HL Deb 02 February 1971 vol 314 cc1111-3

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will have heard this morning, with deep regret, the news of the death of Viscount Soulbury, who had been a Member of your Lordships' House since 1941. His political career was largely in another place, where he held a number of distinguished offices; but I think it is chiefly his association with the Board of Education which will be remembered, culminating as it did in 1941 with his appointment as President of the Board. Lord Soulbury, after he left another place, was for seven years Chairman of the Burnham Committee. As to-day's very generous and very appropriate obituary notice to him in The Times emphasises, it was particularly fitting that he should have been appointed in 1949 as Governor-General of Ceylon, since he had been Chairman of the Commission on Constitutional Reform whose recommendations culminated in the Ceylon Independence Act. Those of your Lordships who are acquainted with, and are aware of, the affairs of Ceylon will know that during his tenure of office Lord Soulbury was remarkably popular with all the races in that Island.

My Lords, I think that many of your Lordships will particularly remember Lord Soulbury during the period when he was a faithful and assiduous attender of your Lordships' House despite advanced age and very considerable physical handicaps. He was beloved by everyone who knew him, and I am sure that your Lordships will join with me in extending our deep sympathy to all the members of his family.


My Lords, I think it always right that we should remember those of our Members who have given great service to this country and to their people; and it is all the more right when the individual, as in the case of Lord Soulbury, was not personally known to many of us. I never had the pleasure of knowing him, but there are those in this House who did know him and who, when I sought to find out about him, have spoken to me with warmest regard for him. It may well be that the fact that he was not so well known to the present generation in your Lordships' House is not merely because he had attained a great age and in recent years had been prevented by ill-health from coming here very often, but because he was a person who by his charm and ease of manner, and his consideration for others, did not always attract the limelight or the attention that a more abrasive character would have done. Indeed, it was this particular consideration for people that made him not only a very popular figure in your Lordships' House but also an exceedingly successful Governor-General of Ceylon. It is that particular quality of personal consideration and sensitivity to other people that makes a great figure in a territory passing from the colonial age into independence; and the fact that Ceylon flourishes now and is to-day a democracy, despite the pressures that have come on so many other countries, must be some tribute, and reflect some quality of achievement which the late Lord Soulbury had produced. Therefore it is with deep feeling that we on this side of the House echo the words of the noble Earl the Leader of the House.


My Lords, my noble friends and I would wish to be associated with the tributes, the very appropriate tributes, which have been paid to the late Lord Soulbury by the two noble Lords who have spoken. My noble friend Lord Ogmore, who had some responsibility in the matter at the time, has reminded me that when Lord Soulbury became Governor-General of Ceylon it was probably one of the first of the colonial dependencies to achieve independence. Lord Soulbury not only served Ceylon but also helped to establish a pattern which was of tremendous value to other similar territories when they achieved independence. My Lords, we also should wish to be associated with the very warm tributes paid to Lord Soul-bury and with the expression of sympathy to his family.


My Lords, I hope that it may be appropriate if I say a word. As one who was for many years Lord Soulbury's P.P.S. in another place I should like to add my tribute to his memory, because I saw at first hand all those qualities which have been so graciously referred to by speakers from both sides of the House.


My Lords, as one of Lord Soulbury's oldest friends and closest colleagues, perhaps I may add a word or two. We were honorary fellows of the same college, where he had a very much more distinguished career than I had. He had double firsts and I had indifferent double or single seconds. He was everything that everyone who has paid tribute to him has said: single-minded, single-purposed, a gallant soldier—we both served together, he with more distinction than I did. I know, too (I was Commonwealth Secretary at the time), how successful he was in Ceylon, where he carried out the first Inquiry, and how popular he was there. I think I can sum up what I would say in the single phrase, that Lord Soulbury was what every man in public life would wish to be.

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