HC Deb 12 January 1987 vol 108 cc21-31 3.31 pm
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

Since we last met, and in addition to the other sorrows that you have reported to us today, Mr. Speaker, we heard the sad news of the death of Harold Macmillan, the Earl of Stockton. We mourn his loss and send our deepest sympathies to his family.

We pay tribute to his memory and to a life which spanned the transition from empire to Commonwealth and Community: from the Victorian to our present Elizabethan age. His part in that history began in the trenches of the western front in the first world war, where he served with distinction. He was wounded three times, most seriously during the battle of the Somme. His experiences in that war—the slaughter of the trenches and the loss of so many of his friends—imbued him with a profound horror of war which remained with him throughout his life.

In his autobiography, he said of his generation: We almost began to feel a sense of guilt at not having shared the fate of our friends and comrades. We certainly felt an obligation to make some decent use of the life that had been spared to us". The phrase "some decent use" is a characteristic understatement.

Harold Macmillan entered this House as the Member for Stockton, a seat which he held from 1924 to 1945 with a break of only two years—1929 to 1931. His subsequent choice of the title, Earl of Stockton, testifies to the affection and concern he felt for his constituency and its people. The deprivation which he saw there made its mark on him and left him determined to raise the standard of life for all the people of this country. His firm belief that economic freedom is a necessary condition for political freedom is one which he continued to stress throughout his political career.

He became a Minister during the second world war and proved outstandingly successful, first as a junior Minister to Herbert Morrison, for whom he developed a warm regard, and, secondly, as Minister Resident in Algiers, which gave him the ideal opportunity to exercise both his diplomatic and his administrative skills. He became virtually viceroy in the Mediterranean and played a major part in drafting the peace treaty with Italy and in saving Greece from Communism. The late Richard Crossman, who worked for Harold Macmillan at the time, paid him this tribute, describing him as a dashing man of action, self-confidently poised in his behaviour, gambling on his hunches and, when we lost, as we sometimes did, loyal to his subordinates". Having been in office, it was a bitter blow to Harold Macmillan when the Conservative party lost the 1945 election and he lost his seat at Stockton. However, he soon returned as the Member for Bromley and set about framing a political approach which would take this country into the post-war era.

Harold Macmillan returned to office after the Conservative victory in 1951 as Minister for Housing. It was the post which made him a popular and widely acclaimed political personality. He combined a great organising ability with a zest for political communication. His success was a major contribution to the post-war improvement in living standards.

His achievements as Housing Minister were followed later by his subsequent work as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He understood the aspiration of people for a better way of life. Material success was, in Harold Macmillan's view, nothing to be ashamed of. With his characteristic flair for a popular idea, he was responsible for the introduction of premium bonds, which even today, 30 years later, are a part of the lives of millions of people.

When in 1957, after Suez, Harold Macmillan became Prime Minister, his first task was to restore Britain's confidence and standing in the world. He re-established the special relationship with the United States through his close friendships with President Eisenhower and President Kennedy. He made a substantial contribution to the relaxation of tension between the Soviet Union and the West, most notably through his work to achieve the nuclear test ban treaty.

As with so much of his life, he was motivated in the search for peace by his sombre memories from the great war. But he also understood that peace was best served by a strong defence, and at Nassau he negotiated the Polaris agreement which allowed Britain to continue to enjoy the protection of an independent nuclear deterrent.

Under his leadership, withdrawal from empire continued in as orderly and peaceful a way as possible. It was in character that such a radical policy was executed with such shrewd caution. There was no more telling political phrase than "the wind of change", which he pronounced during his African tour in 1960.

Harold Macmillan will also be remembered by his work for European co-operation, and in particular for paving the way for British membership of the European Community. The second world war persuaded him that a new political order was needed in Europe to heal the divisions that had caused the conflicts of 1914 and again of 1939. He saw most clearly that the emergence of Russia and America as global powers required a more unified European voice if her counsel were not to be lost.

As Prime Minister he launched a determined bid to secure British membership of the European Community, and, although his initiative was thwarted by the opposition of President de Gaulle, he nevertheless had the satisfaction of seeing his ambitions fulfilled when my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), as Prime Minister, secured British membership of the Community in 1972.

Harold Macmillan loved this House, and I believe the House returned his affection. There are only a handful now in the House who were Members with him. I recall vividly his dominance in the early years of the 1959 Parliament before illness compelled him to relinquish office in 1963.

In his retirement Harold Macmillan occupied a unique place in the nation's affections. He continued to play his role as Chancellor of the University of Oxford, a position he held for over a quarter of a century, and which gave him immense enjoyment. He wrote an autobiography full of insight into the age in which he had lived. And when, on his 90th birthday, he became the Earl of Stockton he found another public platform from which to stimulate, inspire and not least entertain us.

For over six decades Harold Macmillan served his country, as a man of courage, determination, wit, and compassion. He lived through a period torn by great conflict, political upheaval, social change and technological advance. But always Harold Macmillan kept his eye firmly and positively on the future.

He showed generations to come how to grasp the opportunities of the future, while never forgetting the legacy of the past. As he said on the closing page of the sixth and last volume of his autobiography: Nothing in my long experience or in my observations of the youth of today makes me fear that the people of Britain, in every walk of life, will shrink from the new challenge or fail to rise to the level of events. But to do so they must restore and strengthen the moral and spiritual, as well as the material, base on which they have rested for so many generations through so many troubles and tribulations. His vision of the future tells us as much about the man as it does about our country.

All of us, Mr. Speaker, today feel the greatness of the example set by Harold Macmillan and the corresponding magnitude of the nation's loss.

3.41 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

We pay tribute today to Harold Macmillan, Earl of Stockton, but I am sure that he would have been the last to object to my taking this opportunity to voice also the deep sorrow which Members in all parts of the House feel at the sudden and tragic deaths of two other parliamentarians, Guy Barnett and David Penhaligon, which you, Mr. Speaker, reported earlier. In every case, the deaths of these men diminish us all and we mourn with their families and loved ones.

Lord Stockton is remembered in many ways—as a soldier of great valour; as a scholar; as a business man who had the acumen to recognise a winner and sell Keynes's "General Theory" at a mere 5s., while selling the "Treatise on Money' at 30s. His theatrical abilities are recalled by many, friend and foe alike, with admiration and affection. By a few, they are, inevitably, recalled with an unworthy carping. Assessments of Lord Stockton's political career have also, inevitably, received mixed notices.

I simply say that here in these tributes in this House we assess the whole life of a man of great distinction, and that assessment must produce the conclusion that Harold Macmillan's honourable place in history was secured by the humanity, the breadth of vision and the courage that were his persistent attributes: attributes, indeed, made all the greater because they were continuously applied throughout his lifetime, both as rebel and as ruler. They were the qualities which enabled the product of imperial privilege to become the great decoloniser; the rich man to become the caustic critic of the causes and the results of poverty; the opponent of Communism to become the communicator with the Soviet Union and an architect of the test ban treaty; the angry young man to become, on his elevation to the House of Lords, the astringent old man.

Lord Stockton's bitter experience of the first world war and the ghosts of what Siegfried Sassoon called the unreturning army that was youth haunted him throughout his life. It produced a combination of values which, to his eternal credit, made Harold Macmillan an insistent supporter of a new system of international economic and social order as the alternative to war, and at the very same time such a remorseless opponent of the appeasement of Hitler and Mussolini as to take him into the Labour party Lobby and temporarily away from the Conservative Whip in the confidence motion of June 1936.

Harold Macmillan was obviously steadfast for causes, but for all his commitment, he was, of course, no romantic. He distrusted doctrine. Although he was a man of profound beliefs, he never let them slip into self-righteousness. Indeed, he embodied the great difference between ideals and dogma. He was, throughout his life, continual proof of the distinction that separates the real champion of conviction from the mere purveyor of prejudice.

Despite those virtues—indeed, possibly because of those virtues—Harold Macmillan was not a saintly or a sainted man. His droll dismissive humour, the way in which he turned Edwardian affectation into a wily weapon of politics, his long life in which he made enemies of friends as well as friends of enemies, and his capacity for what even one of his most admiring biographers has called hard ambition and even ruthlessness—all these human favours and frailties prevent any form of canonisation. And, as the Earl of Stockton himself might have said, just as well, too.

In that Macmillanite spirit of kindly candour, I say that death and distance cannot lend sufficient enchantment to alter the view that the period over which Harold Macmillan presided in the 1950s, while certainly and thankfully a period of rising affluence and confidence, was also a time of opportunities missed and of changes avoided. Harold Macmillan was not, of course, solely or even pre-eminently responsible for that, but we cannot but record with frustration the fact that the vigorous and perceptive attacker of the status quo in the 1930s became its emblem for a time in the 1950s, before returning to be its antagonist again in the 1980s.

However, none of that can change the history of a man who, from the furthest and most isolated Back Bench to the foremost high office, was, as the Prime Minister has said, concerned throughout his life with the condition of all of the people. Clearly, from that arose his insistence that one of the main objects of economic policy must be the pursuit of full employment. We pay tribute to him for continuing always to march under those colours. As from the 1930s to the 1960s he advocated and—in many ways, more important—administered for full employment, so in recent times in his speeches in the House of Lords he restated the case made 50 years before for positive policies and action to take proper advantage of the possibilities of the revolutions in technology.

In the words of his "The Middle Way" Harold Macmillan believed: The important thing is that society should be organised in such a way as to bring the economic system under conscious direction and control and that the increased production should be directed towards raising the standard of comfort and security of all of the people. In his last speech on affairs before the Munich crisis in 1938 he drew attention to the devastating effects of social division. In probably one of the most brilliant and moving of the many contributions that he made in the House he said: in these home problems, it is not a question of mere geographical distance, but of the wide chasm made by the lack of imagination on the part of a portion of the people who have never been able really to have brought home to them…the problems that confront large masses of our fellow-countrymen. Those of us who attended Church last Sunday will have heard read, in the Gospel for the day, the…words of the parable of the Dives and Lazareth—terrifying words—… 'Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed.'. He went on to speak of what he called That great imaginative gulf, that incapacity to bring home to people the true realities of what is going on in this country in the 20th century. He defined that as one of the central problems confronting the Government of the day.

The fervent enemy of appeasement concluded that speech with an assertion that showed both boldness and sagacity in that context and presented a continuing challenge to politicians of all times. He said: The House of Commons is pressing…the Government day by day to a solution of the problems of rearmament and the dangers that may face us from foreign invasion. I wish the House would show the same enthusiasm to solve the problems of protecting the people against the insecurities of peace."—[Official Report, 24 June 1938; Vol. 337, c. 1439–40.] I quote from that speech, for it appears to me that it crystallises so much of what Harold Macmillan sought to stand for throughout his life: the closing of gulfs in the standards of living, and understanding between areas, classes, systems and countries. Not, for him, an invertebrate consensus, but the toughest and most central demand of democratic politics.

Throughout his life Harold Macmillan worked and spoke in the knowledge that from the village, to the nation, to the global community, the great task of us all is to ensure. in his words, that the machines which enable men to conquer scarcity never become those that plunge him deeper into poverty or indeed into conflict.

That is the man to whom we pay tribute: one who believed and sought to show by active application that the great purpose of intellect, the imagination of which he spoke, was to use intelligence and strength for the humane and productive solution of practical problems. For that service, and the effort which throughout his lifetime he put into trying to meet his duties, we honour him without restraint.

3.50 pm
Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

Each of our political movements has lost, during the recess, colleagues whom we will always remember with affection and whose contributions to parliamentary democracy we will sorely miss.

On behalf of the Liberal party I join the other leaders in paying tribute today to Harold Macmillan. Interestingly, in his younger years he was greatly influenced by the then Liberal leader, David Lloyd George, as could be seen from his involvement with Liberals in the organisation known as Political and Economic Planning, in the contents of "The Next Five Years" in 1935 and in "The Middle Way" in 1938.

That early experience did not, during his later period as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party, cause him to take a kindly view of the Liberal party. One of Harold Macmillan's characteristics was a maliciously effective sense of humour, and in 1961, in a vain attempt to stem the Orpington tide, he declared: As usual the Liberals offer a mixture of sound and original ideas. Unfortunately, none of the sound ideas is original and none of the original ideas is sound. The mutual antipathy between the Liberals and Harold Macmillan's party in the 1960s in no way diminishes our respect for his very considerable achievments. His deep concern for housing and employment, stemming from his early years as the hon. Member for Stockton, his restoration of Anglo-American relations after the disaster of Suez, his conduct of the transition to independence in Africa, and especially his unheeded warnings in South Africa of the wind of change, his steps towards European unity and his constructive dialogue with Moscow, which helped to secure the nuclear test ban treaty, mean that he will be remembered and appreciated beyond party boundaries.

Like most hon. Members now, I never served with Harold Macmillan in the House and my only personal recollections are of occasional meetings outside Parliament: that shuffling gait, the deliberately hesitant, pausing manner, the myopic glance at the notes, all leading to entertaining, moving and highly effective speeches. There can be few of us who can hope to make, beyond the age of 90, such major contributions to the nation's debates. His was a truly remarkable career, and we warmly salute it.

3.53 pm
Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leaders of the Labour and Liberal parties have eloquently described the life and work of Harold Macmillan. It will be for history eventually to form a judgment of his policies and achievements, although already the rather superficial judgments that were made shortly after his resignation are, 20 years later, being revised.

I should like to add my tribute, both as one who served him as Chief Whip throughout his first Administration and as a colleague in his Cabinet throughout the second, and as a colleague and a friend. I think that we would want to pay tribute to Harold Macmillan from the point of view that we all have in common, which is that of a parliamentarian. It was Parliament, and especially the House of Commons, which was the main interest in his life for more than 60 years. That was so from the time shortly after the end of the first world war when he came into the House as the Member for Stockton. I do not think that anyone ever knew the House more intimately than he did. After all, he was on the Back Benches for 14 years before he received his first appointment as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. That gave him every opportunity of getting to know the attitudes and changing currents with which we are familiar. For him, the Smoke Room was one of the most likeable clubs of those to which he belonged. Throughout his time, especially while Prime Minister, he never ceased to be there in the evenings at a time when the Smoke Room was used a great deal by all hon. Members and to keep in touch with them.

Harold Macmillan believed very much in working with the House in order to achieve his own purposes. As one or two here know, he did not find it easy to address the House and to try to influence it. To begin with, he found television a horrifying venture, and he was never really happy with the impersonality of radio. It was only later, on the great occasions, that he felt at home addressing conferences. It was very late in his life when he began to establish the reputation which he now has of a television performer. All these arts had to be developed, and he did so by getting to know the House better and better.

As Chief Whip, I remember reporting to Harold Macmillan as usual at 10 o'clock in the morning about events in the House the night before and the troubles over an amendment, about which discussion had still not ceased. He said, "Ask the Minister just to let this go. It will not be the end of the world if we accept the amendment." I was looking rather blank, when he said, "Well, yes, tell him, you know, that often you please an awful lot of people if you give them what they want." That is not always the sort of thing that a Chief Whip likes to hear, but when it comes it is wise advice.

Harold Macmillan had an innate sense of history as well as the experience of all his years in politics. This enabled him to put every contemporary problem into a historical context. He had a creative mind which enabled him to find a solution to so many of the contemporary problems with which he had to deal. That was how he came to handle the economic problems of his time, how he foresaw the era of the great powers, how he recognised that the days of colonial powers were over and how he saw that our future lay in Europe. That was how he came to handle the innumerable problems of those years and to deal with them as a member of the Cabinet and as Prime Minister. If he had been asked, "How would you most like to be remembered?", he would have said, "As a House of Commons man."

3.58 pm
Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

It is customary on these occasions for the Father of the House to say some words supposedly on behalf of all Back Benchers, but I do not presume to do that on this occasion. I wish, however, to add a short tribute.

I first heard Harold Macmillan speak in 1936 at a conference of trade unions. I listened to him say—it was his constant theme thereafter—that we should deal with unemployment and that there was no moral case for sitting back and allowing the market to take charge of our lives. That was a theme which he pursued throughout his life. He was still saying the same thing 50 years later, and saying it with the sincerity that he had displayed in 1936.

The Prime Minister referred to the wind of change speech. I have thought more than once about why he made it, and perhaps in some ways it can be traced back to his own history and that of his firm. Macmillan, the publisher, established its firm in India more than 100 years ago.

It is not always remembered that Harold Macmillan had a special interest in and concern about India. Indeed, when there were some divisions in the Conservative party in 1947 during the Second Reading debate on the Indian Independence Bill, Harold Macmillan on behalf of the Conservative party, which was then in Opposition, expressed support for India's independence. I have sometimes thought of his close connection with India. He returned to India more than once and was delighted when he was made a patron of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. That honour may have led him to think about Africa and to make his wind of change speech there some 20 years later, perhaps inspired by what he knew of and believed and cared about in India.

Others have referred to all Harold Macmillan's achievements. I do not intend to do that. I do not think that he would have wanted this to be an occasion of mourning. He had too much, as has been said, of an impish sense of humour for that. The other day, the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) reminded me of a hilarious evening when he telephoned me and asked to have dinner with Harold Macmillan because he wanted somebody to gossip to him. The jokes that we heard—I dare not tell some of them!

I recall an occasion when the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was present, together with Lord Wilson, Lord Home and myself. Harold Macmillan was due to address an audience. He said that he wondered what was the proper collective noun for a group of former Prime Ministers. After all, every group has its own collective noun—a flock of sheep, a herd of cows, a pride of lions. After a typical pause, he said, "Perhaps it should be a lack of principles."

The only other story that I wish to tell concerns an occasion on which he said to me, again in another enjoyable conversation, "Do you know, I think you and I ought to form the next Cabinet together." I said, "I think that that would be a good idea. I am sure that we could do better than the present lot." He said, "Yes, perhaps we could." Here I utter a word of advice to the Prime Minister. He went on to say, "But we cannot have too many young men in it. They will only try to push us out."

Harold Macmillan, with all his great talents, enjoyment and mastery of this House, would not have wanted us to be too solemn this afternoon. We celebrate his great achievements as a parliamentarian. He was a master parliamentarian in every way. He was a man of great sincerity. He had certain principles to which he stuck, whether they were popular or unpopular. As has been said, he was a man of the House of Commons. We should pay tribute to the fact that the House of Commons attracted men of his stature, and I believe that today it is continuing to attract men and women of similar stature to continue to continue in that way.

4.3 pm

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

We remember a remarkable man. We have heard from people who were hon. Members with Harold Macmillan and knew him for many years. For my generation of New Statesmen readers, brought up on a weekly Vicky cartoon, he was Supermac—a lovable old rogue. I remember his characteristics in that period as Prime Minister. He was the first Prime Minister to try to make Britain a member of the European Community, and the first Prime Minister to understand that we must rid ourselves of our colonial responsibilities in Africa. Perhaps also for a generation in which Suez was a dramatic event, it is wise to remember the man who was first in and first out.

I shall add no more than the words that he himself used in another place—words which we did not hear, but words upon which we could well reflect—in his remarkable speech in January 1985. He concluded by saying: It is for the next generation—it will not be for me but for my successors—to make the decision. Should we just slowly and majestically sink—not perhaps drastically or tragically, but go slowly down like a great ship—or shall we make a new determined and united effort, putting, as far as we can the party aside? There must be parties, of course, but there can he co-operation and even national governments. Let us do the latter and then historians of the future will not describe the ending of this century as the beginning of the decline and fall of Britain but as the beginning of the new and glorious renaissance."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 23 January 1985; Vol. 459, c 254.]

4.5 pm

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

The Macmillan family and its widespread connections are not as broadly represented in the House as they were when I first became an hon. Member. On behalf of the family, I hope that I may he allowed to express what I am sure is the appreciation of all of us for the generous tribute that has been paid this afternoon to the memory of Harold Macmillan. It would not be seemly for me to add to it. He was my friend before I joined his family. He taught me much of what I have learnt of the statecraft of Whitehall and Westminster. I know well that, beneath all the histrionics, he served two great goals all his life: the betterment of the condition of the people and the maintenance and possible extension of Britain's influence in the world. I am grateful to the House for letting me add my tribute to those that have already been paid.

4.6 pm

Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Stockton, South)

I add my tribute to the memory of the Earl of Stockton from the citizens of that town, whom I now have the honour to represent in this place. I do so as a citizen of Stockton who, for the first five years of his life, had Harold Macmillan as his Member of Parliament, although I must say that the memory is not clear. I remember also my parents speaking about Harold Macmillan and, indeed—reference must be made to this—about Lady Dorothy, who took the hearts of the people of Stockton in a way that was reflected in Harold Macmillan's later life.

It is a testament to the affection and concern that Harold Macmillan learnt and showed in Stockton that he chose the Earldom for his title when he went to the other place. I am sure that the town of Stockton will remember him in the same way. The name will permanently be remembered and will remain part of his family. I have no doubt that many people in Stockton will suffer a great loss now that he has gone and is not carrying forward the flame that he picked up in Stockton—his compassion for the unemployed, which came through so strongly in his later life.

4.8 pm

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

I join my parliamentary colleagues, both friend and foe in political terms, in paying tribute to the life of public service dedicated by my predecessor as the hon. Member for Stockton. I did not have the privilege of meeting him personally, but I know very well many people, from all ranks and from all parties, who did. Without exception, they call him to mind with genuine warmth and with real affection. Even his most implacable political enemies from those days pay tribute to his commitment and to what the noble Lord Wilson of Rievaulx has described as his "dedicated professionalism". Lord Wilson also conferred upon him what he called "a profound sense of history." Such an observation was so aptly precise.

Although we all know how unkind a commentator history can be in looking back over the way in which we conduct our affairs, it was that very attribute—his profound sense of history—that enabled the noble Earl to pass such telling comment in recent times on measures being implemented nationally. The last year must have been bitterly ironic for the man who, 51 years before, had fought a general election on his own personal manifesto, calling for pubic control of transport and gas.

Indeed, some of my colleagues may be as surprised as I was to read of the Earl of Stockton's rebellious spirit and independent judgment, to learn of his single-minded approach to the choice of Division Lobby on certain issues, and to learn that it was he who, in his book "The Middle Way", written as early as 1928, described the stock exchange as "a casino"—a phrase used frequently by some of my hon. Friends even today, and almost shanghaied by the leader of a certain party over Christmas.

Harold Wilson, in his book "A Prime Minister on Prime Ministers", referred to Harold Macmillan as a Tory democrat, and asserted: Macmillan's Tory democracy was based on those he came to know and love in Stockton, the workers—and, in the years he represented Stockton, the unemployed. If one compares the present with the past, little, in those specific terms, has changed, save that the lesson that I learn from those conditions of deprivation is a Socialist lesson. The common ground that remains is that of compassion and democracy.

The individual contribution of that one man to the world of politics, national and global, was quite prodigious, equalled by fewer than a handful of Britons in this century. Would that we were all able, regardless of party, to emulate his commitment, match his dedication and, above all, reflect his sensitivity and compassion.

4.11 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As one of those who, as the Prime Minister put it, is a member of the small hand of those who were in the House with Harold Macmillan, I should like to refer briefly to his kindness and thoughtfulness to all young Members of Parliament of all parties, not least to opponents. On 4 July 1963 I asked him if he will ensure that legislation presented to this House is not drafted in obscure language. Harold Macmillan replied: I have every sympathy with the hon. Member's objective. However, I am afraid that, in order to achieve precision in legislation which is complex and often technical, it is not always possible to avoid an impression of obscurity. I then asked briefly: I accept the fact that the Parliamentary draftsmen must try to prevent those who would pretend to misunderstand from doing so, but is it not also important that we laity should understand legislation? This is a vintage and skilful Harold Macmillan reply: I know that this is a difficult problem. I would remind the House of the very wise words of Sir James Stephen, one of our greatest authorities, who pointed out that since legislation is often the subject of litigation it is absolutely necessary not only that it should appear to be simple to those who read it in good faith, but actually precise. That is a very difficult art. Many things are simple. Let us take the sentence: 'When John met his uncle in the street he took off his hat.' That is a clear sentence, but it is capable of at least six different meanings. The point about legislation is that the courts have to interpret it in litigation based upon it, and it is therefore essential that it should be not so much simple as precise."—[Official Report, 4 July 1963; Vol. 680, c 583–84.] That was all, incidentally, in Prime Minister's Question Time.

The following week I heard an authoritative voice behind me in a Corridor in the House say, "Dalyell, come here." That was the Prime Minister. He said, "I was not unsympathetic towards your question, so I shall arrange for the chief parliamentary draftsman to show you exactly why I gave the answer that I did." I was a very junior Member of the House, and the following day Sir Noel Hutton appeared, on Prime Ministerial instruction. He was an extremely distinguished QC, and he came armed with endless volumes. I have not been taken apart like that since I was a first-year student—s in the nicest way.

The point is that the Prime Minister should go to such trouble for a young opponent to whom he owed absolutely nothing and who had been an embarrassment to him in the West Lothian by-election before the night of the long knives, in which his party lost its deposit in our rolling countryside. It was art act of generosity that is not forgotten.

The Prime Minister referred to Dick Crossman. I was the latter's PPS. Crossman always said that when he was extremely ill Macmillan in North Africa made arrangements that saved his life. I am sure that there are many examples of the personal kindnesses of this man.