§ 2.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenyon (Chorley)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as follows: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, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.I consider it a great honour on this historic occasion to have the privilege of moving the Address. This action unites us with the spirit of the former Chamber, and continues its customs, around which have been built momentous and historic events. The old Chamber, rich in history, and steeped in tradition, possessed the spirit of a bygone age. It was the battleground of great political figures, often strangely inconsistent as they fought for or against the measures of Government according to their respective beliefs. It was there democracy, through long years of bitter striving, finally achieved its right to share in parliamentary Government, realising that only through such power could social justice and greater economic equality be obtained.
War overshadowed many years of the old Chamber's existence, but the future may show that the war which caused its destruction and shattered the wealth of the nation marked an epoch in our history, from which war thereafter receded. While the opening of this Session coincides with the closing stages of the Korean campaign, I pray that never in this Chamber will an announcement of war be made, but that the years may crown our deliberations here with wisdom and bless them with peace.
The honour which is mine today is one which is shared by the constituency of 10 Chorley, which I represent. In 1922 my predecessor, the late Lord Hacking, also shared this honour, and I think I cannot do better than pay this tribute to his memory by quoting his words on that occasion:The constituency of Chorley will be proud of the honour paid to it today."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1922; Vol. 150, c. 8.]Chorley is a typical Lancashire constituency, and Lancashire is renowned for the industry of its people and their hospitality, as well as for the invigorating air of its seaside resorts. Difficult to win, not easy to hold, the constituency is a joy for which to work. A hive of busy people contribute their best in a variety of industries.
In agriculture, mixed dairy and arable farms are the main types; but commercial and specialist poultry breeding, market gardening, stock rearing and hill farming give a wide range of agricultural production. In industry, mining occupies that part of the area which lies on the fringe of the Lancashire coal field. The cotton industry is widely spread through towns and villages. Leyland and Chorley have become famous for motor engineering; Leyland Motors firm possesses a world-wide reputation for heavy motor vehicles, and exceed in exports the target laid down by the Government.
A variety of other industries give a wide choice to all workers, and superimposed upon these is the Euxton Royal Ordnance Factory; and to link the old with the new the nearby village of Mawdesley still excels in the craft of basket-making. This variety of industries failed in pre-war days to employ all our people, but today in mine, mill and workshop overseas foreign workers stand side by side with our workers, and vacancies still remain. The Ministry of Labour place such faith in the versatility of their local managers that I had the greatest difficulty in persuading them an interpreter was needed at the Chorley Exchange to deal with 18 different nationalities.
No one views lightly the burdens which the re-armament programme will bring, but the menace of war has to be faced. I would recall the words of Milton in this respect, when he said:But what is strength without a double share of wisdom?It is a disturbing fact that after centuries of capitalist Governments in all parts of 11 the world in one form or another—some good, some bad—we find that in 30 short years under post-war conditions Communism has captured one half of the world. This ideology can only be defeated by an ideology that is greater.
The continued support by the Government of the policy of the United Nations will receive general support, but our faith in U.N.O. arises from the belief that its real purpose is not resistance to aggression by war—necessary though that has become—but the development of such conditions in its member countries and the backward nations that aggression shall have no power to rise. A recognition of social justice, the raising of the standard of life, the abolition of poverty and hunger together with the evils they create, by constructive development of the resources of nature for all who share that labour—these are the duties of all who would establish the greater ideology of U.N.O., and I have confidence that the country supports the Government in these efforts.
The Festival of Britain will not only bring to the knowledge of the world the reality of our post-war recovery. It will also give to our people a pride in their industrial and scientific achievements. It is in the national interest that this Festival shall succeed.
Agriculture has enjoyed the support of Government policy for some long years now, and it is still in the forefront of our national production. The success of past Measures for its greater development encourage still further the step which the Government are now taking to bring into greater production the upland areas. The rearing of more livestock is one of our greatest needs, and if this Measure can increase their numbers still further it will be fully justified. The agricultural community of the country will give it a sincere welcome.
In continuing the policy of full employment, in giving high priority to the housing programme and to maintaining their social policy, the Government will have the support of the nation, for these are the mainstay of the good, healthy home life of the people. The strength of a nation lies not in the superiority of its Armed Forces but in the faith of its moral ideals and the spiritual character of its people.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
I beg to second the Motion so fluently and ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon). In acknowledging that great honour, perhaps the greatest that a back bencher can have in this new House, I know that it will be shared in large measure by my constituents in Rugby and the teaching profession, to which I am proud to belong.
The constituency of Rugby has an illustrious if checkered political history. En our later and more sombre days—if I may use an adjective of the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition—we even had a Tory Chief Whip; but the honour conferred upon my division today is a unique one. Rugby is not only famed for its good sense in having sent a Labour Member to this House for the first time, but it is also world famous for many other things. There is its school, which has given its headmasters as Bishops of the Church, and I mention particularly William Temple—not only a good Christian but a good Socialist—who became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Many old boys adorn with distinction this House—perhaps too many of the opposite side for my fancy—although a number have seen the light and some adorn the bench below me. Again, the school has given its name to the great game of Rugby football. Having myself been born between Tyne and Tweed, where every boy is given a Soccer ball at birth and Association football is a religion, I never handled a ball of this curious oval shape until I went South to Leeds, but I admit that when Webb Ellis picked up that ball and ran with it on the school field in 1882, he really started something. I am heartened when I look to the great Dominion of New Zealand, where the All Blacks can play on the same field as the All Whites in equality and amity, and if we continue this spirit throughout the Empire as a whole the colour bar will soon be an anachronism, relegated to the history text books where it rightly belongs, like the slavery of the 19th century. I am told, Sir, that a debased form of the noble game has even conquered North America, so apparently there is hope yet for American capitalist democracy.
13 Rugby is famous for its efficient electrical engineering industry, where fine work has been done by the British Thomson-Houston and English Electric firms in extending overseas markets, and thus gaining dollars and hard currency. I mention particularly the B.T.H. with its production of heavy electrical equipment—over 40 per cent. of its manufactures going for export. The firm is noteworthy in that some 1,200 workers have more than 30 years of continuous service. This, and their fine apprentice training scheme—over 6,000 former apprentices are scattered over the globe—has produced a family spirit almost akin to clan loyalty. B.T.H. engineers began the B.B.C., and the first jet engine ever to fly in the world was built by engineers at Rugby.
In this industrial environment of highly-skilled engineers it is natural to find that we have a finely equipped technical college. I would remind hon. Members of the fact that our local education authority was the only one in England and Wales to implement fully the 1918 Fisher Act, between the two world wars, in the matter of day continuation classes. This was only possible by the official, unswerving cooperation of the local engineering firms.
Lastly, in local affairs, may I mention our magnificent housing performance? The council has built no fewer than 1,325 houses since 1945, and leads the West Midlands in this field. In this crucial matter of housing, hon. Members will not fail to note in the Gracious Speech that His Majesty's Government will continue to give high priority to housing. Like millions of others up and down the land I beg and pray that His Majesty's Government will not give way on this, despite all the demands of the Service Chiefs for rearmament.
I am glad to see that the Festival of Britain is going full steam ahead, despite the curmudgeons in our midst. Let us rejoice, for today more people have more money and more time than ever before in our history for rejoicing. There seems to me to be something amiss if people, at this time of magnificent post-war achievement, cannot proclaim to the world that this old country has as young and gifted a population as any new one; and has plenty to show in the arts and sciences and their application to industry and agriculture.
14 I am sure that all hon. Members north of the Tweed—and south of it, too—will welcome the Bill to eliminate the menace of organised salmon poaching in Scotland, although a falling off of the black market demand would certainly lessen the activities of these gentlemen. I am most happy that His Majesty's Government are to deal with the pollution of rivers and streams, for all anglers are appalled by the filth which is poured into our waters, poisoning the fish and even the fisherman. Izaak Walton will surely nod approval from the shades to the Minister of Health when this Bill is on the stocks.
All Members will have heard with pleasure that there is to be legislation to restore land devastated by limestone extraction, particularly those of us who were mute and helpless in the coalfields, when the fair landscape was desecrated by pit heaps. There were no village Hampdens then, as in these days of opencast mining. I rejoice that the Government are taking steps to restore the fair face of nature, instead of leaving her scarred and gashed as in the past.
I welcome the decision to set up a court of appeal from the decision of courts martial, and that at long last there is to be some measure of leasehold reform. I am particularly glad of the Government's intention to take over powers to regulate production, distribution and consumption, for without these controls it will be impossible for any Government, of whatever complexion, to keep our workers in jobs, and hold in check living costs for the housewife.
My hon. Friend has spoken of the United Nations. Let me in conclusion say a word about the Commonwealth and Empire—a subject near to my heart. In this speech one is advised to avoid controversy, but I would, in all sincerity, remind hon. Members that this great Empire of ours is no monopoly of any one party, but a common heritage of all peoples, stocks and, classes of these Islands. All, from the richest to the poorest, have given their sons and daughters to our overseas possessions, from James Cook, the Whitby grocer's boy to Cecil Rhodes, the diamond magnate.
I welcome particularly the phrase in the Gracious Speech:The development of the Colonial Territories and the welfare of their peoples will continue to receive the attention of my Government.15 The ceremony in Westminster Hall last Thursday was a truly unique and moving occasion, and one image that will ever endure in my mind was the procession of Dominions and Colonial Speakers, particularly the fine and dignified figure of the Speaker of the Gold Coast.
Mr. Speaker, the unity of our Commonwealth and Empire, with its invisible bonds, is a constant source of wonder to other peoples of this globe. May it long continue and widen into a world commonwealth based upon the rule of law; otherwise, all our efforts in the domestic field will have been in vain.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
The Prime Minister has informed me that when he takes his place in the Debate he will make reference to the lamented death of King Gustav of Sweden. I am very glad to learn that that is his intention, and I am quite sure that the words in which he will express our sentiments in the matter will be such as to command the universal assent and agreement of the House.
It is customary to begin these speeches—and this is a period, an age, in which traditions and customs are rated very high, I am glad to say, after the electoral changes which have taken place—by paying compliments to the mover and the seconder of the Address. I certainly find no difficulty whatever in recording what, I think, was the general opinion, that they made excellent speeches, that they ranged over wide and varied fields, that they never at any moment fell into sharp political controversy; that where their point of view was indicated it was outlined with great restraint, and, generally speaking, that they have acquitted themselves in a manner which is certainly not likely to be any detriment to them should events occur in the future where seats held on small margins or by minority votes will be in jeopardy.
I thank them both for what they have said and for the strong support which they both gave to the Measure against salmon poaching. There may be a difference of opinion in the House as to whether there ought to be salmon—at any rate privately-owned salmon—but we can probably all agreed that, pending any Measure for the nationalisation of the salmon industry, poaching should be sternly and severely prohibited.
16 The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) spoke to us about the Empire and Commonwealth, and I was very glad indeed to hear him use the word "Empire." I am quite prepared to use the word "Commonwealth," although if we look into the historical foundations of the word "Commonwealth," we will find a good many things which jar with the conception of a Constitutional Monarchy or a free House of Commons. But words alter their meaning as the years pass by, and there always was that sense attaching to "Commonwealth," that everything you have is owned in common, which is, at any rate, a point of view deserving to be considered.
Both hon. Members referred also to the Festival of Britain. We are going to have our Festival of Britain next year, and it is a matter in which both parties will take part. We shall do our best to help the Government make the Festival a success—
§ Mr. Churchill
I may surely address myself to whatever quarter of the House I like. However, we shall do our best to help the Government to make the Festival a success, although there is one feature in any true Festival of Britain which would commend itself above all others to me, and that is one in which I can hardly expect the support of the party opposite.
I congratulate the Government upon the way they managed and organised the celebrations for the opening of the new House of Commons. I like to see this reverence and respect for the past and all we owe to those who have gone before, and to see Ministers of State shake themselves clear from the obsession into which they fall from time to time—that the only good things ever done in Britain occurred after the General Election of 1945. The celebrations which we embarked upon certainly had the effect of making us feel how much we had in common in the past, and how much, I hope, we shall find in common in the future.
Personally, I welcome the Socialist Party's conversion to Parliamentary government, instead of the direct action which was their mood 20 years ago, when 17 there was a very strong feeling that Parliament was nothing but an impediment to the progress of democracy and that it would not be inside the walls of Parliament that any real advance could be made. Now there is a great reconciliation, and the House of Commons is accepted as a thoroughly democratic institution—there is even an ugly rush for the House of Lords. The Mother of Parliaments has a tough digestion, and very great improvements have, no doubt, been effected upon the character, substance and structure of the party opposite by contact with Parliamentary institutions, although I shall have a little later to indicate what may perhaps be thought to be a reversion to the bad habits of former days.
I am very glad, however, that we have found ourselves all agreed—I find it very difficult myself to avoid from time to time feeling in a kindly mood, especially towards those with whom I worked for so many years, although when we come to discuss public affairs in our present difficult situation I have no difficulty in finding barriers which exist between us—about foreign policy. We seem to have followed, though with somewhat halting steps, the course which I outlined at Fulton, Missouri, in March, 1946, and at Zurich in September of that same year. We have given the Government wholehearted support on their measures for national defence, which they have asked us to approve, while, of course, reserving the fullest freedom to criticise the tardiness, inefficiency, insufficiency and failure to give value for the vast sums of money which the House has voted.
Naturally, I am glad that the Prime Minister and others are at length converted to the principle of a European Army or an Atlantic Defence Force—we will not quarrel about the terminology when the principle is the same—of an army of this character, for the defence of Europe, to which Germany will be invited to contribute divisional formations. In September, when we discussed this matter, I see that I said eight or ten German divisions. American opinion, I believe, inclines towards ten, and I gather that the Government are in general agreement with the United States. There is nothing like progressing on what I think are right and sound lines, and I congratulate the Government on not being hampered at all 18 by anything they have said about these matters in the past but on addressing themselves boldly and with a free mind to the problems as they present themselves day by day.
The successful intervention of the United Nations in Korea and General MacArthur's brilliant conduct and measurement of military events are all, of course, things for general rejoicing. I should like to point to what appears to be the masterly character of his handling of the situation in Korea. First of all, there was the question of selling ground for a time, very difficult and terrible to settle from day to day. Then there was the question of the size of the minimum perimeter that must be held. Obviously, it was desirable to hold as wide a perimeter as possible in order to detain as many of the enemy as possible without being perpetually broken through because of being thin on the ground. Finally, there was the counter-stroke, the cat claw, the amphibious descent, which revolutionised the entire situation.
I hope we shall find that the Americans in getting ashore opposite Seoul, were not so hampered by great quantities of vehicles as was the expeditionary force which the United States organised in conjunction with our forces to get ashore at Anzio in 1943. It looks to me as if the lessons of the last war have been well appreciated and understood, and that this great commander in the military field—I entirely agree that the civil authority has supreme authority over the military man—has rendered services from which we should not now withhold our hearty approbation and applause.
I was surprised not to find in the Gracious Speech any mention of the United States, not merely for the fact that the British Socialist Government have lived for five years very largely on their bounty, without which, as the Lord President of the Council and the Minister of Health reminded us a little while ago, there would have been two million unemployed at that time. Apart from that, it seems to me that tribute should have been paid to the Americans for their action in Korea. It was President Truman's prompt initiative in June which enabled unprovoked aggression to be resisted. I am glad that we had naval forces on the spot, though at the moment I do not know how big they were.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
The right hon. Gentleman might give his own country some credit.
§ Mr. Churchill
I have never been at all backward in defending the claims and considerations of this country, but I do not think that those claims are well sustained if they are based on a failure to recognise the overwhelming contribution which another country, the United States, has made. I have not got the actual figures of our contribution at the present time, but when we see what they are, I think it will be found that an enormous proportion of the whole burden has been borne by the United States, and that the least we could do would be to accord that country some consideration. We have quite enough real achievements in our record without endeavouring to minimise the legitimate and rightful contributions of great allies towards the common cause which we support. Some recognition of the United States' efforts should have been contained in the Gracious Speech.
The local importance of events in Korea is far outweighed by the effects on the world situation. These events have definitely increased the prospects of averting a third world war. We are all agreed that the only hope for the future of mankind lies in the creation of a strong, effective world instrument, capable, at least, of maintaining peace and resisting aggression. I hope we shall pursue—I was very glad to see that it was being pursued—this idea of a United Nations armed force. I see that I said in the speech at Fulton to which I referred:I have, however, a definite and practical proposal to make for action.…The United Nations organisation must immediately begin to be equipped with an international armed force. In such a matter we can only go step by step, but we must begin now. I propose that each of the Powers and States should be invited to delegate a certain number of air squadrons to the service of the world organisation. These squadrons would be trained and prepared in their own countries, but would move around in rotation from one country to another. They would wear the uniform of their own countries, but with different badges. They would not be required to act against their own nation, but in other respects they would be directed by the world organisation.…I wished to see this done after the first world war and I devoutly trust that it may be done forthwith.I am glad to see there is progress in that direction.
20 Foreign policy and national defence can, of course, be discussed in the general Debate which is now open, but in view of the great measure of agreement prevailing on principle, they are obviously not suited to be the subjects of Amendments to the Address. We shall however, ask for a Debate on defence before we separate for Christmas. We consider that that Debate should preferably take place in Secret Session. I am sure that there are many questions of detail which it would be much better to discuss in Secret Session, although I am sure that the House is not likely to betray those secrets to any foreign Power—besides which a great deal is already known. On the general topics with which I dealt at the end of the last Session, and with which I could have dealt more in detail in Secret Session, much is now becoming world public. The strength of the forces in Europe is now well-known, for example.
The matters into which we ought to go now are all kinds of questions connected with the equipment of the troops, the details of our air forces, technical matters connected with our anti-submarine defence, and so forth. It would be very much better that we talked these matters over among ourselves, and that the House should take responsibility for them on hearing for itself the facts. Therefore, we shall ask that the Debate shall be in secret. We may notice that in this House there are strangers knocking about. I should not wish to take any unfair advantage of the Government in any way, but I must impress upon the Prime Minister that we shall ask that the Debate shall be in secret.
There will also have to be a Debate on foreign policy before we separate. Although these matters can be discussed now, a full statement is required from the Foreign Secretary, whose recovery we hope is complete. All those matters must be dealt with.
Besides this, I undertook, with the representatives of other European countries at Strasbourg, to bring the resolutions passed by the Consultative Assembly to the notice of Parliament. We all promised to bring them before our Parliaments. I hope that the Government will find a day for this matter—I am really addressing myself to the Lord President of the Council. I hope that he will be able to find a day before the meeting of the 21 Assembly on 17th November. Of course, if His Majesty's Government decline the honour of deferring to the wishes of this great international body which has grown up under their patronage, as they would say, other facilities are at our disposal. I should have thought that, on the whole, it would be a very reasonable thing that those resolutions should be laid before the House and that some discussion should take place upon them. I think it is all right, and I am very glad. I gather that the Prime Minister is going to assent to this proposal—unless I say something before I sit down which ruffles him up the wrong way.
I have now dealt in broad measure with matters on which there is agreement between us, although here and there I may have struck a note which did not obtain universal accord. I must now come to the Prime Minister's difficulties. His need is to find grounds for domestic quarrel and acts of partisanship and political spite to placate his tail, which may be feeling that there is too much of this good will all round, too much general agreement going about on foreign policy and defence, because there may be the danger of a Coalition, or something like that. The right hon. Gentleman has been looking about—and I have no doubt that his faithful spaniel, if I may apply that term to the Lord President of the Council, has been looking industriously around—to find causes of quarrel and dispute. "After all," they may say, "we must have some. We cannot be doing everything the Tories wish us to do." Many years ago I sat in a Government which had presented to it problems in that guise.
It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman has been looking for causes of dispute between us when he proposes this extraordinary measure—[HON. MEMBERS: "On salmon poaching?"] That is not the only problem that unites the Government and the Opposition today. Happily on that, we are hooked together. But whoever says: "We are not picking a quarrel or trying to make bad feeling between the parties," must look at the paragraph on the last page of the King's Speech about the Supplies and Services Act. I will not read the paragraph again, because it has been read several times already, but it seems to me that this vague language for giving all kinds of tremendous powers to the Executive to 22regulate production, distribution and consumption and to control prices,goes further than anything I have seen before. This is not planned economy. This is a blank cheque. The Prime Minister is sailing back upon his course, to the position which he adopted some 17 or 18 years ago. He is going back on the reform that we thought had been achieved in his character and conduct, and which seems to have slipped off him now. In using this language, he has gone back to the days when he wrote, in 1933—[Interruption.] All right. Hon. Members can quote me up to 20 years ago, but there is a Statute of Limitations—The important thing is not to do things with scrupulous regard to the theories of democracy or exact constitutional propriety, but to get on with the job.…It may be said that this is rather like the Russian plan of commissars and Communist Party members. I am not afraid of the comparison. We have to take the strong points of the Russian system and apply them to this country.The Lord President, too, speaking at Southport in 1934, said:I would sooner the State, through a Labour Government, got into its control key industries, service after service, until, within a reasonable time, we are substantially masters of the economic fabric of the community and the means of production and distribution.…Then is the time to take the big decision.…Then we can make a fair, clean and equitable sweep.How easy to make it!
These are the previous convictions of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and it seems very dangerous that the vain language used in this paragraph should be put into the mouth of the King by a party which in its root and origin is absolutely ready to go to the extremes of which the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council spoke. [Interruption.] Are hon. Gentlemen opposite ashamed of what they said then? I welcome it if they are. Are the right hon. Gentlemen ashamed of it? I think that they would rather have bitten off their tongues than have used such words. The fact that such statements are in their minds and records should be borne in mind in relation to the vain words of this paragraph about regulating production, distribution and consumption and controlling prices.
I thought we had reached a working arrangement about this last week. I thought we had had the answer that the 23 Government would have an annual review. The Lord President of the Council said that the Supplies and Services Act should be permanent. We asked that it should be annual and he then said that it would be annual. Yet within a few days he has turned round with a rapidity which would excite the envy of the nimblest squirrel and comes here and says, "We must have a Bill to make these wartime regulations permanent."
Many regulations are made in wartime, and Socialism, as I understand it, is a continuance in time of peace of the war-time regulations, with others added thereto from time to time. Nevertheless, it astonishes me that this proposal should be put forward now. I do not know when notice will be given of the Bill. That will depend on when we shall be able to discuss it. It seems that without any doubt whatever this Measure will give the Executive powers utterly beyond anything which is compatible with a decent and reasonable Parliamentary system.
I want to ask the Prime Minister this question. Does the Measure for regulating supplies and services on a permanent basis include the direction of labour directly or indirectly? It would, of course, be quite easy, without actually mentioning it in those words, to arrive at the result, and I should like to know about that, because it was only the other day that, at our request, the Measure for the direction of labour was abolished in time of peace. I really cannot understand why this Measure is necessary after last week's arrangement. It seems to be at once full of vague menace and at the same time very silly, because it is unlikely that this Parliament will last long enough to make it effective and it is certain that any anti-Socialist majority would be opposed to controls for controls' sake and would labour to reduce them to a minimum, and, anyhow, would keep them, if need be, on an annual basis subject to annual review by Parliament. I really cannot understand what this was for. I do not know whether there was some vague idea of forcing a General Election or something of that kind. It is an extraordinary position. The Prime Minister should deal with these five lines of blatant and impudent demagogy.
Then there is the proposal about beet sugar, which is no doubt intended to keep 24 alive the nationalisation issue, but somehow or other the Government seem, while letting off both barrels, not to have hit Tate and Lyle. Perhaps that is what they were aiming at, but they seem to have shot at a pigeon and hit a crow. I will not venture to go further into the technical details of this Measure until I am a little more acquainted with it. How could I be better acquainted with it when the Gracious Speech has only just been read this morning by His Majesty? It is true that I had an advance copy, but that told me very little more than what has appeared in the newspapers during the last three or four days.
We shall await further details, but at first sight this looks to me as if it were an attempt to feed the fires of party controversy, by which our country is already sufficiently disturbed. I should have thought that the enforcement of iron and steel nationalisation would have been sufficient to achieve that evil purpose. Here, at any rate, is a fundamental division on a practical issue. The present position of the iron and steel industry seems to require immediate Parliamentary attention and we must see what is the best way by which it can be brought directly before the House.
On top of these acts of faction for faction's sake, I come to the evils from which we all suffer—I mean, both parties. There is the ever-rising cost of living. We have to pay 25s. for what £1 would have bought at the end of the war in 1945. These are terrible facts. No doubt world causes are at work. Do not laugh, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer. You will find lots in this which will arouse other emotions than those which excite your risible inclinations. Next door to you sits one of the prime architects of our financial misfortunes. Do not imitate his methods but learn from his fate what to avoid. We now pay 25s. for what we could have got for 20s. after the devastating struggle of the war and before matters were handed over to Socialist control. Hampering controls, bulk buying, the inefficiency and cost of nationalisation, and wasteful and extravagant finance have accentuated and aggravated the movement of world causes, which, I fully admit, has played its part in bringing about this state of affairs. All this rise is in spite of the vast sums which have been given or lent to this country by the United States and 25 by our Dominions. Enormous assets have been liquidated.
The precise Amendment to which we shall give precedence is, of course, housing. The utter failure of the housing policy of the Government must be brought home to the nation. The Minister of Health—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"]—I should have thought that we were getting sufficiently controversial for the right hon. Gentleman to have shown up. The Minister of Health has stood between the people and the homes they so bitterly need. We have said that the target should be raised—[HON. MEMBERS: "Target?"]—from 200,000 to 300,000. The Lord President of the Council said that I introduced this word "target." Really, in the responsible position he has, with, I presume, people to keep him straight, on matters of fact, at any rate, I wonder that he does not look up a few of the facts and try to state true facts.
This is what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) said in moving the Motion—let me have the attention of the Lord President because, when one is found out to be utterly wrong, one may as well try to learn from it. I did not originate the word "target" at all. This is what he said in moving the Motion:We have to set ourselves a target,Then he said:My submission is that the target should never he set lower than 300,000 houses a year.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me for interrupting? The comparison I made in the observations I ventured to utter was between the resolution of the conference, forced down the throats of the platform by the hysterical rank and file, which declared for a minimum production of 300,000 houses a year, and that two days afterwards the right hon. Gentleman welcomed the decision but at once turned the minimum production of 300,000 into a target.
§ Mr. Churchill
And two days before, the hon. and gallant Gentleman who 26 speaks for the Opposition Front Bench used this very same expression "target." There can be no doubt whatever that it is perfectly practicable and possible to build at the rate of 300,000 houses—
§ Mr. Churchill
All this outcry when I ask a thing like this is exactly what the Prime Minister and others did when we said, "Reduce petrol rationing." They said "How irresponsible, how impossible." Do not hon. Members imagine that the people of this country know perfectly well that building at the rate of 300,000 houses a year is a perfectly practicable measure, and one which should be taken as a direct and immediate aim?
§ Mr. Hughes rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. and learned Member must not rise continually.
§ Mr. Hughes
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I think the right hon. Gentleman did have the courtesy to give way.
§ Mr. Churchill
I do not know what the hon. and learned Gentleman has to do with the building industry, but I hope he knows more about it than he does about the procedure of the House of Commons. If I may make the point on which I was engaged—
§ Mr. Hughes rose—27
§ Mr. Hughes
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, is it not the custom in the House of Commons for a right hon. or an hon. Member to give way for an intervention?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is entirely a matter for the hon. or right hon. Gentleman himself. There is no custom about it.
§ Mr. Churchill
This is the point I wish to make. It is treated as a most extraordinary thing that we should ask that the rate of building should be raised from 200,000 to 300,000 houses a year. That is the view. We are denounced for having suggested it. It seems to show a great lack of proportion. It shows the want of a sense of proportion to suppose that such a measure as building at the rate of 100,000 houses a year more, is an impossible task for this powerful, well-equipped country.
Why should it be thought to be impossible? One hundred thousand houses at £1,500 apiece would cost £150 million a year. That ought not to be beyond our capacity if the priorities are properly arranged [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] I repeat, if the priorities are properly arranged and a reasonable time is given to collect the materials. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] Certainly, it should not be impossible for a country to find this rearrangement of the expenditure of £150 million. It should not be impossible to find a method of doing that, when we consider that our national income is around £10,000 million a year. It is a very small re-adjustment and re-arrangement of priorities that is required. Do not let the House be put off by all this, what I should have thought was to hon. Members opposite, most injurious outcry and clamour that to try to get 300,000 houses a year built for the people was a wrong and shameful thing for anyone to advocate. We shall ask the House next week to inflict its censure upon the Government for this grave mismanagement of the housing problem.
I have only one word more to say, because interruptions have rather lengthened what I had thought of saying. Uncertainty—I address myself very much to the Prime Minister—about the election date is harmful. Prolongation of the electioneering atmosphere is not good for the country. A year has passed 28 already in which we have lived in that atmosphere, which can be felt here; even already it has infected our new House. The House is not at its best when parties are so evenly balanced and on the verge of another appeal. The increasing rigidity of party discipline deprives debate of much of its value as a means of influencing opinion except out of doors. All kinds of uncertainties are created in every direction; all kinds of animosities and rancours are fed and worked up, on both sides, I fully admit—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly; and I cannot think it good for the country that this should continue. The Prime Minister deliberately tries to increase and prolong this uncertainty. He says, "The election will come at the moment when I judge fit."
§ Mr. Churchill
The hon. Gentleman asked what I would do. I say deliberately that I think that if I were with the responsibilities of the Prime Minister at this juncture, having regard to all that is going on, I would try to limit the uncertainty as much as possible. I would carefully consider whether I could not say, provided we had the control of events, that we should not have an election until a certain date. I think it is well worthy of consideration whether that might not be of general interest. [Interruption.] I have finished. Of course, it is very natural that anyone should like to feel that he can keep the rest of his countrymen on tenterhooks and that we are always awaiting the moment when he shall give the signal. All I can say is that I am quite satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman is indulging his personal power in these matters in a manner most costly to the community and harmful to all large enduring interests of the State.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I should like to join with the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in his congratulations to the mover and seconder of the Motion for an Address in reply to the Gracious Speech. This is always an ordeal, even for Members who have been a long time in the House of 29 Commons. I never had that ordeal myself. When I first addressed the House there were not very many Members present. Now, it is much more an ordeal when, on a State occasion, hon. Members have to address a full House, and I think that hon. Members on all sides will agree that my hon. Friends the Members for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) and Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) have acquitted themselves very well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thought that the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley, in moving die Motion, was very charming; it had some of those light touches which the House likes.
Before turning to deal with the Gracious Speech, and, incidentally, with some of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I will, in accordance with custom, make some remarks about our future business. It is proposed that the Debate on the Address should occupy the remainder of this week. It will, we hope, be brought to a close on Tuesday of next week. The subjects for discussion in the course of the general Debate, or on a specific Amendment, such as the one to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, are, of course, a matter for Mr. Speaker, and no doubt the customary consultations will take place through the usual channels.
We have been considering the question of Private Members' time in relation to the forthcoming Session. Our proposal is to set apart 20 Fridays for Private Members' business, Bills and Motions being taken on alternate Fridays. The House will remember that the Select Committee on Procedure of 1945–46 recommended that the first 20 Fridays after the Address should be given to Private Members' Bills and Motions and that they should be taken alternately. We ask the House to accept the principle of this recommendation.
Under normal practice, the ballot to determine the priority of Private Members' Bills would be held this week, and by Thursday Members would have had to make up their minds on the Bills they wish to bring forward. When we gave facilities for Private Members' Bills in the Session of 1948–49, we delayed the machinery of the ballot for a reasonable time in order that Members might have adequate notice to prepare themselves. I think that this was generally welcomed 30 by the House, and we feel that it would be an advantage in giving hon. Members a period of notice in this Session. We therefore propose that the first of the Fridays for Private Members' business should be Friday, 24th November. A Motion to give effect to the Government proposal which I have announced will have to be taken not later than Monday, 13th November.
In the meantime, as, I am sure, the House will recognise, we shall have to propose a Motion tomorrow to take the time of the House for Government business and stop the presentation of all Bills except Government Bills until the ballot is held, because if Private Members were allowed to bring in Bills immediately it would defeat the whole purpose of the ballot, which is to determine priority. I hope that our proposals with regard to Private Members' time will be generally agreeable to the House. We should propose to discuss the details of these arrangements through the usual channels.
The right hon. Member for Woodford has given notice that he would like to discuss the doings of the European Assembly. I had understood that with great generosity he was proposing that that should be taken in Opposition time.
§ Mr. Churchill
The Prime Minister is not quoting me correctly. I said I hoped that the Government would give time—it is their duty to give it—but if they will not we still have the facilities at our disposal.
§ The Prime Minister
That can be discussed through the usual channels.
There are, as usual, some Bills which we need to pass before the Christmas Adjournment, such as the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and also the Restoration of Pre-war Trade Practices Bill, which must be passed before 10th December. I do not think that that is a controversial Bill. It has the support of both sides of the National Joint Advisory Council. There is also the MacManaway Indemnity Bill, which, obviously, should be passed as soon as possible. We propose to introduce it very shortly.
31 I am sure that the whole House is glad to know of the visit of the Queen of the Netherlands and the Prince of the Netherlands. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] They will be welcomed in this country both for themselves and as the Rulers of our very good friends and allies, the Dutch.
I should not like this occasion to pass without reference to the sad loss suffered by our friends the Swedes by the death of their revered sovereign His Majesty King Gustav V, at the very venerable age of 92. He was indeed the father of his country; for nearly 43 years he had with unfailing dignity and wisdom upheld the finest traditions of constitutional monarchy and he had shown a very full understanding of the democratic age in which we live. To his son and successor, now King Gustav VI, to his English Queen and to the people of Sweden, we would offer our sincere condolences on their loss and our good wishes for a long and happy reign.
The Gracious Speech deals with a number of topics; I shall not deal with all in detail, but there are points about which I would like to make some remarks to the House. There is, first of all, foreign affairs and Defence. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that later we should need another Debate on those matters. We discussed them a few weeks ago, but I would like to allude to events in Korea. There is a very remarkable change in that situation. When we last met the Forces of the United Nations were very hard pressed in the perimeter. Since then the masterly strategy of General MacArthur, the fighting quality of the troops and the landing at Inchon have resulted in the disruption of the North Korean forces and it looks as if the end of this campaign were in sight.
I was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman thought it necessary to suggest that we were not paying adequate tribute to the American Forces. It was quite unnecessary and only serves to stir up bad blood between us. Tribute has been paid over and over again in this House. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman is always trying to suggest that everything this Government have done has been done with the assistance of the Americans and also that we are being ungrateful to the Americans. I wish, con- 32 sidering his history and the fact that he is also descended from people on both sides of the Atlantic, he would try not to stir up bad blood and misunderstanding. As we know, American troops have played a major part in this undertaking, but Commonwealth sea, air and land forces have done their share and our British brigade has borne a very full part in this fight. I hear they have earned golden opinions and been part of the spear-point of the attack.
Success, however, does bring another problem and the task before the United Nations now is that of promoting the establishment in Korea of unified, independent and democratic government. In this specific task and in the rehabilitation of Korean economy I think the United Nations must try to show the same spirit of agreement and determination as they have shown in military resistance to aggression. As far as this Government are concerned, we shall give to this task the fullest contribution in our power.
The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations are at present considering appropriate terms of reference for the Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Meanwhile, appeals for supplies required for the immediate assistance of the civil population of Korea have been addressed by the Secretary-General, at the request of the unified command, to various Governments thought to be in a position to supply them and Treasury authority has been given for the expenditure of half a million pounds on the Foreign Office Vote for the purpose of some of the immediate relief supplies requested by the Secretary-General.
The Gracious Speech also alludes to the proceedings at the United Nations and I would call attention to the resolution of the United Nations on action for peace. We ought all to recognise that it was the absence of the Soviet representative from the Security Council which enabled the prompt action to be taken which has demonstrated the ability of the United Nations to deal with aggression. We all hope that this will deter any others who might meditate similar action but, if such a thing were to happen, it might not be possible to take the same swift action. This has been realised at Lake Success and, accordingly, the Political Committee of the General Assembly adopted, by 50 votes to five, with only three abstentions, 33 a resolution, sponsored by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, the Philippines, Turkey and Uruguay, the purpose of which is to ensure that the General Assembly of the United Nations should be in a position to make prompt and efficacious recommendations in the face of an act of aggression or breach of the peace when the Security Council is paralysed by the veto.
I have no doubt that this resolution will be endorsed by a similar majority of the full Assembly. The resolution provides that emergency sessions of the Assembly can be called at short notice to recommend steps in order that the member States shall be in a position to respond promptly, if they wish to do so, to any recommendation, including the use of armed force, that the General Assembly may consider necessary. It also provides new machinery whereby United Nations' observers can be sent without delay to any area where peace is threatened, with the permission of the State concerned.
We had our discussions on defence and foreign policy a few weeks ago and the measures which were indicated in the defence Debate have been vigorously pressed forward. At the moment my right hon. Friend the Minister for Defence and the Chiefs of Staff are engaged in Washington in the discussions of the North Atlantic Defence Committee. Those are very important discussions and we are considering, among other matters, a thing we have noted with great interest—proposals which the French Government have laid before the French Assembly for the formation of a European army. These proposals include far-reaching suggestions which are being carefully studied by His Majesty's Government both in London and in concert with other North Atlantic Treaty Ministers of Defence in Washington.
I must say I thought the right hon. Gentleman departed, perhaps, from his usual accuracy of language by suggesting that there was no difference between a European army and proposals for North Atlantic defence. In considering these proposals the main object of His Majesty's Government has been to ensure the creation at the earliest possible date of an effective defence force in Europe under the North Atlantic Treaty system. We hope that plans to that end will be made with as little delay as possible and the 34 North Atlantic Defence Ministers, including the French Minister of Defence, are now formulating proposals for the creation of such a force and they are considering whether the French ideas for a European Army can be fitted in with the North Atlantic Treaty idea. As we have already made plain, in our view Germany should be able to make an appropriate contribution to the building up of the defence of Europe. This also, is now under discussion in Washington, but until that study is complete it is not possible to make public any further information.
Our plans to strengthen our defences are bound to have far-reaching effects in the economic sphere. Last September we announced a three-year programme totalling about £3,600 million and we stated that we could not carry this out ourselves alone; that that was what was physically possible. We then discussed that with the Americans, and we are making good progress about the immediate assistance they can give on an interim basis. Meanwhile, progress has been made in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and we are making a new approach to the long-term problem. Our own task is to assess the burden of defence expenditure and distribute it fairly among the member nations.
I would like to emphasise this. Our approach is based on the concept of a political partnership between the North Atlantic countries, a partnership in which each will contribute according to its ability in pursuit of decisions in common. The Deputies are at work on this, and they are to call on the fund of ability and experience which has been at our disposal during the work done in the last three years in O.E.E.C. An economic and financial group has been set up here in London, drawn mainly from the national delegations to the Paris organisation, but obviously, to work out a long-term plan will take some time.
I should stress again, as I made clear in September, that we are not holding back. We are going ahead with production on the basis of this planned expenditure. There is no time to be lost. This, however, is without prejudice to anything we may agree with our partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on how this economic burden should be shared. These are very important defence 35 matters and no doubt we shall want to discuss them at a later time. But I would like to assure the House that these things are moving steadily forward, though it is not easy to work out all these details rapidly with so many colleagues and allies.
I should like to turn to the affairs of the Commonwealth and Empire that are mentioned in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. It is fair to say that never at any time has our co-operation with our fellow members been so close. That very welcome visit last week of the Speakers and Presiding Officers of so many countries may be said to have been the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual unity. During September the opportunity was taken of the presence in Europe of Commonwealth Ministers to hold a series of informal meetings to discuss general economic and trade questions. Our purpose in these meetings was to have an exchange of views rather than to reach decisions of policy. But those talks demonstrated the importance and the value of close Commonwealth co-operation. We found there was very considerable agreement on many topics; in particular, on the importance of restoring the central gold and dollar reserves. The results were, in fact, very satisfactory.
There was also another important Commonwealth meeting, and that was the meeting of the Commonwealth Consultative Committee of South and South-East Asia. That took place in London at the end of September, and was really the sequel to the preparatory meetings in Colombo and Sydney where what we hope will become known as the Colombo Plan was being hammered out. That provides a programme for the development and technical needs of the Commonwealth countries in the area. It was attended by Ministers from Australia, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealand and Pakistan and by representatives of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore; and we were also glad to associate with these discussions representatives from Thailand and the Associated States of Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam and observers from Burma and Indonesia.
I hope that a detailed report will be published shortly, but I think that everybody realises how vitally important it is in the interests of peace that there should 36 be economic developments in South-East Asia so that we may raise the standard of life of peoples whose standard of living is low and who, through their low standard, may easily become the prey of Communist agitation. Similarly there is the matter of colonial development. The House will have noticed that it is proposed to introduce a Bill to increase the funds of the Colonial Development Corporation. A great many schemes have been started. They will come to fruition in a few years, and it is important that that work should be carried on.
I would now like to turn to our general economic position, but before doing so, I would say that I think this House and the country have sustained a great loss in the temporary retirement of Sir Stafford Cripps. He brought to his very heavy tasks tremendous ability and devotion. He had a handicap of ill-health which constantly pursued him, and I think that he habitually overworked. While a Prime Minister may spur a laggard Minister, it is an extremely difficult task to prevent a Minister from overworking himself; and I think that Sir Stafford Cripps habitually overworked to the uttermost. I am looking forward to his return in due course, to be of further service to his country and also to the party in whose tenets he believes.
No one can question the fact that in the last year this country has achieved a most notable economic recovery. The gold reserves in the sterling area have doubled. I agree that they are still far too low in relation to the calls that may be made upon them, because we are the centre of the greatest trading association of countries in the world, and strict dollar economy continues to be necessary. But sterling today is a much stronger currency, and in the case of the United Kingdom itself there has been substantial progress. In the first six months of this year we had a small surplus in our overseas balance of payments. It is never wise to bank too much on short-term increases of this kind. There are obviously grave difficulties ahead, and we have heavy economic and financial commitments to fulfill. But the economic position has altered and, therefore, as a result of an exchange of views, it has been agreed with the United States Government to review the question of Marshall Aid to the United Kingdom in the light of all the 37 relevant factors; and talks will shortly take place.
This notable recovery, which has shown itself particularly in the improvement in our external position, has been primarily due to the continued and rapid increase in production which has increased above all our expectations. I was glad that the mover and seconder of the Address alluded to the efforts which have been made by employers and employed in the great industrial organisations in their respective constituencies—a point which is sometimes overlooked by other speakers. This increase has enabled us to continue our plans at home and expand considerably our rate of exports. But we are bound in future to see some check on the rate of our recovery. This will be imposed by the needs of our defence programme.
There is the direct sacrifice to be borne as a result of a considerable additional expenditure on armaments and there is also the effect of additional expenditure in other countries, which has led to a serious rise in the price of our imports, and that inevitably affects the cost of living, about which I shall have something to say shortly. We must expect to find the supply of raw materials more difficult as a result of rising consumption in many parts of the world. We are making, and we shall make, every effort to minimise the effect of these developments, but it is quite evident that the whole of our economic position and the contribution which we can make to our common objectives depend on our being able to maintain the growth of production on which our recovery has been based. It is still necessary to observe restraint in personal incomes; there is still need for economy and there is need for wise spending.
Obviously, in these circumstances, essential controls must be maintained. I am quite sure that any Government would find it necessary to do that in the world position we have to face today. For that reason it is proposed to introduce legislation to give the Government powers as stated,to regulate production, distribution and consumption and to control prices.As I understood the general tenor of the Debate the other day, it was that this kind of thing should not be carried on by the 38 hangovers of Defence Regulations, renewed from year to year. I thought it was rather the general idea that there ought to be legislation which would define the position quite clearly. The House would be able to control it. There was a general desire that there should be permanent legislation, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not notice that. The Bill will be introduced and, when it is introduced, the right hon. Gentleman will see exactly what it contains.
§ The Prime Minister
It is not usual to give an exact time-table of when all the Bills will be introduced. There is an extraordinary desire for time-tables on the other side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman wants to know the date of the election. We really cannot give him an exact almanac of all these things. If I were to make a statement of that kind I should be taken to task by other hon. Members who would say, "What right have you to make that statement?"
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich, South)
I think the right hon. Gentleman is passing to another subject. May I put this question to him? If he attaches such great importance to this legislation to make these regulations permanent, why was it not mentioned at the last election in his party's election manifesto?
§ The Prime Minister
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will find that it was in a statement called "Labour Believes in Britain," but we have already debated this matter of the temporary regulations and, as I understand it, there was a general idea that it was a mistake to carry on war-time Defence Regulations and that it would be better to have permanent legislation. Anyway, the right hon. Gentleman can wait and see, as his old leader used to say—but perhaps I ought not to allude to those old days when he was in another party.
As a matter of fact, it is a step that any Government would have to take. The Government must have the necessary power if it wants to carry out the policy of full employment, including the avoidance of inflation, and it must surely be agreed that there is no likelihood in the present condition of the world, of these powers not being needed. It is awkward 39 to have these powers contained in a number of regulations left over from the war and, while their application in practice has been adapted to meet present circumstances, their statutory basis has not. What we need is to define their purpose and to lay down the appropriate safeguards.
The whole question of prices and the cost of living resulting therefrom has been raised. The right hon. Gentleman said, quite properly, that there were matters which we cannot control. There is the enormous increase in prices of certain primary products. It is our desire to keep the cost of living as stable as possible. The actual prices of foodstuffs have not increased in the last six months; the index figure is much the same.
§ Mr. Osborne
I think the Prime Minister would agree that the index figure is a very unsatisfactory one and that the figure given by the Ministry of Labour, showing a fall in prices, has not been well received by the trade unions.
§ The Prime Minister
I am agreeing with the hon. Member. But they do give a measure of the change over a period of time. I was comparing six months with six months, using the same measuring rod, so that the hon. Member's interruption was not very pertinent.
We all wish to keep down prices, and one of the things which has kept prices more stable than otherwise they would have been is the £400 million provided in the Budget in the way of food subsidies. I do not know whether that is still supported by hon. Members opposite, or whether it is opposed. There is, however, a limit to what can be done. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the figures—he is very fond of quoting them—of what the pound is worth now and what it was worth so many years ago. One of my hon. Friends overheard a conversation in a train recently. Two old ladies were travelling, and one of them 40 said, "I remember the time when one could travel this distance and the fare was only 10d. It is now 1s. 2d." The other said, "Yes, I remember that, but it was a funny thing—I never had more than 4d. in my pocket at that time."
Meanwhile, while we are endeavouring to do all we can to control prices, within what is possible, we are also endeavouring to promote more home production. Among matters which we are bringing forward, to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, is the fulfilment of the promise we gave to the House of legislation on the white fish industry. A body of members have been appointed under the chairmanship of Admiral Sir Robert Burnett, as members-designate of the proposed authority. They have been getting to work, going round the ports and seeing fishermen and other people in the industry, and they have had an extremely good reception. I would also add that a Scottish Committee has been set up under the chairmanship of the vice-chairman designate, Mr. Yeaman. Hon. Members have shown great interest in the question of the poaching of salmon. I understand that this is a kind of wholesale commercial poaching which does not really create any sympathy in anybody, as the old-time poacher was rather apt to do.
Next, there is the legislation on the British Sugar Corporation, which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think had been brought in for the purpose of fomenting the difference between the parties. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks that is done only on one side. The right hon. Gentleman is always suggesting that we are all in beautiful agreement, but I have never heard him make a speech without denouncing those on this side of the House quite heartily and full-bloodedly, and it is only by way of a preliminary to giving us a kick that he throws out this idea of national unity and all the rest of it. As a matter of fact, the British Sugar Bill is needed because present legislation comes to an end. There is a curious anomaly here—there is private capital which is not at risk, but which has a guaranteed reasonable rate of interest in a corporation which is the result of the policy of successive Governments of festering the sugar beet industry of this country. It is, therefore, the reasonable thing to do to take advantage of the 41 position in order to put this on a proper basis.
We are not neglecting the amenities. There is the restoration of land devastated by ironstone mining and there is river pollution.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman referred to an interesting Bill on leasehold reform. That is a very difficult subject. There are conflicting equities in the matter and, as the House knows, there have been Reports and the signatories did not wholly agree. We are at work preparing long-term legislation, but, there are very serious grievances, particularly in South Wales and in Lanarkshire, where there are a number of people whose forebears built their houses and who, at present, are finding that all these long leases are falling in. We are proposing a temporary standstill Bill dealing with residential ground leases and with shops.
Now I come to deal with the observations of the right hon. Gentleman. They were, none of them, very specially relevant to the matter of the Gracious Speech from the Throne. They were by way of bringing out various points which we had already heard before, as, for instance, that almost everything being done was thought about by the right hon. Gentleman and started by him. The right hon. Gentleman made quotations from past writings of myself and my right hon. Friends. We have a great advantage over the right hon. Gentleman because, on almost any subject if we look back on his long and varied history, we find something that we can quote against him.
He came down finally on the question of housing. We consider that the 200,000 houses a year is an actual programme, a programme which is being carried out, and it is as nearly as possible the number of good houses which can be built with the available resources of labour and materials, without disregarding other important claims—export claims and other capital developments.
The right hon. Gentleman hopes to have a Debate on this matter. We shall welcome it. I hope that, if the right hon. Gentleman intends to take part in it, he will inform himself a little more on the economics of the subject. Houses are not just built by money. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh, there is so much money." The question is how much we 42 can afford out of the labour, the materials and the rest of it available in the country. It the right hon. Gentleman were in charge of the Government, he would have to weigh that claim against the claims of the export trade, against the claims of defence and against the claims of capital development of one kind or another. He would not look at it purely as if it was a matter of saying that there is so much money. He really did not seem to me to grasp the position. However, if he likes to move an Amendment on this matter, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will be delighted to answer him. I am quite sure that he will wipe the floor with him, as he has on every other occasion.
The right hon. Gentleman finally came to various electoral questions. I do not propose to deal with these matters now. I never understood that it was the duty of a Prime Minister to tell the Leader of the Opposition, a long time ahead, that there was going to be an election, or that he ought to decide now without considering all the conditions and possible changes. Really, the right hon. Gentleman seems to be getting so very impatient. He does not seem to like to have so many people behind him, because he was quite happy for five years, and now, because he has a large number of Members behind him, he feels that it is very disturbing and very awkward.
I notice that while he does not like the ranging of two parties closely together—he seems to want a little more play—he is still doing a very assiduous wooing of the independent Liberal Party. I note that, according to the papers, in Lancashire some marriages have been arranged and will shortly take place between Conservative and Liberal organisations. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would like time for these unions to be consummated.
It is unusual, in a Debate on the King's Speech, to have the right hon. Gentleman opposite expressing those views. I am not prepared to enlighten hint at the moment. It is a matter that has to be considered very carefully in the light of the Parliamentary position, the national position and everything else. If the right hon. Gentleman likes to say. "We do not want an election for months and months, so you can disregard any little by-play we 43 have here with regard to calling up troops to try to beat you in a Division," that, of course, is a matter for him.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Daines (East Ham, North)
I want to direct the House back to the most important question of today—the rise in the cost of living. The pre-election atmosphere of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition has added little to this problem. We well understand that the Leader of the Opposition has made up his mind that he wants to go to Downing Street before he goes to Westminster Abbey, but the public of this country, the ordinary people, will not be so much interested in the frustrated ambitions of the Leader of the Opposition as they are in the cost of living.
They are terribly concerned about the rise in the cost of living and I think, too, that the ordinary people are alert enough to understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and his friends are more concerned with making political capital out of the present situation than with offering any real advice on or solutions for it. Undoubtedly, the cost of living increases come from two main sources. One of those sources is the devaluation of the £ against the dollar. The rise in the price of primary products and food shows this. I do not want to weary the House with statistics. They are on the records and they can be examined by all hon. Members.
But if we have to choose between a return to mass unemployment, which undoubtedly would come if we did not balance our external trade budget, and depreciation of the £ as against the dollar, then we will certainly choose depreciation. We recognise that the effect of it is bound to be a rise in prices. It was a question, as I saw it, and as I think most ordinary people saw it, of a choice between the two. It seems to me that the gap that we used to hear so much about has been transferred from the dollar sphere to the gap between prices and spending income.
I do not find it a particularly elevating spectacle that the Opposition, who bring such terrific pressure to bear on the question of rearmament, should at the same time choose to make all the party capital they possibly can out of the consequences 44 of rearmament which are bound to result in an increase in prices. In passing, it seems to me that their policy, so far as the international situation is concerned, is far more on the lines of a white man's shooting war than it is on the lines of economic rehabilitation that prevents war.
It is rather interesting to notice that we are also beginning to see in connection with the activities of the Opposition in the country, and particularly as revealed by the spectacle at Blackpool recently, a type of cheap propaganda in regard to food subsidies, in which they pick out an aspect which they think will appeal to the illiterate electorate. They are now asking why millionaires should receive food subsidies. It seems to me that the Opposition are not really worrying about millionaires receiving food subsidies, but that they are really far more concerned about the taxation which the millionaire has to pay so that we may all have food subsidies.
I should like to remind my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food of some of the speeches that he made about 12 months ago on the rise in the cost of living. I do not want to spend too much time on the particular aspect of food, but I can assure the Minister that he will draw considerable inspiration from the speeches which he made at that time, and I think he will feel refreshed by them in tackling his present problems.
I have found recently at many meetings amongst my own people—and I have been doing three or four meetings a week—that, if I tried to quote to ordinary people the cost of living index figures, they regarded them as quite unreal. Whatever my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister may say, among the ordinary people—and they are politically intelligent people—I found that I was quite incapable of convincing them that the cost of living index is a true reflection of present-day prices. I think we have to face that fact.
I have found that ordinary people are very concerned about what is happening today, and particularly in connection with greengrocery. It is no good our talking in London School of Economics abstractions; it would be far better to talk in the ordinary terms which the people understand. Let me quote from the "Evening Standard" of last Friday, 27th October, This is what their reporter said, and I know that it is only too terribly true. He 45 found that, when he went into the markets, he could buy a case of 11 fine big cabbages for 1s., but that, when he went round the corner to a retail shop, the same cabbages were on sale at 3d. and 4d. a pound.
It is indeed a very hard job to convince the ordinary people of the country that something could not be done about that, or, again, that nothing can be done where an ordinary orange, comparable in quality with other oranges, may be sold in Kingston for 1d., while the same orange in the West End of London is being sold for 7d. One cannot explain this kind of problem to ordinary people by dealing in abstractions, and I would have preferred the Government to have given us some indication in the Gracious Speech that they were going to tackle this problem of retail distribution and of the wholesale and retail marketing of agricultural products in this country.
I should deprecate very strongly the Minister of Agriculture again coming before the House and asking for further powers to set up marketing boards. We have had enough of producers' marketing boards, as I think the Debate on the last occasion showed quite clearly, and may I say that, if we are to have further Debates with the Minister of Agriculture in charge, I hope he will be a little more restrained in his method of addressing the House and his own supporters? I think it is quite hopeless for us to create more marketing boards, which place powers in the hands of the producers for fixing the final prices of their products by virtue of their primary control, unless we are prepared to deal in terms of priorities with this problem of distribution. I am not against marketing boards; indeed, I am in favour of these boards operating reasonably, but I am not in favour of the price-fixing powers being placed in the hands of the producers. It seems to me that what has happened has been that we on the Government side have accepted policies and proposals that were quite sound 20 years ago when we faced entirely different economic circumstances, but which are not valid today.
I want also to say a word to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. I find that the people to whom I talk are terribly concerned, not only about the prices of foodstuffs, but about the rising prices—pennies and twopences and sometimes shillings—for clothes and 46 household utensils. Right away through the economic picture, this trend is beginning to show itself. I ask the Government and the President of the Board of Trade what action is to be taken against the price-fixers. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to give me a cheer, but the biggest piece of humbug ever put over in a political fight is that the Opposition are the party of private enterprise. Of course, they are not. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are only private enterprisers on political platforms; in business, they are busy organising their price rings and monopolies.
I ask what the President of the Board of Trade and the Government are going to do about the price-fixers? Thirty per cent. of our private incomes, or 30 per cent. of what we spend of our private incomes, goes on articles or commodities which at some stage or other are in the hands of the price-fixers. It is all very well for the President of the Board of Trade to make sympathetic speeches, but I want to know what we are going to do about it. I am not going to try to tell the House that we can so reorganise distribution as to have an efficient distributive system overnight. Of course not, but my candid opinion, as one who has some experience in connection with trade, is that, if we are to tackle this job, it is going to be about a 15 years' job before we complete it; but that does not excuse use from starting now. When the people are demanding that we should tackle this problem of the cost of living, we should tackle the one that is clearly before us—the problem of the price-fixers.
§ Mr. Osborne
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that most of the prices about which he is complaining are fixed by the Ministries themselves, and that the trade are compelled to operate, both as regards quality and quantity, at prices which have been fixed by the Board of Trade or the Ministry of Food?
§ Mr. Daines
I am sorry, but I thought I spoke loud enough and with sufficient clarity to make perfectly clear what I meant. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I was referring to price-rigging by what are loosely called trade associations.
I call the attention of the House and of the President of the Board of Trade to what is happening regarding a similar problem of the so-called monopolies. 47 I think it is about time that the House faced up to the history of this matter and the total inadequacy of what has been done up to the present time. The Monopolies Bill received its Third Reading in this House on 29th June, 1948. On 6th March, 1949, there were six references to the Commission. On 31st December, 1949, the President of the Board of Trade stated that the proceedings with regard to the six references were still going on. On 6th March, 1950, the report published said that the work was still going on. On 18th July of this year, the Parliamentary Secretary stated in reply to Questions that he hoped to have the report by the end of the Summer Recess. The total time in which we have been engaged on this job, from the Third Reading of the Bill to date, is two years and four months, and as far as I can see we are still no nearer a decision because, if my memory is right, we have still to take Parliamentary time to discuss the recommendations of the Monopolies Commission, that is, if recommendations are going to be made.
These are not abstractions; these are not economic terms which the so-called intellectuals use; these are cold, hard facts that are sending up the price of houses, for example, and the whole range of commodities which we have to buy. My candid opinion is that, so far as the Monopolies Commission is concerned, the legislation that we put through was ill-begotten, that it will prove to be completely ineffective, and that the monopolists of this country are beginning to realise that they have very little to worry about. I am asking the Government and the President of the Board of Trade to recognise the simple facts facing them and to come forward with new legislation to make restrictive practices of this sort—practices that hold the community to ransom—a crime against the community, and to give the Attorney-General power to prosecute, where necessary, in the courts. We have got to be serious about tackling monopolies, and it is obvious that there is no limit of time in which this legislation can be made effective.
I would have preferred not to have spoken in this critical vein. I am by nature a very loyal member of my own party, but I should be failing in my duty to my constituents if I did not attempt to concentrate the attention of the Govern- 48 ment and the House upon what is the greatest immediate question, the cost of living. I have tried, perhaps inadequately, I admit, to focus the attention of the Government upon two aspects of the cost of living problem on which they can, if they have the will, take effective action.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Hollis (Devizes)
I feel that I must ask for the customary indulgence of the House that is extended to a maiden speaker because, apart from the fact that this is the first time that I have spoken in this Chamber, it seems to me as, indeed, it seemed to the Leader of the Opposition the other day, that there has been some rearrangement of the seating in this Chamber because the benches opposite, it would appear, are now devoted to the opposition of the Government. We have listened to what was in many ways an extremely effective and vigorous attack upon the policies of His Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) very rightly told the House what I believe to be true, that the most pressing of all the problems of the moment is that of the cost of living. It would be incumbent on any Government to find some method of tackling the problem of the cost of living during the next few years.
The hon. Member for East Ham, North, said that if a rise in price levels was the price we had to pay for full employment, it would be a price which we would be willing to pay. That may well be true so far as it goes, but I am sure that he and everybody would agree that one of the evils of inflation is that, though for the moment it may provide full employment, or, indeed, over-full employment, it will eventually, among other things, tend to create unemployment. It will affect our social services in the same way. It may be argued that we would put up with all these things to preserve our social services, but, again, it is perfectly obvious that if we cannot control the price level our social services, along with other things, will be destroyed. Nothing in the world is a more naked fraud than a system by which contributions are paid in at one price level and benefits paid out at another—and the social services will come to an end if the price level is not held.
The hon. Gentleman also told us that the rise in prices was due to devaluation. 49 I think there is a great deal of truth in what he said, but I was sorry that the Lord President was not in his place when he said it because I understood from the right hon. Gentleman that the rise in prices was due to the war in Korea. I hope that that little difference of opinion will be settled between them.
§ Mr. Hollis
I agree that the hon. Gentleman said that, and I was coming to it. I was merely saying, for the moment, that the hon. Gentleman had said that devaluation was the immediate cause, together with re-armament, and that the Lord President had accounted for it entirely by the war in Korea and by world conditions, and did not allow the policy of the Government, wise or unwise, to have any share whatever in the rise in prices. There it is, but the fact remains that these rises in prices do cause a very serious problem.
With regard to re-armament, I wish to make two points. The first is that, so far as the new re-armament programme is concerned, it cannot yet have had any share in causing the rise in prices because the armaments have not so far been paid for, and nor, indeed, has any sort of decision been taken as to who is to pay for them or how they are to be paid for. Therefore, if the situation is serious without the re-armament bill being met, it will surely be a great deal more serious when that bill comes to be met. The hon. Gentleman saw fit to argue that particular point by introducing a little bit of party debate concerning it and asking how the Conservative Party could be so despicable as to talk about reducing the cost of living when they are also talking about the necessity of the re-armament programme.
I am sure the House will agree that it is better to face this as a national problem rather than as a party problem. The truth of the matter is that both sides of the House are committed, though reluctantly, to the necessity of re-armament, and it will be a prime disaster for every citizen of this country if we find that we cannot find a way of having re-armament without our price levels getting entirely out of control. Surely the wise thing to do is not to waste time in jibing at one another about our inability to save the 50 ship from sinking, but to find some way, together, by which we can prevent the ship from sinking.
The effect of this, and the unfortunate rearmament programme, underlines the necessity of a drastic policy of economy if, even without the rearmament programme, the prices level is in the dangerous condition in which it is at present. That being so I strongly agree with the hon. Member for East Ham, North, that no Government of any complexion in the next years will receive much favour from the people of this country unless it finds methods of tackling that problem.
Then the hon. Member for East Ham, North, came to the question of subsidies. There he used an argument which, I must say, was not worthy of the general high level of his speeches, because he said that the Conservative Party, when it asked for the reduction of subsidies, used the argument that the millionaires had their food subsidised but that what it was really concerned with was the fact that millionaires had to pay taxes to subsidise the food of other people. If he does not give us credit for integrity he might surely give us credit for a modicum of intelligence. Even if we have not very much intelligence, at any rate we have sufficient mathematical capacity to realise that there are very few of us among whose constituents millionaires are in a majority. Why should we shape our policy in such a way as to benefit millionaires? The more we are lacking in integrity the less probable surely it is that we should do such a thing.
§ Mr. Daines
Would the hon. Member say that millionaires have the same influence and importance in his party as ordinary members?
§ Mr. Hollis
Am I saying that millionaires have the same influence in the party as ordinary members? Does the hon. Member mean that I am denying that they have more influence? I am not saying or denying it. What I am saying is that any politician would be extremely foolish to shape his policy to please only millionaires. It must be admitted, surely, that the whole policy of subsidies is, at the very least, a large and general policy upon which people of the most widely differing social opinions have different views. It is not only hon. Members on this side of the House who were becoming concerned 51 at the growing size of the subsidies and who ask that some method should be found of, at any rate, putting a check to them. The recent Chancellor of the Exchequer himself laid down the policy that some check must be put to growing subsidies. I do not think he did that simply to please the millionaires in his constituency in Bristol, South-East.
The great point I want to make on this is that it is useless to be purely negative on this great problem of the cost of living. It is absolutely essential that someone should find some practical suggestions, otherwise the state of the country, in the future of which we are all interested, will indeed be a parlous one.
May I pass on from that to say a few words about that passage in the Gracious Speech, concerning which reference has already been made, on the introduction of permanent legislation to give His Majesty's Government powers to regulate production, distribution and consumption and to control prices? There is, I see, a headline tonight in the "Evening Standard." The writers of that enterprising journal have announced that this is to be the issue of the next General Election. Whether that may be so or not, and what basis they have for making that statement I do not know. Certainly, I am no political prophet. Whether that will be the subject for the General Election this year is as it may be. My own principal concern is with the use of the word "permanent."
Here is a very grave national danger, a national problem with which His Majesty's Government have not as yet really coped. I am not going to be manoeuvred into the position of appearing to be one of those who believe that mid-Victorian liberalism and laissez-faire could be re-enacted in the different conditions of the twentieth century. I thought the Home Secretary was saying something—
§ Mr. Hollis
I am sorry; I thought he was saying something.
I quite admit that we have moved into a new age in which it will be certainly necessary to have a new Government policy. That is, indeed, inevitable, whatever party may be in power. At the 52 same time it is by no means clear to anybody what exactly will be the shape of things in the new age. There is obviously an enormous danger that in the complications of the new world the whole of our traditions of parliamentary freedom will altogether perish.
That is a problem which any wise statesman should have continually in his mind. Therefore, it seems to me that the wise policy would clearly have been a policy which, up to the Gracious Speech, we had believed His Majesty's Government were going to pursue. That was to take these powers for the moment simply on a temporary basis from year to year or, at any rate, for a short time, and thus make certain that they are continually debated and re-debated; to ensure that the dangers of the situation are kept continually before the minds of the people until the shape of things is much clearer than it is at present, and until it is possible to see how we can solve the difficult problem of organising a modern industrial society and, at the same time, preserving our liberty. Up to the present, we have by no means been able to solve that problem.
The Gracious Speech says that all these things are to be done in orderto defend full employment, to ensure that the resources of the community are used to the best advantage and to avoid inflation,…but that is much as if one were to say that these things were to be done to make people happier. The whole question at issue, however, is whether the policies that are pursued will achieve these purposes. It is possible that there may be unwise Governments and policies which, far from defending full employment, will bring unemployment into this country, which, far from avoiding inflation, will bring inflation to this country. Until the new formulae are worked out it would. I believe, be a great deal better and wiser that this legislation should be of a temporary character in order that the House should, from time to time, be compelled to consider in detail the new powers granted to His Majesty's Government.
It is no doubt true that if this Government pass away in the near future and another Government succeed them such legislation would be repealed, and these powers would no longer be held on a permanent basis. But that can hardly be a reason to recommend the legislation to 53 supporters of the Government although, to a great extent, it might be a reason for recommending it to the electorate and the country at large.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
When I saw in the Press at the week-end that my hon. Friends the Members for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) and Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) had been chosen to move and second the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech, I was delighted. I thought "At last here are two men worthy of selection because of their character, record and service to our movement and service in general in the districts which they represent." After listening to them today, and having heard many similar speeches made in the past, I am more pleased than ever because they proved that they have the capacity and the outlook which warranted their being chosen to fulfil the rôle which they have fulfilled today.
Being one of the few who never left the House during the war, I welcome this opportunity of speaking, on the first day of this Session, in this new Chamber. When the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition spoke in the other place last week, I was tempted to follow them because I think that what I am about to say should be placed on record. When the mighty German military machine was standing on the other side of the Channel, it was proposed that the House of Commons should be evacuated. We were issued with passes, we were given labels and papers. To this day I do not know where it was intended we should be sent. It was rumoured by some that we were to go to Reading, by others that we were to go to Stratford. I want to place on record the fact that it was, in the main, my right hon. and real Friend the then Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, the late Josiah Wedgwood, who spoke out and prevented that evacuation. He said, "If the people of London can stand the nightly bombing then the House of Commons should be prepared to go through the same experience." It is to the everlasting credit of my right hon. Friend, and I only wish that he, Ronald Cartland and other great characters could be here today to see the new House, which is symbolic of what they stood for in life.
Our cousins throughout the Commonwealth sent us their youth and resources 54 during the two world wars. In peace they send us food. They have now cemented our relationships by the gifts which are to be seen all round this House and which have contributed to its construction. What man can conceive, man can achieve, and this House could symbolise the rebuilding of British democracy on a firmer basis and on a stronger foundation, giving the people new hopes and aspirations contributing towards world peace.
This is man's age of jet speed. Those who are engaged in the factories are working at a maximum speed, giving the greatest output. We are on the eve of the atomic power age, but, politically, we approach our problems in the way in which they are approached in this Gracious Speech. Just as we had to prepare, plans and organise our resources to enable us to build this new House of Commons so we shall have to plan with regard to our economy, if Britain is to hold its own in the future.
I wish to take this opportunity of raising a few serious, concrete economic issues with which our people are faced. They are just touched upon in the Gracious Speech, but there is no indication of what action it is proposed to take. Responsible people in industry, especially those engaged in the export industries, are being urged to increase output, and they are now concerned about the uncertainty with which they are faced. They need workpeople to fulfil the new requirements. I wish to ask the Government what proposals they have to make in respect of these new needs. What will determine the priority? Will it still be distribution, hotels or palatial offices, or is it to be exports or munitions?
In certain areas there is already a serious shortage of manpower, especially in those areas where the basic industries are. What is to be done about that? If the men are to be transferred from place to place, what plans are now being prepared for housing the people? What proposals are there? Which Government Department is dealing with this question? Trade unionists throughout the country and those holding responsible positions in industry are eager to have an answer to some of these questions.
In the area which I have the privilege to represent, we are making relatively—I underline "relatively"—a great contribution to Britain's economic contribu- 55 tion. We are making a great contribution towards solving our dollar problem. We have had the excellent reconstruction report of the pottery workers trade union, 1945. We had the report of the Working Party, dated 1946, but no resolute action has been taken upon those reports, and it is time that such action was taken.
Much time has been spent on re-equipping, rebuilding and, to a certain extent, modernising old factories, but I say to the Government that that has gone far enough. Modern places are now required. I wish to draw the attention of the Board of Trade especially to the recommendations contained in the Working Party report in paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 on page 48. Those recommendations should be again considered and applied to the new factories only. The buildings should be of steel, light metal and concrete. In my area we require as many bricklayers as possible for housing, and if other construction is to take place it ought to be done by alternative methods of construction.
I wish to ask the President of the Board of Trade what he is doing about the ever-increasing cost of transporting china clay from Cornwall. Is sufficient coastwise shipping available? Here is an opportunity to reduce the costs of production—by organising proper coastwise shipping to Warrington and other places.
We are told that it is urgently necessary to increase our labour force. Our students of affairs must agree with that. Yet in my own division there are 60 mothers who have been eager to accept employment for 12 months or more. In the division of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross)— my very real friend—there are 39 mothers who have been willing to accept employment for an even longer period. In the division of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. A. E. Davies)—my very real friend—there are 173 such mothers. They are highly skilled young people eager to accept employment. They are a credit to themselves, to their locality, and to the industry in which they have been brought up and in which they would like to be engaged again. If their children could be properly cared for they would be willing to make their contribution to overcoming Britain's economic difficulties.
56 My hon. Friends and I were called to a meeting a few months ago, and we were given the whole facts. Here are some of them. In nursery schools and classes there are 2,444, but the number of children on the waiting list is 1,982. I want to give credit where it is due, and I believe that no better attention could be given to children than is being given in those classes and schools by those who are caring for the children who are parted from their mothers. But we want more of them. The Government are constantly pleading with industry to increase its output. Women are prepared to respond to the appeals. Yet we have not got the organisation to help in this direction of which I am speaking—in looking after the children of the women who are willing to work in industry. It is true that there is a 1951 and a 1952 programme, but this wants speeding up. It is urgent action that is required, and we are asking that that action be taken.
In the working party report to which I have already referred, and in one of the best reports ever published by a trade union in this country, appeals were made for the setting-up of a development council in the pottery industry. Prominent trade unionists and spokesmen of the Government have constantly said that it is necessary to have development councils in all the industries catering for consumption goods trades. According to an answer to a Question on 26th October, development councils have been set up for the cotton, furniture, jewellery and silverware, and clothing industries. Seeing that the Pottery Industry Working Party reported in 1946, why is there no development council in the pottery industry? I see that "The Times," on 25th October, paid a great tribute, in an article entitled "A Useful Precedent," to the work the development councils have already done. We are saying that if that can be done in those industries, surely it should be done in the pottery industry.
From the wireless last week and the Press this week we learn of a report of a committee of inquiry into the dispute that arose between the London Master Printers' Association and the London Society of Compositors. We learn that it proposed to establish a minimum of £7 15s. a week, plus cost of living allowances and other allowances. I want to ask: Where is the country going? Do 57 we appreciate the skilled man in industry? Do we appreciate the fact that in the engineering industry a very big proportion of the products are for the export trade, that in the First World War no action was taken to improve the position of these key men, and that in the Second World War no advantage was taken of their key position? Yet we find that in some areas £7 15s. is to be the minimum wage, compared with £6 4s. for highly skilled pattern makers, tool fitters, and others engaged in the engineering industry.
Those who work harder and faster are more and more feeling discouraged—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—by the lack of appreciation of their skill. The people opposite who are now cheering were the people who locked us out for six months in 1922; it is they who are mainly responsible for the position we are in today. I want to put this on record—and the more hon. Members cheer this the better: the relative worsening of the position of the skilled engineers will not be much longer accepted. Let us take the index figure in 1924 as being 100. This then, is the position: compositors get 170; bricklayers get 175; all grades of railway workers, 170; local authority labourers, 177; agricultural labourers, 270; engineering labourers, 176; skilled fitters, 158.
There is no one more prepared to support other trades than I, but what I do say—and what I have said many times—is: Can we expect young men and their parents to sacrifice themselves, as they have to do, for the boys to go to evening classes, to hurry away from their employment on three evenings to spend three evenings in classes to equip themselves so that they can understand geometry, mathematics, complicated drawings and then to build in a constructive way, while they are paid a relatively low wage? We cannot expect that to go on much longer without action being taken.
I want to make a few observations on housing. If there is one section of the community in this country who ought not to have the audacity to speak about housing it is those people who had so much to say at Blackpool.
§ Brigadier Peto (Devon, North)
Is it not a fact that before the war the people whom the hon. Member is running down built 350,000 houses a year?
§ Mr. Smith
There is this to the everlasting credit of this Government. We are building the finest houses in the world. What is wrong is that we are not building enough of them. And not enough are going to the ordinary people who should have priority in obtaining them, and who never have priority. The Minister of Works, in reply to a Question by me a few months ago, stated that the total value of licences granted for hotels in London was, in 1947, £542,000; in 1948, £730,000; in 1949, £854,000; and in the first three months of 1950, £180,000. All that in one city, plus the millions of pounds spent on the construction of palatial offices of many storeys—
§ Mr. Smith
I suggest that the time has come when this kind of building should cease for two or three years, and this enormous constructive capacity should be put on to building super-modern flats in all large industrial areas so that municipal housing could continue; and I suggest, in addition, that all this should be organised on a regional basis. I ask for the organising of several shadow factories, in the same way as we equipped ourselves with aircraft during the war, and for the large-scale factory production of the equipment that would be needed in those houses.
I should like to pay a tribute to the National Coal Board, who have published the finest State document ever published in the history of this country. It was a good thing for this country when the people returned a Labour Government and the Labour Government fulfilled their promises by nationalising the mining industry. There is more good will in the mining industry now than there ever was in our history.
§ Mr. Smith
My point is that it is necessary to retain that good will, and I want to make some proposals which I think will prevent friction being brought about where it could be avoided. When the coal plan is published in a few weeks' time, it will be found to contain several proposals for the transfer of miners from one area to another. Any student of the industry knows that more and more seams are being worked out in Britain, and it is necessary to concentrate on those areas which give the best returns. There will be a great deal of uneasiness and unrest, and maybe strikes, unless the men and women are treated decently. This country can no longer afford industrial friction, no matter what party is in power—
§ Mr. Osborne
The hon. Gentleman says that there is very little industrial friction today compared with pre-war. That is true, but he and his friends were responsible for organising that industrial friction.
§ Mr. Osborne
I do not say the hon. Gentleman did personally, but his party, as leaders of the trade unions, were the very people responsible for organising the strikes about which he is now complaining.
§ Mr. Smith
The trade union movement of this country is, in the main, the most instructed section of the community, and if other sections of the community had as good a record to their credit we should be in a much better position.
This country can no longer afford industrial friction, and it is necessary that we should approach all our problems in such a way as to minimise the possibility of such friction to the greatest extent. I probably know the people of this country as well as most, and I have no hesitation in saying that in the main there will be no industrial friction unless our men and women have legitimate grievances. It is therefore necessary to look forward, not only to technical progress but to welfare and how to deal with our people. The lack of housing is an insurmountable obstacle to the transfer of men and women. It prevents the mobility of labour, and if we are to retain the confidence of our people, we must keep pace not only with technical development, but also with the needs of the welfare of the people.
In the area I have the privilege to represent have been found some of the richest coal strata in the country. In many parts of the country coking seams are becoming worked out and the Coal Board are looking forward and planning large-scale development of the mining industry in the North Staffordshire area in order that we can obtain that rich coal which lies in that area. There are large reserves of coking coal in the Trent and Stoke area. Canada, as it expands its steel industry, will want coke from that area. As our steel industry expands there will be a greater call upon this area to increase output in order to obtain more coking coal.
61 I therefore ask whether we are to have the industry scientifically organised in that area so that we shall not only obtain the coal scientifically but at the same time produce the by-products and supply cheap gas to the pottery industry. I ask that this area shall be organised on a modern basis, extracting the maximum amount of coal, changing it to coking coal, extracting the by-products and reducing the cost of pottery production, while at the same time preserving the beauty of the area.
Some time ago the Labour Party published a pamphlet entitled "The Labour Party: Science and Socialism. A New Deal for Science." The time has arrived when science should have a new deal in this country. I was privileged to be brought up, not in a factory in which two or three, or a dozen or 100 people were employed, but in a factory in which 20,000 or more were employed between the wars. Before the war that concern alone spent £150,000 a year on research in order to hold its own against keen foreign competition. They were spending much more than most industries in this country, and we should now be asking for millions of pounds of capital expenditure in order to bring about the scientific treatment of coal, allied with a greatly expanding chemical industry and the development of the electrical chemical industry.
In 10 years, provided we approach our economic problems with a 1950 approach, and not the stage-coach approach of the Leader of the Opposition, not the relatively slow approach of other people—
§ Mr. Smith
The people the hon. Gentleman belongs to. We must approach the problem in line with world development if we are to keep pace, not only on the military field but also on the economic field. It will be necessary to embark upon large-scale capital expenditure in order that Britain's highly-skilled workpeople may use their energy in a modern way. Britain can solve her problem not by extracting the maximum amount of energy from the bodies of her workpeople but by equipping them with the latest scientific methods and applying modern technology.
§ Mr. D. Marshall
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of china clay and 62 the cost of freight from Cornwall to his constituency and elsewhere. Will he suggest that the Minister should look into the question of lowering the cost of the actual freights carried by rail?
§ Mr. Smith
I am glad that the hon. Member has asked that question, because I do not want any misunderstanding. In Cornwall, the industry, including the management and the workpeople, is doing a very good job. I do not want it to be thought that I was casting any reflection upon them. I am asking that between Cornwall and the place where the raw material is transformed into pottery, the cost of transport should be reduced to the minimum. I made the suggestion that instead of transferring it by rail, we should organise a coastwise traffic to Runcorn and Warrington and so reduce the cost of freight.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Brigadier Peto (Devon, North)
I always listen to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) with great pleasure, partly because I think that he is more of a private enterpriser than those of us on this side of the House, and partly because he says what he believes. That is not the case with everybody on either side of the House. I agreed with him when he congratulated the mover of the Address because the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), is also a true Socialist and says what he believes.
I was interested in the final question put to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall), because it affects a great many of the coast-wise problems with which we are faced in North Devon. There we complain bitterly because coal and other materials which have previously been brought by sea are now, in order to bolster up the nationalised railways, sent by rail, and cost a great deal more to the consumer.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South said something to the effect that skill and speed in work are not appreciated any longer in this country. That brought to my mind the words of a very fine craftsman who was engaged on the carving in this Chamber. At the end of his work, he made almost exactly the 63 same remark as that made by the hon. Gentleman. He said that skill is no longer appreciated in this country. On the day that we had the ceremony in Westminster Hall, he packed up and went off with his family to New Zealand. These people are very hard to replace; practically impossible to replace.
I am glad to have the opportunity of speaking today, which is the first occasion on which I have been able to speak in the House for many months, and my first opportunity to speak in the new Chamber. As I told hon. Members in my maiden speech, my grandfather was the builder and contractor for the Houses of Parliament, including, of course, the old Chamber which was bombed. It is, therefore, of great interest to me to see the development of this new Chamber, with all its modern equipment and highly-skilled workmanship. I think that hon. Members will agree that we cannot be too grateful for the almost loving care with which this building has been constructed. We have watched it from the days when we could see the whole stem of Big Ben over a pile of rubble. We have watched it grow and have sometimes been allowed to come in and see how the work was progressing. In spite of the very caustic criticism, written by a gentleman of the name of Lutyens in "Country Life" last week, I think that we have a very beautiful Chamber. He said that it was imitative Gothic and he called the Chamber an "over ornamented box." That was a caustic criticism of a very beautiful building.
Both the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) referred to the great importance of our Commonwealth and Empire relationships. Both, I think, agreed, as I do, that the ties that bind us have never been of greater importance than they now are. I think that the same might be said, with the exception, unfortunately, of Spain, with regard to the relationship of all the European countries in the Western zone. I found when I was visiting Germany recently, together with one or two hon. Members from all parties, a great friendship for Britain shown to us by all attending the army manoeuvres, at which almost every nation that one had ever thought of—no fewer that 27—had their military attache or other representa- 64 tive. The friendship shown to us, and the obvious wish to be united with us, and for us to take a lead in making Europe strong, was very remarkable. It is on that account that I welcome the Festival of Britain which is to take place next year.
Personally, I never had any feeling that the Festival of Britain is not a good thing. It is obviously a good thing to show the world what we can do, even after five years of Socialism. I think that it will bring to this country a great many visitors from abroad, and certainly from the point of view of North Devon, which I have the honour to represent, it is a very good thing for the people who make their living by the tourist trade. I take a great pride in the Festival of Britain and I look forward to seeing what can be done. It is good propaganda, and I want to impress upon all hon. Members most particularly the necessity for propaganda abroad.
The Germans have had propaganda thrust down their throats since Hitler first arrived in power. They cannot understand why we do not make greater use of propaganda to say what we can do, what we have got and what we can supply. The French are exactly the same. They say, "How do we know that we can trust you, and how do we know you are any good if you do not say so?" This was said to me. They had propaganda throughout the whole of the war and prior to the war when M. Blum was their Prime Minister. We must use propaganda more to show what we can do, both to sell our goods and to make sure that Europe is strong and united with us.
The question of propaganda brought to my mind the problem of German rearmament. The Germans I spoke to, many of them young men who had served in the German Army, told me that they believed Germany ought to re-arm, providing they could re-arm in their way, when they could probably raise quite a useful force for a European or United Nations army. I asked what they meant by "in their way," to which they replied that their way would be to provide formations up to the size of a division, with perhaps eight or nine divisions in all. Provided they were not under the supreme command of a German, they would then be, they told me, of more use to us within a European Army. I was rather surprised at that reply. In other 65 words, they were keen on what the French wanted, which is formations of Germans within a European Army, but with their own divisional commanders.
Mention was made of the vital need for a United Nations armed force. I can tell hon. Members that the feeling I had when I was in Germany watching these manoeuvres was one of great consternation. There is a complete void, with practically nothing to stop an aggressor. There is no French Army or Air Force, and no German Army or Air Force. There is a void which has to be filled. That is of vital importance if we want to prevent aggression by Russia, or by any other ill-disposed nation. The need is utterly vital. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford was quoting that part of the speech he made at Fulton over four years ago, in which he pointed out exactly what had to be done, I could not help feeling what a pity it was that his almost uncanny foresight had not had greater respect paid to it, instead of being somewhat ridiculed by Ministers and hon. Members sitting opposite.
I have quoted that part of his speech many times in the country, and I believe that had we then adopted what he forecast as being necessary—[An HON. MEMBER: "We should have been at war today."] I do not agree. We should then have been more likely to be able to preserve peace than we are at the present moment. The only thing the Russians understand is force, and if anyone is afraid of Russian aggression, the best way to combat it is to be strong. I only regret that the country did not take more notice of what he said, and that the country has not been urged to take more notice of the speech he made at that time, which would have been of inestimable value to us now.
§ Mr. Shurmer
Is the hon. and gallant Member suggesting that at that time the country should have spent large sums on re-armament, when it was absolutely vital for us to rebuild our economy?
§ Brigadier Peto
I was referring to the quotation from that speech by my right hon. Friend. I was not suggesting that we should have spent vast sums on rearmament at that time, but that we should have followed his advice and formed a United Nations Army and a 66 United Nations Navy, under which ships and stations were interchangeable, so that by now we should have had a proper force with which to defend ourselves.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
Does not the hon. and gallant Member think that the right hon. Gentleman's speech was contributory to our present position?
§ Brigadier Peto
Certainly not. I have never heard such a suggestion until the hon. and learned Member made it. The hon. and learned Member thinks, no doubt, that he is very clever, but he is not nearly so clever, nor has he proved himself to have nearly so much foresight, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford. In conclusion, I urge on the Government that speed and action are vital necessities if we want to get a proper armed force with which to combat any aggressor nation. The quicker we can act now, and the sooner we get a proper defensive United Nations armed force, the less we need fear Russian aggression in the future.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
Before the hon. and gallant Member for Devon, North (Brigadier Peto) leads us on another Archangel expedition, I should like to take the mind of the House back to a day during the last war, instead of following the hon. and gallant Member into the next one. On the morning after the House of Commons Chamber was destroyed in 1941, I was deputed by the Ministry of Information to bring to the site an official photographer to take a photograph of the destruction which had been caused. On that occasion, we were so fortunate as to secure a picture of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), standing framed under what is now the Churchill Arch and looking at the ruins of the Chamber.
As I stood there on that morning looking at the right hon. Gentleman viewing, still undismayed, the ruin of what had been his home and life for nearly 40 years, it seemed to me to be a symbol of the determination of this country to fight through until we achieved victory for democracy and for Parliamentary government. Today, we are entering into our heritage, and I wish that the right hon. Gentleman today always lived up to the 67 high standards he set for us all in the distant days of the last war. I wish, too, that my predecessor as Member for the old Heywood and Radcliffe Division, Captain Richard Porritt, who died on the field of battle, and whose name is commemorated in this Chamber, was present today to see us doing our best to continue the great traditions of this House.
I listened with particular interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), because he is one of my constituents. The fact that he was chosen for the honour of moving the Address is evidence that he is held in as great respect in this House as in the Rossendale Valley. The eloquence with which he discharged his task gives the Rossendale people every right to be proud of their distinguished son. I know my hon. Friend will be as pleased as I am that the Gracious Speech refers to increasing the powers of the river boards to deal with pollution of our rivers. Anyone who knows the Irwell Valley, and knows that the purest water that flows into the Irwell comes from the sewage works, will realise how great is this problem of the pollution of our rivers.
When the Government announce that they are going to deal with this problem, I hope they mean that they are going to implement the recommendations of the Rivers Pollution Prevention Sub-Committee of the Central Advisory Water Committee. This is a matter which I have raised in this House on a number of occasions. I hope the announcement in the King's Speech means that the Government are going to hasten the granting of these powers as well as hastening the setting up of the river boards so that they can get on with the job of preventing the pollution of rivers and taking long-term measures to prevent flooding, which is so important in the Irwell Valley.
Today, however, I want to touch on another aspect of water, which I think my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) will appreciate, because he himself recently raised very effectively in the House the question of water supplies in his own division. I regret the fact that the Gracious Speech makes no provision for legislation amending existing water legislation, or the setting up of more sensible water areas or the creation of a national water grid. It would, I believe, be largely a non-controversial Measure, 68 and one which would help us to make considerable progress towards providing adequate water supplies.
I am not suggesting we have not made progress in this direction. In fact, the Annual Report of the Ministry of Health contains this paragraph:After allowance has been made for the increased cost of construction, it is evident that the value of the schemes authorised this year exceeds that for the peak year of the pre-war period.That achievement, in face of our economic difficulties, is one of which this country has a right to be proud. The criticism which I make is that that passage deals only with the question of water supplies in rural areas, and the point which I want to make is that this is a problem not only of the rural areas but also of the urban areas. In some towns, we have a tremendous back-log of work to be done if people are to be provided with an adequate supply of pure water. The local authorities today have a new sense of responsibility, and the young, enthusiastic officers of our councils want to get on with the job, but in many cases they are hampered by the inadequacy of existing legislation. It is a matter which is as much one for the towns as for the country.
I want to instance the position in my own constituency because I think it may well be found to be typical of the position in other parts of the country. In the borough of Rawtenstall 24 out of every 100 houses, making a total of more than 2,000 houses, are dependent upon private water supplies rather than upon the statutory public water undertaking. In Haslingden eight out of every 100 houses are in the same position and in Bacup over eight out of every 100 are the same. All of these towns are boroughs. In the urban district of Ramsbottom 12 out of every 100 houses are dependent upon these private sources of supply. It is true that a number of these houses which are so ill-provided are in remote and hilly positions, where it would be difficult to provide adequate water supplies, but even if we take that into account, there is still a serious problem of development. Until that problem is solved there will be a serious danger to public health.
Early this year the Ministry of Health produced the Cheshire and Lancashire Water Survey dealing with the position in that area in the spring of 1949. I want 69 to tell the House what it says about the position in Lancashire. It tells us that within the Rawtenstall borough boundaries there are 43 private undertakings serving about 4,700 people. It then goes on to describe the private undertakings which exist, and I want to quote what it says about three of them. At Dean Lane, in the north-east,forty houses receive spring water of inferior quality and insufficient quantity.Next there is Forest Holme whereninety-two houses are supplied by upland springs of poor quality which are liable to failure in dry periods.Thirdly, there is Goodshaw Chapel where about 70 houses aresupplied from a tank fed by spring and hillside drift with water of doubtful quality and of insufficient quantity.The position is somewhat similar though less serious in Bacup. There are involved many more houses than we like to contemplate in this year of 1950.
A few months back I received a deputation representing the inhabitants of 12 houses in my constituency, who came to complain that their only source of water—and this was within a municipal borough—was a two-foot well at the side of the road where rubbish was thrown, from which animals drank, and which passers-by used as a public convenience. Steps are being taken at the moment to remedy those circumstances, but I mention it as the sort of thing that is happening in the urban areas of East Lancashire. In another part of my constituency the inhabitants of 200 houses have been told by the medical officer of health to boil all the water that they use either for drinking, or for washing vegetables. When I made inquiries about the source I was told that in the case of 80 houses it comes from the hillside in pipes laid 100 years ago and running under a cemetery. That is the water that some people are drinking in Lancashire towns at the present time.
In another case of a private water supply, not many months ago a dead horse was removed from the tank. It is true that the horse was not there for long, but the fact that a horse could get into the tank of a private supply shows how inadequately these are protected. I am told by the Chief Sanitary Inspector of one town that not one in a hundred of 70 the private supplies are adequately protected. I look at the report of the Medical Officer of Health for Rawtenstall and I find this comment when he talks of private water supplies:In many instances these are open to some surface contamination and of 68 samples of water taken for bacteriological examination, 34 examples revealed evidence of contamination from one source or another.The water which people are having to drink is all too frequently found to be contaminated from excreta, whether human or animal it is difficult to say.
It is easy, when one considers this state of affairs, to appreciate how simple it would be for there to be a serious outbreak of illness if a carrier of typhoid or paratyphoid came to the district. The risk seems to be even greater when we recall the living conditions in which the people in some of these Lancashire towns exist. In Rawtenstall nearly 500 houses have only pail-closets, and 3,500 have waste water closets. In Bacup half the houses have no fresh-water closets and half the houses share the sanitary accommodation with other houses in the street. Any danger of typhoid and paratyphoid in an area of that kind is going to be considerably worse because of the housing and sanitary conditions which exist.
The advantages of public supplies are numerous. In public supplies I understand it is possible to maintain constant supervision and adequate control over the gathering grounds. I am told too that the large-scale storage of water supplies is in itself a purifying factor. Moreover, it is a practical possibility to maintain a filtration plant and to see that the water is regularly chlorinated. That sort of thing is generally impossible so long as we have this multitude of private water undertakings.
I believe that the constituency which I represent is fortunate in its medical officers of health and in its sanitary inspectors. But it is ridiculous to expect them to do the impossible in safeguarding public health so long as there are private water supplies in existence. To take daily samples from the 43 private water undertakings in Rawtenstall would place an intolerable burden upon the shoulders of the staff who are employed.
For these reasons I regret very keenly the Government's decision not to go 71 ahead with providing for the amendment of existing legislation and taking steps, whether by nationalisation or in any other way, to provide a more adequate supply of water for the people of this country. However, there is a ray of hope in the last paragraph but one of the Gracious Speech, in the words:Other Measures will be laid before you if time permits.I hope that we shall be able to find time. It might be possible, by a special sacrifice to postpone the Bill dealing with the poaching of salmon and trout, which I cannot feel is of the same importance as the matter I have raised.
If legislation on water supply should be considered practicable in the present Session, I would like to make some suggestions to my right hon. Friends. At the present time there is not. I understand any statutory definition of the purity of water. It is true there is the Ministry of Health Memorandum No. 71 dealing with the bacteriological examination of water supplies and laying down standards, but these are only recommendations which have no statutory authority. Section 30 of the Act of 1945 speaks of "wholesome supplies," but the difficulty of defining a wholesome supply is making local authorities reluctant to take steps to compel landlords to take public supplies of water.
My second point is one which arises from the first. It is caused by the changed procedure laid down by the 1945 Act. Before that time, if a local authority tried to make a landlord take the public water supply, and the landlord objected to doing so, he had the right of appeal to the Ministry of Health and a local Ministry of Health inquiry was held on the spot. Under the Act of 1945, however, the landlord can appeal to a bench of summary jurisdiction consisting of magistrates who may have no scientific or technical qualifications but can be asked to judge upon this very technical question. This difficulty is emphasised by the fact that one of the local authorities in my constituency became involved in such a case in May of this year and that up to this time the bench of county magistrates has still found it impossible to reach a decision. Meanwhile, the unfortunate inhabitants of the houses where a water supply should be made available have to suffer because of the delay.
72 My next suggestion is that we should simplify the whole procedure of connecting houses to the public water supply. Local authorities should have the power to insist that if the public water supply can conveniently be made available to a house, the landlord should be compelled to take that public supply. At present, the onus is completely in the other direction. Finally, the maximum amount of £20 that a landlord can be called upon to pay for having a public water supply connected to his house is completely unrealistic in relation to present day costs. If my right hon. Friends would apply their minds to these points—perhaps to many people small points—they would be doing a great deal to help a large number of people in this country whose health is at present in danger because of the inadequacy of private water supplies.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
The House has listened with very great pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood). I like to think that in 50 years from now he may be one of the elder statesmen in this Chamber. If so, I hope that the speeches he will then deliver will be as acceptable to his hearers as that which we have just heard.
The general tone and temper of the House is one of satisfaction, especially among hon. Gentlemen opposite, in returning to this ancient House. This is not unnatural in them. From time to time they are inclined to disparage the importance of tradition and of history. Therefore, it is all the more gratifying to me to observe that they are very much like the rest of us. They are unable to resist the influences of the times in which they live and to maintain the exclusive separateness of their own way of life. For example, I noticed today that there was a proliferation of prayer cards on the benches on this side of the House, when hon. Members who support the Opposition attempted to establish their rights to their seats. It was their right to seek that privilege. How different was the scene on the Government side of the House, which was entirely naked of cards. No attempt was made by hon. Gentlemen opposite to establish a privilege. Whatever advantage may have come from that, it is a little removed from that desire for planning to which they devote so much 73 of their speechmaking and in which they take so much pride.
Every hon. Member no doubt has a copy of His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech. I have also seen an attempt at a piracy of His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, published by a paper known as the "Tribune." This paper has published His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech as they think it ought to have been written. It might be called, quite unofficially, "the Tribune edition" of the Gracious Speech. It is much more in keeping with the aspirations of most hon. Gentlemen opposite than are some parts of the Gracious Speech itself. I understand that this pirated document is not unconnected with the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). It is a full-blooded document containing a proposal for everything that Socialists have spoken of over the last 21) or 25 years. It proposes a capital levy, which will not, of course, be found as a proposal in the Gracious Speech, though there may be indications that a capital levy is possible in the sinister third paragraph on page 3 of the Gracious Speech, which states:In order to defend full employment, to ensure that the resources of the community are used to best advantage and to avoid inflation, legislation will be introduced to make available to my Ministers, on a permanent basis but subject to appropriate Parliamentary safeguards, powers to regulate production, distribution and consumption and to control prices.I do not know whether that elaborate series of words and expressions means that there will be all power to His Majesty's Government to establish what they would like to establish, a capital levy on the people of this country.
That paragraph is objectionable to me because I dislike the words:on a permanent basis.This is a fleeting world in which we live. Even His Majesty's Ministers should not seek to put anything upon a permanent basis. It was a much greater parliamentarian than any here who said:…What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue.Let His Majesty's Ministers remember Edmund Burke, and remember what transitory creatures we are. For them to put these proposals on a permanent basis for ever by taking powersto regulate production, distribution and consumption and to control prices.74 would surely be a masterpiece of arrogance, and would be more than half way to that totalitarian State which even Socialists sometimes dread—I am glad to give way to the hon. and learned Member.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The hon. Member has left out, after "on a permanent basis" the words:but subject to appropriate Parliamentary, safeguards.He skipped that expression by going from "on a permanent basis" to the words "powers to regulate." Why does he leave those words out? They give a different complexion to the whole context.
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. and learned Member tried four times to challenge the Leader of the Opposition during my right hon. Friend's speech, but that rock-like figure remained immovable. On the other hand, I have given way to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I think I made a mistake. I ought to make it clear that I did at the beginning read the words:subject to appropriate Parliamentary safe, guards.but after that I have been summarising for the benefit of hon. Members. I beg the hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon if, as a result, my remarks became obscure. Perhaps he would now like to withdraw the imputation which he made.
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not withdraw the imputation which I made against the hon. Gentleman. It was that he put a completely different complexion on the context by leaving out those words. I agree that he read them in the first instance, but he left them out in the second instance and drew a different and wrong inference as a result.
§ Sir W. Darling
I have only one observation to make about the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks, and it is suggested to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne). Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman is unable to carry his mind from one of my luminous sentences to the next. Perhaps he was dazzled by the first sentence and thus found himself in the shadow of darkness when I uttered the second. I admire his intervention. Nothing is more inspiring than an aspiring Welshman or Irishman who represents a Scottish constituency, but the hon. and learned Gentleman has a great deal to live up to. 75 Whatever hon. Gentlemen elsewhere may think, I for one always admire the efforts of the hon. and learned Gentleman, although they have not been as successful on this occasion as on others.
I turn now to the genuine King's Speech and not to the bogus, counterfeit one which has been published from the Socialist Press, and I want to comment on one or two items. Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Devon, North (Brigadier Peto), I rejoice in the Festival of Britain, but think that it might have been wider spread in its scope. Hon. Members from the Potteries have joined with me in speaking on behalf of the City of Edinburgh for a wider interpretation of the Festival spirit. To bring millions more to London which already has eight million to 10 million and cannot find beds or houses for them, as a result of the ineptitude of the London County Council, seems to be almost a piece of megalomania on the part of the Lord President.
It is proper that the Festival should be centred in the Empire capital but efforts of equal importance, equally substantially financed, should have been made in at least a dozen other centres throughout the United Kingdom. That would have given me greater satisfaction than this further glorification of the City of London. The Festival of Britain is the Festival of Britain and not the Festival of London.
One of the principal directors of the tourist industry has recently begged Londoners, many of whom are homeless—those who represent London constituencies know too well how many of them are asking for homes—to give up their beds and let tourists come to London for the Festival of Britain. Could anything more fantastic be conceived? The Festival should have been spread all over the country so that Bristol, Edinburgh, Stoke, Reading, Guildford, Inverness and Glasgow could have had an equal if not a more important share of the Festival.
This concentration of all the life, wealth, interest, power and knowledge in the County and City of London will ruin this island. Seven million people are concentrated in the most dangerous part of the island. It is a social, economic and political danger which should be dealt with at every possible stage, and the 76 Festival of Britain was such a stage. This was an opportunity to get away from such concentration so that the rest of the country could show the world as well as ourselves all the good things which we have to show.
As the Parliamentary Secretary who is principally interested is sitting on the Government Front Bench, I will speak about the Civil Defence Service. I know something of the organisation of the Civil Defence Service in 1937 and 1938. That organisation was an effective one when the time came. In Edinburgh I had under me about 6,000 unpaid wardens before war broke out. Speaking as a result of what I have heard from my colleagues elsewhere, I believe that this was because of a certain amount of personal leadership. In areas where it was possible to get a person of special knowledge, capacity or drive to make himself responsible for the organisation of Civil Defence, recruits joined in very large numbers. There is a contrast which is worth making between the City of Edinburgh and the City of Glasgow in that respect. It was not until paid wardens became the order of the day that London seriously took up the Civil Defence Service. That is equally true of a number of other authorities in England and Scotland. The whole of the organisation was built up round personal leadership—that was the case in every local authority throughout the country—but at the moment the Service is not being inspired in that manner.
I want to comment, in passing, on the well-intentioned proposals to confer rights of re-instatement in civil employment upon men who are called up to the Forces. It is proper that a man who is taken away from his work to do his military service should get his job back when he returns from the Forces and on the face of it that seems very fair, but I should like hon. Gentlemen to remember that even under full employment there will be a tendency on the part of employers not to employ men who are liable for military service. If they do so they will be taking on a dual right. Not only will they be engaging these men for such duties as their qualifications may fit them, but they will know that behind the engagement there is the likely possibility that the men will be taken for National Service and that the employer will be 77 without them during a period of great need and will be compelled to take them back again when the industry may be less able to absorb them. There must be some other method of dealing with this problem than that of throwing the responsibility on the employer. Having that responsibility will make the employer diffident in the first place to engage such a man if he can avoid it, and it is unfair to throw on the employer the responsibility for re-engagement when, economically, the business may not be in the same condition as it was two years earlier. The proposals should contain some insurance to cover employers. Whether they be local authority or private this responsibility should not be placed individually.
§ Sir W. Darling
This will be manna to the hon. Gentleman, for he has been looking for it from a Tory Member. I am opposed to all subsidies—A-L-L subsidies—so I do not want a subsidy for this or anything else. It is better for the community to stand on its own feet whatever the dangers are. All subsidies are weakening. As W. R. James said:He who is helped is hindered.I commend that truth to the hon. Member who sometimes, I feel, talks more than he thinks.
§ Sir W. Darling
I must not be withdrawn from the main theme of my speech but I go further than the Government for they are only prepared to give "high priority" to housing whereas I am prepared to give it every priority. I am prepared to put houses first.
§ Sir W. Darling
There are all kinds of subsidies. They are not only in terms of money. There are incentives and inducements for housing other than subsidies, and I do not rule them out in my consideration of this problem which the Government despair of solving.
Nothing is less likely to cause concern among the public at large than to learn that we have now entered into a competitive stage in the political arena. 78 Hard it may be, harsh it may well be, but the competitive system brings out the best in every one even among politicians. Tories raise their sights. They believe they can do better than Socialists.
§ Sir W. Darling
There are few walls because the Government are not yet building the houses. The competitive system has demonstrated its value. The Government are not building enough houses, but the competitive system has inspired right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House to think of a better scheme. They have said they believe that they can produce, by planning, by design, and by modifications in one way or another not high priority for housing but 300,000 houses. That has caused the greatest despair and disaffection amongst hon. Members opposite and the greatest encouragement and hope amongst the tens of thousands waiting for houses. Do not blame the competitive system. It may get a house for the hon. Gentleman's constituent who badly wants a house today and cannot get one.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how many of those 300,000 houses are to be subsidised?
§ Sir W. Darling
No, Sir, but when the hon. Member finds me sitting in a position where I am able to answer that question, he will find my answer not only ready but much more satisfactory than any he could get from the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is sitting on the Government Front Bench this evening.
We in Scotland hope that the reference in the Gracious Speech to a Bill for the more effective control of poaching of salmon and trout in Scotland will be of real value. I agree with the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) that it is deplorable that first things should not be put first by Socialist Governments. As the hon. Member implied, the failure to find any place in the Gracious Speech for a measure to meet the crying need of water supplies and such other social evils is a challenge to His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood
There was no reference to that in any of the Gracious Speeches in the years between 1918 and 1939.
§ Sir W. Darling
We are discussing the Gracious Speech of today. Young men see visions and dream dreams, but the hon. Member for Rossendale should not look so far back into the past.
I control one and a half miles of the River Tweed and I have not a fishing rod of my own. I never fish because the river is so thoroughly poached by private enterprisers, most of whom are constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde). This is an important Measure, and I venture to hope that it will be in no sense a red herring.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) in some of the discursive remarks he made. The hon. Member complained of the lure of London and I thought at one stage in his speech that he would advocate the rebuilding of the Roman wall to prevent the incursion of many of his fellow countrymen who have made such a useful contribution to the large population which London town contains. But I have not noticed any hesitation on his part to deny himself the pleasures of metropolitan life. What goes for the hon. Member goes for many of his fellow countrymen.
§ Sir W. Darling
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman help me by telling me what are the pleasures of metropolitan London?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I rise tonight to draw attention to what I consider to be a not unimportant omission from the Gracious Speech. It is a topic which I will not say is more important than or as important as the issues that have been raised by preceding speakers, but it is a topic which I have endeavoured unsuccessfully to raise on more than one occasion in the last Parliament. I allude to the necessity for considering the present unsatisfactory state of the marriage laws.
It may be within the recollection of some hon. Members present that in the 80 last Parliament 200 hon. Members put their names to a Motion which sought to ensure that a period of separation of not less than seven years should provide either party with a ground for instituting divorce proceedings. A remarkable feature of that effort was that these 200 names included those of hon. Members of all parties and of every important religious denomination. In this Parliament, since the February election, no fewer than 120 hon. Members, again of all parties and religious denominations, signed a Motion asking the Government to consider the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the present state of the marriage laws.
When the Prime Minister was questioned on this matter he made it quite clear that in his view such a Royal Commission was not advisable and that the present time was inappropriate for the initiation of such an inquiry. The Lord Chancellor, who was invited recently to receive a deputation of hon. Members on this matter, declined to see it on the ground that no useful purpose would be served. Therefore, I am bound to avail myself of this, the only opportunity that may come my way, of drawing the attention of this House to what in the view of many people is a most serious problem. The last occasion on which it was looked at from the purely procedural view was when the Committee which sat under the Chairmanship of the then Mr. Justice Denning, now Lord Justice Denning, reported in February, 1947.
As I have already said, that Committee was not entitled by its terms of reference to make any suggestions as to alterations in the law, but although they knew what their terms of reference were, they were nevertheless compelled to put forward a suggestion which went right outside their terms of reference and which related to the proposal I have mentioned, that a period of seven years separation should be a ground for divorce. In that report of 1947 the following words appear:There appears to be a large number of cases where husband and wife have been separated for many years and there is no possibility of their ever coming together again, but a divorce cannot be obtained because the separation was by mutual consent and did not amount in law to desertion. It is suggested for consideration whether separation for 7 years or more should not be a ground for divorce if there is no prospect of reconciliation.81 When the Denning Committee put forward that suggestion, they were not putting it forward without actual experience of this proposal being available.
I shall not quote from the legal systems of non-British countries, because that may not weigh very heavily with either hon. Members or the public. I should like, however, to refer to the experience of Western Australia, where there is on the Statute Book a law which enables either party to institute divorce proceedings after five years' separation. This Act has been in operation in Western Australia since 1946, and it is very interesting to examine the figures and results of this measure. In 1947, in the State of Western Australia, 198 divorces were granted on this ground; in 1948, 200; and in 1949, the figure dropped to 112.
An analysis of these figures shows that in 1948, for example, when 200 divorces were granted on the ground of five years' separation, 95 of the petitioners were men and 105 were women. In 1949, when there were 112 of these cases, only 34 of the petitioners were men, and 78 were women. It is permissible, therefore, to argue that such a proposal as I am now putting forward would be, perhaps, more to the advantage of the ill-used or deserted wife than it might be to the husband who considers merely his own selfish satisfactions.
The facts of the prevailing situation in this country were obviously of so compelling a character as to make the Denning Committee go outside their terms of reference by putting forward this proposal. I admit that there are no reliable statistics available to show how many married men and women who are denied the possibility of release under the existing divorce laws are either wasting their best years in desolate loneliness or are living together as man and wife in union outside marriage.
The courts of summary jurisdiction, which afford some indication of the present state of affairs, show that in 1946 some 25,000 maintenance orders were made by magistrates. In 1947, the number was 20,000, and I think that it is now in the neighbourhood of 16,000 a year. These are colossal figures and represent a problem which somebody ought to be looking at and considering with a view to finding out what can be 82 done to remedy this most unsatisfactory and deplorable state of affairs.
It will be found from an examination of the criminal statistics that some 3,000 husbands go to prison every year rather than comply with the maintenance orders that have been awarded against them. I quite agree that some of them are, probably, men who are deserving of no consideration, but I am convinced that amongst these 3,000 who go to prison each year are some who feel so embittered by what they consider to be a gross injustice in their individual cases that they would rather go to prison than comply with the magistrates' court order.
These orders usually include specific provision for separation and also a clause which is called the non-cohabitation clause, the effect of which, very briefly, is to prevent subsequent proceedings for divorce on the grounds of desertion. After making every possible allowance for those cases in which the parties are subsequently reconciled or obtain a divorce, the number of married couples living apart is, I think I may say without exaggeration, probably increasing at the rate of some thousands a year.
There is another large category of persons who, in their natural desire not to advertise the break up of their married lives, enter into voluntary deeds of separation. Here, again, no statistics are available which I can quote, but these people are also denied the opportunity of divorce on the grounds of desertion because the making of these deeds prevents subsequent proceedings if any party to a voluntary separation desires to institute divorce proceedings for desertion.
Let me quote one more figure which will give some idea of the large numbers of people affected by this problem. During the last war over 8,000 allowances were in issue through the Service authorities to Service men in respect of unmarried dependants living with them as wives—that was the technical description used in Army pay offices. I do not recall whether this provoked any extensive public outcry at the time. In effect, what happened was that the Government and the taxpayers were subsidising a broken down system of matrimonial law to the extent of at least £500,000 a year. Except for those men who were, unfortunately, killed in action, which would, of course, make their non-married wives once again 83 respectable in the eyes of the law, most of these couples are probably still living together as man and wife. Add to all these the men and women who have simply drifted apart without court orders or deeds of separation, and those who have tried divorce proceedings but failed, and we approach statistics of distressing magnitude and disastrous social implications.
Since I first took an interest in this matter a little over 12 months ago, I have received something like 4,000 letters from every part of the country, from men and women who have revealed to me, a complete stranger, the innermost details of their domestic misfortunes. It was a moving and tragic experience to read those letters. I am quite convinced that there are scores of thousands—I do not want to overstate the figure, but I repeat, scores of thousands—of men and women who are at present denied or deprived of the elementary human right of the pursuit of happiness and the social stability which comes from a proper home life.
What is the result? We all know that illicit unions are formed, illegitimate children are born, and quite decent men and women deliberately forego the privileges of parenthood. Thirty-eight years ago the Royal Commission on Divorce drew attention to the disastrous consequences of permanent separations effected by the courts of summary jurisdiction. These separations were condemned over a generation ago as inadequate to meet the situation, as productive of immorality and misery to the parties, both the innocent and the guilty, and detrimental to the interests of the children.
I have had letters from people who have been separated for 40 or 50 years without having any ground for taking divorce proceedings under the existing law. The question I ask myself is, In what way have the social and moral interests of the community been served by this kind of living death? We all know that in the divorce courts there is more collusion and perjury than in any other branch of the law. The members of the Bar who practice in those courts and the judges themselves know that that is so. That is the direct product and consequence of the present state of the marriage laws.
84 We have this anomalous situation where the parties believe in divorce by consent—which is, of course, forbidden in law—or take their marriage vows lightly. For them speedy facilities exist to enable them to be free of one another. In the present state of affairs it is necessary before divorce proceedings can be successful that somebody must be proved guilty of something; and that somebody may have to be proved guilty of something which he or she may never have committed.
Just see how it works out in the case of honourable and decent people. A few moments ago I mentioned that I received something like 4,000 letters. I will quote only one. It comes from a medical man, who wrote:I left my wife in 1924 and tied myself up with a separation agreement making her a good allowance which she could claim under all circumstances, that is, it did not depend on my income. Recently, my wife has consented to divorce me. I find to my horror that the only evidence which would be of any use was adultery after being separated for 25 years. So now I must he found in bed either with a prostitute or with a woman to whom I am not married. I am a doctor and so the first procedure would ruin my career, quite apart from the deceit and immorality. The woman I want to marry is a professional woman and it would ruin her career. What are we to do?I ask any hon. Member what answer he would make to a letter of that kind. I personally hold it to be repugnant to any decent normal instinct that large numbers of people should be either virtually sterilised or driven to adultery by the operation of a divorce code which is a mixture of humbug and inhumanity.
For those reasons I thought the Government might have been disposed to take a favourable view of the appointment of a Royal Commission, or any other form of inquiry, which would have another look at the whole problem. There is the welfare of children to be considered, there are the abuses which arise out of affiliation orders and the way in which those matters are dealt with in magistrates' courts. New problems are coming to the forefront as a result of artificial insemination; a host of new problems as well as old all crying aloud for consideration. The matter was last authoritatively looked at in 1912; 38 years ago. I am not going to suggest, although it would be a very useful proposal, that the views of the 1912 Royal Commission should be carried out, that also would be a step in the right 85 direction, but it may be argued that the investigations in 1912 are a little out of date now and the present state of affairs ought to be examined once again.
I deplore very much the obstinacy of whoever it is who decides these matters and their refusal to examine the present state of the marriage laws of this country once again by an impartial and authoritative body. It is right and proper that we should know what the facts are, what the magnitude of the problem really is, because it would be a good thing for the community, for the thousands of men, women and children directly concerned, that this present deplorable state of affairs should not be allowed to continue, eating away at the very basis of all we hold most dear, the sanctity of family life.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
I am sure I am expressing the views of the entire House when I say we always listen to the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) with feelings of very great respect when he discusses the subject which he has outlined to us this evening, a subject upon which many of us feel very deeply. I am sure he will forgive me, however, if I do not follow him in that line of thought. He expresses adequately the feelings of all of us and I can assure him that, as far as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House are concerned, he will find very great support for the things he seeks to do.
I am very pleased that I have been able to catch your eye tonight, Mr. Speaker. I read the Gracious Speech and was reminded of certain words which are famous in our traditional comic opera:A thing of shreds and patches…and dreamy lullabies.My regret is that in the Gracious Speech His Majesty's Government appear to show no realisation at all of the really vital problems of the day, neither do they offer any constructive solution as to how they are to deal with the things which really affect the man and woman in the street. The two most vital problems today are the cost of living and housing. The Gracious Speech merely says:Although the re-armament programme will make heavy demands upon the nation, my Government will continue to give high priority to housing and will maintain the essentials of 86 their social policy. They will do their utmost to ensure as far as possible the stability of costs and prices and to continue the export drive.What do the Government mean by "high priority"? The construction of this miserable dribble of 200,000 houses a year, which is something like just over a half of what was built by private enterprise before the war at substantially lower costs? Is this the policy which is to be maintained over the next few years? Is this all the hope His Majesty's Government can offer to thousands upon thousands of people in this country who are living in deplorable conditions?
§ Mr. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The hon. and gallant Member has made a heavy attack on the building trade of this country, which assures us that it is working full out on the building of houses. I do not know what justification he has to make that attack on the building trade, employers and workers, but perhaps he can say how he could improve it.
§ Squadron Leader Cooper
It is a great pity that the right hon. Member does not pay sufficient attention to speeches made at Labour Party conferences held from time to time. If he did he might have noticed, for example, that Mr. Coppock, who is a rather important man on the labour side of the building industry, says that at present the erection of 300,000 houses is well within the capacity of the industry. It should also be borne in mind that the Government's own White Paper, the Girdwood Report, states that the productivity in the building industry today is something like 25 per cent. or 27 per cent. below the figures of 1939. There are very good reasons why that is so and I hope I may be permitted to develop them as I go along.
I want hon. Members opposite to believe that we on this side of the House are really and honestly sincere in our desire to see a full and proper life for all the people in this country. We disapprove of the Government's policies of the last five years because we believe that in the ultimate analysis they can only result in great hardship and misery to the people of this country. We have seen, in five years, persistent extravagance at a national level which, in many cases, has reflected itself at local government level 87 and has forced, by consequent high taxation and high local rates, a level of expenditure on our personal purses which has resulted in millions of people finding it impossible to make ends meet on the wages and salaries they earn today. If the Government or a local government authority persist in a policy of extravagance the consequences are usually very uncomfortable and can result in very serious financial embarrassment. If it continues for too long a period the result can only be bankruptcy, either nationally or individually.
I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not regard us as prophets of woe when we talk in this way. We most certainly are not. I want them to realise that not all members of the Conservative Party, any more than all members of the Labour Party, were born with silver spoons in their mouths. On this side of the House there are a considerable number of hon. Members who started life in very humble circumstances. Many of us married in the pre-war years, on very low wages. I am quite willing to bare my soul to the hon. Members of the House tonight, and to tell them that I was married in 1933, when I was 23 years of age and I was earning £4 5s. a week.
In the '30's it was quite possible for a man and a woman to save a few shillings every week and for them to have about £100 in the bank when they got married. When one had £100 before the war one could equip three rooms in a house without any trouble. One could provide not only the cutlery, crockery and furnishings of a house but could still have a few pounds left which one could put as a deposit on that little house which one wanted to buy. [Laughter.] It is no use any hon. Member laughing at that. I speak nothing but the truth. I know; I did that very thing. It is extraordinary to reflect that in the years 1931 to 1939, after a Conservative-dominated Government had done their best to clear up the mess left by a Socialist Government in the years from 1929 to 1931, the small man in the street saved more than £1,000 million, in Post Office and war savings, in addition to the sum of money already there.
We now have full employment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that last year the amount of small savings 88 withdrawn in excess of new savings was £68 million, and in the present financial year the total of withdrawals is considerably higher than that. The only conclusion we can draw from that is that from 1931 to 1939 people were able to live within their incomes and were able to save. It also means that from 1945 to 1950, although wages are higher than ever before in the history of the country, the cost of living is also correspondingly higher and people are no longer able to live within their incomes. Hon. Gentlemen must believe me when I say that the result of that is considerable pressure from the lower wage groups for higher wages, which is an inevitable result of the policy that has been pursued by the Socialist Party for the last five years. They have a peculiar idea that anything which costs a lot of money must necessarily be good. They seem to have no desire whatever even to find any means of economising in Government services.
What is to be the result of this policy? What happened in the last Budget? There was perhaps not a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government but certainly the result was that the cost of living was increased. The 9d. per gallon imposed on petrol did not hit only the private motorist. It caused fares on bus services, etc., to be increased and made life correspondingly more difficult for people who are not earning very much money. We may be told that it was necessary to raise the money involved in this new impost in order to give the Income Tax relief. Very well, I accept that, but who received the Income Tax relief? Obviously, only the people who were paying tax. The people below that level, the £5 or £6 per week man and the old age pensioners, not only received no benefit whatever from the policy pursued over the last year, but their position was made increasingly difficulty for them.
What has also happened in consequence of the wild extravagance pursued over the last five years? This country was forced to devalue the pound and to take certain action within our own country to remedy the financial position. Who did the Socialist Party hit when they did that? They cut down the number of houses that were to be built. They cut down the number of school meals, because they increased the price of those meals. I remember that not long after that was done I listened to an Adjournment 89 Debate initiated by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies), who made the point that in consequence of this action considerable numbers of children would no longer be able to take their meals at school. That has been happening. The Government stopped the building of any more canteens and kitchens in our schools. All these things did not hit the well-to-do but the working class, the people who could least afford to be hit. That has been done by a Government supposed to be elected to look after them.
The Government have lulled themselves into a sense of security which leads them to believe that because we have full employment today that will necessarily continue for a long time. Professor Cole, who is not known to be a supporter of the Conservative Party, said not very long ago that the Labour Government had had to do nothing whatever to create or maintain full employment in this country. They have been the recipients—and no one denies the joy and pleasure which it gives to the country—of a set of international conditions in which not even the Minister of Health could have failed to have maintained full employment in this country.
We on this side of the House believe that personal savings are an essential feature of the fabric of our national strength, and that so long as this policy of extravagance and of forcing people to live beyond their means is pursued it can only result in small savings from every individual family being diminished to vanishing point. That would be very serious for this country.
What will be the effect of a continuous policy of higher wages? Some of us who are engaged in industry and who know what costing really means at present know that if wages are persistently increased the only result will be higher costs of production—that must be obvious to everyone—and continuing higher costs of production must be reflected in higher selling prices. I am sure that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, whom I see in his place, will agree that no matter what profits industry makes the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes a far greater proportion of it than does the industry or do any of the shareholders. At present, something like 60 per cent. is paid out in tax.
90 Let us relate that to simple figures. There are many companies in this country today which are employing about 200 people and earning profits of £50,000 per year. It might be said that that is a lot of money, but what happens to it? It does not all go to the shareholder. The Chancellor takes probably £26,000 or £27,000 of that sum for a start. There is money which has to be put to reserve. Nobody would deny the right of industry to transfer a very substantial amount of its earnings to reserve. Then there are dividends which, under the policy of dividend limitation that industry generally is honouring, is a relatively small part of the whole. The result of high taxation and high costs all the way round, high replacement values, means quite simply that today very many industrial companies are in the hands of the banks in order that they may finance, in the main, their tax obligations.
This is a very serious matter, because the result is that additional charges are being built up in industry; and it further hampers private enterprise to develop along proper and progressive lines. I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will now cease this witch-hunt of private enterprise over the next few years. If this country is to prosper and to live through the difficult years which lie ahead it will be through private enterprise. That will be achieved by private persons in this country who comprise private enterprise. It will not be done by nationalised industry any more in this country than in any other country.
His Majesty's Socialist Government should get into their heads that if they will co-operate with private enterprise there are very great opportunities for this country but if we pursue the policy of high taxation it not only hurts the individual and industry, but makes men cry out for more money in order to make ends meet.
Let us bear in mind that it is not what we earn but what we can buy with what we get that really counts. It does not matter whether we earn £5 a week or £50 a week. It is what we pay for a suit of clothes, or a meal, or in rent or any of those things that determines the value of our wages and salaries. Hon. Members opposite know perfectly well that £5 a week in 1939 was a very good wage. But £5 a week in 1950, after five years of 91 Socialist Government, is a starvation wage. I hope that in the years that lie ahead we as a nation will realise that the problems which really count in this country, which really count in the world, are the personal problems; how Mr. Brown or Mr. Jones is to be able to live his life in peace and happiness. We can build up within our own country a proper and secure family life based on all the decent things, and when we on all sides of the House understand this I am sure we shall build up a sure defence against Communism.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland)
I listened with astonishment to the hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper) in his dissertation on the problems of the poor. He was a bit upset about the poverty of great commercial magnates who have overdrafts at the bank. But looking down the quotations and observing the division of profits, when amounts of 20 per cent. and 30 per cent. are being paid out, I do not observe very much poverty. When I see the amounts of Death Duties announced from time to time I wonder why these men did not pay a little more of their wealth to the workers while they were alive rather than pay so much money in Death Duties. Had the workers received more money, their home conditions would have been much better.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke as though we on the Labour benches do not know anything at all about poverty. He implied that we are living in a fool's paradise; that we do not know the value of the pound. In the City of Liverpool, whence I come, it is possible to get to know not only what the people there think of Labour, but also what they think of the Tory policy in regard to the economic position of today. As I entered the Chamber a few moments ago I heard the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) about the unhappiness of homes and the question of our marriage laws being altered. I think it is not so much a question of the marriage laws requiring alteration, as of the minds of men and women being altered, so that they may be able to live as good citizens in a proper partnership and not be looking round for every Tom, Dick or Harry or any woman who may come along.
92 It is on the question of homes that I wish to speak. I happen to be, and have been for the last 24 years, a member of a housing committee. We have had at least 42,000 applications for houses, and this is a problem that has to be settled, whether the Labour Party or the Tory Party is in power. It is no use adopting the attitude of an auctioneer who is faced with a bid by a fellow with a whim, who bids a hundred thousand more. At the Tory Conference, when 200,000 houses were mentioned, somebody said "300,000" and a noble Lord in another place accepted the bid. That is all "bunkum."
Today, the question was raised when were the Labour Party going out and when were we going to let the Tories come in. To ease the minds of hon. Members opposite I would say that we have only just come in. We came in in February. I cannot for the life of me understand why, while we have a majority—small it may be, but it is still a majority—we should not carry on the business of the country and pay no attention to the nonsensical phrases of the Opposition.
I have been reminded of what private enterprise has done. Come to our city and see what it has done. It has given us slums in the thousands. What Labour has done is to clothe the children. During the last 15 years, I have never seen a child in that area without boots on its feet. Before, with private enterprise, all the children were practically bootless and without clothes. In the City of Liverpool today not a child can be found without boots on its feet. That is a testimony.
I agree that higher wages ought to be paid, but if man is to measure the wealth of the nation only by the dividends paid it is wrong. It is the welfare of the people which matters. Are they contented? Are they well housed, and well clothed? If they are well housed and well clothed they will serve both God and man well. Because of that I ask the Labour Party, my Government at the present time, to pay particular attention to what they say in the Gracious Speech about the rearmament programme. I am not a pacifist. I believe in resisting aggression and if war is necessary we ought to be prepared for it. There should be no doubt in the mind of anyone where I stand on that point. But when I see eight, nine and 10 people living in a 93 room; when I find sanitary conditions so bad that one would not have a dog living under those conditions, I ask myself what is the use of all the wealth of a nation, and all our progress, if those who helped to win the war in 1914–18, and the last war, have to live in those kind of conditions? Politicians of all classes must take a different view of the value of money and life. They must give to the people better home conditions than those which are provided today.
I find that we are not able to make provision for demented people. It is a tragedy that in our great City of Liverpool, and in all the cities of England without exception, half demented people are walking about the streets unable to find proper accommodation. I am not alluding to anybody in this House, so I ask hon. Members not to take my remarks personally. There are people who are "half-barmy," as it is called, and yet they have no homes. They approach the authorities day by day, but the City of Liverpool is unable to find homes for other people.
Yet, when one reads the "Liverpool Express" or the "Echo" one finds list after list, not of houses to let, but of houses for sale. We have untenanted houses in Liverpool while we have a large part of the population almost walking the streets and homeless. To have such a state of affairs in a civilised land is absolutely wrong. I want to see these conditions changed. Even from the Labour benches we may sometimes hear an expression which is not apt, but I am convinced a great percentage of the Members on these benches want a change.
What would the Tory Party give us if they came into power? Having studied the trend of affairs in the last five or six years, they know in their hearts that they do not want to come into power. Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not want to come into power because they know very well that they could not tackle the job which would be before them. They could not achieve any good results. They talk of the wages which are being paid. Let us consider the dockers in Liverpool. When 30,000 or 40,000 men were idle in Liverpool and when they went like sheep to the docks to be sorted out, men of 45 years of age were turned adrift. They were not wanted. Today, they are wanted. They are working and 94 they are better paid than ever before. They have a better standard of life. They have the means, but not the opportunity, to get the houses.
We are anxious to see a change. We believe that that change is absolutely essential. Rather than see big commercial buildings being put up in Liverpool, to which the labour is attracted by the high rates of pay, we want to get that labour for the building of houses. We want a proper drive in housing, not only in Liverpool, but in all our great cities. We cannot have a good family life; we cannot have good homes and contented men and women; we cannot get rid of the bogy of Communism unless we make our people healthy, strong and comfortable in places which they can call home.
Both sides of this House should realise that those who are in power for the time being hold responsibility. When people speak of a coalition, they should think of a coalition of those who have the means of production and those who can get the labour. We can find the labour if those with the wealth will work hand in hand with the Government to provide homes for our people. There is not that type of coalition at present. There is dissatisfaction everywhere. We want to get rid of the speculator who buys houses with £40 deposits when they are on short leases of a year or two, and then throws those living in them out into the street. That is private enterprise. I want to see an end to that. I want to see men and women with Christian principles doing their best to find homes for our people.
§ 7.35 p.m.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
I am very glad indeed to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) who always speaks in this House with knowledge and with force. I think I may say that, however much some of us on this side of the House may differ from time to time with the opinions which he holds. There used to be a custom in this House that on the first day of a new Session we should adjourn somewhat early, but I am delighted that on this occasion that custom has been departed from.
I am very glad to have support from the hon. Member in that. 95 I was about to say before he interjected that my main reason for being glad was because of the many critical speeches forthcoming from the Government side of the House. That shows, despite what the hon. Member for the Scotland Division has just said, that very many of the Members on the benches behind the Government Front Bench are seriously disturbed at the present trend of events.
This is the 20th King's Speech to which I have had the honour of listening in this House, and I think I can safely say—I hope without offence to the occupants of the Government Front Bench—that it is the most colourless of all. When I say that, I do not, of course, include the first part of the Gracious Speech which deals with our foreign policy, or rather the foreign policy of the Government which, of course, should be the foreign policy of the whole country, as it was in the old days. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes. The foreign policy of the Government in the old days used to be the foreign policy of the whole country. That was so in the days of Gladstone and Disraeli—not now.
I think it has been made clear by the speeches from the Opposition Front Bench, not merely today but when we came back in September, that on the main principles, at all events, of international policy and defence the Government will have the unanimous support of His Majesty's Opposition. They will have that support on general principles, of course, while we reserve full rights of criticism on points of detail. That must be a very great consolation indeed, particularly to the occupants of the Government Front Bench, when they come to think of the trouble they have had in the past from their more unruly followers. These include the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) who made such a devastatingly critical speech in September and who no doubt will continue his policy in all the defence and foreign policy debates which take place during this Session.
Having said that about the first part of the Gracious Speech, I must make one or two comments about what I have already described as a colourless Speech so far as a legislative programme for the Session is concerned. I well remember, the first Gracious Speech to which I listened in 1931. I remember 96 being enthralled by a Member who in those days, and in all the time he was here, enjoyed the respect, the esteem and the affection of hon. Members on both sides of the House—the late Mr. James Maxton. I have not refreshed my memory of the actual language which he used, but he certainly said that as a King's Speech it was worth little or nothing. But that Gracious Speech contemplated far-reaching changes in our fiscal system.
Today's Gracious Speech, except for one rather sinister proposal on the control of production, distribution and consumption, contains nothing at all of a far-reaching legislative character. It is very good proof of what many of us on this side of the House have been thinking for a long time—that the Government have oustayed their welcome as far as the country is concerned, and I say that with all deference to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Division. This programme, if it can be called a programme, is very good proof that the Government are merely staying on in the capacity, if I may so describe it, of self-invited guests.
The hon. Member for the Scotland Division said, "We have a majority." He was merely re-echoing the words of his chief, the Prime Minister. Of course, they have a majority, but a very narrow one, but when he proceeded to say to his right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that they should pay no heed to the nonsensical suggestions of the Opposition with regard to the bareness of the majority, I respectfully beg leave to differ. I think there will be a growing dissatisfaction amongst the general public of this country at the Government having decided to stay on in office in the way they have done.
We all thought that the bare majority afforded to them in February this year would merely allow the Administration to carry on for a time—we knew that the financial business of the country had to be put through—and that it would be almost impossible or at least indecent for the Government, after winding up the Session in July and avoiding the holiday and harvest months, not to come back for the opening of the new Chamber and then dissolve Parliament. That was the general expectation. [Interruption.] Well, the hon. Gentleman who interrupts will no doubt have an opportunity in the course of the Debate of presenting his 97 own views on what the general public are thinking at the present time.
Leaving that aside—I am only putting forward an individual point of view—I now want to say a word or two about what is contained in the legislative programme. I have said that it is a programme of sorts, and so it undoubtedly is. It comprises a lot of minor and inoffensive Bills which have been put into the programme in order to keep Parliament occupied and to prevent, as far as possible, hostile criticism, and, more important still, critical Divisions being forced upon the Government which would conflict with their inclinations—and still more the inclinations of their back benchers—not to test the opinion of the country.
I want to say a word or two in regard to two or three of these minor Measures. Of course, the Government have promised, and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division has commended them for doing so, to continue to give high priority to housing. We on this side of the House agree—I am not entering into any figures concerning 200,000 or 300,000, and I do not wish to do so—we all agree that the last election really showed that the housing question is the Achilles heel of the present Government. I hope it will be a much greater Achilles heel when the Prime Minister decides in his wisdom on the opportune moment for them to go to the country.
I could have wished, and I hope I am a little less controversial on this point, because I am supporting what the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) said, that there had not been the omission from the Gracious Speech of any reference to the provision of more adequate water supplies throughout the country. The hon. Member spoke on this subject, and I listened to him with great interest, and, indeed, I was shocked with what he had to say about the inadequacy of water supplies in the great towns of the industrial belt of Lancashire. Let me assure the hon. Gentleman that the inadequacy of water supplies is not merely a burning question in the towns of the industrial belts of this country; it is also a very pressing and urgent one indeed in the rural and agricultural districts.
§ Mr. J. J. Robertson (Berwick and East Lothian)
May I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that this is no new discovery? It has always been a problem there.
The hon. Gentleman interrupts to anticipate what I was going to say, but I would remind him that, if it has always been a problem, that is no reason why we should allow it to go on in future. I should have thought that his Government would have been progressive enough—and I think I have the support of the hon. Member for Rossendale—to have done something about this vital question. I was about to say, when the hon. Gentleman interrupted me, that I have had the honour for 19 years to represent two of the south-western counties of Scotland in one of which there is a large dairying area in which the question of the inadequacy of water supplies has for long been a very pressing subject. I could have wished that the Government, while professing their concern over the housing problem, had indicated that they had this matter equally in mind.
I have said that there is only one really major suggestion in the legislative programme, and that is in the paragraph which follows the reference to the housing situation and which indicates that the Government will introduce legislation to place on a permanent basis, but subject to appropriate Parliamentary safeguards—I do not know what they could consider appropriate safeguards, and perhaps they are not such as would appeal to hon. Members on this side of the House—to control production, distribution and consumption, as well as control of prices.
I was delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) referring to the time when the present Prime Minister was Deputy Leader of the Opposition in 1933, and was sitting day after day beside the late George Lansbury. The right hon. Gentleman compiled a book, of which I forget the title, but from which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford quoted this afternoon. I think that many hon. Members opposite, as well as those who sit on this side of the House, were shocked to hear what the Prime Minister then said in praise of the Russian system at that time, which statement has never been contradicted. Quotations were made from that book at the time of the last election, and they caused a good deal of surprise even among Socialist members of the audience at meetings which I addressed, and I had a barrage of 99 interruptions and interjections, which showed that they had been tickled up a good bit by the words of their own leader. [Interruption.] I am surprised that an hon. Member for one of the Welsh divisions should laugh, and I hope he will reserve his merriment for some more suitable occasion.
I want now to say a word about the paragraph in the Gracious Speech in which the Ministers declare that the expansion of home food production will be their constant care. I am delighted to think that what the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) has been saying in this House from time to time since this Parliament assembled, will not influence Ministers in regard to the farming situation, and that Government policy will not be developed along those lines. I appreciate all that the Socialist Government have done in the last five years to ensure a good place in the economy of this country for the farming industry, but hon. Members will remember how we pointed out that the foundation for the greater prosperity which the industry has enjoyed in the last five years were laid in the years immediately preceding the outbreak of the Second World War. [Laughter.] Of course they were. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."]
I am glad to hear the hon. Member use the unparliamentary expression "rubbish," because he knows that that statement is perfectly true. He cannot deny that it was the Coalition Government of the war years which put into operation the machinery which the marketing boards have set up. He knows it perfectly well. This Government have carried on that policy, and I am delighted that they have and that they are going to continue to carry on, despite their precarious majority, to work for the improvement of the farming industry.
There is one other item to which I wish to refer. It comes towards the end of the Gracious Speech, and I might describe it as the pièce de résistance. It is the declaration that a Bill will be laid before this House to provide more effective means of dealing with the poaching of salmon and trout in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), has already alluded to it. I am delighted to think that the Socialist Government consider this a matter which calls for legislation, 100 although I am very surprised that they have come to that conclusion. I think it is due largely to the speeches made on this subject from time to time by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson). At all events, we are promised that we are to have this Bill before the end of the present Session, that is, of course, if the Government are able to escape a major defeat long enough to bring in the Measure.
I am sorry that none of my hon. Friends representing the Liberal Party are present just now because I am sure they would have been equally surprised. I cannot imagine the Asquith Radical Government, in the days before the First World War—holding the views that they did on fishing and game throughout the country—ever bringing in legislation dealing with salmon and trout poaching in Scotland. I think it merits the prize for being the most reactionary legislation possible in the interest of the most reactionary elements in Scotland. I see the hon. Member for South Ayrshire laughing and agreeing with me in that.
The whole programme, and, last but not least, what I have described as the pièce de résistance, shows how worried the Government are regarding what to bring forward in order to fill up the Parliamentary programme. They dare not proceed with any major Socialist legislation because they know that, even though they might have a majority of seven or eight, if they sent such legislation upstairs they would be continually in jeopardy of defeat. Surely all this shows again, despite what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Division, has said, that the sooner the Government realise what the true position is the better, and that then the only course for them to pursue would be to appeal to the country at the earliest possible moment.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
It is the custom of this House to congratulate hon. Members on their maiden speeches, and I wish to say that I hope we shall have the honour and privilege of listening to the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) on many future occasions. I was surprised, however, to hear the tepid welcome he gave to the Bill to prevent or to limit the poaching of salmon.
I wish to make it clear that I gave no tepid welcome to the Bill. I said that it was most necessary to regulate the position, but I expressed great surprise that this kind of legislation should have been sponsored by a Left-Wing Government.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am sure that the salmon of Kirkcudbright and Galloway will be indebted to the hon. Member. Here is a proposal which contains the very essence of the curbing of private enterprise, and I thought it would at least have received a very warm and welcome approbation by the hon. Member for Galloway, even though he disagreed with other items mentioned in the Gracious Speech.
I wish to bring back the Debate to the subject that must overhang all the deliberations of this Session, the question of our international relationships and disarmament and how it is likely to affect the economic life of the nation and the standard of living of its people. There is a reference to Korea in the Gracious Speech, and on both sides of the House it has been taken for granted that we have achieved a great historic military victory in Korea. Indeed, in the Gracious Speech there is a reference to the success of this historic action in Korea. Nobody doubts at all that there has been a military victory, due to the tremendous success of overwhelming air power.
I want the House to pause for a minute and to try to answer some more searching questions about Korea, because, presumably, a war is fought not merely for the sake of fighting and obtaining a military victory; it must have a certain political objective. I am not sure that there has been a great success in Korea because I determine a military success, first of all, upon how it is likely to affect the people of a country and, secondly, upon what effect it is likely to have on the long-term system of international relationships.
What has war meant to Korea? In the beginning we were told that the war in Korea was not a war at all, but a police operation. President Truman said that at a Press conference, and very much the same argument was elaborated by the Prime Minister in this House. But the police operation in Korea has extended into one of the most devastating and destructive wars in the history of the South- 102 East. An American estimate is that 60 per cent. of the capital of South Korea has been destroyed. There have been some terrible and gruesome descriptions of Pyongyang, the capital of Northern Korea, and there is no doubt at all that in the process of liberating Korea enormous hardship, suffering and cruelty have been inflicted upon the very people that it was wished, presumably, to liberate.
If that is to be the result of liberation, if a country can only be liberated by the process of destroying its industrial life, by the blowing up of its towns and by driving hundreds of thousands of people on to its roads, then we are entitled to ask whether this process has been justified on the grounds of a political success. The question is now being asked: What are we going to do now in Korea? To that question there is no very decided answer. In yesterday's "Daily Herald" there was an article from one of their correspondents in the Far East who said that in American circles it was now argued that in 12 months' time the Americans were going to leave Korea and let the South murder the North, or vice versa as the case might be. Are there to be free elections in Korea, and, if so, will the people of Korea be able to turn out the United Nations?
What has been achieved in Korea? Has anything in the interest of the great majority of the people been achieved? Has there been a real, permanent political success or have we not just turned Korea into a hell upon earth, and called it by the polite name of "collective security"? Perhaps the Foreign Secretary, or someone who is to answer the Debate, will tell us and try to define to us what exactly is now the position of Mr. Synghman Rhee. Are we backing his Government and is that the kind of democracy for which scores of British lives have been lost?
I want to quote to the House from a dispatch that appeared on 25th October in "The Times." I think we are indebted to the special correspondent of "The Times" for very courageous and objective descriptions of what he has seen in Korea. In this dispatch he describes the conditions in Boopyng police station, a village post a few miles from Seoul, which flies the United Nations and South Korean flags. He says that "it provides a rather dreadful example" of what is happening in Korea. "The Times" 103 correspondent describes six cells in the station, each measuring about 8 ft. by 16 ft., and says:On the day your correspondent visited it 290 men and women and seven babies were detained in them. They squatted on the floors unable to move or to lie down. Primitive sanitary arrangements were provided in the cells and to reach them prisoners had to clamber over the shoulders of their fellows.He proceeds to describe what goes on in this police station as the normal method of police administration of the Government with which, presumably, we are to be associated, the Government which we went into Korea to support.
This is a description of what is going on under the auspices of the United Nations and in our name, and I submit to the Foreign Secretary, if these words reach him, that he has a certain amount of moral responsibility when such conditions are described in the columns of Britain's most serious newspaper. "The Times" correspondent goes on to say:Interrogation is a neat word, like liquidation. In this case it meant beatings with rifle butts and bamboo sticks and the insertion of splinters under finger nails. No attempt was made to hide these methods; in fact, the policemen concerned worked harder to prove their diligence and to ensure that no aspect of their work was overlooked. During that morning a rifle butt was shattered on the back of one prisoner, and two women, one suckling a baby, were also interrogated…A police sergeant, who spoke English, which he probably learned in a mission school, tolerably well, said that the interrogation would proceed when they regained consciousness.If that is the state of affairs, the government of police terrorism, what is to happen in a country liberated under the auspices of the United Nations? I put it to the Government that they cannot dissociate themselves from what is going on now in Korea and that from this House there should go out a message that this police terrorism must end.
It will be argued that this was to prevent aggression in other parts of the world and that the result of this would be to stop aggression and to stop Communist military adventurism in the Far East. Has it done so? I read a speech by the Attorney-General in which he argued that there was likely to be less Communist activity, less military activity on the part of Communist China, as a result of our attitude in Korea. The next day we saw that Tibet had been invaded. 104 I do not know whether the Government are proposing to take police action against Communist China.
I fail to see that we have done anything in the Far East except to create a state of fear. I do not believe we are entitled to take a smug, complacent view of Korea and to say that now the United Nations are there we shall re-establish law and order. Are we now going to re-create what we have destroyed? In the United States a Committee of Congress has already estimated that 200 million dollars will have to be subscribed for relief work alone in Korea. Presumably we have to rebuild the broken-down railway bridges, and the tunnel which an hon. Member saw blown up in a night, to rebuild towns and repair what has been destroyed.
I was one of those who protested in the House against our action in Korea. I say that results as we have seen them in this miserable, unfortunate and tragic country of the Far East do not give us any very great satisfaction as to what is likely to be achieved by what is politely called collective security. I do not believe that we have created anything more than fear in the Far East. I believe that, as time goes on, the events in Korea will not be instanced in the history of the world as something historically achieved but that it will be catalogued as an historical failure as far as understanding of the East by the West is concerned.
I hope I shall be wrong, but what we can see in Korea is likely to be a repretition of what has happened in Malaya. In Malaya, according to yesterday's "Daily Telegraph," after two years of elaborate preparation and enormous expenditure, we are having to face a state of guerilla warfare more serious from the point of view of destruction of property and of human life than it was two years ago.
I should like to put questions to the Government about the re-armament of Germany. We have been talking during the last week about the bombing of this Chamber and the building of a new one. It is only five years ago since all the oratorical vehemence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was devoted to telling us about the Germans. Now he is telling us today we have to re-arm the Germans, at a time when the voice coming from Germany says, "We do not want to be 105 re-armed." Here we come to the inevitable contradictions that appear in this whole conception of a European army and the defence of Western Europe by such an army.
The American military authorities have worked out what, on paper, looks like a beautiful scheme for the defence of Western Europe. The only thing wrong with it is that when we come to look at its practical possibilities we find it will not work. It meets, first, the snag of the French attitude towards the re-armament of Germany. The French say, with the realism of the French, that they do not stand for the re-armament of Germany. It was pointed out only yesterday by the Prime Minister of France, M. Pleven and by M. Edouard Herriot, who, more than anybody else, speaks for a modern democracy in France, that the creation of a German army will inevitably mean not only the creation of units of soldiers who will serve under French or United Nations officers but the creation of regiments, of divisions under German officers. Some people believe in exactly the same ideas as those of the German marshals who were tried only a few years ago and hanged as war criminals.
I say that the French are quite right, from their point of view, in looking with great distrust on the proposal for the re-armament of Germany. I am glad to see that the French Socialist Party has stood out against it, and I hope that the Socialists in this country will stand out against it. What is more, the German Socialist, Doctor Schumacher, has made it quite clear that from his point of view he will not agree to the French proposal, and he is not going to agree to any German being used as potential cannon fodder in another war. I do not think that these plans for the defence of Western Europe by this new European army will work at all. I do not know what our contribution is likely to be. All I do know is that we have not seen any statement from the War Office or the Minister of Defence proclaiming that there has been a great rush to join the Army, following the announcement of the increase of pay.
§ Mr. Nabarro (Kidderminster)
There has been at least a 50 per cent. increase, and that is a very substantial increase.
§ Mr. Hughes
It has been a 50 per cent. increase for what was regarded as a most hopeless failure in the recruiting campaign. If it is 50 per cent. on failure it does not amount to very much.
I do not think that either the Minister of Defence, who was very chary in answering Questions the other day, or even the military staffs in America will be satisfied with that. I say that in this process of trying to make the Army more attractive to our people in a time of full employment the Government are faced with an inescapable contradiction. I do not think that it will be done. I do not believe that America will get the manpower from France, Britain and Germany to build up a European army.
I do not see why the proposal which the Russians made for a further conference for the de-militarisation of Germany cannot be entertained very seriously by the Government of this country. After all, if we are never to have negotiations with the Russians, if we are to accept the fact that we have always to face an inevitable deadlock in Europe, we shall pile up our armaments and face crisis after crisis. In doing that, we are bound to reduce the standard of life of our own people.
Let us consider housing. Hon. Members on all sides of the House have been talking today about housing, and I was very glad to hear them doing so. Hon. Members have frequently chaffed me because on every possible occasion I have tried to raise the question of Scottish housing. Now we are all enthusiastic about housing; even the Leader of the Opposition is enthusiastic about it. That is quite right. Can we build 300,000 houses and, at the same time, carry out a programme of intense re-armament? That question applies both to the Government and to the Opposition.
If we say that housing has a priority over armaments well, I understand that; but if we say that armaments have a priority over housing, then do not delude people of this country into thinking that we can face the housing problem. I have heard reference today to the Margate conference. I was on the opposition side at the Margate conference, and I asked the Minister of Health if he thought that rearmament would hit housing. He said "No," quite definitely. The "Daily Herald," on its leading page, the next day, 107 said "Armament will not hit housing." I congratulate the Minister of Health on his optimism.
Last week, I put a further Question on this subject to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and if hon. Members will read the answer they will see that he was far more cautious than the Minister of Health, because the answer was that the effect of rearmament on housing had not yet been estimated. Let us look at this a little further. I hope that the Opposition will ginger up the Government on this matter. If they have any constructive, practical proposal which will result in more houses for the people of the country I will support them every time.
From my sad experience of Tory local authorities, I am very dubious indeed about the suggestion that the Conservatives have any practical contribution to make towards helping to solve the housing problem. I served for 20 years on a small town council in Scotland. When I went on to that town council it was faced with one of the worst housing problems among the small towns of the west of Scotland. I helped to work on the housing problem in that little town for all those years, and I am able to say that 80 per cent. of the people of that town now live in municipal houses.
In fact, on one occasion, a Soviet diplomat came to visit the houses, and he said that there was more Socialism in that town than in Moscow. [An HON. MEMBER: "Communism."] I object to Communism when it is in the form of a totalitarian police State. What is good in Communism? I do not repudiate what the Prime Minister said in his book about what was good in Communism. By that I mean the planning of industry and life for the common good. In the course of my work for housing the community in which I live—and all the Tories have been eliminated from that town council—we had to fight the Tories all the way. When we first asked for land for slum clearance, we came up against the local landlord, the Marquis of Bute, who said, "Not a square inch of land for houses to be built by a Socialist town council."
I am very sceptical indeed, because all through our campaign to provide houses for the people we had to meet the opposition of Tory landlords, Tory lawyers and the property-owning invested interest 108 which stand behind the Tory Party. I am going to ask the Opposition to support me on one point in which I believe they can effectively help to fulfil their promise. How far are the Opposition prepared to go in bringing pressure on the Government—because it is no good talking sentimental platitudes; we have to be prepared to bring pressure on the Government in this way—to get the building workers on the job? I have been pressing the Government for three years to say to the building workers, "You are not going into the Armed Forces." I ask the Opposition to say that if housing is to be a priority we must say to the building trade worker, "You are to have the same exemption from military service as the miner and the agricultural worker." I am waiting now for that support.
We shall not solve our agricultural and mining problems until we face and solve the housing problem. It depletes the labour force available to build houses by calling up plasterers, joiners and electricians. By extending conscription, it means that these men are now being kept in the Armed Forces six months longer. These men should have been exempted if housing is to have a priority, and I am waiting for a reply from the Conservative Party on that point. As re-armament goes on, we shall have more pressure on housing. The building forces and the material necessary in the construction of houses will be used up by the Armed Forces. We are deluding the people unless we face this problem. Sooner or later they will want to know the reasons why—and this affects housing, the cost of living and the social services.
We cannot have an extensive re-armament programme, which does not bring greater security but leads to greater fear, without the political parties having to face intense public opinion. Whether the Tories or the Socialists are in power, we shall have the people in the housing queues asking why they have been deceived. I am watching with great interest the agitation for increased housing on the part of the Conservative Party. If we are not to go ahead with re-armament, we must reorientate our foreign policy. Whether we like it or not, Communism is in Asia, and it is absolutely impossible to stop Communism there by armed force. We have to realise that, too, in Europe. We are faced, therefore, with the inevitable contradiction that I outlined in the first part of my speech.
109 It is quite true, that if it came to war we could inflict enormous destruction on Russia by bombing and by the atom bomb. I believe the Russians realise that, and that there is a mood which is expressing itself in different speeches at Lake Success by those who represent Soviet Russia, that the time has come when the nations should again get round the table and face the fact that another war means destruction to civilisation, whether Communist or capitalist. We can have an alternative to the peace policy being proclaimed by the Soviet Union. If our economists and planners drew up a world plan, a world Schuman plan, under which the industries and technical knowledge of the nations could be united for the good of the people of the world, it would meet with united accord throughout the world. Lord Boyd Orr and Mr. Reuther, the American trade unionist, have been associated with such a scheme.
I plead with the Government not merely to be the tin can tied to the American dog. The world is crying for a great international initiative, and I believe we could organise the process of unity among the peoples of the world. I believe that is the alternative. But, if the Government are content to carry on the foreign policy of the last four years, following in the wake of the Leader of the Opposition, who speaks for a past age and a dead century, they will be leading this country to disaster. I call for a new international conference. I believe that the peoples of the world are looking to this democratic country with a Socialist Government to lift the fear of war from the minds of all men and women.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. McAdden (Southend, East)
It would be discourteous not to refer to the remarks of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I pay my tribute to the deep sincerity with which he speaks. His sincerity is a great tribute to him, because sincerity is a wonderful virtue and a tribute to his faith and heart, although it is not necessarily a tribute to his head. When he suggests that the way to fight Communism and prevent it spreading in Asia, the way to prevent the attack by the North Koreans on the South Koreans, is for us to hold a world conference and discuss the amount of food and other things that can be produced, and then to explain the results to those about 110 to be invaded in the hope that they will wake up in time to resist invasion, he is getting away a little from the true realities of the situation.
I also take exception to the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that we are turning Korea into a hell upon earth. I do not know why he assumes that all the evils that have come upon Korea are of our doing. Surely it is for him to examine whether some others have not contributed to the evils that have fallen upon Korea. The hon. Gentleman can read of some of the troubles that have come upon that country by the reports of "The Times" correspondent in Korea, and let us pay tribute to the United Nations organisation, which enables "The Times" correspondent to send free and uncensored reports from which the hon. Gentleman can quote, whereas the Communist masters of North Korea allow no such free facilities to comment upon what is going on in Communist-dominated territory. I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if with this comment I turn to something else which I prefer to speak about—what is contained in the King's Speech.
I had hoped to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, when the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Division (Mr. Logan), sat down, because he and I have close affinities. I once worked for him. I was for some years a labourer in the service of the Parks and Gardens Committee of the Liverpool Corporation, of which at that time he was a member. Therefore I was interested to hear his graphic description of some of the things which have gone on in Liverpool in the past. He is quite right when he says that Liverpool had within its boundaries slum properties which were a disgrace; that at one time it was quite common to see the children of Liverpool running around the streets of Liverpool without any shoes on their feet.
It is only fair to comment about these things, but if the hon. Gentleman were strictly accurate he would agree that most of these things, including the children runing around Liverpool without shoes to their feet, disappeared long before 1945. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I and some of my hon. Friends have lived and worked in the poorer quarters of Liverpool. At the docks where I lived and worked, I saw something of the conditions in those years of which the hon. Gentleman spoke, 111 and we know that many of these things disappeared before 1945. Poverty and stress did not suddenly disappear with the advent of the Socialist Government in 1945.
I listened with interest to some of the other remarks of the hon. Member. He regrets—and I share it—the failure of this Government to provide houses for the people. I was sorry to hear him refer to the importance of the Government providing homes for the people, because he and I know that governments cannot provide homes. They never have and they never will, not even a Conservative Government. The most they are able to do is to create the conditions under which houses may be provided for the people, but homes are made by the lives and conduct of the people who live in the houses. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am sorry that these views meet with dissent from gentlemen on the opposite benches. They should know that this is a fact, and if they are not aware of it perhaps a little further education will enlighten them.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, North-West)
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the provision of proper social amenities, which has been done by this Government, has done something towards providing homes as well as houses for the people?
§ Mr. McAdden
I said quite distinctly that the provision of decent amenities and houses was a responsibility which rests upon the Government. I tried to make the point that homes are not made by the provision of amenities. Houses are turned into homes, not by building, but by the lives and conduct of the people living in them. If the hon. Gentleman does not know that perhaps he will learn sometime.
§ Mr. McAdden
I have never attempted to question in any way the accuracy of what the hon. Gentleman said. Indeed, I went out of my way to pay tribute to that accuracy and to say how right it was. I hope he will give me equal credit for accuracy when I say that the conditions 112 to which he referred disappeared before 1945, and I will give way while he does so.
§ Mr. Logan
I have had experience in Liverpool not only in regard to municipal life and on the board of guardians, but also in the pawnbroking business. In 35 years it gave me an insight into the condition of affairs in the city of Liverpool that the hon. Gentleman could never have. During the last nine years to my knowledge there have been no children with bare feet in the streets in Liverpool.
§ Mr. McAdden
The hon. Gentleman knows that it is more than nine years, and he is also aware of the fact that this Government has not been in office nine years. If he reflects upon these things he may be more forthcoming. I know that the hon. Gentleman has been associated with the pawnbroking business, but he is not the only one who knows something about it, though some of us have got our experience on the other side of the counter.
I want to refer to some of the remarks of the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines). He attacked His Majesty's Government because of their failure to implement their promises about monopoly practices in this country. He said that for two and a half years allegations of monopoly practices have been investigated against a number of people, and that nothing definite has been done about it so far. His actual words were that the legislation "for dealing with monopoly practices was ill-begotten." That is a reflection upon Members on the Government benches, because it reflects at this late stage upon the parentage of the Measure. At any rate, he has given it as his view that the Measure is ill-begotten and that it is taking far too long to obtain definite action.
If a procedure has been set up for dealing with those who are alleged to be guilty of monopoly practices, surely it is only fair that the proper procedure as laid down should be gone through. Merely because an hon. Member considers that it is taking too long to prove the case against those who are alleged 113 to be guilty of monopoly practices, it is not right that it should be short-circuited. The failure to prove more rapidly the case which they have maintained is so clear and apparent in regard to alleged monopoly practices is proof that those practices are not so rampant as hon. Members would have had us believe.
I cannot resist the temptation to make some reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith). I must say that I agreed with a great deal of his speech. Although I agreed with his conclusions I did not always agree with the methods by which he reached them. I think he was quite right in saying that at a time like this we cannot afford to have industrial friction. For many years we have not been in a position to afford industrial friction, which is not a good thing to have.
I regret to say that that has not always been the view of some hon. Members who now sit on the Government benches with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South. Many of them in the past have held the view that industrial friction was a very good thing and they have spent a great deal of their political lives stirring up class hatred, setting workers against employers and stirring up friction, in order to set up a state of affairs in industry in which harmony did not exist. While I am gratified to find that the hon. Member realises that industrial cooperation is good and that industrial friction is bad, I hope that hon. Members opposite will translate this new conversion into fact. If ever they find themselves in the Opposition again I hope that they will not decide to go back to their former malpractice of endeavouring to stir up discord between employer and worker and of persuading people that industrial friction is good, as they did in former days.
I was interested also in the suggestion made by the hon. Member that we had greater co-operation on the part of science with industry, and that what was needed was more capital expenditure in order to make available to industry the benefits of scientific research. Again, I am glad to find that the hon. Gentleman holds these views. I do not doubt that he has held them for years, but they are comparatively new ideas to some of the hon. 114 Gentlemen who sit with him on those benches. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] To those hon. Members who utter murmurs of dissent I would say that I have always understood from them in the past that the whole of the products of industry belonged to the workers and that anything which was retained in industry was filched from the workers by a kind of robbery. Now they seem to think that it is a good idea that industry should retain profits.
It is rather late in life for hon. Gentlemen opposite to believe that profits are good, but apparently one or two of them are beginning to see the light and to recognise that profits are worth making. It is only out of the profits of industry that the capital required by the Governmet will be ultimately provided, in order to make available for the benefit of both employers and workers the benefits of scientific research. I am glad that conversion is proceeding so effectively among hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I am also glad to find that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, believes in encouraging partnership. I hope that he will join with me in any activity which is possible to protest against those who would seek to narrow the differentials which exist between the labourer and the artisan and to see that, while by all means seeking to lift up the wages of the unskilled worker they are not brought so close to the wages of the skilled worker that all incentive to work harder and apply greater skill is removed. One of the tragedies of the present day is the decline in craftsmanship, and I am glad that the hon. Member and I, in an age when disagreement is so profound, find so many matters on which we can agree.
I agree with him also when he draws attention to the necessity for better organisation in the building of flats and council houses. The hon. Member is right. We cannot go on as we are doing at the moment, expecting to build houses productively when we are giving local authorities instructions to build them by penny numbers. We can only plan building properly if we give local authorities an opportunity to build houses in reasonable quantities and not in some of the "tuppenny ha'penny" lots doled out to them from time to time by the Minister of Health.
115 I now want to make some observations about the Gracious Speech. I would first join in the felicitations which have been offered to the mover and seconder of the Address. The mover of the Address quoted the following from Milton:What is strength without a double store of wisdom?I hope that quotation will sink deep into the minds of hon. Members and I hope that, although they may rejoice in a limited strength in this House, they will seek from time to time to acquire that double store of wisdom which Milton tells us is so essential.
In the Gracious Speech we find a statement to the effect that the Government will continue to give high priority to housing. The operative word is "continue," because there has not been much evidence of their giving the high priority which they now say they propose to continue to give. In the latter half of last year, when devaluation took place and the Government decided to embark on economy measures, housing was one of the things which they slashed in spite of the high priority which they now claim they will continue to give it.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten that Lord Woolton asked us to stop all capital investment in this country, which would have reduced housing to nil, and that he did so in a speech at Manchester in 1947?
§ Mr. McAdden
I have known Lord Woolton for a number of years, and I am sure that he is far too sensible a business man ever to have made a statement such as that.
§ Mr. McAdden
I shall be delighted to see the hon. Gentleman afterwards and to have an opportunity of a conversation with him in which he can endeavour to produce the evidence which he alleges he has.
§ Mr. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Had the hon. Member been a Member of this House and attended the Debate at which devaluation was discussed, he would have 116 heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition say that the cuts which the Government were making were not enough and that instead of thinking in terms of £250 million, the Government should have thought in terms of £500 million. Would not that have further reduced the housing programme?
§ Mr. McAdden
I was not a Member of this House at that time. If I had been I should, of course, have attended the Debate. Nevertheless, I followed the proceedings of the House very carefully in the newspapers, not only in the "Daily Herald" but in other newspapers as well. As a result of so doing I discovered that the Leader of the Opposition, as did every hon. Member on this side of the House, stated that the steps which the Government were proposing to take for the reduction of Government expenditure were insufficient, but he never suggested that the step which they proposed to take in cutting the housing programme was insufficient. Far from it. We have felt for a long while that there are other and very substantial ways in which economies can be effected, and the hon. Gentleman must strain so hard to justify his own party's attitude by trying to bolster it with the support of the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. McAdden
Hon. Members opposite are so incapable of dealing with the situation that they come to me for advice. I am delighted to give it to them and shall so proceed to do when I have finished dealing with a subject which they obviously want me to leave. That is the subject of the housing of the people, and I have no intention of being shifted from it at this stage.
§ Mr. W. T. Williams (Hammersmith, South) rose—
§ Mr. McAdden
No, I cannot give way. I must be fair to those on the opposite side of the House who want to draw the attention of the Government to the large number of things which have been omitted from the Gracious Speech. I want to keep to the question of housing, and I hope I have said sufficient to indicate to the House that high priority has not always been given because, when these cuts were introduced, housing was one of the first things to suffer
§ Mr. Ellis Smith rose—
§ Mr. McAdden
I know that the hon. Gentleman is going to tell me that housing did not suffer but the target did.
§ Mr. McAdden
I do know that, but I am justified in drawing the attention of the House to the word "continue." In fact the Government took steps in the latter half of last year to reduce the number of houses which would be permitted to be built, although it is true that they subsequently, and only subsequent to the General Election—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I could not have been here to listen to the Debate if the General Election had not taken place, and I was here and heard it, so I know it is since the General Election that the Government decided that perhaps they had better try to make up some of the ground they had lost by making up the cut they imposed last year.
A great deal has been said about a target of 300,000 houses and how wrong it is to suggest that such a figure is capable of attainment. One hon. Gentleman opposite hoped that in such a vital matter, full of such tragic human problems as housing, there would be a wicked bid to see who could claim to build the most houses. I am gratified to hear this because I remember that in 1945, when a modest figure was suggested by the Conservative Party of the number of houses which it was hoped could be built in two years, an hon. Gentleman opposite passed some remark about chicken feed. I remember some of the extravagant claims made in the 1945 General Election about what hon. Gentlemen opposite were going to do.
§ Mr. Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that some Conservative local authorities are not even building up to their quotas?
§ Mr. McAdden
With great respect, I can appreciate the desire of hon. Gentlemen opposite that some interruption should take place to prevent me from reminding the House of the promises 118 made by their Ministers in 1945. Nevertheless, I shall return to that observation after I have repeated some of the promises made at that time. Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that the present Minister of Transport said they would build a couple of million houses in a short time.
Surely, he knows that the gentleman who is now no longer the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the housing problem would be dealt with in a fortnight. Surely, these phases have not entirely vanished from the memories of hon. Members opposite. If they have, perhaps the hon. Member will permit me to remind him that no matter whether local authorities, Tory or Socialist, have built, or have failed to build, up to their target, they would never be permitted under the present scheme of things to build more than 200,000 houses a year for the next three years.
It is not a bit of use, therefore, trying to pretend that if only local councils, whatever their political complexion, or even in spite of their lack of it, could build more houses they would be permitted to do so, because that is entirely contrary to the official pronouncements of those on the Government Front Bench, who say that the figure has been fixed at 200,000 for each of the next three years. Indeed, the Prime Minister told us that that figure was fixed because, in considering the number of houses which can be provided, it is necessary to have some regard to other commitments; problems of the export trade must be taken into consideration; hospitals, schools and so on—all sorts of suggestions can be made.
I am delighted to see this conversion to the importance of the export trade, but it was the same Minister of Health, who is responsible for housing and who fixed the target at 200,000 houses a year, who said that exports were the will o' the wisp of the wicked private capitalists. Now we are told that these will o' the wisps have to be taken into consideration in fixing the number of houses which can be built.
We of the Tory Party have been assailed by hon. Members who at present sit on the Government Benches with suggestions that it is extremely wrong of us to talk about a target of 300,000 houses a year. They say that it is impossible, ridiculous, and cannot be done. We have the evidence of at least one prominent 119 trade unionist that it can be done. We have, roughly, the same labour force available today as before the war, when it was building 350,000 houses a year; today, it is building only 200,000. If we could do it before, and if we have the authority of a prominent trade union official that we could do it again, why not let us get on with the job and build the houses which are so essential?
We are also told in the Gracious Speech that the Government are going tomaintain the essentials of their social policy.I am delighted—
§ Mr. Manuel (Central Ayrshire) rose—
§ Mr. McAdden
I am sorry; I have been very generous to hon. Members already. I am grateful for interruptions, but each one has helped me to make a further point, and I must not trespass on the time of Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whose displeasure I should incur if I were to make any further diversions from my speech.
Although the Gracious Speech tells us that it is the intention of the Governmentto ensure as far as possible the stability of costs and prices…that is the wrong way to deal with it. I hope that they will do something to bring down the prices instead of ensuring their present stability. People are entitled to grumble that prices are far too high; they want them brought down. The way in which they could be brought down is not by the repeated parrot cries we hear about more controls. What the Government ought to do is to take the practical step, which is in their power, to bring down the prices of a large number of articles in the way we ourselves have suggested, by reducing, for instance, certain of the rates of Purchase Tax, which would enable prices to be brought down.
There is much more I should like to say, especially with regard to the next paragraph, which says thatIn order to defend full employment, to ensure that the resources of the community are used to best advantage and to avoid inflation, legislation will be introduced…on a permanent basis but subject to appropriate Parliamentary safeguards, powers to regulate production, distribution and consumption and to control prices.120 This phrase about production and distribution has a familiar ring, but the last bit is rather different from the normal form. For years the boys have been saying, "What we want is a system of society—"[Interruption.] I know far more about what hon. Members have been saying than they do themselves. I am drawing the attention of the House to the fact that here we have the old solution of the members of the party in power, that everything from which this country suffers can be cured if only we would entrust to their hands powers to regulate production, distribution and consumption. But we notice that they have the saving phrase, "subject to appropriate Parliamentary safeguards," and in due time we shall probably know what those are, whether it is to be subject to a review every seven years, or something of that description.
I do not know whether anyone has ever tried to run a business without bothering to produce a balance sheet except once in seven years, but if that is the appropriate Parliamentary safeguard which hon. Members opposite have in mind I for one will not be entirely satisfied and hope with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to take some opportunity of drawing the attention of the House to the dissatisfaction I feel. Any hon. Members opposite who knows what Socialism is—some do and some do not—surely knows that whatever else may be alleged against the system of private enterprise, no one with any common sense has ever denied that as a means of producing wealth it is an efficient way of doing the job. As a means of distributing wealth when produced it may leave something to be desired.
Had hon. Members opposite drawn attention to their intention to bring about a more effective distribution of the wealth created by private enterprise, I should have understood the lines on which they were proceeding. But now that it is suggested they should take powers to control distribution as a whole I am bound to be a little suspicious in view of the experience we have had so far of nationalised production of wealth. I should have thought the experience so far gained would have been sufficient to deter hon. Members from wishing to extend further in that direction, but without wearying the House further, I hope we shall take some opportunity at a future 121 date of expressing our dissatisfaction with the proposals as they have been put forward.
My final worn is on the question of ground leases and the law relating to leasehold. I know the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) has been extremely interested in this problem for a long time. It is not something new, but something about which the Government have known ever since 1945, when they had such full and complete power and the hon. Member has been prodding them on the problem from time to time. No doubt they could have introduced necessary legislation, but all the time they have been there with the problem in their minds and the hon. Member continually prodding them, and they now say they are going to pass the buck to someone else because they have not made up their minds what to do. They are going to pass the buck to the existing landlords. It is for them to carry the baby until such time as the Government prepare the legislation they ought to have prepared long ago if the problem is as urgent as the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West has suggested it is.
I am grateful. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for the courtesy with which you have listened to me and for your patience and I hope I have not trespassed on your time unduly. I express the hope that this King's Speech, for which we are all grateful but with the terms of which we are permitted to disagree, may succeed in making clear that there is a very wide divide on this important question of private ownership and individualism and national control such as is advocated and expounded by hon. Members opposite. I am not one who believes that it is the duty of the Stateto regulate production, distribution and consumption,but that it is the State's duty to encourage those capable of producing goods, instead of hampering and restricting them as at present.
§ Mr. Janner
May I ask the hon. Member when he intends to deal with the question of cuts, and who in his party is to deal with what they propose to cut? When are we to know what those cuts are to be?
§ Mr. McAdden
I hope that the hon. Member will acquit me of any desire to try 122 to evade the question. I am prepared to deal with it, but I have no intention or desire to trespass unduly on the time of the House. If the hon. Member wishes to hear my reply to that question, I shall be delighted, with your permission. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to tell him.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. William Elwyn Jones (Conway)
I regret that I cannot emulate the very remarkable facility with which words seem to drop out of the mouth of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden). Nor do I intend to pursue some of the points which he has raised in his speech. I should like to make one comment, however, on the question he raised about housing. On both sides of the House it will be agreed that the housing question is of paramount importance, and we welcome the reference in the Gracious Speech to the matter. But I would make bold to say that some of the comments which fall from hon. Members opposite are somewhat disingenuous. They now say that they intend to make their target 300,000 houses per year. No doubt if that figure could be achieved it would be highly commended on both sides of the House.
I would remind hon. Members opposite, however, that responsible authorities have cast considerable doubt upon the sincerity of the statements made. For example, in a leading article in "The Times" last week a statement was made to the effect that it was highly doubtful whether the target mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition could ever be achieved. I would refer also to a very responsible organ of opinion in the building industry, the "Builder" in which it is stated quite definitely this week that 300,000 houses a year can only be built at a price, that price being to forfeit the right to build hospitals, factories and other essential buildings. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will, therefore, try to bear in mind the comments which have been made upon their statements by very responsible organs of opinion in this country.
I should like to make one comment on the reference by the hon. Member for Southend, East, to the item in the Gracious Speech which refers to leaseholds. Many hon. Members on this side of the House have taken an active 123 part in bringing pressure to bear upon the Government to introduce this legislation. This matter has been canvassed in British politics not for five years, as the hon. Member seems to think, but for 60 years. The right hon. Gentleman who was my predecessor in this House as the Member for Caernarvon Boroughs, in his first election address, made a point of the necessity of introducing legislation to reform the leasehold system. It has taken 60 years for a Government to introduce legislation to remedy this social evil, and it ill becomes hon. Gentlemen opposite to taunt the Government with delay in this matter. It is at least to the Government's credit that they are trying to attempt to remedy this evil. No attempt has been made by any Conservative Government in the past.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
The Landlord and Tenant Act, 1927, is notorious as being quite ineffective. The hon. Member must be well aware from his experience that that Act is a complete dead letter. It is intended to introduce an interim Bill to protect ground lessees of these leases which will run out in the next two or three years. Provision is also being made for business premises. I noticed that that in his speech the Prime Minister referred to shop premises. I hope that legislation will not be confined to shops, but will be extended to the word "business," which is used in the Gracious Speech.
I have promised that I will delay the House only for a very short time, because there are other hon. Members who wish to speak, but I would like to refer to probably the most significant paragraph in the Gracious Speech. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, with a certain amount of political shrewdness and prescience, pinpointed the paragraph dealing with the legislation regarding economic planning as probably the most important paragraph in the Gracious Speech. I am sure that all hon. Members on this side of the House will agree, at least to that extent, with the right hon. Gentleman. One hon. Member on the other side of the House referred to it as being sinister.
124 I wish to address myself to two points on this matter. It seems to me that many of the comments which have fallen from hon. Members on the other side are rather disingenuous and insincere. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not aware that the word "disingenuous" is unparliamentary. I would refer to both the content and the form in which this legislation is proposed. It is quite clear that in the content of this legislation it is intended to make permanent legislation which is now of a temporary character. In the course of the Debate last week on the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite repeatedly said that it was high time that this legislation should be made permanent; and that the temporary character of the present legislation was inimical to good administration. It seems to me that there is a certain measure of unanimity on both sides of the House as to the necessity for some controls. I do not know whether any hon. Gentleman opposite at present denies the necessity for controls. I am assuming, for the purpose of my present argument that that is not so—
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
If the newest hon. Member did deny the necessity of controls all I can do is to commend to him the statement made this afternoon by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). These are the terms in which he referred to the housing question. He said:The target"—that is, the housing target—can be achieved if priorities are properly arranged.There is implicit in that statement, "if priorities are properly arranged," the need for economic planning. I would also commend to the House the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), in his broadcast on Saturday night. Referring, again, to the housing target he said that to reach it some unpleasant decisions would have to be taken and it may well be that a strict system of priorities would have to be laid down. I would ask: Who is to take the decisions? Who is to impose the priorities? Again, I would comment that there is implicit in that statement the necessity for economic planning.
125 No doubt right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been converted to this point of view by the experience of the people of Australia and the United States. Twelve months ago there was returned in Australia a Government pledged to remove all economic controls immediately. They tried, and, in consequence. Australia is now experiencing a high level of inflation. In fact, the price level is increasing at a faster rate than in this country and now the Government of Australia, pledged to remove controls, proposes to re-introduce them.
The same is happening in the United States of America. In recent months President Truman has been compelled by the force of economic circumstances to re-impose a large number of controls which had been abolished in the last three or four years. It seems, therefore, that hon. Gentlemen opposite have been converted in some measure, by the sheer force of circumstances and by the logic of events, to a recognition that there is need for economic planning and control. I assume that the silence with which that statement is received is some form of assent to my proposition.
§ Mr. D. Marshall
I do not wish to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman but I think he said that it could be taken from the Gracious Speech that the idea was to make certain present Measures permanent. Does he include within those Measures Regulation 58A?
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
I am not in a position to anticipate Government legislation. The point I wish to make concerns the general scope of economic control. What will be the precise content of that legislation I am not in a position to say: neither, indeed, is any other Member on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
It seems to me, therefore, that if we accept the need of economic planning, and judging from the statements I have quoted that is accepted, then all that is in question is the scope and extent of the powers which are to be given. What is the extent of the economic powers and controls which are to be given to the Executive? On that point I have one comment, which is that we on this side of the House believe that 126 economic prosperity is one and indivisible. We believe that it is impossible to plan isolated parts of the economy. We can only get true prosperity by having a pattern of economic control and planning. We assert that isolated bits of planning and control, as suggested by hon. Members opposite, is ineffective for the purpose. We can only secure full employment by treating our economy as one and indivisible; and the scope and extent of the controls contemplated in this legislation will be based upon that conception of a general economic plan.
Another matter is the form which this legislation is to take. The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Liberal Party, in a speech on the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, made some comments upon delegated legislation. He seemed to indicate that the growth of delegated legislation was of recent origin. I think that he referred to a matter of 30 years. In point of fact, surbordinate or delegated legislation has been a feature of legislation in this country for 400 years. Even 60 years ago, between 1890 and 1900, on an average approximately 1,000 rules and orders were promulgated every year. The system of delegated legislation is not of recent origin at all. It has been a feature of our legislation for 400 or 500 years. Indeed, during the last century, in a large percentage of Acts of Parliament, Ministers were given power to make rules or orders having the effect of a Statute. As I have said, the average number between the years 1890 and 1900 was about 1,000 a year.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
I understand that last year there were 2,600. The increase, in comparison with the increase in the extent and complexity of our economic and social problems, is not great.
Therefore, I would say that, subject to proper safeguards—and I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that, in the Gracious Speech, emphasis is laid upon Parliamentary safeguards—this system of delegation is one to be commended by this House. The functions of this House are not only legislative. There are other functions; indeed, it may well be that a more important function of this House is as a deliberative and advisory 127 assembly, and that that aspect of the functions of this House is equally as important as the legislative one. If we are to meet the demands of modern economic and social conditions, we can only do so by legislation carefully prepared and giving power to the Executive, subject to proper safeguards, to deal with the details of administration. If we do not accept that proposition, I believe that the alternative will be that this House will be so cluttered up with legislative work that it will have no time left for its other important function as a deliberative assembly.
May I make one further comment? In 1929, the then Labour Government set up a Committee called the Ministers' Powers Committee, which reported in 1932 and 1933. For 10 years, hon. Members of this House, and in particular hon. Members on the Liberal benches, were pressing the then Conservative Government for a Debate on the Report of that Committee, but the Conservative leaders and Conservative Prime Ministers constantly refused to debate this important Committee's Report. It was left to a Labour Government, in 1946 and 1947, to implement some of the most important recommendations in that Report, and hon. Members opposite know that some of the most important of those recommendations suggested that there should be a greater power of scrutiny in this House over Statutory Instruments. In consequence, the Labour Government, in 1946, introduced in the House and passed through all its stages the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946.
Another recommendation to which I would refer was that the private subject should have the right of action against the Crown. Again, that recommendation was implemented by this Administration in 1947, in the Crown Proceedings Act. It ill becomes hon. Members opposite to charge hon. Members on this side of the House with being indifferent to the rights of the subject. We are equally jealous—indeed, more jealous—of the liberties and freedom of the subject than hon. Members opposite.
That concludes all I have to say. I believe that through the instrument of economic planning, subject to proper safeguards and Parliamentary control and supervision, which the political genius of 128 this country will undoubtedly devise, lies the only way in which we shall develop a state of social welfare and social justice which will be an example to the whole world. I believe that it was one of the most distinguished Members of this House—the younger Pitt—who, during the Napoleonic wars, when the people of this country took a more isolationist view of their geographical situation, said:England has saved herself by her exertions and will, I trust, save Europe by her example.I believe that may well be true of this country in our time and in our generation, that we in this country will save ourselves—and have, indeed, saved ourselves—by our exertions, and that by our example of social justice and social welfare we shall save the world as well.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mr. J. R. Bevins (Liverpool, Toxteth)
I wish, very briefly, to comment on two of the observations made in the last hour or so. One was by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland (Mr. Logan) who apparently took exception to the issue of a building licence of quite an important character in the city to which we both belong, to a firm which is identified with the chairman of the Conservative Party. I think the hon. Gentleman ought to face the fact that licences of this sort are the responsibility of the Government Department which issues them, and that it is no use casting innuendoes against the Conservative benches because the Ministry of Works authorises work of a certain kind in the City of Liverpool.
If we want to descend to that level of public debate, it would be equally competent for me to say that two years ago, for example, the Co-operative Wholesale Society in Liverpool also received a licence for very large extensions in that city, but I do not think that it would be quite fair to do so. Having said that, I recognise that the view of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Division on the subject of housing is just as sincere as the view of any other hon. Member of this House. I know he feels very deeply indeed on this subject, as I do myself.
I must say I disliked the expression "insincerity" that fell from the lips of the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. William Elwyn Jones), because, no matter what our differences may be, I am perfectly convinced that there is no hon. 129 Member who would do other than promote the solution of the housing problem as rapidly as possible. In the Gracious Speech, the expression is used:My Government will continue to give high priority to housing.That, of course, is a statement which is just about as vague and nebulous as it could be in the sense that it obviously cannot satisfy anybody. The same applies to the statement which appeared in the election programme of the party opposite in February, when it was said:We must move forward until every family has its own separate house and until every slum has gone.When the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon referred to the intention of the Conservative Party to raise the housing target to 300,000 immediately that party achieved power, he was greeted by derisive laughter from the benches opposite, and during the last hour or so we have heard both from the lips of the hon. Member for Conway and from one or two other hon. Members the old, old question, "If you are going to expand the scope of the housing programme, on what are you going to cut down?" I ask hon. Members opposite to consider this thing apart from political partisanship. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am perfectly prepared to do so myself.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) said in his speech in October last year following devaluation, the Prime Minister came down to the House and announced a cut of £35 million in that part of the capital investment programme which affected the housing sector. It is perfectly true, as was said in the Debate this evening, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) objected that in the global sense the cuts were not sufficient. But there was no suggestion that there should have been any cut at all in the capital investment figure on housing.
The capital investment programme, as far as it affected housing was in fact cut to the extent of £35 million, I think in October of last year. During the early part of this year, when the House had a Debate on the Gracious Speech, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, winding up for His Majesty's Government, taunted hon. Members on this side with their attitude to the size of the housing 130 programme. I invite hon. Members opposite to heed the right hon. Gentleman's words. He said to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition:Did the right hon. Gentleman intend to cut schools, or factories, or power stations, or maternity homes or old people's homes?and in a reference to the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) he said:She did at least, on behalf of her party, face up to the obligation of asking 'If you are going to restore the capital investment programme in respect of housing, what are you going to take that amount from?' She did face up to that, but not a single speaker on the Opposition benches has faced that fact in the whole day."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 863–864.]Then the Minister of Health, having made those two very weighty pronouncements in this House, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech on the Budget used these words:We therefore propose to fix a total for the housing programme upon a more stabilised basis.…and these are the important words—…upon a more stabilised basis to which the rest of the capital investment programme will have to conform."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1950; Vol. 474, c. 51.]Indeed, very shortly afterwards the Minister of Health, who had been taunting these benches with this old hoary argument, came to this House and repeated this very view himself. He said:As my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, we are in fact adjusting the capital investment programme to the 200,000 houses."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1950; Vol. 475, c. 1787.]I confess I do not know whether there is any hon. Member opposite who can tell me, at this juncture, in what sense the capital investment programme was so adjusted, in other words, what cuts were made in other sectors of the capital investment programme when the cut in housing was restored by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That question has never been answered by any Member of His Majesty's Government, nor can it be answered, because I do not believe the decision has ever been made.
In this Debate an hon. Member tried to prod, if I may use the word, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) as to where a Conservative administration would make up for the increased capital cost of another 131 100,000 houses. There is any amount of scope, even in present circumstances, to economise in other sectors of the capital investment programme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which?"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite say, "Which?" I regard housing as priority number one. Taking that view, I am in a position to regard educational expenditure, of a capital nature, as of being of less importance than housing. Do hon. Members opposite agree with that or not? They cannot have it both ways. Either housing is number one priority or it is not.
Do hon. Members opposite seriously say in this House tonight that the capital investment programme of the British electricity industry, which at present is fixed at a figure of about £102 million, cannot be scaled down in order to help the housing programme? In the city of Liverpool, the B.E.A. are proposing to spend a very substantial sum of money on a completely new and, to my mind, completely unnecessary suite of administrative offices. What about capital expenditure on roads, and capital expenditure by the Post Office? We say that if housing is to have No. 1 priority, then let us treat it as such, and let us have the courage to say that there are certain sections of the public economy in which capital cuts could take place.
Let me suppose, however, that it is not possible to cut down in another sphere. I do not believe that, but suppose that to be the case. It is perfectly conceivable, even in present circumstances, for this country to derive far more houses on the basis of the cost that is allocated to housing development.
§ Mr. Manuel
Will the hon. Gentleman not agree that there is a limit to the houses that can be produced within the capacity of the labour available to build them? There is no unemployment in the building operative trade today, so how are we going to jump that 100,000 without a period of training years and a special educational scheme?
§ Mr. Bevins
I hope to say something on that point. It is one of the matters to which I intend to refer. Even if the financial provisions that are available for houses were to be as limited as they are today, I still say that it is possible for more houses to be built, even with those 132 resources; and, in reply to the hon. Gentleman, I should like to quote the words of Sir Luke Fawcett, who is conspicuous on the employees side, when he said some two months ago at a conference which was held in London that the operatives cannot be blamed for the shortage of houses; the serious drawback was the shortage of materials, like bricks, cement and timber. I am quite sure that no hon. Gentleman opposite is going to cavil at that view.
Those of us who come from Merseyside know perfectly well that the tempo of housing development in Merseyside has been enormously retarded by the inability of the local authority to get the necessary stocks of bricks and cement on the building sites. That has not only retarded the tempo of building but has also had the effect of raising building costs.
§ Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Will the hon. Gentleman not agree that the materials which he mentioned were being used for other housing purposes in Liverpool, which got the same priority so far as supplies were concerned?
§ Mr. Bevins
I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that certain cement supplies were going on projects which the Ministry of Works regarded as having high priority, but that does not excuse His Majesty's Government for the dreadful position into which we have got with regard to bricks, where in South Lancashire, as the hon. Member knows, brick works have been closed down during the last two years because the Government's pronouncement on the total size of the building programme has gone in fits and starts. The brick makers have been quite unable to plan for a high priority of housing construction.
There is one further point I wish to put before the House. It is something that has no political bias whatsoever. I believe that both sides of the House realise that today there is considerable under-occupation of house property. The Minister of Health has himself, I believe, referred to this in a recent speech. In my constituency, I could find tomorrow at least 500 elderly men and women occupying houses from anything up to four, five or six rooms. I am equally sure that if these men and women were offered small flats by the local authority, they would be quite prepared to accept them at a 133 lower rent and leave the houses which they at present occupy for habitation by larger families. I do not understand why the Minister of Health has not tackled what is, after all, a very simple question. There is considerable scope here for the alleviation of housing conditions.
During the early part of my remarks I was perhaps a little partisan, but it is the case that leading members of the Government have not always treated the House with the frankness we are entitled to expect on this subject of housing and the capital investment programme. May I conclude with two short quotations? One is a statement made at Margate by a gentleman I know slightly, Mr. John Braddock of Liverpool. In the housing Debate, he said that the Labour Party had lost more Parliamentary and municipal seats over housing than anything else. He went on to add:Unless you face this issue, you deserve to lose every vote in the country.I am bound to say that I think he is wrong in one respect, because I am not one of those who believe that housing is a political issue in the minds of most people. I am quite sure that the majority of our fellow men and women do not regard housing as a political issue. Nevertheless, there it is—the opinion of a man who thinks, at any rate in the city from where I come, that the Labour Party has been severely prejudiced on account of this particular shortcoming.
Later on, towards the closing of the debate at Margate, when the hon. Member for Liverpool Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) had, I gather, a brush with the Minister of Health, the right hon. Gentleman asked her whether unemployment on Merseyside had been a more important problem than housing. The hon. Lady answered "No," and the report goes on to say that the Minister of Health recovered from this little set-back with the shrewd observations that they had to decide whether it was better that people should live longer in overcrowded houses and all be at work, or whether they should all be idle and live in a separate house.
I hope that in the minds of most Members opposite these are not the two alternatives offered to homeless people in the country. I hope that in the course of the next few months Members opposite, instead of sneering at the proposals which 134 have come from this party, will be prepared to examine them objectively and impartially, because, believe me, this is a problem which transcends politics in its humanity.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Paton (Norwich, North)
I have listened to this Debate from the beginning, and it has almost been monopolised by discussions of questions affecting internal policies of all kinds. I make no complaint of that, because these questions are of the very highest importance and have the greatest bearing upon the conditions of our people and our own State. Nevertheless, it is essential that we should at times turn away from our internal matters and take account of problems in different parts of the world. I was very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) turned the Debate away from home politics and fucused attention particularly on some of the problems arising in Korea. I share the view that certain things are happening there that are not only of the greatest importance, but of the very highest urgency.
I want to make it clear that I do not share his pacifist views nor do I join with him in condemning the Government's intervention with the other nations in resisting aggression in Korea. I hold the view that that act which the United Nations had to take was one of great statesmanship and of importance for the future progress of the peoples of the world. If the United Nations had failed to act in Korea, the United Nations as an organisation would have been completely destroyed and broken, and not only that but the establishment of the rule of law between the nations of the world could not have survived a second shattering defeat in a single generation. For these reasons we were justified in the decision we took, and already it is showing important results in the international field.
Whatever differences of opinion there may be among us about many of these issues, there is one part of the Gracious Speech with which every Member of the House will cordially agree, and that is the part which deals with Korea and which welcomes what is hoped will be a speedy ending of the conflict and the lifting of the scourge of war from the Korean people. Not one of us, a few weeks ago, would have believed that victory would be so speedy or so complete as it has proved to be. However, the very speed 135 and completeness of the military operations has brought with it peculiar problems of another kind. They have outpaced completely the power of the United Nations organisation to make the necessary decisions to provide the kind of machinery we need for the settlement and pacification of northern and southern Korea. As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire, a very undesirable state of affairs is arising in which, in defiance of the instructions of the United Nations and of the rule of law, Mr. Syngman Rhee and his Government wish to operate beyond the 38th Parallel, and they persist in making their claim to that territory. He is backed by General MacArthur. When he states an opinion, he is usually, at the same time, expressing a policy which he then proceeds to put into operation.
He has pointed out his belief that after a general election, confined to North Korea, and not in the South, the whole of Korea should be left to the destinies of the Korean people under the control of Mr. Syngman Rhee's Government. Mr. Syngman Rhee has defined the functions of the United Nations in Korea as pacification and unification. Then, he says, they should get out and leave the governing of Korea to himself and his Government. Within the last few days, on 27th October, he has given a telephone interview by transatlantic telephone, in which he indicated quite clearly his state of mind. He said:In the liberated towns and villages in the North, our army and police are establishing security and order. We appointed five Governors for the North Korean provinces at the same time as Governors were appointed for the South. These five Governors and their administrations are going North. We have no intention of imposing these Governors on the people. We say that they are merely temporary. The army and the police will get a consensus of opinion. If these Governors are acceptable to the people they will be formally appointed.That statement was made on 27th October, in defiance of the United Nations' decision that his writ should not run beyond the 38th Parallel. It is obvious that Mr. Syngman Rhee is engaged, no doubt with the sympathy and connivance of General MacArthur, in establishing his regime in North Korea. He has said that these Governors and administrations will not be imposed upon the people, and that the army and the 136 police will obtain a consensus of opinion among the local population. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire has told the House of the graphic report in "The Times" upon the South Korean police in the administration of their functions. I could add to what he has told us the statements of a dozen other reputable correspondents who have described in great detail the utter tyranny, brutality and lawlessness of the police system of South Korea. It is this police system that will obtain a consensus of opinion whether Mr. Syngman Rhee's Governors and administrations are acceptable to the people of the Northern towns and villages.
Of course, what is happening is that Mr. Syngman Rhee is trying to face the United Nations with a fait accompli. He believes that if he manages to establish himself in that Northern territory he will, in the end, be left in possession. I can conceive nothing more disastrous for the credit of the United Nations and for the prospect of peace and stability in Korea than to allow him to get away with this. It must be checked for the credit of United Nations and the hope of pacification and unification of the Korean people. I am aware that Communist Parties throughout the world have focused a great part of their recent propaganda upon the iniquities of Southern Korea, and there is no doubt that many of the things that they have alleged have been grossly exaggerated. We have been allowed to know all that is to be known about the South but very little about the North. Whatever qualifications have to be made, it is established beyond any question that the Government of Mr. Syngman Rhee was corrupt and inefficient and, in its police tyranny, a Government of almost incredible brutality.
It is a Government which is discredited throughout the world. The final verdict on it was given by the people of South Korea themselves because in the recent general election they decisively defeated the Government of Syngman Rhee and it was only because of the constitution adopted by South Korea, on the American model, in which the president is elected for a period of years, independent of the legislature, that Syngman Rhee is still in authority in the south. Even there, as will be seen by the fact that the Government were defeated at the election, his authority is only of a tenuous kind.
137 The opinion has been expressed that Syngman Rhee is an evil man. With two other hon. Members of this House in 1947 I was granted an interview with Syngman Rhee in Seoul. I emerged from that discussion convinced of at least one thing, that while he was a deeply religious and extremely pious man he was living in a state of exaltation which, I was informed by responsible members of the American occupation army, was continuous and permanent. His talk was delivered in the over-tones of a Hebrew prophet.
It was obvious to anyone who had the opportunity of talking with Syngman Rhee that his mind was completely divorced from every aspect of reality. I would not be so cruel as to suggest that he was a psychopathic case, but some people less delicate than I have made that statement. Nevertheless, there was nothing more evident than the fact that here was a man whose mood, manner and spirit, as a result of the conditions of his life and by the change in circumstances which had taken place when he had already reached a very old age, was so affected by circumstances as to be completely incapable of allowing him to exercise any kind of administrative effect at all. That opinion would be shared by the other hon. Members of the House who also met Syngman Rhee. It was the opinion expressed on every hand, and in Seoul it was recognised and understood.
Apart from all other considerations, there is a real necessity for a lead by the United Nations to limit and curb the attempts which are being made by the South Korean Administration to extend its authority across the 38th Parallel, and then to call for new elections, not only for North Korea but for the whole of Korea so that in these changed circumstances and conditions the Korean people may again freely and independently make up their minds. The elections should not only be for representatives to the two houses but also for the presidency, and Syngman Rhee should submit himself with other candidates to the franchise of the people of the whole of Korea.
The United Nations have already decided that when the elections are held they must be supervised by the United Nations. I believe that the supervision should be so extensive as to mean control. It should be of the kind that there 138 was in Greece. There is no doubt that if the elections are not strictly supervised to such an extent that it amounts to control by the United Nations they will be very largely twisted and faked. It is because I want to see the people of North and South Korea joining together in deciding their own destinies freely and independently, uninfluenced by either the Communists or the countries in the West, that I should like to see the United Nations attempt to make the supervision and control effective.
But we must go further. The United Nations has a right and a duty to insist that in this new Korean State, for the second time now established by virtue of the active intervention of the United Nations, the Charter of Human Rights shall not only be accepted by the Korean Government but observed by it. If we can make that demand, which is a just and proper one, then we might have a real hope of getting rid of the incredible tyranny, brutality and corruption of that infamous police force which has been established in South Korea.
Something further will be necessary. There will be great need in South and North Korea, and in the United Korea of the future, not only for the technicians who are already offered but for the services of a large number of trained administrators offered through the United Nations. We continually forget that for 40 years of the Japanese occupation the huge mass of the people were never allowed to exercise the slightest executive power in business or public administration. They were all hewers of wood or drawers of water under the Japanese occupation.
The only Koreans who have had any knowledge or experience of these things are those who have been abroad during that occupation, most of them men with academic training and experience. It is most difficult to find in Korea anything comparable to the mass of men and women who, in this country, are thrown up in scores of thousands, with knowledge of administration and capacity for business. Therefore, I believe that we ought to offer a corps of trained administrators for a period. I know we shall be told that Korean pride will refuse such an offer. I am not so sure. If it is offered in the right spirit I think there are enough Koreans who value the future and the 139 stability of their country to make the offer welcome and its acceptance certain.
I believe that in this United Korea, to which the United Nations, after this conflict is finished, is to give great economic assistance, we have a great opportunity as well as a great problem. We have an opportunity for giving to that war-torn country and distraught people not only a great measure of economic help but a spirit of co-operation and helpfulness which might well be a model to the world for all time of how these things should be done.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)
I started my maiden speech in another Chamber by quoting the text:God is in Heaven and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few.Indeed, I have no other alternative tonight. I would simply direct attention to that part of the Gracious Speech relating to permanent powers of control, subject to Parliamentary safeguards, being put on the Statute Book. I want to know whether this includes the direction of labour, because, if it does, much of the value of the increased choice of a different job which has been made available in South Wales by the diversification of industry will be lost.
William Pitt has been quoted during this Debate, and I ask the House to remember another saying of his when he was told that a certain thing was necessary:Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human liberty. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Sparks.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.