Lord Hailsham – 1907-2001

Lord Hailsham followed in the footsteps of his father, the first Viscount Hailsham, in many ways, both in the law and in politics. When the father of Lord Hailsham Douglas Hogg, as he then was, was appointed Lord Chancell-or and became the first Viscount Hailsham in 1935, he accepted that regrettably the appointment would bar from him “the possibility of becoming Prime Minister”. Even then there was some evidence of the future ambition of his son when Quentin Hogg, as he then was, sent a telegram to his father reading: “Melancholy congratulations. Reform Lords.”
Lord Hailsham succeeded his father, the first Viscount, in 1950, but the political ambitions still remained. While he was blessed with the intellect to become, like his father, a future Lord Chancellor, his political ambition remained at the fore, and on 10 October 1963 he disclaimed his peerage so that he could remain in the House of Commons, with the evident ambition to become the next Prime Minister. It was a calculated risk that did not succeed. Many felt the move was premature and presumed both on Harold Macmillan’s resignation and that he would be appointed Prime Minster and fulfil the ambition his father once had. Though he had strong support, the appointment went to Douglas Hume.
However, after renouncing his title, he continued as a Member of Parliament until 1970 when, following in the tradition of his father, he became Lord Chancellor and was elevated to the peerage as Baron Hailsham, an appointment he held until 1974 when, on the change of government, Lord Elwyn Jones was appointed.
On the re-election of the Conservative Party in 1979, Lord Hailsham once again was appointed Lord Chan-cellor, an office he held until his retirement in 1987. He thus held the highest judicial appointment in the land for 12 years – longer than any other in the last half-century.
As a lawyer he could not be faulted, and later as Lord Chancellor, among his many important judgments was the famous case of Captain Broome •Cassell & Company, which came before the House of Lords in 1972 and in which his judgment ran to more than 15,000 words.
David Irving, the author of PQ-17, an account of one of the great naval disasters of World War II, in which a large number of merchant vessels in a convoy named PQ-17 were sunk, made a statement which reflected adversely on Captain Broome, who was one of the officers commanding the naval ships escorting the convoy at the time of the disaster.
Captain Broome was ordered to leave the convoy, which was instructed to scatter. He obeyed his order, but unfortunately the author added the words: “Broome needed no second bidding.” It was a grave imputation against a brave and distinguished naval officer.
In writing the book the author had been warned that it was defamatory. The House of Lords upheld Captain Broome’s entitlement to exemplary damages.
Indeed, although Lord Hailsham was successful in every department of state in which he served, it was as a great lawyer that he will be best remembered.
He was not an innovator, but nevertheless, no one could ever legitimately question Lord Hailsham’s legal judgement and the standard of perfection he brought to his political career.
He suffered a great personal tragedy when, after 30 years of happy marriage, his wife died in a riding accident, of which he gave a deeply moving account in his memoirs. He lived, however, to see his eldest son – in the family tradition – attain high office in the service of his country.
Lord Hailsham will be sadly missed by his family. He will be missed, too, by lawyers and politicians, and by his many friends and those who so enjoyed his company during his mountaineering and shooting days.