HL Deb 08 February 1961 vol 228 cc397-401

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, I know that your Lordships will have heard with regret of the death of the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, a distinguished Member of this House and a distinguished servant of the public. I count myself honoured to speak first in tribute to his memory, recalling, as I do, that he held his highest offices, and in particular the high office of Secretary of State for India, during the years 1935 to 1940, during the greater portion of which time he was a colleague of my father in the Cabinet and in this House.

In recalling the noble Marquess's full and long life of service it is, I think, right that we should remember first and foremost his service to India. Few can have come to high office better equipped. He was uniquely qualified by his extensive travels, particularly in the Far East; by his knowledge of the culture of India; by his admiration and affection for India and the people, and by his Parliamentary and administrative experience. After ten years as a Member of another place he was Governor of Bengal from 1916 to 1922, and this was a critical time in the history of India. He became one of the British delegates at the Indian Round Table Conference, and in 1933 he was a member of the Joint Select Committee. As Secretary of State he piloted the India Bill through this House, and in succeeding years he concerned himself closely with the development of fully responsible government in the Provinces. During his term of office efforts were being made to negotiate a federation between British India and the Indian States. They came very close to success and, indeed, terminated only with the outbreak of war in 1939. If they had been successful, the advance of India towards independence might have been even more swift than it was.

I will not recall in detail the noble Marquess's many other interests and pursuits; nor need I here rehearse the many and great honours which were publicly bestowed upon him. He wrote well and copiously on a wide range of subjects, and his own writings perhaps indicate better than can I the scope of his interests and the achievements of his life. When he came to write his own autobiography he used for the title of his book the motto under the escutcheon of his coat of arms. Essayez; and in the preface he wrote, with modesty and not without humour: I hope that my successors in tail male will not hold me guilty of undue presumption in having borrowed for the title of the book the family motto. My Lords, I am sure that not only his heirs but also your Lordships will agree that this modest title accurately but insufficiently records the lustre of a life founded, indeed, upon endeavour, but crowned also, and everywhere, with achievement.


My Lords, as Leader of the Opposition for the time being it falls to me to support everything the noble Viscount has said about the late Lord Zetland. I did not know him as intimately as some, but I do know about his public work. May I therefore just say briefly that I share in what must be a feeling widely held throughout the House: that while his passing is a matter of concern to us, that concern is accompanied by a feeling of thankfulness for the great public service he rendered. I shall ask my noble friend Lord Attlee to say a word or two later in more detail because he knew him.


My Lords, I should like to express on behalf of my Liberal colleagues, and indeed for myself, our tribute to the memory of the late Lord Zetland. As your Lordships are aware, he was a Member of this House for about thirty years, of which the first ten years were the most important in his life. During the second part of that thirty years, when many of us joined your Lordships, he did not come so frequently; therefore it is our loss that we did not come across him and know him, and hear from his own lips some of the impressions of that very great man.

I am not going into his career, as the noble Viscount said he would not tabulate all the many honours he had reached. But in what has been said about Lord Zetland, in the Press and elsewhere, two little things struck me as particularly pleasant. One was his diversity of talent and interest. It is seldom that a man becomes expert in politics, as he was, and in racing, philosophy and geography. The second point which struck me was that, by the chance of political fortune, he was never in the House of Commons during the period of Government of his own Party. He was a Member there from the year 1907 to the year 1916, a period which corresponds exactly with the Premiership of Mr. Asquith. If I may add a further slightly personal note, it is that that was the time when he was a colleague of both my father and my grandfather in that place. My Lords, we have lost a very eminent citizen, but the value of his life is not lost; and I am sure we find it a privilege to be able to pay tribute to him in this Chamber where he did such good work.

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I wonder whether I might add a word to what has been said. The noble Viscount who leads the House said he deliberately refrained from referring to the interests of the late Lord Zetland, which were, apart from the direct service of the State, of very great value to the country. I would particularly refer to his work as Chairman of the National Trust for many years. I had the great honour of serving with him on that Committee during the whole of his time as Chairman. There is no need for me to emphasise the importance of the work done by that body in the national interest in regard to both the unique natural beauty of this country and its historic buildings, which are perhaps its greatest cultural achievement.

Lord Zetland came to the work of the National Trust when it was a comparatively small and uninfluential organisation. I think he was Chairman of the Executive Committee for rather more than twelve years. He left it one of the strongest organisations of a semipublic nature, I think, in the whole country. He was undoubtedly a chairman of outstanding ability. I have served on many committees of one kind or another over a rather long period of time, and I think he was the ablest chairman with whom I ever worked. The country does not realise how much it owes to him in that particular direction, and I think in other directions, as well.

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, as an old colleague of Lord Zetland's and a fellow Yorkshireman, I would add my tribute, with which I know my noble friend Lord Winterton, who I think is his only other surviving colleague in this House, would wish also to be associated. Lawrence Zetland was not an easy man to know intimately, 'but he had two outstanding qualities which made him a great administrator and a good colleague. Those two qualities were thoroughness and loyalty. In everything Lord Zetland did and wrote he was always thorough. In his early travels, in all that he wrote about them, in the biographies he wrote of others, in his intensive study and knowledge of India, and then in his work in Yorkshire and his happiness in Yorkshire, in his breeding of horses, in his signal service as a steward of the Jockey Club, and in his work as Lord Lieutenant and as Provincial Grand Master of the North and East Ridings, everything was thorough and meticulous.

The other quality I mentioned was loyalty. He was always loyal—loyal to those he served with and loyal to those who served under him. think it was that quality of loyalty—and I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, would bear this out—with not only that amazing knowledge of India but that understanding sympathy with Indian philosophy, Indian character and the Indian way of life, which enabled him, when he was Governor of Bengal during six most difficult and trying years, to carry with him in everything he did all his colleagues, both British and Indian. The same was true of him, as my noble friend will agree. as a colleague in Cabinet; he was independent in mind and judgment but always loyal. My noble friend the Leader of the House has referred to his modest reference to the great family motto. It is quite true that Lord Zetland not only tried, but succeeded.

2.48 p.m.


My Lords, I recall very well hearing some 32 years ago on first visiting India, a great deal of Lord Zetland as one of the most understanding Governors that ever came out from this country. There was no man who understood the Indian ways of thought and had more sympathy with the people and their aspirations. I did not meet him until some years later, when I sat with him on the Joint Select Committee of both Houses and had contact with him there, and I recall how authoritatively he could speak on every subject. He was a great servant, not only of this country but of India. It must have been no easy task to pilot through this House Sir Samuel Hoare's India Bill, but I understand that he achieved it with remarkable success. Therefore, to-day we mourn the loss of a great servant of two countries.

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