HL Deb 06 November 1974 vol 354 cc429-31

My Lords, the House will have heard with great sadness of the death yesterday of the noble Lord, Lord Hailes, at the age of 73. All those of us who knew him will remember his kind and totally sympathetic nature and his extraordinary ability of judging the merit of those with whom he came in contact. He was a long-established member of the Party opposite, but one, if I may say so, who was never identifiable with the narrow Party line, even though it was his job as Chief Whip in another place to see the Party line through thick and thin. His humane character and his sure insight allowed him a broader view of political arguments than some perhaps expect of a professional Party man.

As Patrick Buchan-Hepburn he came from a long-established Scottish family. His early years, however, were spent in England and in widespread travel around Europe. Indeed, his first appointment was as Honorary Attaché at the British Embassy in Constantinople. He then became Private Secretary to Winston Churchill, and it would be impossible to overestimate the importance of this connection. He was able to contribute a great deal to the work of his formidable master, and he also began a friendship which proved vital in later years when he was Winston Churchill's Chief Whip in the early 1950s. The noble Lord, Lord Hailes, entered the House of Commons in 1931 and soon became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Oliver Stanley and this gave him experience in no fewer than five Government Departments. It became apparent, however, that his future lay not in the traditional role of ministerial responsibility but in the wizardry, if more obscure and difficult task, of Party organisation.

His remarkable flair for creating personal friendships led to his appointment as Deputy Chief Whip of the Conservative Party in 1945 and then Chief Whip in 1948. He held this post first in Opposition and then in Government until 1955. He had the essential job—and here I am indebted to the advice of a former and noted Chief Whip—of preserving Party policy in home affairs and managing the Party machine in another place on behalf of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. It was at this time that his early knowledge of Churchill came to be so significant. He developed a new standing for the post of Chief Whip and became, I believe, the first Chief Whip to be a constant attender at Cabinet. Perhaps we can place the responsibility on the noble Lord that to-day a Chief Whip sits with full Cabinet rank.

The noble Lord became a Peer in 1957, but was not in the House for more than a few months before he was appointed Governor General of the West Indies Federation. He coped well with this exacting appointment, even though he was faced with disputes between the various islands of the Federation in which they were not happily united. But he is, despite all that, remembered with great affection and respect in the Caribbean. He was deeply disappointed at the failure of the Federation, but it brought him back to this country where Members of the House were delighted to find him, elegant and genial as ever and a regular attender. He was also able to devote time to his great interest: the preservation of historic buildings, which he undertook as Chairman of the Historic Buildings Council for England. We shall miss him greatly and I feel confident that noble Lords in all parts of the House will join with me in sending our deep sympathy to his widow and family, and in feeling a great sadness at his death. My Lords, we indeed feel the loss, but it is nice to think, too, that the loss will be equally felt in the West Indies.


My Lords, may I join with the Leader of the House, on behalf of those who sit on these Benches, in paying our tributes to Lord Hailes. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has spoken in the kindest and most generous way of Lord Hailes as a person and has outlined his very distinguished career. I suppose that he will be best remembered by those in your Lordships' House—those, at any rate, who were in the House of Commons in the late 1940s and the mid-1950s—as Conservative Chief Whip. Although I myself was not there, I know from so many of my friends in what regard he was held. All of us who are in politics know how difficult it is to be a Whip. You have to be firm and you have to be fair, and it takes a very powerful character to be both successful and liked. Patrick Hailes managed to do that to an outstanding degree. Not only was he successful; he was held in high regard and much respected by Members of Parliament of all Parties.

When he undertook the position of Governor General of the West Indies, he proved to be conspicuously suited to that job, both by his attitude and by his interests. Certainly it was not his fault that the Federation failed. No man could have done more to make it succeed. When he retired he devoted himself to what I believe was probably his real love, which was the preservation of beautiful buildings and their enhancement, and that, I think, will be his memorial. All of us owe a great deal to him for what he managed to do in that field. My Lords, we in this House remember him with affection and send his widow our deep sympathy.


My Lords, on behalf of my Liberal colleagues, I should like to join in this tribute to the late Lord Hailes. I had the privilege of knowing him in another place as well as in this House and, as your Lordships are aware, he achieved a very impressive record of public service. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has pointed out, he was highly regarded and greatly respected by members of other Parties as well as his own, and I should like to join in expressing sympathy to his widow and family.

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