Clerk of the House (Retirement)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th July 1954.

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4.58 p.m.

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

I beg to move, That Mr. Speaker be requested to convey to Sir Frederic William Metcalfe, K.C.B., on his retirement from the Office of Clerk of this House, the assurance of its just sense of the exemplary manner in which he has uniformly discharged the duties of his important office, and its appreciation of his thirty-five years of devoted service in different offices of the House, of which twenty-four were spent at the Table, where his experience and ready advice have rendered constant assistance to the House and its Members in the conduct of its business. This Motion is on the Paper in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself, and of the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite who are the Leaders of their parties. With his natural modesty, Sir Frederic himself would have preferred it that we should leave it at that today and make no personal references to him. He is essentially a modest man. I feel that the House, for the first time in many years, would be unwilling to take Sir Frederic's advice on that matter, even if he tendered it.

The resignation of a Clerk of the House inevitably marks the end of a Parliamentary chapter. Sir Frederic leaves us with the good wishes of everyone. He has served the House for 35 years, and at all times he has been a perfect model of patience with all those who sought his guidance. Courtesy was his hall-mark and friendliness his outstanding characteristic, and he joined us in other spheres besides his work. He was a private—there is the modesty again—in our Parliamentary Home Guard during the war. With some he played golf, and in earlier days he shone as a run-getter for the Lords and Commons on the cricket field.

Now he leaves us, his duty done, but young enough for us as a House—with confidence, I hope—to wish him a long and happy retirement. Today we want to thank him for his great services, and to say that we shall all miss him from his place at the Table.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Walthamstow West

Only a few words are needed from me to associate very fully all hon. Members on this side of the House with what has been so admirably said by the Lord Privy Seal. I think, perhaps, that we in this House are rather apt to take for granted the services of the officers of the House, but we all know what the unfailing help and courtesy we receive from the Table mean to Members.

Sir Frederic has a long line of distinguished predecessors, and he has himself added to a very great tradition. He is a personal friend of so many in this House, and we all join in wishing him a long and happy retirement.

Photo of Mr Clement Davies Mr Clement Davies , Montgomeryshire

May I also add my word of thanks to Sir Frederic now that he is leaving us and thank him very sincerely on behalf of all for his kindliness, courtesy and readiness at all times to help us on any matter on which we approached him?

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Orpington

I think it right, as I have had the honour of Sir Frederic's friendship for 30 years, not only in this House but on the cricket field, for a back bencher—if I may presume to do so—to add our tribute to him for his work, his helpfulness and his kindliness at all times. I hope that the "Fellowes" that follow him will do equally well.

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

May I put a point of view which I think very few others in the House can put—certainly one or two can—with regard to the immense value which Sir Frederic has been to those of us who had the honour of serving the House in the Chair? No one can know how difficult is the work of the Chair and how utterly impossible that work would be except for the services of the Clerk. Sir Frederic was an old friend of mine long before he occupied any of the seats at the Table, but I must say that whatever his services to private Members have been—and they have been very great indeed—his services to the occupants of the Chair have been quite invaluable and have made our job possible.

Photo of Sir George Benson Sir George Benson , Chesterfield

I think it fitting that a back bencher on this side of the House should also express his appreciation of the services rendered by Sir Frederic to back benchers. It is a long time since I first came into this House, and in those days Sir Frederic was Second Clerk Assistant. I can remember the advice which I received as a new Member, completely muddled and befuddled by our procedure and in finding my way about, and the problem I had with Questions. The advice was—and I pass it on to the House in the words in which it was given to me—"Get hold of that red-headed chap. He will help you." That was Sir Frederic. It was very good advice indeed. Sir Frederic has always been at the service of Members, and his services have been most helpful. I wish him God speed.

Question put, and agreed to, nemine contradicente.

Resolved, That Mr. Speaker be requested to convey to Sir Frederic William Metcalfe, K.C.B., on his retirement from the Office of Clerk of this House, the assurance of its just sense of the exemplary manner in which he has uniformly discharged the duties of his important office, and its appreciation of his thirty-five years of devoted service in different offices of the House, of which twenty-four were spent at the Table, where his experience and ready advice have rendered constant assistance to the House and its Members in the conduct of its business.