Retirement of MR. Speaker Morrison

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th September 1959.

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Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley 12:00 am, 18th September 1959

I beg to move, That the thanks of this House be given to the Right Honourable William Shepherd Morrison, M.C., Q.C., for his distinguished services as their Speaker for nearly eight years; that he be assured that this House fully appreciates the zeal, ability, and impartiality with which he has acted in his high office and the judgment and firmness with which he has maintained its privileges and dignity; that this House gratefully records his devoted and unremitting attention to his duties and his uniform urbanity and kindness which have earned for him the respect and esteem of this House. It was with keen regret that we learned last February of your decision to end after thirty years your Membership of this; House and so bring to an end your tenure of the office of Speaker. Now we sit under you for the last time. It is always a sad moment when we say the final "Goodbye" to Mr. Speaker. Each occupant of the office comes to stand for the corporate sense of the whole House, to which you have just referred, and none of us can see him go without experiencing a real sense of personal loss.

The qualities which we hope to find in our Speaker have often been enumerated, and they make up a formidable list—impartiality, calm, patience, a sense of humour, courtesy, independence, a good presence, and a high regard for our institutions. The very full extent to which these attributes have been found in you, Sir, has been a great boon to the House.

At your election on the last day of October, 1951, you spoke of the noble task of keeping alive the traditions of impartiality, freedom and order which have made this House what it is. It is, indeed, a noble task, and as we look back over the period of eight years we see how nobly you have fulfilled it.

If I may be allowed to introduce a more personal note, I am bound to say that I have been happy to see the Speaker's Chair filled by a very old friend for many years in the House of Commons and by a fellow Scot. At the same time, we have one cause for regret for having chosen you for this office, because by electing you Speaker we give ourselves very little opportunity of hearing you speak. Many of the older Members of the House will remember the happy turn of phrase and urbane humour with which you used to delight us when you spoke as a Member or a Minister. You gave us a reminder of those qualities, those who were fortunate enough to hear it, at the ceremony the other day at the centenary of Big Ben. Alas, for most of the time your present office has not allowed you scope for those speeches, although you charmed us with your lucidity and with your wit.

Mr. Speaker, the years during which you have presided over us have not been quite the same epoch-making character as those of your two predecessors. We have not been fighting a world war, we have not been bombed out of our old Chamber and restored to a new Chamber; but this period has been one of great importance in the history of Parliament, not only here but in the Commonwealth. You have referred, Sir, to what has been the particular character of this period, the very close associations between Parliaments in the Commonwealth. You have done a great deal to help by maintaining the dignity of the institutions and by your friendship and contacts with the Parliaments of the Commonwealth countries.

I am sure you would be the first to say how much you have been helped by the support you have received from the Deputy-Speaker, and I would like to take the opportunity of saying, if it is in order, how much we shall miss the wisdom and the quiet authority of the Chairman of Ways and Means, who is another who will not be returning to this House, which he entered 35 years ago.

It has often been observed, Mr. Speaker, that you have a remarkable knowledge of the works of Shakespeare. Perhaps you would recognise these lines: He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one;Exceeding wise, fair-spoken, and persuading. It would be hard, I think, to find a more succinct description of the qualities which we have found in you.

There is one further matter I should like to refer to. You have not in all your time as Speaker missed a single day of our proceedings through illness. It is a great record, and I hope a presage of many happy years of good health that await you.

It would not be right for me to close without saying how much we have been indebted to Mrs. Speaker for the charming and gracious way she has carried out all the tasks which have fallen to her lot.

It only remains for me, therefore, to commend this Motion which I have read out to the House and to express the hope that you and Mrs. Morrison will enjoy many years of happy retirement.