Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, O.M.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28 March 1945.

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Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich 12:00, 28 March 1945

On behalf of the National Liberals and myself I should like to pay a tribute to the memory of the statesman whom we mourn. Other speakers have referred to his great career as a war leader or as a Radical reformer. I should like in a sentence or two to give a more personal impression, as one who came in close contact with him as one of his private secretaries in the Coalition days. It was a great privilege to a young man to be in that position, and to have an opportunity of meeting great statesmen day by day. Those were the days of a Coalition which had to face all the difficult problems of the transition from war to peace—problems of a similar nature to those which, I imagine, will face any Government in the future. What impressed me most in Mr. Lloyd George was his infinite resourcefulness, his resiliency of mind and his complete and utter absorption in the tasks that lay to hand. If he found the frontal attack on a problem blocked, to use a military metaphor, he would send his armour round the flank searching for a weak spot. He was an empiricist. He was never afraid to make an experiment.

May I tell one story which will illustrate his mistrust of dogma and rigid belief? He told me that once in the village where he lived there were two sects of one denomination and the members of either sect would not speak to the other. One believed in baptism in the name of the Father, and the other believed in baptism into the name of the Father. Mr. Lloyd George added: "I believed passionately in one and I would have given my life to the cause, but for the moment I forget which sect it was." It was this resourcefulness and fertility of mind that enabled him to see the fundamentals of our economic and, political problems. The Prime Minister has referred to several contributions he made in his amazing career. May I mention one which, with my experience of the Dominions Office, I shall always associate with him? I think it was he who first saw the real structure of the British, Commonwealth as a number of sister Dominions, each self-governing and with complete automony. It was he who first initiated, in 1917–18, the experiment of the Imperial War Cabinet, and he fought, at the Peace Conference, for the international status of the Dominions.

The other great impression made on my mind as a young man was that of a great human personality, throbbing with life, overflowing with spirits and with an infectious gaiety of mind. He loved youth. He loved the company of young men, particularly those entering public life, and he gave serious attention to their views. Mr. Lloyd George was always a listener. What impressed me most was the fact that a man with his remarkable career, who played one of the leading parts, if not the leading part, on the stage of public life and in every conflict and controversy in which he revelled had not in his nature and make-up one atom of vanity. The only thing that interested him was to tackle the problem before him, and he never considered his own advancement in relation to it. That is why I think that, though he never held office since 1922, he still remained a potent force in public life. I believe he was completely happy at Churt because he put all his amazing energy and resource into showing the nation a great experiment of how, by scientific cultivation and culture, he could reclaim the barren wastes of heather and sand and turn them into some of the most beautiful and flourishing apple orchards of the country. With the passing of Earl Lloyd-George there is the passing of an era, and we shall never see his like again.