HL Deb 17 June 1963 vol 250 cc1083-8

2.35 p.m.

Order of the Day read for the consideration of the letter from Sir Victor Martin Reeves Goodman, K.C.B., O.B.E., M.C., announcing the resignation of his office of Clerk of the Parliaments, as from June 16, 1963.


My Lords, I beg to move that the letter be now considered.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, as I said on the last day before the Recess, the House will have heard with the deepest regret of the resignation of Sir Victor Goodman, and also of the cause, which was his medical advice. It is now my task to move the first of the two Motions which stand in my name in regard to that resignation. That Motion reads as follows: That this House has received with sincere concern the announcement of the retirement of Sir Victor Martin Reeves Goodman, K.C.B., O.B.E., M.C., from the Office of Clerk of the Parliaments, and thinks it right to record the lust sense which it entertains of the zeal, ability, diligence, and integrity with which the said Sir Victor Martin Reeves Goodman executed the important duties of his Office. It is obvious that a Motion of this kind is moved with mixed feelings of sorrow and pleasure. There is pleasure in recollecting Sir Victor's long and distinguished service, and in recording our appreciation of that service, which lasted for over 43 years. There is sorrow in parting with an old friend of us all, whose wise counsel has always been at the disposal of the Members of your Lordships' House. There will be many Members of your Lordships' House more competent than I to do justice to Sir Victor's continuous service. This dates back to 1920, when he first entered the Parliament Office. Over the years, he has earned enormous experience in all the branches of the office which serves the House. I think he will be especially pleased—and it certainly pleases me as a member of the legal profession—if I recall that he spent the major part of his time before he came to the Table in the Judicial Office of your Lordships' House. This department he made very much his own, and the smooth working of the administration of Judicial Business of the House has for a long time been his special concern.

I think, too, that I should recall that over a period of twenty years, Sir Victor was intimately connected with the care, editing and calendaring of the historical documents in our Record Office, which form together one of the great collections of historical documents in this country. I am particularly pleased to remind the House of this aspect of his work, because very soon the new Victoria Tower Record Repository will be declared open, and we shall all have the opportunity of seeing the fine work which has been done for the housing and preservation of our most valuable collection of records; and we shall recall, in doing so, that the origin of this particular enterprise can be dated, I think, to Sir Victor's own work in about 1937.

I should like also to mention another little-known but valuable service which Sir Victor has rendered, not to this House alone but to the whole Palace of Westminster: for he was the chief air-raid precautions officer and in charge of the Civil Defence and security arrangements of both Houses during the last war. He was also second-in-command of the Palace of Westminster Company of the Home Guard. It is no surprise that one who fought in the First World War in the Coldstream Guards, and was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry, should have been chosen for these important duties during the Second World War, and that here, too, he should have carried that burden with such distinction.

There is another extramural activity which I think it is right for me to mention. Sir Victor has been a Trustee of the British Museum since 1949, and since 1953 he has been a member of the Standing Committee of the Trustees. While we have the British Museum Bill in progress in our House, it is fitting for us to recall the debt which the British Museum owes to his careful discharge of that office.

I have dwelt on perhaps the least known of Sir Victor's services to the House and the public, because, in a sense, it would be superfluous for me to enlarge on his years here at the Table, where he has been well-known and so deeply loved in all quarters of the House. I will, therefore, add only this comment: I am sure that the House will join with me in wishing Sir Victor the good health which rest from his labours may give to him, and in hoping that he and Lady Goodman will come back from time to time to the House, where I know that from all sides and from all individual Members they will find a very warm welcome. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That this House has received with sincere concern the announcement of the retirement of Sir Victor Martin Reeves Goodman, K.C.B., O.B.E., M.C., from the Office of Clerk of the Parliaments, and thinks it right to record the just sense, which it entertains of the zeal, ability, diligence, and integrity with which the said Sir Victor Martin Reeves Goodman executed the important duties of his office.—(Viscount Hailsham.)

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, I rise, not only for myself but for the whole of my colleagues on these Benches, to support the Resolution which the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House has moved. The most adequate speech which the Leader of the House has made, covering all Sir Victor Goodman's activities known to the House, and some, perhaps, unknown to others, makes it difficult for me to speak in any detail; nor is there any real necessity, after the speech the Leader of the House has made.

It is always sad for the House to part with a Clerk of the Parliaments of the standard which has been maintained by Sir Victor Goodman, and this House has very great indebtedness always for the manner of service we get from the Clerk of the Parliaments and his two Assistants at the table, and we are always grateful to them all. I doubt whether there is any company of discussion and consideration such as we have here on such important and often legal matters which is better served than we are at the Table of this House.

The record which the noble Viscount has given to us of Sir Victor Goodman in so many departments makes us able to view him on his departure, as having been not only a great public servant to the House of Lords but also a notable servant to the nation at large. And for that we admire him. I join with the Leader of the House in his expressed good wishes adding our regret at the reason for Sir Victor's leaving, that of ill-health, and hoping that the rest from his work here will provide for him at least some measure of recovery, and that we shall see him again as a friend.


My Lords, I do not think I can add very much to what has been said in the last two speeches, but my friends on these Benches and I myself could not allow this occasion to pass without adding our tributes and our expressions of admiration and regret at this present position. This House has, I believe, had an extremely lucky, or perhaps skilful, choice of Clerks of Parliament throughout its history and Sir Victor has upheld that record with every sort of excellence which one would expect of him. But he has, also, a personal relationship with each one of your Lordships: his modesty, helpfulness, great knowledge and competence have won him our affection and admiration, and we are indeed sorry that it is through his hard work in the harness of his great office that he has broken down and is unable to continue. I am sure all your Lordships will join with me in saying that, while we say farewell to our late Clerk of the Parliaments we say only "Au revoir, Sir Victor"; and we hope, as the noble and learned Viscount has said, that he will often come back and please us with his presence, and that of his wife, and that he may enjoy good health and happiness for many years to come.


My Lords, before the Motion is put I rise to say in the first place that, as a new boy on the Cross-Benches I do not presume in the least to speak for the Peers on these Benches, but I have been a Back-Bencher all my life and I wish to say what has not been mentioned yet and which is not part of the Resolution: that, as a Back-Bencher, I shall always remember Sir Victor with affection for the singular patience with which, in spite of his ill-health, he has always dealt with me and, I think, every other Back-Bencher. That, I think, ought to be recorded and remembered, and I have risen with that in mind.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I add a few words to what has already been so eloquently and truly said about Sir Victor and the services he has rendered to your Lordships and to this House. I suppose that every Lord Chancellor enters upon his duties with considerable nervousness. I certainly did, and I should like publicly to express my very real gratitude to Sir Victor for the great help and valuable advice he has given me since I became Lord Chancellor.

It is perhaps appropriate that I, too, should mention the service which Sir Victor rendered in the Judicial Office of your Lordships' House from 1934 to 1949. I have heard from my predecessor Lord Simonds, and from former Judicial Members of your Lordships' House, of the especially valuable services which Sir Victor performed in that important department.

It is sad to part with friends and, despite his retirement after long service, I join with those who have expressed the hope that we shall continue to see something of him, and I am sure it is your Lordships' hope, as it is mine, that he will long enjoy his well-earned retirement.

On Question, Resolution agreed to, nemine dissentiente.


I beg to move that the Lord Chancellor do communicate this Resolution to Sir Victor Goodman.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. This Address to Her Majesty is in accordance with precedent and is designed to secure for Sir Victor, in the usual manner, the pension attaching to his Office. I beg to move.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty laying before Her Majesty a copy of the letter of the said Sir Victor Martin Reeves Goodman, K.C.B., O.B.E., M.C. and likewise of the Resolution of this House, and recommending the said Sir Victor Martin Reeves Goodman to Her Majesty's Royal Grace and Bounty.—(Viscount Hailsham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.

Then, the Lord Chancellor having informed the House on May 30 last that Her Majesty had, by Letters Patent, appointed David Stephens, Esquire, C.V.O., to the Office of Clerk of the Parliaments, in the place of Sir Victor Goodman, K.C.B., O.B.E., M.C., the Letters Patent were read. The said David Stephens, Esquire, made the prescribed declaration (which declaration is set down in the Roll among the oaths of the great officers) in terms as follows: I, David Stephens, do declare that I will be true and faithful and troth I will bear to Our Sovereign Lady the Queen and to Her Heirs and Successors. I will nothing know that shall be prejudicial to Her Highness Her Crown Estate and Dignity Royal, but that I will resist it to my power and with all speed I will advertise Her Grace thereof, or at the least some of Her Counsel in such wise as the same may come to Her knowledge. I will also well and truly serve Her Highness in the Office of Clerk of Her Parliaments making true Entries and Records of the things done and passed in the same. I will keep secret all such matters as shall be treated in Her said Parliaments and not disclose the same before they shall be published, but to such as it ought to be disclosed unto, and generally I will well and truly do and execute all things belonging to me to be done appertaining to the Office of Clerk of the Parliaments. After which he took his seat at the Table.

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