HL Deb 27 April 1981 vol 419 cc1027-8
The Lord President of the Council (Lord Soames)

My Lords, it is my sad duty as Leader of the House to pay a brief tribute to Lord Rea, who died last week at the age of 81. He was a member of a leading Liberal family and succeeded to the Peerage in 1948. Within only two years he had become Chief Whip of the Liberal Party; and from 1955 to 1967 he was the Liberal Party Leader in this House. Also from 1950 to 1977—a period of 27 years—he was a much-valued member of the Deputy Chairmen's panel.

Lord Rea also had many interests outside this House. He was a member for many years of his family banking firm and during the Second World War he gave outstanding service in the organisation of resistance movements in enemy occupied territories. In later years he sat on the BBC Advisory Council, and on the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee from 1962 to 1977. Lord Rea had ceased to play a leading part in the House by the time I entered it; but I have it from the best authorities on all sides of the House that his modesty, his firmness and his good sense made a most important contribution to the conduct of business during his 17 years' service as Leader and Chief Whip of his party.

I know that Lord Rea will be remembered with great affection not only by those who sit on the Liberal Benches opposite but also by the many other Members of your Lordships' House who I know will wish to join me in sending our sympathy to his family.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Peart

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for paying tribute in the way that he has. I am sure that all our Liberal colleagues in the House will feel very sad at the loss of a most distinguished Liberal politician. The noble Lord, Lord Soames, mentioned Lord Rea's fine war record in the last war in his organisation of resistance. I believe that he also participated in the war before that as a guardsman.

Lord Rea had a tremendous record and I am very proud that the part of the world in which he loved best to stay was Cumbria. He will be missed there by many people. He was a Deputy Lieutenant there and played a major part in the life of the community. He loved Cumberland, which he regarded latterly as a home. Therefore, on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition, I should like to be associated with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Soames. I realise that for the Liberal Peers it must be a very sad occasion.

Lord Byers

My Lords, we on these Benches are particularly appreciative of the tributes paid to our late colleague and former Leader, Lord Rea, by the two noble Lords, as I know will be his family and very wide circle of friends.

I knew Philip Rea from long before the Second World War. He was a person of infinite charm, with a nice turn of wit and a graciousness which won him many friends in and outside political life. His life was characterised, as both noble Lords have said, by the public service which he rendered in so many different ways. I am particularly glad that mention was made of his remarkable war record in the Special Operations Executive. The importance of service to his country and to the resistance movement in Europe was recognised by the decorations which were awarded to him by our own Government and by the Governments of other countries in Europe. His service to the Liberal Party was long and distinguished. He did a great deal for his old school, Westminster, of which he was for many years a governor. He was particularly interested in maintaining strong links between Westminster School and the Houses of Parliament.

He served this House—for which he had great affection—in many different capacities and many will remember the beautifully phrased speeches which he often delivered from this Bench. My Lords, we have lost a valued friend and the House has lost a highly respected Member.

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