HL Deb 04 May 1965 vol 265 cc824-30

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move, That this House hereby expresses and places on record its profound gratitude to the Most Honourable the Marquess of Cholmondeley, G.C.V.O., for his many services to the House during two Reigns; for his unfailing care of the interests and the comfort of its Members, and for his lasting achievements in the embellishment of its precincts.

The Motion which the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees has just moved, authorises the proposals for the new domestic arrangements of the House made by the Offices Committee. The adoption of these proposals marks the end of the outstanding services of this kind which the noble Marquess, Lord Cholmondeley, has rendered to this House, in all its manifold domestic arrangements, during two Reigns. I am delighted—I am sure we are all delighted—to think that our connection with him, though it cannot, alas! be as close as hitherto, is not being brought completely to an end, since he will continue to be responsible for the arrangements on ceremonial occasions, such as the Opening of Parliament. All of us know how much his magnificent bearing contributes to the dignity of these occasions.

Lord Cholmondeley has devoted so much of his time and energy to the House that it would be impossible, in the compass of a single short speech, to do justice to all the aspectsof his work. Perhaps I may be allowed to mention two: his care for this building, and his kindness to those who work in it. Those of us who have been comparatively long in the House will know how much the appearance of the Chamber and its precincts have been enhanced in the last fourteen years. Those noble Lords who are newer to the House may possibly be unaware how much of the beauty of their surroundings is due to the hard work and unremitting labours of Lord Cholmondeley. The splendid tapestries and furnishings that are to be found in so many rooms are a lasting tribute to his taste and discrimination, and it is indeed appropriate that our new dining room should bear his name.

Then there are Lord Cholmondeley's great kindness, consideration and approachability. These have been extended to all who work in the building, whether Members of the House or staff. His little-known acts of personal generosity have been countless and deeply appreciated. These are only two aspects of his unceasing concern for all that happens in this building and of his attention to all matters, whether great or small, which has been instrumental in making this House the agreeable place that it is. Noble Lords in all quarters of the House have reason to be deeply grateful to him for all that he has done—none of us has failed to be aware of this. I think that it is appropriate that we should take this opportunity of placing on permanent record our deep sense of gratitude and appreciation. It is with this object that I have much pleasure in moving the Motion that stands in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved to resolve, That this House hereby expresses and places on record its profound gratitude to the Most Honourable the Marquess of Cholmondeley, G.C.V.O. for his many services to the House during two Reigns, for his unfailing care of the interests and the comfort of its Members and for his lasting achievements in the embellishment of its precincts.—(The Earl of Longford.)


My Lords, I should like to associate those who sit on these Benches most warmly with the Resolution which has been moved by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. I am sure that there is no one in this House who, however much he may approve of the new arrangements, will not feel that the House will miss the personal interest and care which my noble friend Lord Cholmondeley has taken during his long years as Lord Great Chamberlain.

In paying tribute to him on a former occasion, I remarked, as the noble Earl has done this afternoon, on how much indebted the House was to him for the paintings and tapestries and decorations in the public rooms and corridors of this House, for which he has been responsible, and indeed, for the long hours he has worked on behalf of us all. But we shall miss just as much his presence, his authority and his courtesy in all his dealings with the Committees of this House, and with each individual member of them.

My noble friend Lord Cholmondeley has a most particular position in this House. For many years he sat regularly in one corner—in fact, rather more regularly than most of us; and he is recorded, I am glad to say, not only in the portrait in the room which bears his name downstairs, but also, sitting in that place, in the composite picture of the House in Session. Well, we have had to change sides but I hope that he will still be seen in the quarter where he is to-day as often as he feels it possible to come for though in future he may have fewer powers to perform as Lord Great Chamberlain, his advice and his experience will always be welcomed by all of us, just as he is always certain of thedeep affection of every Member of this House.


My Lords, on behalf of my Liberal colleagues and myself, I support most warmly and sincerely this tribute to the noble Marquess, who has been so outstanding in the Great Office of State which he holds. I think it is agreed that every Member of your Lordships' Chamber is indebted to him, not only for the many and notable services which he has rendered to the House, but also, if I may say so—indeed, it has been said already—for his personal kindness and interest, for his courtliness and his courtesy, and for the grace and dignity with which he has filled an historic and valued function, dear to the hearts of all who have digested, and value, the continuity of at least some of our Parliamentary traditions. I hope I am not out of order when I say, in respect of certain social ceremonies, that we should also like to add our tribute to Lady Cholmondeley, who has stood at his side with such graciousness and such charm.


My Lords, I should like, not only as an old Member of this House but also as an old friend of Lord Cholmondeley, having in former times worked with him for a number of years over the affairs of this House, to say one word in support of the Motion which has been so well moved by the Leader of the House. I believe that nobody more deserves the thanks of your Lordships, for, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said, no one has done more work, untiringly, both in the embellishment of the House itself and for all of us who live and work in it, to whom it has become, as it has to me, almost a second home. Indeed, I truly believe that, before the recent changes, it had in many ways become almost the centre of Lord Cholmondeley's life. He had devoted himself for so long entirely to its service and he was always here, as we all know, watching out for some improvement that could be made. I am afraid we did not always ourselves realise all that he was doing, for I think he is the worst man I ever knew at blowing his own trumpet. He was, and is, and always will be, innately modest, and I suspect that he will be greatly surprised at the warmth of the tribute which we are rightly paying him to-day.

The word "hereditary" has, I am afraid, tended to become rather a naughty word in recent times when applied to a Peer. But, if one wanted to prove that such a view was at any rate not always correct, one might well, I think, point to the record of the noble Marquess, Lord Cholmondeley, who, quietly, unobtrusively, selflessly and if I may say so, extremely efficiently, without any thought either of reward or of public acclaim, has devoted himself for so long to the service of this House and all that this House stands for. I am sure we are all happy to know from the Leader of the House that, in some spheres at any rate, that work will go on in the future as in the past, for the benefit of us all.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words in warm support of this Motion. I speak both as a Cross-Bench Peer and as Chairman of the Sub-Committee of the House of Lords Offices Committee which is responsible for the Refreshment Department. For the past thirteen years Lord Cholmondeley has been a member of that Refreshment Committee, and his whole heart has been in the affairs of the Refreshment Department. It is not merely that he has attended to such operations as the modernisation of the kitchens and the creation of the new dining room downstairs. It goes much deeper than that. He has given constant and loving care to the amenities of the Refreshment Department and the embellishment of the Dining Rooms and of the Guest Room. It is therefore, as the Leader of the House has rightly said, fitting that the Lower Dining Room, which now houses the picture of this House in Session and a portrait of Lord Cholmondeley himself, should go down in history as the Cholmondeley Room. The Members of the Sub-Committee, and indeed all those of your Lordships who use the Refreshment Department, owe him a great debt of gratitude, which it is proper that we should acknowledge to-day.


My Lords, may I ask the indulgence of the House to add a few words of personal tribute to Lord Cholmondeley? First of all, may I pay my tribute to Lord Longford for the gracious and generous way in which he has expressed the feeling of the House? My personal reason for speaking is that, after forty years in Parliament, the larger part of it spent in this House, I recollect that my earlier association with Lord Cholmondeley was at a very early stage in my life, not in politics but in recreation. At that stage I learnt to recognise him as a perfectionist in everything he did. He had talents of great versatility which he deployed in so many ways to the benefit of his generation.

What will always cause us to respect his memory is not only his physical qualities, his gifts and his abilities, but also his generous spirit and attitude towards those in the most humble positions in the service of this House. For myself, I would add only that what has been said in this House has been justifiably said in regard to those qualities of consideration and generosity, not only to Back-Benchers—and I have been one for a long time in this House—but also to those who comprise the personnel of this House who are not Members. Any of us who has been fortunate enough to receive a personal letter from him will know that in his superlative calligraphy he provides an example of something we can respect in a passing age.


My Lords, may I add one quality which I do not think has been referred to already? I should like to bear testimony to the extreme patience and sheer unalderated goodness with which Lord Cholmondeley met what was very often impatience. Thereby he gave me a lesson in how people as well as things should be handled.

On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente.


My Lords, I am overwhelmed by the tributes you have paid me. The Motion which has been passed is, I should say, a record for somebody like me—somebody who has really been behind the scenes and who has not actually taken a useful part in your Lordships' House. Most charming tributes were paid to me a few weeks ago, and to-day I have had warm appreciation paid to me by Members of this House. I value it enormously. Is it not a record for one to receive these wonderful tributes and walk out under one's own steam?

I could not have done what your Lordships say I have done had it not been for the loyalty and efficiency of Captain Mackintosh and his staff, the Doorkeepers, the Custodians, the Police, and the men from the Ministry of Works who are attached to this Palace. It is they who have helped me on my way and saved me an enormous amount of trouble. In a Palace like this there have to be rules and regulations, and it is those members of the staff who have had to carry them out; and I must say your Lordships have supported us throughout. I have no complaints, and they have carried out their tasks with the utmost tact.

When I took over the job I found there was scope to do things. The last person who did things for this House in the way of decoration was the Prince Consort. He was unable to finish his job, and I found many bare walls, empty spaces, and so on. I made an appeal to your Lordships and others, and in a short time tapestries and pictures came along and the Palace now looks more "lived in". From what your Lordships have said, I know you approve.

I shall have this Motion written out by the best scribe in Italic writing. It will become a treasured heirloom in my family, and those who come after will know what your Lordships thought of me. My Lords, I thank you with all my heart.