Campion, Gilbert Francis Montriou, Baron Campion 1882-1958, clerk of the House of Commons, was born at Simla 11 May 1882, the eldest son of John Montriou Campion, later chief engineer, Punjab, in the public works department of India, by his wife, Grace Hannah, daughter of Abraham Collis Anderson, of county Kilkenny. He was educated at Bedford School and won a classical scholarship to Hertford College, Oxford, where he gained first class honours in both classical moderations (1903) and literae humaniores (1905). In 1906 he took the Civil Service examination but decided to accept the nomination of Sir Courtenay Ilbert [qv.] for a clerkship in the House of Commons.
Campion's interest in comparative procedure was early shown when he and his colleague, W. P. Johnston, suggested to Ilbert that they should visit the principal countries in Europe and gather information about their parliamentary systems. The results of their investigations were placed at the disposal of the select committee on procedure, 1914, and appended to their minutes of evidence. On the outbreak of war Campion joined the army and became a captain in the Army Service Corps. He was invalided home from France and in 1917 was appointed secretary to the conference on the reform of the second chamber presided over by Lord Bryce [qv.] who warmly commended Campion's wide knowledge of parliamentary institutions at home and abroad. In 1919 Campion was appointed secretary to the conference on devolution presided over by Speaker Lowther [qv.]. The scheme of regional grand councils proposed by Lowther is believed to have been substantially Campion's work.
In 1921 Campion became second clerk assistant, and in 1929, the year before his promotion to clerk assistant, he published An Introduction to the Procedure of the House of Commons, which was conceived originally as a manual of first-aid for members but was in fact a complete account of the procedure of the House. In 1937 he succeeded Sir Horace Dawkins as clerk of the House and when war broke out in 1939 he was responsible for administering the arrangements for meeting in Church House and the procedural innovations required by security.
The publication in 1946 of the fourteenth edition of Sir T. Erskine May [qv.] on Parliamentary Practice marked the end of twelve years' labour and established Campion's reputation as a master of parliamentary procedure. This massive work was rearranged and largely rewritten under his editorship. New sections on the use and control of parliamentary time, on financial procedure, and on privilege bore the mark of Campion's powers of analysis and exposition. An historical introduction which he had hoped to expand into a separate volume outlined briefly the results of modern research.
In 1945 Campion was invited to submit a comprehensive scheme of reform to the select committee on procedure. Although his more radical proposals for relieving the House of legislative detail and for improving its control of expenditure and delegated legislation were rejected, his suggestions for reorganizing the business of supply were adopted. These changes with others made on the initiative of the Government were incorporated in the fifteenth edition of Erskine May (1950), edited by Campion with the assistance of (Sir) T. G. B. Cocks.
After the war the movement towards self-government in the colonies stimulated the demand for information and guidance from the mother Parliament. Although Campion's plan for the regular interchange of clerks was never put into operation, he authorized the first official visits of a clerk to Commonwealth legislatures.
In July 1948 Campion retired, and his outstanding services to the Commons were recognized in tributes from Herbert Morrison (later Lord Morrison of Lambeth), the leader of the House, and (Sir) Winston Churchill on behalf of the Opposition. The following month he set out on an official tour of Commonwealth Parliaments in the course of which he visited Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Kenya, and the Sudan. In 1949 he made a similar visit to the legislatures of Canada. Owing to ill health he was never able to write the book which would have contained the results of these investigations, but some impressions of the earlier tour were contributed at intervals to the Sunday Times.
On his return from these travels Campion was appointed the first clerk of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, which met at Strasbourg. The difficulties and weaknesses of this novel experiment in European co-operation were discussed by Campion in articles contributed to the Sunday Times (30 July 1950) and The Times (13 November 1950). His early interest in comparative procedure had come to fruition in 1946 when he was elected president of the autonomous section of secretaries-general of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. On his initiative the material was collected for the handbook of European Parliamentary Procedure, which he compiled jointly with D. W. S. Lidderdale and published in 1953.
Campion ranks with the greatest of his predecessors at the Table of the House. By temperament a scholar and somewhat shy in his dealings with people, he had a humanity and sense of humour which made him much more than the pre-eminent practitioner of his profession. His power of analysis and lucid expression made him the ideal expositor of the intricacies of procedure; his grasp of principle combined with his wide knowledge of historical precedent and contemporary parallel gave to his views on the British parliamentary system a unique authority.
He was appointed C.B. in 1932, K.C.B. in 1938, G.C.B. in 1948, and was raised to the peerage in 1950. Hertford College made him an honorary fellow in 1946 and the university of Oxford conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws in 1950. He was a keen golfer and in 1948 won the parliamentary golf handicap.
In 1920 Campion married Hilda Mary, daughter of the late William Alfred Spafford, principal of the Darlington training college for women teachers. There were no children. Campion died at his home at Abinger Hammer, near Dorking, 6 April 1958.
The Times, 7 April 1958
Contributor: K. R. Mackenzie.