HL Deb 20 May 1947 vol 147 cc866-8

2.38 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be pardoned, I am sure, for intervening for a moment. I ask your Lordships to remember and Pay tribute to one of the oldest members of this House, the noble Viscount, Lord Fitzalan of Derwent, who has just died at the age of 91. Many of us knew him for a great many years in active life in the Palace of Westminster. It seems strange, but it is the fact, I believe, that it is 71 years since the noble Viscount first entered the British Army, and it is 53 years since he first became a member of another place. I myself knew him well and worked with him constantly when he was Chief Whip of the Coalition Government during the latter period of the First World War. I must say that I found the noble Viscount somewhat exacting, and sometimes, perhaps, a domineering colleague, but always actuated by a keen sense of what was necessary in the interests of the House, and, above all, loyal to the highest public interest. As your Lordships know, later on the noble Viscount was the holder of the high office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and under the process of history was the last holder of that famous office. Apart from all those things, as many of your Lordships know far better than I do, the noble Viscount was constant in his service and in his loyalty to the Church of which he was so distinguished a member. I am sure your Lordships would like this tribute to be paid to the noble Viscount to-day.


My Lords, we on these Benches would wish to be associated with the noble Viscount the Leader of the House in the tribute which he has paid to one who was a most distinguished member of both Houses of Parliament. He played, perhaps, a more active part of his career in another place. He made a great reputation as a Chief Whip—often, I think, the most difficult office in which to make and hold a reputation, and the easiest in which to lose one. As a Chief Whip he was, as I know, a strict disciplinarian; but at the same time there was a humanity and straightforwardness about him which always seemed to make the more difficult things easy and obvious. Though the noble Viscount took, perhaps, a less active part in the business of this House, he was fond of it and until the very last was always a regular attendant. Always he represented his own faith in a way which commanded the respect of every creed. He was all that is best in our public life.


My Lords, we who sit on these Benches desire to associate ourselves with the tributes paid by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House and by the Opposition to the noble Viscount, Lord Fitzalan. It has been rightly said that his public life was governed by the guiding principle of duty. That in its turn was inspired by a threefold principle— love of his Church, loyalty to and respect for his Sovereign, and devotion to his country. As your Lordships know, the noble Viscount, Lord Fitzalan was the spokesman of the Roman Catholic community in this House when events which closely touched that community occurred. In speaking on such occasions he never gave offence to any who differed from his religious opinions. That in itself constitutes a remarkable achievement. We who belong to what was known in the early post-reformation days as the "Old Religion" have suffered a sore loss, the loss of a leader and of a friend. To-day that loss seems to us to be irreplaceable and we can only say "May he rest in peace."


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will allow me to say a few words in support of what has been said by my noble friend. Viscount Fitzalan was a very old friend of mine. I have been intimate with him for more than sixty years, and for a large part of that time we were fellow members in another place. He became, as you have been reminded, Chief Whip of the Party to which we both belonged, a position of very great difficulty politically, and perhaps even more morally. He discharged those duties with remarkable success, and without any suggestion that he ever resorted to insincerity or sharp practice. He was the inheritor of a great tradition of public service, coming down, it may be, from those far away ages when the richest and most powerful subjects acknowledged that they held their possessions by virtue of their service to the State. That system, no doubt, had its faults, but in the hands of men like Viscount Fitzalan, and others whose loss we have recently deplored, it would produce a patriotism adorned by a devotion to public duty, which those who succeed them will find it difficult to equal and impossible to surpass.