HL Deb 29 June 1954 vol 188 cc97-9

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, it falls to me, in the unavoidable absence of my noble friend the Leader of the House, who, as Lord President of the Council, is unable, owing to the visit of the King of Sweden to the National Physics Laboratory at Teddington to-day, to be present here at the beginning of Business this afternoon to pay tribute to the memory of a distinguished elder statesman who for many years was an eminent member of the Liberal Party in this House. Lord Denman was born in 1874 and so had entered that distinguished company of noble Lords who had reached the great age of eighty years, and whose chief ornament is the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. He had fought in the South African War. He had served, first as Lord-in-Waiting, then as Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms and as Chief Whip, here in your Lordships' House in the Liberal Administrations of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Mr. Asquith. In 1911, over forty years ago, he went to Australia as Governor-General with the distinguished and gracious lady who was his wife, and who herself died only a few weeks ago. He returned, after a most successful tenure of that great post, early in 1914.

He served in the First World War as lieutenant-colonel in the London Yeomanry. When peace came, the political world in which he had shone was shattered, and he never again held high office, for there was no opportunity open to him; but he continued to serve his Party faithfully and well in the House of Lords, and remained until the end of his years a faithful and much valued Member of your Lordships' House. He was amongst us a dignified figure in the Victorian tradition, and for many years was Deputy Speaker here. His absence from our familiar scene will be regretted on all sides, for we can ill spare men of Lord Denman's temper and calibre. We sincerely regret his passing, and deeply sympathise with his relatives.

2.47 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to identify myself completely with the fine words which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, has just used. I could wish that I had known that this tribute was to be paid to-day, so that I might have had an opportunity of trying to find words appropriate to the occasion. No one can have been, as I was, Lord Chancellor for six and a half years, without recognising the work which Lord Denman did. He was, as in these latter years, to the very end, always ready to assist the Lord Chancellor in the tasks which fell to him. Lord Denman, as we all know, was a most lovable character. All great humanitarian causes inside and outside this House had his support. He was a man of whom we may all be very proud. He did not contribute much to our debates in the last few years of his life and since I have been a Member of this House, but he contributed a great deal to the traditions of this House. I should like to identify myself completely with what the noble Earl has said.


My Lords, Lord Denman became a Member of your Lordships' House when he became of age in 1895, and so he had been a Member for close upon sixty years. As the noble Earl who is representing the Leader of the House to-day has said, he served in the South African War, and served with distinction. He was a member of the Campbell-Bannerman Government at the time of its formation in December, 1905, and held the position of Government Whip in this House and the attached offices which usually went with that post. He became a Privy Counsellor as long ago as 1907, and next to the present Prime Minister was the senior Privy Counsellor. He had been Deputy Speaker of this House since 1909. But he will be chiefly remembered for his Governor-Generalship of Australia in 1911, and in the following years. He performed with great success what was a difficult task in a critical period of the early days of the Australian Federation. In that he was greatly assisted by his wife, who left a great name in Australia; and throughout her life, which ended only a few weeks ago, she rendered public service in many directions, particularly as the head of the National Federation of Women's Institutes and, during the war, as the head of the Women's Land Army, which rendered such valuable service to the nation during those years.

In the later years of his life, Lord Denman did not take any great part in the work of this House or in public life in general, but one of the last services that he rendered to Australia—and in later years it was usually in connection with Australia that he participated in our discussions—was to take the initiative in promoting the erection of a memorial in St. Paul's Cathedral to the Australian statesman, W. M. Hughes, whom many of us remember well. It was only a few months ago that he was present, as chairman of the movement, at the unveiling of that memorial. I found him always a staunch colleague and a wise adviser. But it is not only on these Benches but, I believe, in the House in general that we feel grief at his passing and sympathy for his family.