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 Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South 12:00 am, 18th September 1959

I have very great pleasure in seconding the Motion which was moved by the Prime Minister in such appropriate and felicitous terms.

Few posts are more important to the working of Parliamentary democracy than that of Speaker, and few relationships more important than those between the Speaker and the Members of the House, but the character of this relationship depends a very great deal upon the occupant of the Chair. I cannot say that I regard the position of Speaker as an easy one. He has to be a master of Parliamentary procedure; he has to be patient; he has to be tolerant; he has, above all, to listen to a very large number of speeches.

Sir, it is the view of all of us that you have discharged these functions with wit, with urbanity, with dignity and with understanding. You did not perhaps have it so easy right at the start. You had one grave disadvantage: you had been one of His Majesty's Ministers. That brought you under certain suspicion, possibly not only on this side of the House, but I can assure you that you lived that down very quickly. We became reassured that, despite your past, you were nevertheless fully capable and fully determined to be entirely impartial.

In expressing our thanks to you, I should like to associate myself with what the Prime Minister has said about the Deputy-Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, who is also retiring at the end of this Parliament. We will long remember with affection the way in which he has handled our affairs, and we wish him a very happy time in retirement. May I also associate myself with what has been said about the Clerks of the House and, in particular, extend our sympathy from this side of the House to the relatives of the late Mr. Douglas Gordon.

Sir, in your moving and impressive statement to the House, which we shall long remember, you perhaps naturally emphasised that in an assembly of this kind harsh things are said from time to time. It is not unlikely that they will be said again in the next three weeks. Perhaps it is significant, and typical of a British assembly, that we should end this Parliament on a note of unanimity. That note is to express our heartfelt thanks to you for what you have done as Speaker, for the way in which you have presided over us, and to express our wish that you and Mrs. Morrison will have many happy years of retirement and that we shall see you from time to time again within the Palace of Westminster.