing so, Sir, may I be allowed to add my sincere and respectful tribute to those so properly and eloquently bestowed upon you today? It has twice been my privilege to second your election as Speaker. On each occasion my prophecy as to your continuing excellence in the position that you have adorned was wholly and abundantly confirmed. Your Speakership was the parliamentary climax of a career of vast achievement and versatile endeavour. Finis coronas opus: the end has crowned your work. As one who has enjoyed the privilege of your friendship over many years, may I salute your services? We shall cherish always the recollection of the distinction which your presence and your Speaker-ship have brought to our proceedings.
To follow such a Speaker would he no easy task for any man, but for the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Thomas) it will be less difficult than for most. The right hon. Gentleman, like yourself, is a Welshman. The nearest affinity that I can claim in that regard is that I had a Welsh grandmother. I am proud of that fact, although, of course, it does not have the special efficacy attributed to the position of a Scottish grandmother, of which it is said that it will not save a man from falling into sin but at least it will prevent him from enjoying it.
The right hon. Gentleman is not only a Welshman and an orator; he is a lay preacher, and in that regard I can certainly claim no affinity. When, as 1156 Speaker, he has from time to time to make exhortation to the House, he may perhaps look, for his text, to the 14th Chapter of the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians:Let all things be done decently and in order".I trust that when that exhortation is made, it will receive the political equivalent of ecumenical assent.
On the right hon. Gentleman can fittingly be bestowed the title which Gladstone proudly bestowed upon himself—that of being an old parliamentary hand. That title is not to be won by the mere effluxion of time. It needs also a knowledge of the ways and workings of this ancient and idiosyncratic institution—a knowledge which comes only from dedication to its service and devotion to its purposes.
That dedication and that devotion the right hon. Gentleman has exhibited through the years of his membership, to the benefit of the House and the furtherance of its work. His contribution here has been characterised not only by its quality but by the manner of its making. He is richly endowed with those qualities that make a good parliamentarian and a much-loved colleague—not only eloquence and judgment, although he has both in good measure, but courtesy and consideration, affability and sensibility, kindliness and good humour, and a wit that often scores but never wounds.
For 30 years, the right hon. Gentleman has brought those qualities to our proceedings and lived with us on equal terms. Now we are to elevate him by bestowing on him the highest honour in our power. We do so gladly and gratefully, but with a little tinge of sadness, for one reason and one reason alone. In a way, the high office of Speaker withdraws a man from his fellows. It necessarily substitutes a sort of lofty solitude for the lively camaraderie of our parliamentary exchanges. The Speaker, in a sense, is with us but not of us. Almost, he is in the position in which Addison described himself as being in the first issue of the Spectator, nearly 300 years ago:I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind than as one of the species.But the Speaker is no mere passive spectator. He not only surveys the 1157 scene; he sets it. He not only observes the cast; he arranges their exits and their entrances. For us in this House, the Speaker is arbiter and counsellor, president and friend. For all that, the right hon. Gentleman is fully and eminently equipped.
If I were to seek to embark on a comprehensive catalogue of the right hon. Gentleman's manifold excellence and diverse attainments, I should detain the House much longer than I would wish. Right hon. and hon. Members would weary not of his excellence but of my iteration. Therefore, I would say in conclusion only this: sometimes, in the observations that I venture to address to the House, and also, occasionally, as a sort of seventh unofficial language in the other Assembly in which I sit, I introduce a little modest Latinity. But not on this occasion. Let me, as parliamentarians should, follow a precedent, though not with the grace of expression, naturally, of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans). Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman, in another ancient language, reflecting another ancient culture, but this time a living language, Duw fo gyda chi, a hwyl fawr yn y gwaith o'ch blaen: in English, "God speed and good fortune in the task that lies ahead." In expressing this wish, I speak for myself and from my heart, with the affection of an old friend and the admiration of a parliamentary colleague, but I am confident that, in so doing and in commending the motion to the House, I have the collective consent and cordial concurrence of all those here assembled.
§ 3.26 p.m.
Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
In accordance with ancient custom, I submit myself to the will of the House. Before expressing thanks to the right hon. Gentlemen who have proposed and seconded my election, I wish to add my tribute to those already paid to you, Sir, in rightly glowing terms by the Leaders of the respective parties in the House.
For close on two years, it has been my rare privilege to serve as Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker under your leadership. Your kindness, consideration and compassion have placed me in your debt for ever. Your friendship is something that I shall always treasure. The House will understand 1158 how deeply grateful I am to the First and Second Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means, with whom it has been a pleasure to work for the past two years. Knowing your dislike of calling two Privy Councillors on the same side in succession, I wondered whether I would succeed in catching your eye.
I am profoundly moved by the kindness of my two long-standing friends, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) for the over-generous terms in which they spoke. My Welshness made me tolerant of their exaggeration. I have been nurtured in the tradition that there are times when exaggeration is properly permitted—at weddings and funerals, and in the election of the Speaker of this ancient and honourable House.
It is more than three decades since I entered this Chamber as a new Member. I shall never forget the sense of awe that overcame me on my first day in the House. My right hon. Friend, if the House will allow me so to refer to him for the last time, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs sat next to me on that first day, as he has so kindly done today, at my request. We both had the privilege, along with the then hon. Members for Cardiff, North and Cardiff, North-West, to represent constituencies in the capital city of Wales. The deep gratitude that I feel towards the electors of Cardiff, West, and to the men and women who have worked so hard to keep me in this place, will be understood by all right hon. and hon. Members.
This is a proud day for the Principality of Wales, Mr. Speaker. With your permission, I shall quote the two opening lines of our Welsh National Anthem.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. James Callaghan)
Sing them, George.
I have too much compassion for that. The two opening lines read:Mae hen wlad fy nhadauYn annwyl i mi.Or, in English:The land of my fathers Is dear unto me.1159 Once only in the long history of this House has a Welsh constituency Member been elected to the high and responsible office of Mr. Speaker. That was in 1685, when Sir John Trevor, the Member for Denbigh, was called to the Chair. The poor man suffered from a squint in both eyes. That led to considerable confusion, as he was Speaker at a time when the occupant of the Chair pointed at the Member whom he intended to speak. If the House honours me with its trust today, I hope that there will be no similar doubt about whom I call.
Cardiff has been represented in this House since 1542, but this is the first time in the ensuing 434 years that one of its Members has been nominated for the Chair. Therefore, I am all the more conscious of the honour in being proposed as your successor, Mr. Speaker. Members of Parliament carry a high trust, but to be selected by one's fellow citizens to exercise judgment on their behalf is both a privilege and a mighty responsibility.
We live in a different world from that which we knew when first I entered this place, but the House adapts itself to the changing demands of the society it seeks to serve. None the less, the basic rôle of the House remains unchanged, in that it will always be the guardian of the people's lights and liberties.
Britain is a parliamentary democracy, and anything that undermines the dignity and authority of the House is a threat to our democratic way of life. Within the House Mr. Speaker is the guardian of the rights and privileges of every hon. Member seeking to discharge his duty. It is the responsibility of the occupant of the Chair to protect minority rights without totally disregarding majority rights. If the House honours me with its trust today I shall do my utmost to further that duty.
No one in the Chamber is more conscious than am I of my limitations for the high office of Speaker. I conclude by telling the House that if it decides to call me to that Chair. God Almighty being my helper, I shall strive to the utmost to serve the House with impartiality and without fear or favour.
Question put and agreed to.
1160 Resolved,That the right honourable George Thomas do take the Chair of this House as Speaker.
It only remains for me to congratulate my successor and offer him my sincere good wishes, and to take leave of the House.
Then Mr. SPEAKER left the Chair, and the SERJEANT AT ARMS laid the Mace under the Table.
Whereupon Mr. GEORGE THOMAS was conducted to the Chair by Mr. GEORGE STRAUSS and Sir DEREK WALKER-SMITH.
Mr. Speaker-Elect (standing on the upper step)
Before I assume the Chair as Speaker-Elect, I want once again to thank the House for its confidence in me. I pray that I shall prove worthy of that confidence and that all of us will maintain the high traditions of this place.
§ Mr. SPEAKER-ELECT Sat down in the Chair.
Then the Mace was placed upon the Table.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister
It falls to me, Mr. Speaker-Elect, to congratulate you and express the pleasure of the House on your election to the Chair.
On the last occasion when a new Speaker-Elect was chosen there was widespread criticism, not of the right hon. Member elected but of the manner in which it was done, and particularly of the feelings about the lack of consultation with hon. Members in all parts of the House. Today there can be no criticisms or reservations on either count.
You are the first occupant of the Chair, Mr. Speaker-Elect, to be elected under the new procedures adopted by the House following the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure just four years ago.
Over recent weeks there were the fullest consultations among Back Benchers and it is only now, following those consultations and the result of them, that I feel it appropriate to reveal that the Cabinet, had it been asked to express a public recommendation, would have recorded its unanimous support for the proposition which has just been endorsed. I happen to know that is true. I have every reason to feel that that would have been the posture of the Opposition Front Bench and, indeed, of all parties. But it is a 1161 fact that the initiative in your selection came exclusively from Back Benchers, expressed through party meetings and in other ways.
You therefore enter on your task, Mr. Speaker-Elect, with the total good will and confidence of all of us. My own pleasure in congratulating you stems from personal grounds as well as my conviction that the House has taken the right decision. You and I were among that group of new Members who first took their seats after the 1945 General Election. Those who have sat continuously since then are now down to just over 20 against over 300 who came here on that August day. Among those 20 are your predecessor, the retiring Speaker, and the seconder of the motion, the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith).
One reason for many of us being anxious to propose your election as Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker was our recollection of your distinguished membership of the Chairmanship Panel, whose members used to officiate on the troubled Committee stages of the Finance Bill and other legislation. It is almost 25 years since I led the Opposition team in Committee when you presided over our lengthy examination of the Cotton Bill of 1953.
In paying tribute a few minutes ago to your predecessors I referred, as have others, to the loneliness of the Speakership but also to the Speaker's approachability. I have no doubt, Mr. Speaker-Elect, knowing you, that you will continue the agreeable custom followed by the departing Speaker in allowing right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House to call on him. Perhaps, however—I am sure that, knowing you, you will do this—you will be prepared to give the House, at a convenient moment when you have had time to consider the matter, a ruling on whether, so far as liquidity is concerned, we should bring our own entertainment with us. In that connection, Mr. Speaker-Elect, again knowing you, I deprecate that speculative rush on the part of the right hon. and hon. Members to buy up stocks of "Mr. Speaker" whisky, while they last, in order to ensure that their scarcity value is laid down for their respective posterities.
1162 Mr. Speaker-Elect, your devotion to this House, your knowledge not only of its procedures and practices but also of the sometimes indefinable special code which governs our proceedings, is only one of the qualifications which we commend. We all honour you for your deep humanity and your knowledge of people—a humanity born in you in the Rhondda and expressed in your distinguished service to the Church of which you have been Vice-President, and whose members you have addressed and led in almost every town and village of this country and continents abroad.
Again, if I may pick up something that was said earlier, never has the compassion of any Member of this House been so tested, as a Minister, as in the tragedy of Aberfan, when I saw you there with the most difficult task of all—namely, comforting the bereaved parents as each new body was brought into the chapel and visiting each bereaved home. That compassion was allied with determination when months afterwards, almost single-handed, you secured the decisions and the money to remove those overhanging and frightening tips which were still striking terror in the hearts of the people of Aberfan.
One of the first rôles of honour which you were called upon to play as Secretary of State for Wales was an important and indeed bilingual rôle at the Investiture of the Prince of Wales—a rôle in which few not in the know could have guessed that your mastery of your mother tongue was of only a few weeks' origin.
It is a good thing, Mr. Speaker-Elect, that we have had the rulings of your predecessors forbidding the use of the Welsh language in our parliamentary proceedings, despite some minority dissatisfaction. Despite your record in this matter, it is perhaps as well that that ruling should continue once today is over. It is not an easy language for some of us and the tablets record—I have always treasured this—your opening words to a distinguished Lord Mayor, when instead of addressing him as Arglwydd Faer—Lord Mayor—you called him Arglwydd lor, which is translatable as "Almighty God". I am happy to feel that from now on I shall have to address you in English, or I do not know what you might be called! 1163 I shall feel happy that once the Royal approbation has been received we shall be able to call you "Mr. Speaker". We all know your warmth, compassion, humanity and devotion. I hope that I transcend the rules neither of order nor of sensitivity when I say what all your friends are thinking, as we know you are, and that is how sad it is that "Mam" is not here today.
All your great qualities are matched by a devotion to this House, its conventions and idiosyncrasies. You have a deep knowledge of procedure enriched now by two years as Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker, but over and above the knowledge of procedure you have that love of the House, that sense of what the House wants and needs that, I believe, will enable you to rank among the great Speakers in history.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (Finchley)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, I welcome and congratulate you as our 153rd Speaker. It is 600 years since Sir Peter de la Mare was elected by the Commons to act as their spokesman. You have now attained the highest office that the House can bestow on one of its Members.
You will occupy the Chair with pride—pride on behalf of your constituents and your beloved Wales, which you have served so long and so well.
Your Methodist connections have been referred to, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) has already given you some advice about the text to select for your next sermon. After you have become Mr. Speaker, you will no doubt consider taking as another text a passage from Proverbs, Chapter 17, which must have been designed for Speakers:He that bath knowledge spareth his words.In your apprenticeship as Deputy Speaker, the House has already seen you apply that impartiality, dignity and judgment which are the essential equipment of your office.
This is not a party political day; it is a House of Commons occasion. I am happy to follow the lead of a former Tory Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, in earnestly supporting a Speaker from a different party. Sir Robert said that in an election for the Chair the needs of the 1164 House should be put first. In that same spirit we join in honouring you today as the Speaker of our choice.
Like the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), I have been looking at precedents for Welsh Speakers—indeed, I think that we have all been looking at the same books! Mr. Speaker William Williams, the first Welsh Speaker, has already been mentioned in connection with a Member called Sir Robert Peyton. In contrast to his behaviour the House will be aware of the gentle and peace-loving nature of my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton).
Many people have spoken and written of the qualities required of a Speaker. Some Speakers have had exceptional qualities. Others, in the words of one commentator, have had not so much rare qualities butcommon qualities in a rare degree".Whichever it be, Speaker after Speaker in history has risen to the demands of great and sometimes unexpected parliamentary occasions.
Mr. Speaker Lenthall, described as an unspectacular lawyer, turned out to be the most spectacular and courageous defender of the rights and liberties of the Commons. Past Speakers have protected our liberties so that we in our turn may be better able to protect and enhance the liberties of the people whom we serve.
As you step into that lonely Chair, Mr. Speaker-Elect, your heart will be full.
It has been said thatWithout the support of the House a Speaker can do nothing; with that support there is little he cannot do.We shall give you that support freely and gladly, confident that you will add another illustrious chapter to the history of the great office of Speaker.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, I congratulate you warmly and wish you well in your office. Were it not out of order, I would draw on the language of one of my grandparents and say Y Path Fuddigoliaeth—"What a great victory"—for the House of Commons that you have become our Speaker-Elect.
When you were elected Chairman of Ways and Means in 1974, I confess that I was a little sad on one count, since I would no longer hear the Lobby Clerk 1165 call "Thomas, George, Methodist, Labour". However, there was some compensation when we could go into the Tea Room and hear your unmistakable laughter through the dense haze of cigar smoke, enjoying the pleasure of the company of your colleagues, usually at a Welsh table—although I hasten to say that your friendships span the ecumenical divide, taking in those of all political parties and nations. In the present climate that may not be a bad thing.
You have given great service to your political colleagues from whom you have been neutralised since 1974. It is not the time to speak of that. You have also given great service to your Church, the Commonwealth and to Wales. One of your most proud moments must have been when you became a Freeman of Cardiff. You now have a further opportunity to serve your colleagues. In a sense you will have to be somewhat withdrawn from us. I am certain that you will remain the same right hon. Gentleman whom some of us have known for 15 or 20 years.
It was perhaps not quite adroitly put, but I think that the point was well illustrated in the story that I heard of you when you were preaching to an all-negro congregation in Alabama. The preacher got up and said, "Mr. Thomas's face may be white but his heart is just as black as ours."
I hope, Mr. Speaker-Elect, that while you will maintain the dignity of the office, we shall still be asked, "How are you, my son?" and that you will know everyone's Christian name. You start on this great office with enormous good will and affection and the confidence of every one of us that your very greatest triumphs are yet to come.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, may I on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself offer congratulations on your elevation to the Chair. This gives us great pleasure because it has our enthusiastic support. From your service as Chairman of Ways and Means and as Chairman in other directions we knew that when the retiring Speaker announced his intention to leave the Chair there was no necessity to look any further than his deputy for a worthy successor. 1166 We have always been impressed by your knowledge and experience of the procedures of the House, your scrupulous fairness and your kindness to all Members. I speak only for myself when I say that I am delighted to see a Celt occupying the Chair. I say that as another Celt, although I suspect that with your customary fairness it will not give me any advantage over the Anglo-Saxons in catching your eye. From this Bench we look forward with confidence to your enjoying a long and distinguished term as Speaker. May I assure you of our support and our best wishes.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, my right hon. and hon. colleagues did not wish the retirement of your predecessor. Nevertheless, once he had made his decision we were delighted and happy that you should have been chosen to preside over us. We might say that it is with a great sense of relief that we feel we have just got you into the Chair in time. In the recent past we have been discussing a subject called devolution. It has been my fear that perhaps at some stage obstacles might be placed in the way of a candidate representing a constituencey in one of the devolved territories. It is a good thing that that is not so.
We welcome your assurance that you will protect the rights not only of individuals but of minority parties. May I assure you, and perhaps bring you some comfort in so doing, that my colleagues and I will not fall into the trap of regarding ourselves as a minority but will regard ourselves first as Members—together with you and all of our colleagues—of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. If we are ever tempted to have a chip on our shoulder, we can always console ourselves with the thought that although we may be in a minority here we are a majority at home.
On a radio programme last weekend a distinguished predecessor of yours said that he did not think you would need any advice from him about becoming a good Speaker. That will remind you of an informal occasion when some of us were discussing the structure of the Methodist Church. As a mere Anglican I inquired as to the difference in status between an ordained minister and a lay preacher. For once you were rather slow to reply 1167 and it was left to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop), another Methodist lay preacher, to supply the answer. "The answer," my hon. Friend said, "is that the ordained ministers are paid to be good, whereas George and I are good for nothing."
Today, in a sense, we have ordained that you should preside over us. It may be that certain privileges and rewards will flow from that decision. Even if those rewards were entirely withdrawn, we all know that you would still be good.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, I should like to say what pleasure it gives me to address you in this way. In your former political incarnation we did not see eye to eye. I have always known you as a good Welshman, proud of your nationality, as you have reminded us this afternoon. We have heard today of other Welsh Speakers. I do not think that any of them was a member, as you are, of the Gorsedd of the Bards, and certainly none of them was a patron of the National Eisteddfod, which this year celebrates its eighth centenary. I do not think that any one of them ever published a long poem in Welsh as you have done.
Although I have always wanted to see the Welsh governing themselves through their own Parliament and consequently not taking too deep a root at Westminster, I confess that to see one distinguished Welshman succeed another of Welsh ancestry in this august office gives me great pleasure. This, at least, has not happened before. With the Lord Chancellor living on the other side of the Terrace the residential Welsh at Westminster are coming within range at any rate of forming their own rugger side.
I have always admired your conduct of the debates of the House as Deputy Speaker. You have always proved yourself to be utterly fair, just and courteous to my colleagues and me and all who belong to the minorities in this House. I join with other right hon. and hon. Members in wishing you years of health, strength and happiness in your lonely office, so that the House may enjoy the benefit of your wisdom and your service here—at least until, perhaps, you decide later to fulfil your career by accepting the 1168 Speakership of a Welsh Parliament. In the meantime boed i wenau'r Net oleuo eich llwybr.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Roberts (Cardiff, North-West)
Mr. Speaker-Elect, may I, as your Member of Parliament and one who had the privilege of knowing your mother and who has enjoyed your friendship for many years, offer my congratulations.
I can assure the House that the Speaker-Elect is a model constituent. He has never at any time come to me with any of his problems. I am conscious that in offering you my congratulations I am, for once anyway, speaking for the whole of the Principality. Today, for the first time since 1685, a sitting Welsh Member becomes Speaker of the House of Commons. This will bring joy and pride throughout Wales and to Welshmen wherever they live. Welshmen will be particularly happy to think that the fine qualities you demonstrated at the Investiture will now be used in your new office.
We are mindful, too, of the part you have played in cementing the link between the Church and Nonconformity in Wales and how you have helped to bring harmony where far too much bitterness once prevailed.
The capital city, which you have represented with such distinction for more than 30 years, and your home town, the borough of Rhondda, reflect the thoughts and feelings of the Welsh people. We have made no secret over the years of what we think of you. You have the freedom of the city and the freedom of the borough. We look to you again on this special day with admiration for your great achievement, with respect for the integrity of your public service and with warmth and affection for you. We are gratified that our views are so clearly held throughout the United Kingdom.
Mr. Speaker-Elect, may I conclude by wishing you happiness and good fortune in your great and arduous task.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister
Mr. Speaker-Elect, I have to signify that it is Her Majesty's pleasure that this House should present their Speaker on this day at 4.30 o'clock in the House of Peers for Her Majesty's Royal Approbation. 1169 Since we have to be there by 4.30, hon. Members may wish to foregather at around 4.25 p.m.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Sitting suspended till 4.25 p.m.
§ On resuming—
§ Message to attend the Lords Commissioners:
§ The House went:—and, having returned;
I have to report to the House that this House has been to the House of Peers, where Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to signify by her Lords Commissioners her approbation of the choice of myself as Speaker of this House.
My first duty to the House is to repeat my respectful acknowledgments of the honour it has done me and the confidence that it has reposed in me, and to renew the assurance of my entire devotion to the service of the House.
Resolved, nemine contradicente,
That an Humble address be presented to Her Majesty praying Her Majesty that she will be most graciously pleased to confer some signal mark of her Royal favour upon the right hon. Selwyn Lloyd, for his eminent services during the important period in which he has, with such distinguished ability and dignity, presided in the Chair of this House; and assuring Her Majesty that whatever expense Her Majesty shall think fit to be incurred upon that account this House will make good the same.—[The Prime Minister.]
§ To he presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.
That Mr. Oscar Murton he Chairman of Ways and Means, that Sir Myer Galpern be First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means and that Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine be Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.—[The Prime Minister.]