HL Deb 07 October 1968 vol 296 cc775-82

2.16 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to pay tribute to the memory of three Members of your Lordships' House who have died during the Recess. I am sure that there cannot be any Member of this House who did not hear with sorrow the news of the death of the noble Marquess, Lord Cholmondeley, twice Lord Great Chamberlain. It seems such a short time ago, though in fact it was in May, 1965, that we resolved unanimously to express and place on record our profound gratitude to Lord Cholmondeley for his many services to the House, for his unfailing care of the interests and comfort of us all, and for his lasting achievements in the embellishment of the precincts of the House.

I am not able to remember the time before the House of Lords had received the enhancement of Lord Cholmondeley's meticulous care and enthusiasm, but I have always been told that it was quite a different place. The walls were bare—because they had not been decorated by Pugin—and the whole place was even in some ways thought to be shabby. Lord Cholmondeley changed all that. And we, who benefit from the tapestries and pictures and from the devotion he gave to this House, owe him a great debt of gratitude. He brought to the office of Lord Great Chamberlain a sense of dedication and trust, aware as he was that he held an office that had passed to him through a descent going right back to the reign of Henry I. No trouble was too great for him. No detail was too small for him to notice. And he brought his own fine style to his duties. The result was that we have been accustomed to a degree of perfection which was the result of his unremitting attention and forethought.

Lord Cholmondeley spent much of his life as an unpaid and devoted servant of this House, which he loved and to which he was deeply loyal. But I think it was only when we got to know him that we realised that the spendid presence and bearing covered a profound humility which was equalled only by his tremendous interest in the House. He had an endearing quality, your Lordships will recall—as I certainly remember—of moving into different places in the Chamber and; sitting, listening with rapt attention to what was being said in a way which I, for one, as a rather apprehensive recruit form another place, found greatly encouraging. A few months ago I was lucky enough to visit him, and had tea with him at his house in Norfolk. He was in failing health, and it was touching—indeed, moving—to see the enormous interest he continued to show in the affairs of the House. He still read Hansard every day and looked at the Division Lists. He was intensely interested in the question of Lords Reform and encouraging about the future evolution of the House.

Although when many of us first came here the Lord Great Chamberlain was a somewhat formidable-sounding official, we found in his personal attitude that he was a very charming and very kind man. I know that we are all glad that the room named after him was so named while he was still with us. Now that he has gone, it will serve as a lasting reminder of him to us and to all who will follow us. We shall miss him: and our sympathies go out to Lady Cholmondeley and, of course, to his son who is well known to us as Lord Rocksavage. I know that the House will share the feeling of sorrow that we have.

My Lords, we join, too, in expressing our sympathy to Lady Mills, and to Lord Mills's family, on the death of her husband. Lord Mills came comparatively late into political life, at least into public political life, when he became a Member of this House in 1957; but before that he had had a long and distinguished career not only in the business world before the war but also in his work for successive Governments during the war as Controller-General of Machine Tools and as Head of Productions Division in the Ministry of Production, and after the war when he advised Sir Winston Churchill's Administration on their housing programme. He was, too, a distinguished Chairman of the National Research Development Corporation. He was one of the people who helped to develop the industrial effectiveness and to improve the structure of this country. After a period as Minister of Power he became Paymaster General, which enables me to speak of him in closer proximity than that which one normally acquires from across the Floor of the House.

If Lord Mills's most formidable qualities were his vigorous determination and his ability, the impression he left here is one of charm and, indeed, gentleness. One of the things which struck me most about him was that, for a man with such a reputation for efficiency and toughness, he managed to conceal it with great charm and skill. When, along with my colleagues I was in Opposition, there were times when he seemed an easy target for hostile debate. But his was not an easy target at all; for his toughness lay both in his profound knowledge of the subject and in his imperturbable courteousness, which sometimes left one in Opposition frustrated but admiring. He was one of the many men who have served this country with great distinction and have left feelings of sorrow and affection among his friends.

My Lords, finally, with a great feeling of personal sadness, I come to the death of Lord Rowley. This is a feeling which we have very strongly in the Labour Party, of which he was a long and faithful and devoted member, but it is also a feeling which I know to be shared by all of us in your Lordships' House. Arthur Rowley had not been a Member of this House for very long; but many of us will remember him well in another Place, and I know how, in the short time that he was with us, he endeared himself to noble Lords on all sides. He was a man who combined very high personal integrity and idealism with an energy and enthusiasm for any good cause with which he was concerned.

I do not have by me the statistics about the number of brothers who have sat together in this House; but I think I am right in saying that we have not often before had two brothers created as Peers; and it is rare for two sons of a famous father to follow with such marked distinction in his footsteps as the noble Lords, Lord Rowley and Lord Henderson, have done. Their father, the great Arthur Henderson, perhaps one of the greatest Foreign Secretaries this country has known—certainly so in the opinion of many of those who served within the Foreign Office—clearly passed on the same sort of qualities to his sons.

I would, in particular, mention two aspects of Lord Rowley's life. The first is that of his work for world peace and the cause of world government and, incidentally, in this connection, his lifelong enthusiasm for inter-Parliamentary institutions. He strove, long before many of us, for a united Europe and was always seeking to combine more closely the Parliaments of the West. Secondly, I, as a former Air Force Minister, would mention his work as Secretary of State for Air, a post in which he had that attribute so essential in a Service Minister of really being able to identify himself with the Service of which he was the Ministerial Head. His work for the R.A.F. will long be remembered.

My Lords, one could go on at such length and with such real sincerity and feeling about Lord Rowley—as one could, indeed about the other noble Lords to whom I have referred—that it would take up more of the time of the House than they themselves would wish to take; because all three of them were men who appreciated the House of Lords. Therefore I would end only by saying that we extend to Lady Rowley and to Lord Henderson, Lord Rowley's brother, the deepest feelings of sympathy and of admiration of a man who gave greatly in his life.


My Lords, as the noble Lord the Leader of the House has said, we have during the Summer Recess suffered an unusually heavy loss by the death of three distinguished Members of this House. Lord Rowley, I think, was the most junior Member in terms of service, but he had a lifetime of Parliamentary service; and it was very noticeable to all who have sat in this House for a number of years how quickly he adapted himself not only to the conventions but also to the atmosphere of this House. He was idealistic; he was passionately concerned for the preservation of peace and for the welfare of his country and he was a most reasonable man. Those of us who sit on this side of the House, though we recognised his genuine and deep attachment to the Labour Party, always felt that his independence of mind and his love of his country were the mainspring of his political career. He was one of a remarkable pair of brothers and he will be sadly missed.

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, did not have the same political background as Lord Rowley, and, indeed, as we know and were reminded of bythe noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, he entered political life (although he had been interested in politics) only during the time of Mr. Macmillan's Government. In many ways he had the same characteristics as Lord Rowley: a reasonableness and freedom from doctrinaire opinions. If I may speak personally, I found his wisdom and readiness to help, to give good advice and support, often when times were not very easy, to be absolutely invaluable to me as Leader of the Opposition. He was a great servant of this country, both in war and in peace, and the countless numbers who knew him will be sad at his death—not least those of us who sit on this side of the House. He had affection for all, on whatever side they sat.

My Lords, lastly we have recently had the death of Lord Cholmondeley. It was not very long ago that we all paid tribute to Lord Cholmondeley's work as Lord Great Chamberlain when he retired from that office and gave it to his son. We paid tribute for the way he made this House a better place to work in and a more beautiful one to look at. We were, and are, grateful for that; and although Lord Cholmondeley did not take a very large part in the debates in this House, the influence and the role he played during his long membership should not be underestimated. His kindness, his dignity and his public service are something that we shall not forget. However many Lord Great Chamberlains there may be in the future, there will be for me only one. Those of us who saw Lord Cholmondeley in his uniform, with his white wand of office, organising and taking part in the ceremony of the Opening of Parliament, will recall the magnificent and splendid sight that he was. He represented all that is best in the tradition and continuity of this country.

To the families of those three noble Lords we send our deep sympathy, and hope that the affection in which they were obviously held in all quarters of the House will be some comfort to them at this sad time.


My Lords, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, I wish to endorse the sentiments of appreciation and sympathy which have been so eloquently expressed by the noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. It was my misfortune not to have had an intimate personal knowledge of Lord Cholmondeley, nor of Lord Mills. but from afar I was able over some years to admire the work which they both did in their respective spheres of public service.

Lord Rowley, however, I knew for many years. He was, as we all know. selected for important posts in the wartime Coalition Government. I was able to see his work much more closely as a Member of another place, when he was a member of the Attlee Government of 1945 to 1950. We who came in close contact with him admired particularly the work which he did for the Commonwealth, notably for India over a short but very important time, and the contribution which, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, he brought to his office as Secretary of State for Air. We found ourselves working with him on matters of world government and of Europe, and we were able to see over many years at first hand the charm, tenacity and enthusiasm which he brought to bear in the interests of the causes in which he believed. On behalf of by colleagues and myself, I wish to extend every sympathy to the families of these three noble Lords.


My Lords, as Chairman of the Refreshment Committee of this House, I should like to associate myself most warmly with what has been said about Lord Cholmondeley. As has been rightly said, he gave himself heart and soul to the embellishment of this House, and nowhere is the debt to him more evident than in the Refreshment Department. Finding the Peers' dining rooms, as he said, too dreary to eat in, he set himself to persuade fellow Peers and others to place some of their works of art on long loan at the disposal of the Lord Great Chamberlain. The outstanding success of these wholehearted efforts can be seen from the tapestries and paintings which grace the walls of the Peers' dining rooms and the Peers' guest room.

But that was not all, my Lords. It irked Lord Cholmondeley that Peers had no place in this House in which to give entertainment to their guests. It was due to his initiative and his inspiring and resolute efforts that, in spite of difficulties—and the difficulties were very great—our lower dining room was brought into being. The wisdom and far-sightedness of his initiative is proved by the wide use which Peers now make of this welcome facility by booking the room for evening functions on most days during the Session. Therefore, my Lords, it is most fitting that the lower dining room should bear his name; that his portrait should find a place there, and that by this means his beneficence will be called to mind and always gratefully remembered.

My Lords, I should like to associate myself with all that has been said about Lord Mills and Lord Rowley. Of Lord Mills I would say this. He played a part, and no small part, in the operation of the Occupation regime in the British Zone in Germany after the war, and more especially on the economic side. That Occupation régime, in association with that of the Americans, by its wisdom and farsightedness laid the foundation of the democratic form of government which we see in the Federal Republic to-day. Of Lord Rowley I will say only one word: like his father before him, he was a good man, if ever there was one.