HC Deb 23 November 1948 vol 458 cc1084-5
The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

I am sure that I can speak for the whole House in saying that the announcement of His Majesty's illness has been received with the deepest regret. His Majesty has never spared himself in his unswerving devotion to the heavy and onerous duties of his high office. The twelve years of his reign have been years of strain and anxiety, and His Majesty's steadfast bearing under all the trials of war and peace has done much to keep his people in good heart and courage.

Our warmest sympathy must be with His Majesty and with Her Majesty the Queen. It has caused them great disappointment to postpone their visit to Australia and New Zealand; and we also feel with the people of Australia and New Zealand in their sense of loss, for this visit from their King and Queen has been most eagerly awaited, and many preparations have been made to ensure its success. I am sure that all of us in this House and in this country share with them, and with all the other peoples of the Commonwealth, the most earnest hope that His Majesty's recovery may be speedy and complete.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Churchill

The Prime Minister has every right in this matter to speak on behalf of the whole House. On behalf of the Conservative Party, I wish to say that we associate ourselves fully with the spirit and the words of the statement he has just made to us. We share to the full the deep regret which he has expressed at the news this morning's newspapers contained. We share also the inevitable disappointment which will be felt in Australia and in New Zealand, but we are quite sure that there is only one paramount duty immediately incumbent upon His Majesty's Ministers, and that is to advise the King to rest and give himself, in the prime of life as he is, every possible chance of recovering his full strength.

I saw a great deal of His Majesty during the war and I, like the Prime Minister—even more, perhaps, because of those years we passed together—know the enormous pains which the King takes to make himself acquainted with every detail of public business, not only in the almost inexhaustible faithful discharge of public duty, but in the careful study of all our affairs and the reading of immense quantities of papers, in all of which he has made himself in every way proficient. This enabled him to give helpful counsel, as he has a right to do, to Ministers at many critical times.

Our sympathy goes out to the Royal Family in their anxiety, but our hope is strong that, if a proper period of rest is allowed, His Majesty will be enabled within a reasonable time to resume the discharge of his constitutional duties, which have excited the admiration of, I may say, the whole world and gained him the enduring love of his people.

Mr. Clement Davies

The news contained in this morning's bulletin came as a tremendous shock to every one of us. We all realise that His Majesty's illness is due to one cause and to one cause only: His Majesty's unremitting, ceaseless devotion to duty ever since he assumed the heavy responsibilities of the Throne. Their Majesties will know the widespread sympathy that exists everywhere in this country and, indeed, throughout the Commonwealth and Empire. We have only one earnest prayer, and that is for the speedy recovery of His Majesty and that he shall resume again his full health and strength.

Mr. Maclay

My National Liberal colleagues in this House and those whom we represent would wish, I am certain, that we should associate ourselves in every way with the loyal expressions of sympathy to His Majesty and the Royal Family that have been made this afternoon.