HL Deb 03 July 1918 vol 30 cc548-50

My Lords, your Lordships will have noticed with deep regret the intimation in the newspapers that Lord Rhondda has passed away. There is something pathetic, something almost tragic, in the circumstances of his death, for truly it may be said that Lord Rhondda died in harness and that he undoubtedly shortened his life by the severity of his exertions in the interests of the State. Many of us had known Lord Rhondda in a public and Parliamentary capacity long before he entered this House. He was for nearly twenty-five years a Welsh Member in another place, distinguished for his faithful service there, and also for a reputation for business capacity of quite an unusual character; but with the present war it may be said that his real opportunity came. In 1915 he was sent out on a special Mission to the United States and Canada in connection with the supply of munitions, and those who were behind the scenes know well how successfully he discharged that duty. With the formation of the present Government at the end of 1916 he became President of the Local Government Board, and took a seat in your Lordships' House. It was in June, 1917, just a year ago from now, that he assumed the difficult and thankless post of Food Controller. I might mention that it was on his return journey from the successful Mission in the United States to which I have referred that Lord Rhondda was one of the victims of the shameful attack upon the "Lusitania," and I believe there can be no doubt that his experiences on that occasion very materially weakened his health; so much so, that when the post of Food Controller was offered to him his doctors showed the utmost reluctance in allowing him to undertake so arduous a task. His sense of public duty prevailed, and he assumed the burden. How difficult and how delicate it was, nobody knows better than your Lordships. He had to accustom the people of this country to restrictions upon their everyday method of life which were unpalatable, irksome, and novel. How well he did it is now a matter of common knowledge. I suppose it would be true to say that Lord Rhondda was the only popular Food Controller in Europe, and so well did he and those who act with him carry out their task that the people of this country almost contentedly hugged the chains which it was the duty of Lord Rhondda to place upon them. I think, my Lords, that his success was due to three things. Firstly, to the business experience and faculty of organisation to which I have referred; secondly, to the possession of an unruffled temper—your Lordships had experience of his imperturbability on different occasions in debate in this House; thirdly, to the great trust which he always reposed in his subordinates, from whom he obtained the most loyal and devoted service. In these ways Lord Rhondda was able to achieve a success which is often denied to men who fill a more dramatic part on the stage of public life, and the vacancy caused by his death is one which the Government and the country will find it difficult to fill.


My Lords, in the unavoidable absence of my noble friend Lord Crewe, I wish to say how sincerely on this side of the House we find ourselves in sympathy with everything that has fallen from the noble Earl. Lord Rhondda was a superb man of business, and by his management of a very difficult question he gained the confidence of the people of this country in a remarkable degree. As the noble Earl has pointed out, one of his great gifts was his power of appreciating the help that the best experts could be to him, and his willingness to make use of the best talent wherever that talent offered itself. The result of this great gift in administration was that, directed by his business mind, the management of affairs under him was a great success. The country recognised this, and the nation is poorer for his loss, for it will be very difficult to fill his place. On behalf of my noble friends and those associated with us, I wish again to express our deep sense of the loss which this House as well as the country has suffered, and our complete concurrence in all that has fallen from the noble Earl.


My Lords, as I have unfortunately felt it my duty sometimes to oppose the policy of Lord Rhondda, I wish, if I may be permitted to do so, to say in a very few words how entirely I sympathise with what has fallen from the Leader of the House and from my noble friend sitting on this Bench. Indeed, although it is true that I have sometimes felt myself compelled to differ, and differ acutely, from Lord Rhondda in some portions of the policy which he has pursued, yet I do most profoundly regret the premature decease, as I regard it, of a political opponent. Whenever we differed, I am quite certain of one thing—namely, that we differed solely because he did what he felt to be his duty, and it is on those grounds that I desire to express the deep sympathy which I am sure is shared by all your Lordships at the premature decease of the noble Viscount in the cause of what he felt to be his duty.