HL Deb 18 March 1940 vol 115 cc889-91

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, I hope the House will allow me the privilege, on behalf of my noble friends and myself, and I am sure on behalf of the whole House, of expressing our very sincere congratulations to the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, on his most fortunate escape from what might have been an additional and very tragic experience, and to say with what relief and thankfulness we welcome him back to the House. We trust, I am sure, that he is not much worse for his very trying experience, and we should all like to join in wishing him many years of health and useful work for India, which he has served with such loyalty and complete devotion. I am sure, in saying that, I have the assent of the whole House.


My Lords, may I be permitted on behalf of noble Lords on these Benches to supplement what has been so well said by the Leader of the Opposition and to express our cordial congratulations to the noble Marquess on his escape? When we saw in the headlines that he had been shot at, we all of us felt a great shock, and when, reading down, we found that he had been only slightly wounded, the relief was proportionate. The noble Marquess, in the clothing which he wore, has an heirloom to leave to his family. I feel certain that the whole country will share with this House the pleasure we feel in seeing him back in his place to-day.


My Lords I need hardly say how greatly I appreciate the words which have fallen from the lips of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Viscount who sits on the Liberal Benches. I do indeed appreciate their sympathy and their good will, and not least do I appreciate their congratulations to me upon my escape from injuries which might have been attended by more serious and, indeed, fatal consequences. But at this moment it is to Lady O'Dwyer that my thoughts go, as indeed I am sure do the thoughts of all your Lordships. For her the death, and more particularly the manner of the death, of so brilliant and so conscientious a public servant must be a tragedy overwhelming in its magnitude.

It has been brought to my notice that apprehensions have arisen in various quarters lest this tragedy be permitted to affect the judgment of His Majesty's Government upon the affairs of India. I am indeed sorry that any such apprehensions should have arisen, but since they have found expression, I am glad of this early opportunity of stating in public, what I have already said more than once in private, that the act of an isolated fanatic cannot conceivably have the smallest influence upon the judgment of His Majesty's Government one way or the other regarding the affairs of India. I hope I may say, speaking in my personal capacity, that my affection for and admiration of things Indian, and for the Indian peoples, are far too deeply rooted to be in any way shaken by an episode which really has no bearing upon the general question of the relations between the peoples of the two countries. I beg once more to thank your Lordships for your extreme kindness.