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It is often stated by conspiracy theorists that Lord Rothschild only ever addressed the House of Lords twice in his entire 52 year career, once about Palestine/Israel, and once about mandating the pasteurisation of milk.

This is supposed to suggestively support the idea that the mandate of dairy pasteurisation fits into a Jewish Zionist plot to reduce population or sterilise humanity or whatever it may be.

I was originally going to ask if this was true, as I have searched for authoritative corroborating sources before in the past to no avail, so I went to search for examples of the conspiracy memes to cite for the question. But in searching I found that it seems the claim is true.

So then the question becomes whether this was actually remarkable or not at that time or ever, for a Lord to stay silent his entire career except for once or twice.

It also begs the question as the two addresses were within the same single year, if there was anything about that year which had prompted the activity. I also wonder what about these issues made them so exceptionally important to him, though that seems like the suitable basis for another question.

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    – MCW
    Jan 12 at 22:34

2 Answers 2

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It is fairly standard for a Lord to address their House infrequently. Lords are often appointed based on a narrow specialization, or as a reward, and as such a full one eighth of their number rarely trouble to attend voting sessions in the House of Lords, some coming only to avoid removal for non-attendance.

Consulting the Guardian gives us a short, non-exhaustive list of other Lords with exceptionally brief speaking records:

  • Evgeny Lebedev: Spoken once

  • Anthony Bamford: Spoken five times

  • Ian Botham: Spoken twice, one of which was his inaugural speech

  • Peter St Clair-Erskine: Perhaps the best example, as he has spoken only once in a 43 year career

This is not that many Lords, given that the current size of the body is over 800 (and before 1999 was over 1200), but overall attendance is very low - the average attendance hasn't been over 50% since 2019!

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    I've seen somewhere that Sir Isaac Newton spoke only once - asking to close the window, because of cold. It was a physics book, so I'm not sure about the historical accuracy of this account.
    – Roger V.
    Jan 10 at 9:27
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    I've heard it in a joke about Einstein's childhood.
    – SPavel
    Jan 10 at 14:25
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    @RogerV. Interesting — I've heard the exact same anecdote about a vagabond elected into the Amsterdam city parliament for the satirical "riffraff party" in the 1920s, but from Wikipedia, it can't be true, as he never took his seat due to being arrested first. Probably this "anecdote" is relatively common.
    – gerrit
    Jan 10 at 14:25
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    Minor nit-pick, Isaac Newton was an MP rather than a Lord.
    – Barrington
    Jan 10 at 21:23
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    Lord Byron (the poet) only made three speeches in the Lords. Don't forget that, before 1999, all peers had a seat in the Lords, but that doesn't mean that they were all interested in politics. Jan 11 at 9:53
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The frequency has been addressed in another answer and is also mentioned on his wikipedia page1., but there's a part of your post that asks what about these issues made them so exceptionally important to him.

From his contribution - July 31, 1946, it seems to be at least based upon personal experiences, so sharing his thoughts and feelings seems appropriate:

I wonder how many of your Lordships are in the same position that I am, of having had an aunt whom one loved dearly—she was seventy-five years old, and quite blind—clubbed to death by the S.S. on the railway station outside an extermination camp.

But even I remember that only a few years ago my grandfather was the first Jew your Lordships allowed to sit in this House, and I therefore felt it my duty to try and explain something of the trials and torments of my co-religionists in Palestine.

About his first speech - April 10, 1946, it may be related to his studies and, later, career. But not only. After war, there's a need to rebuild a country, and all hands are helpful. People dying for such preventable reasons are not only a huge human loss, but taking care of it shows empathy towards his community and the one he's representing.

After the war, he joined the zoology department at Cambridge University from 1950 to 1970. He served as chairman of the Agricultural Research Council from 1948 to 1958 and as worldwide head of research at Royal Dutch/Shell from 1963 to 1970.

At Trinity College, Cambridge, Rothschild read physiology, French, and English, and was considered impressive enough an undergraduate to be spared the rigours of sitting the Natural Sciences Tripos, thus allowing him to embark immediately on a career in scientific research.

1. He sat as a peer in the House of Lords, but spoke only twice there during his life (both speeches were in 1946, one about the pasteurization of milk, and another about the situation in Palestine.

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    The connection between the speech on pasteurisation and his studies explains why he passed comment on that particular subject, but not really why it became one of his only two contributions. There must have been dozens of Lords debates, if not more, on subjects about which Rothschild would have been just as interested and informed as on pasteurisation during his 52-year tenure.
    – Will
    Jan 10 at 9:42
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    @Will: Indeed — the nearness in time of these two speeches suggests it’s also that he was more engaged with politics in the Lords around then than during the rest of his tenure. But that can naturally enough come from many different kinds of reason — perhaps because of the postwar political mood as this answer suggests, perhaps because later his energy was directed more to his scientific work or other channels, perhaps because of something else in his personal circumstances… Jan 10 at 11:08
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    @PeterLeFanuLumsdaine I'd speculate that the main political factor in the timing is that 1946 would have been the first year since his ennoblement that he had the opportunity to devote any significant attention to the House of Lords, and that it was considered good etiquette to contribute at least once.
    – Will
    Jan 10 at 11:24
  • Yeah I must agree that this doesn’t really explain the issue to my satisfaction. Jan 10 at 20:07
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    The conspiracy theorist in me says that it's a case of the tail wagging the dog. The government wanted to appoint him to the Agricultural Council but you need to have spoken publicly on at least one agricultural issue, surely? So they found him an issue to make his maiden speech on.
    – Richard
    Jan 10 at 23:23

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