HC Deb 15 August 1945 vol 413 cc57-62

5.18 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

I beg to move, That a humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth: Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, would humbly convey to Your Majesty our congratulations on the achievement of final victory over Your enemies. The enemy in Asia has followed the enemy in Europe into complete defeat and submission to the will of the victorious nations which have pledged themselves to free the world from aggression. We would rejoice with Your Majesty in the liberation of our fellow subjects in those lands which for more than three years have been subject to the ruthless oppression of the Japanese and in the removal of the peril of invasion from Your Dominions of Australia and New Zealand, Your Indian Empire and the eastern territories of Your Colonial Empire. We would humbly acknowledge the great debt which Your peoples owe to Your Majesty and to Your most Gracious Consort for the courage with which You have sustained them. and the sympathy which You have shown them, reaffirming their love and their loyalty during the dark years in which You shared their afflictions. On this occasion of national rejoicing, we would pay especial tribute to Your Majesty's Forces from all parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire who, fighting side by side with the Forces of Your Majesty's Allies, have bought with their blood and toil the return of peace to the world. Nor at this time would we forget our gratitude to the Merchant Marine, the Civil Services, the Civil Defence Services and Police, and to all those who in home, office, industry or agriculture have contributed to victory. It is now our most earnest prayer that the clouds of war which have overshadowed Your Majesty's reign will lift for ever and that the splendour of the victory which, by God's providence we celebrate to-day, may be matched by the glory of Your peoples' achievements in the constructive work of peace. We have just returned from giving thanks to Almighty God for the deliverance of this country from the manifold perils which have beset her so long, for the victory vouchsafed to the Forces of the United Nations against the Japanese aggressor and for the surrender of the last of our enemies. It is, I think, altogether fitting that our first action should be to express our loyalty and gratitude to the Sovereign. It is exactly three months to the day since in this House the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman opposite me, moved a Motion similar to this on the occasion of the end of the German war. In that Address to the King the House pledged its resolute support to the prosecution of the Japanese war. I imagine that few Members on that occasion thought that the end would come so soon. Few envisaged the changed conditions in which this Motion would be brought forward. We have had a General Election which has brought great alterations in the composition of this House. We have had a change of Government; but in the midst of change there are things which remain unaltered. Among those are the loyalty and devotion of the House of Commons to His Majesty. It is the glory of our democratic Constitution that the will of the people operates and that changes which, in other countries, are often effected through civil strife and bloodshed, here in this island proceed by the peaceful method of the ballot box.

The institution of the Monarchy in this country, worked out through long years of constitutional development, protects us from many of those evils which we have seen arise in other countries. I believe that the peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another, during these last few weeks, so smoothly and with such acceptance, has been a valuable demonstration to the world of the working of real democracy. My right hon. Friend in his speech three months ago, with an eloquence which I cannot emulate, drew a picture of the position of the King as a symbol of unity not only to his subjects in these islands, but to all the many nations which are united in the British Commonwealth and Empire. He spoke with the general assent of all parties in this House and I shall not, this afternoon, attempt to traverse the ground which he covered; but in rendering our congratulations and thanks to His Majesty we pay tribute to something more than the institution of kingship.

His Majesty the King and his gracious Consort the Queen have shared our anxieties, our tribulations and our sufferings during the war, and the shadow of bereavement has fallen on them as it has fallen on the homes of their people. The King and Queen have throughout set us an example of courage and devotion which will not be forgotten. By this, and by their sympathy, they have strengthened the bond uniting them to their people. This bond is no mere constitutional formality, but the basis of the deep affection and understanding which, I believe, have been strengthened by the experiences through which we have passed.

However well and skilfully constitutions may be framed they depend in the last resort on the willingness and ability of human beings to make them work. Our British Constitution, in war and peace, works because the people understand it and know by long experience how to operate it. A constitutional monarchy depends for its success to a great extent on the understanding heart of the monarch. In this country we are blessed with a King who, as my right hon. Friend said, combines with an intense love of our country and all his people, a thorough appreciation of our Parliament and democratic Constitution. In the difficult times ahead I believe that the harmonious working of our Constitution, in which the people's will is expressed by King and Parliament, will be an example of stability in a disordered world. It is, there- fore, to my mind, a fortunate thing that this new Parliament, like its predecessor, should, in this Address, have the opportunity of expressing its feeling, and of giving thanks to the Sovereign.

5.26 p.m.

Mr. Churchill (Woodford)

I rise to second the Motion which the Prime Minister has proposed in such fitting terms. This crowning deliverance from the long and anxious years of danger and carnage should rightly be celebrated by Parliament in accordance with custom and tradition. The King is the embodiment of the national will, and his public acts involve all the might and power, not only of the people of this famous island, but of all the British Commonwealth and Empire. The good cause for which His Majesty has contended, commanded the ardent fidelity of all his subjects, spread over one-fifth of the surface of the habitable globe. That cause has now been carried to complete success. Total war has ended in absolute victory. Once again, the British Commonwealth and Empire emerges safe, undiminished and united from a mortal struggle. Monstrous tyrannies which menaced our life have been beaten to the ground in ruin, and a brighter radiance illumines the Imperial Crown than any which our annals record. The light is brighter, not only because it comes from the fierce but fading glare of military achievement, such as an endless succession of conquerors have known, but because there mingle with it, in mellow splendour, the hopes, joys and blessings of almost all mankind. This is the true glory, and long will it gleam upon our forward path.

5.28 p.m.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

On behalf of my hon. Friends and myself I desire to support this Motion. The greatest and most terrible war in the whole long reign of human history is over and peace once again reigns on earth. It is with full hearts and surging pride that we, the Commons of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, tender our humble duty and sincere congratulations to His Majesty on the triumph of right over evil. His Majesty is no mere symbol of the Commonwealth and Empire with all their might. Indeed, it can be said of His Majesty that he embodies in his personality and in his bearing, the conception that he is indeed the people. He and his gracious Consort have shared with us the dangers, trials, tribulations and now the triumphs of the last six years. They too have suffered their family bereavement and have mourned with those who have suffered. Both their Majesties are enshrined in our grateful hearts, and, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, I tender to His Majesty our humble and deeply sincere congratulations.

5.30 p.m.

Sir Stanley Holmes (Harwich)

The Prime Minister referred to the fact that we have just had a General Election. During that time many heated things were said on both sides, and probably during the course of this Parliament much controversy will be exchanged. It is fitting that on the first meeting of this Parliament, we should be unanimous in passing this Motion of congratulation to His Majesty the King. Therefore, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, I wish to join in the most fitting words that have been used by the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill).

5.31 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

On such an occasion as this I would like to associate myself with the remarks that have been made. Whatever the future may hold—and with the coming of atomic energy some of us who hitherto considered ourselves quite dynamic figures may find ourselves well in the background—everybody must recognise the fact that as a constitutional Monarch, the King has, at all times, sought to serve the best interests of the country. Not only so, but he has commendably accepted and applied himself to the new Government, and he will, I am certain, assist in carrying out the work that they have in hand. I hope that this example will be followed by hon. Members opposite. May I say this concluding word? This is a time of great rejoicing. It is also a time of very deep sorrow, and I hope that the Members of this House, as they pass this Motion of thanks to His Majesty, will have in their hearts a thought for those who have suffered.

Question put, and agreed to nemine contradicente.

Address to be presented by the whole House.

Privy Councillors humbly to know His Majesty's pleasure when He will be attended.