HL Deb 29 October 1957 vol 205 cc523-35

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will have been shocked and distressed to learn of the death of Lord Jowitt. I think that the House would feel it appropriate that upon this occasion my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack should pay the principal tribute to him from the Government side. Lord Jowitt had a most distinguished career in the law, and for seven years was Lord Chancellor, and my noble friend can therefore do justice to his life and to his achievements. But perhaps the House would allow me two personal recollections. I did not, until later years. see very much of him as a politician, or, indeed, very much of him when he was occupying the Woolsack; but whenever I did see him in that position I understood how intellectually he held his own among the past and present masters of his profession. Many more like me must have seen that magnificent presence, heard that musical voice, with its fine range and clarity, and felt, like me, that when he filled that high office he personified the dignity, the authority and the tradition of England.

My other recollection is quite different—a recollection of Lord Jowitt and sport. I think he seldom missed any of the great festivals of sport, and to be his neighbour on such an occasion, at Lords, at Wimbledon or at Twickenham, was a delightful experience, because he understood games as a games player and sportsman, and he looked on them with the eye of the connoisseur—as, indeed, he did many other sides of life, particularly modern art, in which he was an expert. So, my Lords, I felt—and many must have felt with me—that here was the complete man; or, to use a description which he himself reserved for the select few, the complete all-rounder. And the complete all-rounder is very dear to the affections of the British people. Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.

My Lords, before I give way to my noble friend, perhaps I may be allowed, on behalf of this side of the House, to offer to noble Lords opposite our sympathy in the loss of a great colleague, and to Lady Jowitt our sympathy and deep affection.

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, it is indeed a grievous loss that this House has suffered in the death of the noble and learned Earl. To have been Lord Chancellor for some seven years, the longest period of tenure for nearly half a century, and to have followed that by five years as leader of the Opposition is a proud record of service to this House. To have filled these positions with high distinction, dignity and kindliness to all, is to have placed each one of your Lordships personally in his debt.

Notwithstanding the political differences between us my own real and deeply valued friendship with Lord Jowitt was of long standing. He was my leader when I was a junior, and later we crossed forensic swords at the Bar. I succeeded him as Solicitor-General. As a colleague in Mr. Churchill's war-time Government, I remember well his work in post-war reconstruction, as Paymaster General and Minister without Portfolio, and then his task as the first Minister of National Insurance, when he was good enough to ask me to help him in presenting the Children's Allowances Bill to the House of Commons. Moreover, if I may intrude a personal note, we shared the honour of being Freemen of the Ancient Royal Borough of Dornoch, which was my mother's birthplace.

To all these varied capacities Lord Jowitt brought the great qualities which your Lordships know so well. That fine dignity and presence made their powerful addition to his arguments at the Bar, as they enhanced the proceedings of this House. His penetrating mind and the unequalled clarity of his exposition made him not only a formidable opponent in controversy but a help to all who wanted to understand the essential points of any subject. His warm humanity and real liking and friendship for those who came his way reflected an understanding of human problems and a very real sympathy with human suffering and human needs.

My Lords, it is fitting that I should, in the main, speak of Lord Jowitt's long tenure of the office of Lord Chancellor. I venture to think that when one day the account is reckoned he will take a high place among the illustrious holders of an office which stretches over so many hundreds of years. Coming to the Woolsack as he did with the advent of the Labour Party to power in 1945, Lord Jowitt found himself greatly preoccupied in this House with the legislative projects of the Government of which he was a member. These—in the main the nationalisation measures—were projects which occupied a very large amount of his time and which involved him with as heavy a burden as I dare say any Lord Chancellor has had to face in living memory. These Bills, which it fell to him to advocate, were founded on policies uncongenial to many Members of your Lordships' House; yet he was praised on all sides for his skill in presentation and his reasonableness in debate.

Yet in all the hurly-burly of political conflict Lord Jowitt never forgot that he was Lord Chancellor: that is to say, that he was that one of the Sovereign's Ministers who is primarily responsible for the administration of justice. I have already, at another time, tried to pay tribute to his judicial qualities and achievements in that field. His own wide experience in the courts had impressed on his mind that the law and its administration must serve the current needs of the nation. Thus it was that he was proud and, in my submission, most justly proud, of the contribution which he made in the field of law reform. Of the many projects which he sponsored we may recall his constant striving to improve the state of the Statute Book, by both consolidation and pruning, by the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, and the Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949. Few would deny that these far-reaching measures of reform owed much to the inspiration and labours of Lord Jowitt. They put pith into that essential of the rule of law that the poorest citizen should get justice against the most powerful Minister or official.

Nor was that all; for it fell to Lord Jowitt to play a major part in the expansion of our judicial strength in the years after the war. Of his exercise of judicial patronage I need say no more than that when he retired from the Woolsack, Lord Jowitt had recommended the appointments of, or had himself appointed, nearly half of the then existing occupants of the Bench, and that of these appointments not one single one could be criticised as being other than the best attempt possible to get the best man.

My Lords, there will be many in this House who, like myself, mourn the loss of one whose counsel and friendship were ever at our disposal. I have most in mind his kindness to me personally when I became Lord Chancellor. We shall miss him, as will others outside this Chamber; and our heartfelt sympathy goes to Lady Jowitt and his family, whose sorrow we share.

2.48 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl the Leader of the House for the manner in which he opened the tributes to our late colleague, Lord Jowitt. Certainly the passing of my noble friend came as a great shock to all of us, and yet, as I looked hack, I was unhappily reminded of our debate on the United Nations in which, at my request, he undertook to take part, with the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, just a few days before the end of the Session. During the course of his speech there was a quite normal interruption during which he sat down beside me and said, "I doubt whether I can go on. I must find my tablets." Then I realised that he was suffering from heart trouble, and I said to him, "Don't go on; we will arrange it." Lord Jowitt said, "I must go on." And he got up, finished his speech and left as soon as possible. That was typical of his sense of duty to the House especially and to what he had set himself to do.

The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has paid to our late colleague here one of the most comprehensive and touching tributes from that side of the House that I can remember, and one for which we on this side are very grateful. Looking back to my early days of Labour controversy forty or fifty years ago, I feel that I could hardly have expected to hear a tribute to the occupation by a member of a Labour organisation of the highest legal position in the land, if not in the world, in such unlimited and generous terms as have come to-day from the Lord Chancellor of this country. I am very grateful indeed for that tribute. In the light of the Lord Chancellor's speech, I need not now say some of the things I had intended to say about the eminence of Lord Jowitt as a lawyer, as an advocate and as an administrator of justice. The Lord Chancellor has put on record for us what is absolutely established.

But I must refer, if I may, to the very, great experience of Lord Jowitt as a Parliamentarian. I entered the House in 1922, and my colleague and Leader in the other place, now Lord Attlee, entered Parliament the same day as the late Lord Jowitt. I remember my first impression, on looking at the Liberal Benches of those days, of Lord Jowitt's personality. He looked, from his figure and his dress, much more Edwardian than we did upon the Labour Benches. From the moment of his entry into Parliament he became an impressive figure, and it was with considerable exhilaration that we welcomed him into the ranks of our Party at a later date.

His Parliamentary experience occasioned great difficulties for him, some of which have been referred to by the Lord Chancellor. It was by no means an easy task in the Parliament of 1929 to 1931 to be Attorney-General in a minority Government during such a controversial period, but he carried through his duties in a most exemplary and efficient manner. Reference has been made already to what Lord Jowitt did during the war. The Lord Chancellor has spoken of his services both as Paymaster General and as Minister without Portfolio. I should like to say that those of us who knew him intimately knew that his period of service as first Minister of National Insurance was a period upon which he afterwards looked back with particular joy in his heart, because he knew that he had had something to do with the building of the foundations of a Department of such magnitude and one which had such great effect upon the life of the common people of this country.

May I next say a word or two about Lord Jowitt's service in this House? The period from 1945 to 1951 has been referred to by the Lord Chancellor, but I am quite certain that my colleague Lord Attlee would say that perhaps we were most indebted in that period to two persons for being able, from a minority position in this Chamber, to put through such controversial measures as those which were dealt with by the late Lord Addison and the noble and learned Earl whose loss we mourn so much to-day. They worked together and with their colleagues as a team, and we were never once disappointed in them. Lord Jowitt's speeches in this House were a lesson even to older and experienced Parliamentarians like myself. He, of course, had all the advantage of a training at the Bar and a thorough grounding in the methods of presenting a case. But he had something more which appealed to me very much. having regard to the difficulties which I have myself experienced. I feel certain that he had made himself a master of Bacon's short Essay upon Discourse. In that essay, as your Lordships will remember, Bacon said: Discretion of speech is more than eloquence and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal is more than to speak in good words or in good order. Sometimes, when I am carried away by emotion. I wish that I could present a case as Lord Jowitt could. I revere his memory and I recall his lessons. Yet, after all, I suppose that perhaps his outstanding characteristic, in the eyes of those of us who knew him best, was his continued interest in the humanities—in literature, for example. He often talked to me about literature, and he himself, of course, was an author of no mean repute. His interest in art was evidenced by his work for both the National and the Tate Galleries. In tending the sick, too, his devotion was unceasing. We know of his interest at the Ministry of National Insurance and also of his long connection with Queen Charlotte's Hospital. Whenever one spoke to him about difficult periods through which people were going, or of outstanding cases of suffering, one was soon made to realise the depth of feeling in his heart upon such matters. We have lost one who was a tower of strength to us upon our Benches here. We do not know how he can possibly be replaced. We are very grateful for all that he has done for us, for our cause and for the people whom we represent.

I should like to say how full of loving sympathy we are with Lady Jowitt, and her daughter and family, because we know from our long friendship with Lady Jowitt what it must mean to her, after forty-four years, to lose the devoted companionship of such a man. It was a devotion which operated on both sides of the partnership. We know what such a great loss must mean to her, and in the light of it we offer to her, if I may be allowed to adopt the words of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, our loving sympathy.

2.57 p.m.


My Lords, from these Benches we join, in sincerity and sorrow, the tributes being paid to the noble Earl, the late Lord Jowitt. There can be, I think, no active Member of your Lordships' House who will not miss with real regret the ability, wisdom and fairness of Lord Jowitt in debate; his lucid exposition and clarification of matters which were sometimes difficult to understand; his searching and trenchant questions; and, of course, not least, his companionship and conversation outside the four walls of this Chamber.

But this is only a small and inadequate picture: there is another side. As an integral part of the British Parliament—of the Mother of Parliaments—your Lordships' House is constantly under interested scrutiny, not only by the British public but also by our brothers and sisters of the Commonwealth and by foreign nationals of every country and from every Continent in the Globe. We do not forget, and we shall not forget, that, irrespective of political Parties or political opinion, Lord Jowitt, by his noble presence, his fine declamation, his graciousness and dignity, whether on the Woolsack or at the Despatch Box, upheld in their view, as indeed he did in ours, the finest standards of the long tradition of your Lordships' House. To Lady Jowitt who, to all of us, is so closely and, if I may say so, so happily associated with his life here, and to his family, we offer our deep and sincere sympathy.

3.0 p.m.


My Lords, I had the privilege of Lord Jowitt's friendship for longer, I think, than any of my colleagues among the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, and I hope that it will not be considered out of place if I add my tribute of respect and affection to those to which your Lordships have already listened. I first met Lord Jowitt over fifty years ago, when he had just completed his successful career at New College and I was an undergraduate in my first year. That was not on a legal occasion, but at a festive board.

In after years, like the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, had the privilege of being led by him from time to time and I had ample reason to admire his sound judgment and wide knowledge of the law. I sat with him on the last occasion on which he took his seat in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He did not write the Judgment, but he it was who found the solution of one particularly difficult point with which we had to deal. He was my neighbour in Kent for many years, and. like others of your Lordships, I shall never forget the happy hours I passed in his and Lady Jowitt's company, not only there bat in London and elsewhere.

The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, referred to the time when Lord Jowitt was Attorney-General, from 1929 to 1931. I have a particular recollection, which I think I share with my noble and learned friend Lord Evershed, of one duty he performed on that occasion. When the legal professions of England, Scotland, France and Ireland first crossed the Atlantic at the invitation of the Canadian and American Bars, it fell to Lord Jowitit, as the leader of the Bar in England, to make many of the leading speeches on our behalf, and he always found the right word to say and the right voice to say it in. I would add that he won the respect and affection of many of our hosts—indeed, of all our hosts—in both Canada and America; and as that was the first time, at any rate under a Labour Government, that the legal profession had been brought in touch with that of the United States, he did a great deal to show that from the point of view of friendship it did not matter which Party was in charge in this country.

His was a kindly nature. He always saw the best in everyone, whether he was political friend or political foe, and, seeing the best in them, he always brought the best out of them. All our sympathy goes to Lady Jowitt, and I can assure her that throughout the profession, as amongst all his friends, he will be much missed.

3.4 p.m.


My Lords, I crossed swords in debate so often with the noble Earl, Lord Jowitt, that I should like to add my tribute to an old foe and friend. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cohen, have paid tribute to his great legal attainments. He was as great a debater as he was a lawyer or an advocate. He was a great debater in the best sense. He could expose a case concisely, attractively, and clearly, as we should expect. but I think that he was happiest in the cut and thrust of the debate which followed. He was a brilliant debater. He never missed a good point and seldom took a bad one. He could hit hard—very hard—but always without rancour.

In this House the leaders of the Parties have close contact in the working of the House and its Business, which certainly would be unusual, and I daresay impossible, in another place. With Lord Jowitt, as with his predecessor, Lord Addison, those contacts were always frank and agreeable, and I am sure that they greatly facilitated debate and the course of business in your Lordships' House, without ever cramping our style or handicapping the fighting qualities of either side. But there are other occasions where matters of great importance come up in which no Party question or Party controversy is involved, and that kind of contact in such instances enables the House and the varied experience of your Lordships to be used to the highest advantage. Not only was Lord Jowitt always courteous but he gave the greatest service on those occasions.

For instance, I recall one occasion when the Companies Bill was introduced in your Lordships' House. There was no political controversy, but some of my friends and I thought it an extremely ill-constructed measure. Lord Jowitt—I betray no secret—fully shared that view. Throughout the whole of the stages of that Bill, though he was leading the Government and I was leading the Opposition, we worked together as a team, and I think the result was that there came out a very much better Bill, which is now an Act of Parliament. We shall indeed miss a great man who came to love this place, who sustained and enhanced its highest traditions and who became a friend of all of us.

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add a few words to what has been said so eloquently of my old friend and comrade. My memories of him go back a long time. I knew both Lord and Lady Jowitt as children. I recall very well, in 1894, a bright little boy who was brought to our preparatory school and put in my charge to be shown round. That is a long time ago. We resumed our friendship in another place and I was his colleague in three Governments. In the last, when I was Prime Minister, I had him as Lord Chancellor. I think that relations between a Prime Minister and a Lord Chancellor are necessarily very close. There are a large number of matters upon which a Prime Minister requires the advice of a Lord Chancellor, and unfailingly I got it from Lord Jowitt, not only on immediate matters—appointments of one kind or another—but also on general policy.

Lord Jowitt's range of interests was very wide. His interest in art has already been mentioned, but he was also a distinguished amateur painter and did much service for our galleries. He was greatly interested in promoting friendship with other countries and did much work for the travel organisations. He himself travelled widely and was an admirable ambassador of the British people. But, of course, I think chiefly of the service which he did during those six years of the Labour Government, when he had a very heavy task in this House. The task of a Lord Chancellor is always heavy, particularly when the weight of political work falls on the shoulders of one or two, and Lord Jowitt, shouldered that task with great zeal.

Besides that, his range of interests was very wide. When I think of him. I always think of him, first of all, as I said, as a small boy; then I think of him sitting at Wimbledon watching tennis; in the Law Courts, in the art galleries and in the country—a man of wide experience, wide gifts and wide sympathies. Finally, one thinks of him as a noble presence, a stately presence, with a beautiful voice. I am sure the hearts of all of us will go out to Lady Jowitt, to his daughter and his sisters in their very great loss. I am grateful for the sympathy extended to this Party in the loss of a great representative.

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad to have this opportunity of joining with other Members of your Lordships' House to add a few words of personal tribute to what has already been said by those who worked with Lord Jowitt at the Bar and in politics. I cannot claim to have known Lord Jowitt as long as Lord Cohen or Lord Attlee, but my friendship with him and his family goes back for thirty years. As has already been said, and I repeat, Lord Jowitt was a man of rare qualities of mind, of fine presence and a memorable voice. He visited us during our time in New Zealand, when his appearance at official functions in the Robes of Lord Chancellor of England made a great impression. He will be remembered in many walks of life, but nowhere more than in your Lordships' House. I like to remember him as the charming host of Budd's Farm in the late 'twenties or the early 'thirties, when he had added to his many interests an enthusiasm and love for gardening. Lord Jowitt was a good friend who will be greatly missed, and especially so by a close circle of friends of long standing.

3.14 p.m.


My, Lords, there is one aspect of the work of Lord Jowitt about which possibly I am better qualified to speak than any other Member of your Lordships' House; and perhaps you will bear with me for a minute or two while I say something about it. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has referred to the superb work which Lord Jowitt did in connection with piloting the great legislative programme of the Labour Government, from 1945 to 1951, through your Lordships' House. I think I know better than most what went on behind the scenes, and it is on that topic that I should like to say a word or two.

This programme was largely of a legal character, so that the burden of it fell peculiarly upon Lord Jowitt. All the nationalisation Bills contained great chunks of material which was pure law; and in addition there were a number of Bills of outstanding legal importance, such as the Criminal Justice Bill, the Magistrates' Courts Bill and the Companies Bill, to which reference has already been made by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. Lord Jowitt bore almost completely by himself the burden of the legal side of those Bills. I was able to give him some little assistance, but as one whose work has been primarily that of an academic lawyer, without much experience of practical affairs and politics, I was not able to give him that help which I should have liked to do. But I saw the astonishing and superb way in which Lord Jowitt tackled this job. It was not only in your Lordships' House where the strain was so great, especially for a Leader of a small Party against an able Opposition, for behind the scenes the amount of work that had to be done was terrific. The strain of it obviously told upon Lord Jowitt, and I should say that nobody ever more patently killed himself in the service of his country and in the work of this House.

The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, referred to the Companies Bill. That was a Bill in which no fewer than 410 Amendments were moved in the Committee stage, during the Bill's passage through your Lordships' House. Your Lordships can imagine what that meant in the amount of work done behind the scenes, as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has said. The most important part of the Bill was that relating to the tightening up of the provision for accounts, which was regarded as all wrong when it first appeared and had to be hammered out while the Bill was actually on its way through the House. This meant sitting up all night conducting discussions with the representatives of the Opposition Parties. The strain of that sort of thing going on day after day, week after week, and year after year was tremendous. I doubt whether any Lord Chancellor has had anything like such a great job to do, and I am certain that no one has discharged it with the same superb efficiency, patience and devotion that Lord Jowitt brought to his work.

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, may I be allowed to draw attention to one aspect of the public life of the late Lord Jowitt which I do not think has been mentioned to-day—namely, his Presidency of the British Travel and Holidays Association, which involved Lord and Lady Jowitt in many vists to different parts of the world. As your Lordships know, the job of the British Travel and Holidays Association is to "sell" Britain as a tourist centre, and we believe we had two of the finest sellers we ever had in the late Lord Jowitt and in Lady Jowitt. Lord Jowitt also from time to time had to entertain travel agents and travel people who came to this country, and particularly that rather tough race, the American travel agents. His speeches on those occasions were always gems, whether he was "pulling their legs" about their racy ties or in other ways. I have been to many American towns where I have met travel agents who have recalled their visits to Britain, and particularly they have remembered the speeches of Lord Jowitt on those occasions. I believe that he really loved his work and enjoyed his position in the travel world; in fact, he told me so on many occasions. We in the travel world will greatly miss our President.

3.19 p.m.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not regard me as presumptuous in addressing you on this occasion, but there is one angle of the late Lord Jowitt's character to which I should like to pay tribute. It is not so many years that I have been privileged to be a Member of your Lordships' House, and I well remember when I first joined the immense kindness and help in every way that my wife and I received from Lord and Lady Jowitt. I particularly welcome this opportunity of saying this, because we have always been very conscious of what we owed to Lord Jowitt in that respect. We came here entirely unversed in the ways of your Lordships' House, and the kindness he and Lady Jowitt showed to us could not have been exceeded. To the end of our days we shall remain most grateful. The House has lost a great gentleman and a great friend.

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