Dennis Herbert – 1943 Resignation Statement

Below is the text of the speech made by Sir Dennis Herbert, the then Conservative MP for Watford, in the House of Commons on 19 January 1943.

Mr. Speaker, with your permission and the assent of the House, I have a brief statement to make. As the Chairman of Ways and Means and Chairman of Committees, and being an officer of the House elected by the House, it is to the House that I should submit, as I now do, my resignation of that post. I should like first of all to dispose of one, fortunately mistaken, idea which has got into the Press in some quarters, namely, that I am doing this on the ground of ill-health. It is true that I had a bad illness not long ago, but if the House will pardon this personal matter, I am glad to be able to say that my doctor tells me that there is no reason of that kind why I should not continue in the exacting post which I have held, and I hope I may have a further useful time yet in the future.

But there may be various reasons, some good, some less good, why I should take this course. One reason if good and sufficient is all that is required, and that one reason I venture to give—the one which has weighed with me. The history of the House of Commons has been one of constant change over the centuries. At this time of world upheaval and, we hope, of subsequent reconstruction, there must be big changes in the near future in the methods and procedure of the House, and in those changes, if I am not mistaken, two matters will be particularly affected—one the procedure in Committees of the Whole House, including the Committees of Supply and of Ways and Means, and the other in the arrangements regarding Private Bill legislation, which, as the House will recollect, is practically in the management of the Chairman of ​ Ways and Means. Those changes must take time, and, fit as I may feel at the present time, I should not be justified, and the House would not feel justified, in feeling confident that I should be equally fit to go on with that work until those changes are completed. It is highly undesirable that when changes of that kind are in progress one of the persons principally concerned should suddenly become unable or inefficient to carry on that work. Under those circumstances the House, I feel, would be very well advised to find as a Chairman a Member who can, with greater confidence than in my case, be regarded as likely to see all those changes completed. I am happy to say that the Prime Minister permits me to say that the course I am adopting has his approval.

There remains one duty for me to do, and that is to express my gratitude to the House for their kindness to me during the whole of the time I have held this office. It has been particularly pleasing to me that among some of my best friends in the House are some of those to whom I have been most deaf, most blind, or whose eloquent speeches I have been obliged to torpedo at their first start. It shows the general good nature and good will which have always been a distinguishing feature of this House, and I am grateful. Mr. Speaker, if I may say so with respect, I could not have served under anyone more pleasing to serve under than yourself, and I must mention, too, my right hon. and gallant Friend the Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown), who, as I think the House will agree, has justified most thoroughly the choice which was made when our late good friend Captain Bourne left us. Mr. Speaker, I thank the House, and I am grateful to them for having listened to me.