HL Deb 07 December 1954 vol 190 cc181-3

My Lords, before we proceed with the business of the Day, there is something which I am sure the whole House would wish me to say. Your Lordships will have heard with deep regret of the sudden and unexpected death during the week-end of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. It has, I know, come as a shock to us all, for during his time in this House the noble Lord gained more and more the affection and esteem of Peers in all parts of the House. The position of Chief Whip, which he occupied during the last few years for the Labour Party, is not an easy one. There is, I suppose, none where success or failure depends so much on the personality of the holder. A bad Chief Whip can do irreparable harm; a good Chief Whip, on the other hand, not only means a happy and contented Party, but makes an enormous contribution to the smooth working of the House as a whole.

If I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, had just the qualities that are needed for that post. He had an innate tact and kindliness and he was always completely fair in his dealings both with his own and with other Parties. He came to have a deep interest in this House and all that pertains to it. I had a number of conversations with him at various times on the subject of the reform of the House of Lords, and he always showed a fresh and alert interest in the subject and a great desire to make this House an effective body. In these ways and in many others he gained our respect and, I repeat, our very real affection. We shall all miss him; and our sympathy goes out to Lady Shepherd in her grievous sorrow, which I has come so suddenly upon her.


My Lords, I feel the whole House will be grateful to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House for the touching tribute which he has paid to the late Lord Shepherd. Only a week before the week in which he died, he rang me up on the telephone to ask about the arrangements of your Lordships' House, and he was very restive about not being able to be here. Only a week ago to-day, after Her Majesty had opened Parliament, I was talking to Lady Shepherd, who had no idea of the serious state of her husband's health. It was a blessed thing that it was so, and I like to think that when the end came, it came in that way.

We on this side of the House are deeply conscious of the fact that we have suffered an irreparable blow, because in Lord Shepherd we had someone who had given his life to politics. There was no one with a wider political experience than the noble Lord. Indeed, the triumph of the Labour Party in 1945, so far as it was due to any one man, was due to him as much as to anyone else. Consequently, being, as we are, a small Party in this House, we relied very greatly on the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, both during the time when he was Government Whip and in these later years when he has been Chief Opposition Whip. It is idle to pretend that any one man can fill Lord Shepherd's place at the present time. Consequently, we have sustained a grievous loss, and I think the whole House has sustained a grievous loss. I agree with what the noble Marquess has said: that what is wanted in a Chief Whip beyond everything else is complete and obvious integrity, so that every one and every side of the House can rely on his word. That was manifestly the case with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. If a bargain was made with him, it was as good as a written document. For us, in addition to that, he had this vast experience, which was always at the disposal of those with whom he worked. I am very grateful to the noble Marquess for what he has said and should certainly like to join in expressing our deep sympathy with Lady Shepherd and her relatives.


My Lords, noble Lords on these Benches would desire to join in the tribute to one of our most esteemed Members, who has been taken from amongst us with such great suddenness. He has rendered long service both to your Lordships' House and to the State. As a Whip, he helped to maintain those friendly inter-Party relations on which the smooth working of the procedure of the House so largely depends. In addition, he took part in our debates on many occasions on matters in which he took a keen personal interest. We all mourn his loss and sympathise with Lady Shepherd and his family.