HL Deb 20 October 1947 vol 151 cc1471-5

2.9 p.m.


My Lords, since the House last met, death has deprived us of two of our prominent members. I feel sure that if the Leader of the House were here he would have desired and thought it fitting that some tribute should be paid to their memory. My noble friend Lord Listowel will presently express our sense of loss at the passing of Lord Passfield. I thought your Lordships would forgive me, and might indeed think it appropriate, if I were to say just a few words in appreciation of the life and work of Lord Caldecote. Lord Caldecote, having served the State faithfully and well in several important offices in the House of Commons, entered your Lordships' House as Lord Chancellor immediately upon the outbreak of war. He was destined to remain in that office for a comparatively short time, and he became thereafter Dominions Secretary and Leader of your Lordships' House until, as Lord Chief justice, he passed from the sphere of active politics.

This is not the place or the time, nor am I the person, to appraise the value of his work either as a Judge or as a statesman, beyond saying that in every office he filled he gave the best—and it was no little best—that was in him, not for his own self-aggrandisement, but for the cause for which he worked. It is inevitable that I who knew him so well for so long, should think of him as a friend—a friend of almost forty years' standing. He possessed a rugged strength of character, a strength that was due to the fact that his foundations were built upon a rock—the rock of his religious beliefs. Yet he possessed such tolerance that he could make and maintain a friendship with those of a differing outlook. Tolerance, I believe, is a much misunderstood virtue. It is so easy for a man to be tolerant about conflicting views on a subject on which he knows little and feels less; but how rare it is to find a man with strong views, passionately held, who can yet realize that those who differ from him are not necessarily less intelligent, and not necessarily less honest than he is himself. I confess that there was a time when I myself wanted advice and guidance. Tom Inskip, as he then was, was the man to whom I turned, for I knew that he had that rare quality, that precious quality, of being just as interested in his friends' problems as he was in his own. The life of his friends—and they were many—is the poorer for his going. Those especially near and dear to him who were with him to the end have this consolation; they could truly have said with Horatio, "Now cracks a noble heart."

2.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, on behalf of those who sit on these Benches, to add a few words to the moving tribute that has been paid by the Lord Chancellor to Lord Caldecote. The House and our country have, indeed, suffered a grievous loss by his death. He had a career that any Englishman might have envied—Solicitor General, Attorney-General, Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, Dominions Secretary, Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice and Leader of the House of Lords. That, my Lords, is a glittering galaxy of legal and political prizes. But it is not by the offices that he occupied that Lord Caldecote will be chiefly remembered; it is as a great English Christian, representative of all that is best in our public life—sincere, straightforward, selfless. Those are the words that come to one's mind when one thinks of him.

He was brought up in the strictest school of West Country Evangelicism. He founded his whole life, as the Lord Chancellor has said, on the rock of religion. He never compromised with his convictions. He was fearlessly honest, both with himself and with everyone else.

He brought both to the legal profession and to politics these rare and noble qualities, arid that is what raised him to the position of eminence which he attained. Everyone respected him, everyone liked him. He was, in the fullest and noblest sense of the word, a "good" man. At a time when religion, in many countries, is at a low ebb, and when politicians are only too apt to create their own principles, and change them when it suits them, the bluff, honest, fearless outlook of men like Lord Caldecote can ill be spared. In the account of his life in The Times, published after his death, the following words occur: He had the reputation of telling a client exactly what he thought and of never letting him down. Let that be his epitaph. He could have no finer. We and the country shall miss him, and our sympathy goes out to his family, whose loss we all of us share.

2.15 p.m.


My Lords, noble Lords on these Benches desire to associate themselves through me most warmly and sincerely with the tributes which have already been paid to the late Lord Caldecote, and with the expressions of regret at the common loss sustained by his death. Assessed by any standard, his career was one of remarkable distinction, yet no man in the public life of our time was less of a careerist. He accepted the responsibilities for a succession of great offices loyally, humbly and devoutly. He discharged them with a steadfast dignity, industry, courtesy and wisdom, and upon all with whom he came in however fleeting contact, he left a lasting impression of transparent and transcendent integrity. Of him, truly, "Nature might stand up and say to all the world: 'This was a man.'"

2.16 p.m.


My Lords, I wish, very briefly, to associate myself with the tributes which have been paid to the memory of Lord Caldecote. Your Lordships will readily understand why I particularly desire so to do, though to tell the truth the one thing I would most wish to say has already been said by those who have spoken. And it is most proper and fitting that it should be said by them rather than by me. In all the tributes paid to Lord Caldecote, whether here or elsewhere, apart from the record of his great public services, apart from the obvious affection that he inspired in all his friends, it has been noticeable haw invariably the outstanding emphasis has been on the sterling and unshakable integrity of his character. Nor has there ever been any doubt as to the soiree from which he must have drawn that strength and direction of purpose which governed his life. He was a devout: Christian, a devout member of the Church. of England.

As an undergraduate at Cambridge, he first took his stand amongst his contemporaries and first became active in Christian work and Christian life. It was not long ago that the late Archbishop Lord Lang said of him that he had never lowered his colours throughout his life—and indeed he never did. No one ever had any reason to feel hesitation or doubt as to where Lord Caldecote stood. There was no meanness, no pettiness, no self-seeking in him, or possible in him. All knew that here was a man who with clear eyes recognized and followed the principles by which he lived. Thus it was that he won from all both affection and deep trust. The Lord Chancellor has spoken with profound truth of his toleration, using the word "toleration" in its proper sense. He always showed a deep understanding of those who differed from him, and political opponents knew and loved and trusted him. Even in the sometimes more heated atmosphere of ecclesiastical politics, there was never any doubt that Lord Caldecote stood to serve no Party and no Party interests. Evangelical though he was, and great leader of Evangelicals, always what he sought to serve and did serve were the true interests of the Church, which he served with all his power, and those Who differed from him never lost that trust and profound reliance which he inspired. As has been said, he left his mark upon both the public and ecclesiastical life of this generation, for whether it was in Church or State he served but one Master and sailed under the colours only of that Master.

2.21 p.m.


My Lords, as a Free Churchman, I desire to pay tribute to a great Anglican. We were accustomed to turn to Sir Thomas Inskip, as he was then, for help and guidance, and we never turned in vain. He was a great Christian gentleman and on behalf of the great body of Free Churchmen I desire to pay our tribute from these Benches this afternoon.

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