HL Deb 05 February 1941 vol 118 cc278-86

My Lords, it is with great personal sorrow that I have to inform the House of the death this morning of Lord Lloyd, the Leader of the House. This sad event will of necessity affect the immediate business of your Lordships' House. Thought has been given to the fact that we are living in exceptional times, and also to the fact that we all know what Lord Lloyd himself would have wished; nevertheless, it is felt that the precedents of your Lordships' House count for something in this matter and that, in spite of these present times, your Lordships would, on this occasion, be unwilling to continue with the business which you have been called upon to consider. Other noble Lords may wish to say something respecting Lord Lloyd, but later, therefore, I shall move that the House do adjourn.

The House is specially bereaved by the loss of a Leader whom it has not been privileged to greet in that capacity, and the country has to suffer the loss of a distinguished servant and one of its most dynamic personalities. Our first thought to-day will be a desire to express our deep sympathy with Lady Lloyd and Lord Lloyd's family, and our second thought that of the great loss which we have ourselves sustained. All of us knew the length and quality of Lord Lloyd's public service. His knowledge of many parts of the Empire was very close, and his experience in the Middle East and in India always made his speeches interesting and helpful. One cannot help reflecting that, although Lord Lloyd has died, in India his name will be perpetuated in the Lloyd Dam in the Province of Bombay. For generations to come the fertilising waters will spread over otherwise arid lands, to the sustenance and benefit of the Indian people. That constitutes, in my judgment, an almost faultless memorial to any man.

We also know that Lord Lloyd's work as Chairman of the British Council was one of very great importance—work to which he gave whole-heartedly all his energies. I was privileged to serve with him on the Executive Committee of that body, and although I suppose there are few men whose political philosophy differed more from that of myself, I was yet able to work with him in these great matters with complete understanding and approval. My Lords, our public life is much the poorer for the loss of a distinguished Englishman, and all of us, whatever our political opinions may be, have lost a friend.


My Lords, all of us, I am sure, on this side of the House as well as on the other, would wish to associate ourselves with what the Deputy Leader of the House has said. It was to me, as I expect it was to many other noble Lords here present, a tragic surprise to learn after I came into these precincts this morning of his sudden death. It seemed to me that Lord Lloyd had, notwithstanding his great services in times past, arrived at a moment in his career when perhaps he might have before him the greatest opportunity of all, and it is on that account the more tragic and the more utterly grievous that at the opening of an opportunity like this he should suddenly be taken away. To those who, like myself, are older than he was—although he was well on in middle age—it seems particularly poignant and difficult to understand that a man who, by long and intimate experience, had equipped himself for a great work that came to his hand, should be taken away from it at the beginning like this. But that only accentuates with all of us, I am sure, our feeling of personal and national loss; and in that, leaving aside for the moment the smaller matters associated with the business of this House, I should like on be-half of all those for whom I am privileged to speak to associate myself with what the noble Lord has said.


My Lords, the noble Lords on these Benches would wish to join in the tributes that have been paid to our colleague who has passed away, so recently among us and so active in the service of this House. I remember him years ago as a member of the House of Commons in which he was an eminent figure, and I afterwards knew something of his work in the Middle East, where he was one of the leading members of the Arab Bureau that played so great a part in the last war. Then he held high offices in India and in Egypt, and afterwards was Chairman of the British Council, to which function Lord Snell has just so fittingly referred. There, I think, perhaps he found himself more fully than even in any other of his offices. He gave to the British Council indefatigable work, and it was his zeal and energy more than any other one cause which made it a real force throughout the British Commonwealth and Empire and in many foreign countries. Then he became Secretary of State for the Colonies, a position which in these days gives wide opportunities, and his speeches in this House in that capacity breathed a progressive and a practical spirit. Finally, he became Leader of the House, the duties of which office he was never destined to perform. I think it would be true to say of him that patriotism rather than fame was the spur that led him to "scorn delights and live laborious days." To Lady Lloyd we would offer an expression of our respectful sympathy.


My Lords, I should wish to add from these Benches a word or two of tribute to the memory of Lord Lloyd. I did not know him as intimately as some of those who have just spoken, but often he used to speak to me about some of those subjects which he had most dearly at heart, and I was deeply impressed always by his whole-hearted sincerity and devotion to our great Empire. Sometimes there seemed to be fire burning within him in the enthusiasm and earnestness with which he spoke on the subjects which were dearest to his heart. I remember his once speaking at a Domum dinner at Winchester. He told me afterwards he had not expected to speak on that occasion. He took as his subject the wonderful opportunities of service which were given by the Empire overseas, and by his whole-hearted enthusiasm and earnestness he net only gripped the attention but won the allegiance of a somewhat critical audience. I can remember in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom a statement by Lawrence which runs something like this about him: "He was always eager for new experience. He left us, and he did not see how much we liked him." I am glad that through these recent appointments he learned how the nation trusted him. We deeply regret his passing. There has gone from us one who was a great patriot and a vital and dynamic personality.


My Lords, as an old Colonial Secretary I should like to add my tribute to an old friend. It is indeed tragic that just at this moment Lord Lloyd should lay down an office which is at least as important in war as ever it was in peace. I know how, not only in the office in London, where he had won the affection of, and was an inspiration to, all his staff, but throughout the whole Colonial Empire, his loss will be deplored. I do not think that at this time anybody could have been called to that office who had better qualifications for it. He had that dynamic energy of which Lord Snell has spoken. He had the widest knowledge and understanding of all the manifold peoples of the Colonial Empire, and he had, as I knew from much help which he gave me in the four years I was at the Colonial Office, not only that knowledge and understanding, but the deepest sympathy with all its peoples. He was passionately devoted to serving this country in the war. He saw, as perhaps hardly anyone could have seen, the tremendous contribution in man-power, in spirit, and in everything else that the Colonial Empire had made. He had already done great work to give effect to that, and it is tragic that he should now have to lay it down. But his work, and the foundations which he laid, will live on, and it may be some comfort to his family that he has died as he would have wished, on active service.


My Lords, I ask your leave to say a few words of tribute to the memory of Lord Lloyd, in whom the Navy has lost a great supporter and a good friend. Through many years, as President of the Navy League, he struggled to keep the White Ensign before the vision of the people of this country when there were only too many who were ready to ignore it and all it stands for. In him the Mercantile Marine has lost a great champion, and there must be many now who regret that his advice and representations on that subject were not listened to with more attention. My own association with him dates from the last war when we served together in Arabia. In later years he found time, in spite of all his other activities, to spend five years as Chairman of the Seamen's Hospital Society, and the last three years as its President; and as I am a member of that society I can testify to the energy, zeal, and ability which he put into all that might be termed his lesser labours. George Lloyd was truly a "live wire," and he possessed, to support his activities, many great qualities. He had vision, he had the courage to say what should be done in spite of any ill effects that his statements might have upon his own future. He had energy and resolution to pursue the objects he took up to the end. In fact, my Lords, we have lost a type of public man that the country can ill spare at any time, and certainly the gap he leaves in the activities of life to-day will be one that will be very hard to fill.


My Lords, may I be permitted, as one who knew Lord Lloyd more intimately than most, to pay my small tribute to his great services? In the same form at school with him, going to Cambridge at the same time, being engaged in the same activities there, being elected to the House of Commons thirty-one years ago on the same day, I saw a very great deal of this great British public servant. Your Lordships may like to be reminded, when we are thinking of our late Leader to-day, that in 1914—another terrible moment in the history of our country—he exerted extraordinary influence in helping to bring all Parties together behind the Asquith Administration of that time. He worked day after day, night after night, without rest, endeavouring to bring about the unity of that day. I would also remind your Lordships that it was Lord Lloyd—I think this is right—before anyone else, who really sensed the dangers of Hitlerism in Europe. At a time when Defence was unpopular, he went year after year to the great Conference of the Party to which he belonged, tabled resolutions, and spoke with prophetic vision as to the danger to our country, endeavouring to rouse us to the perils which lay before us.

As has been said, he was an intense patriot from the highest point of view. No one will deny, who has studied his career, that had he been a little more ready to bend his political conscience on occasion, and a little more inclined to go with the stream, he must have reached a very high place long ago in the counsels of this country. It was his very intense beliefs that, perhaps, injured his political career at various times, but no one will doubt that, when war broke, there was the man to whom almost instinctively men of every shade of opinion turned because they knew him as one who at any time was prepared to go to the stake for his country and for the great things for which this country stands. A most lovable personality has been taken from us, and I cannot help thinking that the news—which reached me only as I came into this House—will be a shock which will be widespread throughout the land in many different walks of life and many different societies, for if ever a man gave of his strength and vitality, which was immense, to causes which he considered good, that truly applied to George Lloyd. It may be some consolation to his relatives to know that a very great number of his fellow-countrymen will mourn his loss as one who was great at this present time; and it will be recognised that he gave unsparingly of his strength to his country and for the sake of the cause to which he was attached.


My Lords, noble Lords on both sides of the House have spoken with so much eloquence of Lord Lloyd that I hardly dare add a few words; but I should like to refer, just for one moment, to a period in Lord Lloyd's career to which Lord Snell referred, and that is the period when he was Governor of Bombay. As noble Lords are aware, I spent a good many years in India, and it so happened that I was there during those years and was privileged to know, admire, and respect Lord Lloyd in the high office he held in Bombay. The vision that he showed at that time, the energy and the kindliness of his nature, will be remembered, I am sure, not only in the Province which he adorned as Governor, but throughout the whole of India.


My Lords, before the Deputy Leader of the House moves that we do adjourn as a mark of respect for Lord Lloyd I would like to add a few words of my own. They will be very few for what has already been said by a number of your Lordships forms a most fitting and feeling memorial of the man. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, I first got to know Lord Lloyd when he became a member of the House of Commons, now more than thirty years ago. Though he was on the opposite side to me the qualities of his mind and the attractive nature of his character soon became very evident to me, and I think I may count him as having been a friend of mine for a very long time. He did not escape controversy. I do not think in times of peace he sought to escape controversy, but he bore himself like a man in controversy, and he left no wound behind.

His unsullied devotion to the service of this country as the passion of his life was never in doubt at any stage of his career. I am very glad the noble Lord, Lord Catto, who has just spoken, like Lord Snell, has said a word about his work in India. I had the good fortune to see something of the memorial which he was leaving behind him in those immense works of irrigation, not only in the Lloyd Dam but in an even greater work—a barrage which spans the River Indus where it is more than a mile wide and which pounds up the water in order that in times of drought it might be let out through immense channels, seven I think, three of them wider and deeper than the Suez Canal, I believe, and one of them broader than the Panama Canal itself. All that was planned and started in the time he was Governor of Bombay, and owned much to his strenuous driving and organising force. I am very glad, too, my Lords, that mention has been made of the British Council. It was, I think, the favourite child of Lord Lloyd, and in an office which I have previously held I had good reason to know it.

How are we to sum him up? I recall a phrase of Lord Curzon's, that the sense of duty is the cement of Empire, and I would add to that the reflection, that a disinterested and single-minded public spirit is an essential contribution to democratic government, if the ways of that democracy are to be clean and smooth. I think our departed friend was inspired throughout his life by that sense of public spirit. He prepared himself by long travel not only in the Empire but in various parts of the East. He never failed to give of his strenuous best to every Imperial cause, and he devoted himself over many years quite specially to bringing home to our people the needs and services of the British Navy. He showed himself both a skilful administrator and a good Parliamentarian. We meet to-day not only under the shock of this sudden news of the passing of our friend, but under the poignancy of the tragic fact that he was appointed Leader of this House and was never to lead it. I venture to repeat what more than one of your Lordships have said, that on behalf of the whole House we tender to the gracious Lady who shared his struggles and his successes our respectful and deep sympathy. We are confident that whether in peace or in war this land of ours is safe as long as it can count among its public servants men of the like qualities of the man whose loss we deplore.