§ Bill, pro forma, read 1ª.9
§ ADDRESS IN REPLY TO HIS MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS SPEECH.
§ The King's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.
THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (EARL RUSSELL)
My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to his gracious Speech from the Throne. The advent to power of a Labour Government has created and is still in course of creating some new precedents. One of these is the appearance of a Minister at the Table to move the Address in place of the more usual practice. As your Lordships know very well the usual practice is for the Address to be moved by one of the younger of your Back Benchers. Well, if your Lordships ask why that course has not been followed on this occasion I have only to invite you to cast your eyes to the Benches behind me. It became necessary therefore to search for the youngest member of the Front Bench. It is obvious that the choice would naturally have fallen upon my noble friend Lord Muir Mackenzie, but for certain reasons the Prime Minister desired that I should, however inadequately, perform that duty which would most properly have fallen upon him.
If we now turn to the most gracious Speech which we have just heard read I would invite your Lordships' attention to the first paragraph. It is one which is not the mere conventional wording of a speech, but which represents matters that we all are interested in and which affect us most deeply. There his gracious Majesty refers to the feelings of sympathy and affection which have been called forth by his illness and to that happy restoration to health to which we can now look forward. If any evidence were wanted of that beyond our own knowledge such evidence would have been supplied yesterday by the streets of London when the King came back to Buckingham Palace. In that return, my Lords, we can all rejoice.
Now I would turn next to the paragraph which deals with the judicial settlement of international disputes, and your Lordships will recall that very recently indeed we had a discussion in 10 this House upon the question whether the Optional Clause should be signed or not. So far as I am concerned, I am very glad to see that this Government have decided to sign the Optional Clause forthwith and to submit these disputes to judicial interpretation and adjustment. It is no use, and I have always felt that it is no use, merely to talk about a desire for peace, unless you show some anxiety to employ the means by which peace can be attained, and we on this Bench think—and I am sure I should not be wrong in believing that many of your Lordships think too—that to ensure peace must require some effort and some sacrifice beyond mere lip service.
The next paragraph refers to the resumption, or the probable resumption, of diplomatic relations with Russia. In our minds, not unnaturally, the circumstances of our previous dealings with Russia are fresh and perhaps somewhat acute. We also recollect the circumstances in which the late Government thought it proper, and indeed necessary, to break off all diplomatic relations with that large and important country and also that large and important customer. We think that it is impossible that a territory of that magnitude and a country of that wealth can be left indefinitely without any diplomatic relations with this country and subject only to communications through indirect channels. I think your Lordships will probably not be surprised to learn that we may find some method soon of restoring normal relations with that country without in any way imperilling the proper conduct of our own affairs in this country.
The most important matter of this Session, the most important issue upon which the General Election was fought, was undoubtedly the question of unemployment. I do not propose, and it would not be proper, to repeat here any of the extreme things that were said, doubtless in the heat of the contest, upon various platforms of whatever Party, but I think we all recognise that to talk about curing unemployment, and to do it, are two very different things. I do not think your Lordships can accuse the Government from any of their official utterances of failing to recognise the magnitude and difficulty of the task that lies before them. All that we can say—all, I think, that we ever have said—is that we are going to put our whole energy 11 and strength into doing what can be done to accomplish the task of reducing unemployment in this country to its lowest possible level. In that effort I am satisfied that we shall have the assistance of all Parties, both here and in another place. There is no person interested in the welfare of his country, there is no person alive to the present situation, who does not realise that all that can be done must be done and that every expedient that is possible must be tried. All that this Government promise is that they will leave no stone unturned, that they will leave no expedient untried, that they will flinch from no necessary expenditure of money if they can indeed succeed in making a useful impression upon this grave question.
As part of their methods the next paragraph refers to various works that can be undertaken and various things that can be done. It speaks, first of all, of the improvement of the means of transport, a matter in which, as your Lordships know, I am and shall be particularly interested. AH these things, and all these works, can be made, and will be made, I hope, useful. How much can be done is always a question of very difficult calculation and very hard work, but your Lordships know very well, I think, that the Committee to which the Prime Minister referred in the speech that he made at the Albert Hall, the Committee of co-ordination between the various Departments, has been set up, is functioning and is working from day to day at the highest pressure that is possible. I can only hope, as I am sure do all of your Lordships, that our efforts may be crowned with at any rate some measure of success.
The next point to which I wish to refer is the paragraph regarding factory legislation. I wonder if the noble Marquess (Lord Salisbury) will forgive me if I remind him of a conversation that we had on this subject about two years ago, when I ventured, perhaps a little unkindly, to point out some of the things that his Government had been able to do and some of the things that they had not been able to do or for which they had not found time. Among those I mentioned the long-overdue new Factory Bill. I said that it had not been passed, and that apparently it would not be passed. The noble Marquess may remember 12 that he challenged me as to how I knew that it would not be passed, and I replied, as of course I could only reply, that I did not know, but that I had a considerable expectation that it would be so. Unfortunately it was so. The late Government did nothing to carry out this, as we think, very urgent work and nothing was done to amend factory legislation which was recognised as requiring amendment so long ago as 1924. This is a matter with which, you will not be surprised to hear, this Government will proceed as soon as possible, and in connection with the same matter your Lordships will, of course, have noticed that we have now ratified, or are ratifying, the Agreement as to hours of work reached at Washington. There are difficulties, as have appeared through discussions in your Lordships' House on that subject. There are some difficulties of detail in that matter, but these, we think, can be overcome, and we feel that an international Eight Hours Agreement is a gesture to the world in defence of the rights of labour that is now considerably overdue and that ought to be made.
Your Lordships, I am sure, will not be sorry to see that an extensive policy of slum clearance is to be undertaken. Slums grow up, we hardly know how, and then their clearance becomes a very expensive matter, and one which is quite apt to cause hardship. With these thick rabbit warrens, where people live huddled together in a condition quite unfit for any human society to live in, it is difficult to find sufficient and proper alternative accommodation before you disturb their burrows. But these slums cannot be allowed to exist. They are a national discredit, and we do not feel, and I doubt whether any of your Lordships feel, that any Government would be justified in failing to take all steps that can be taken to make an end as soon as possible of slums of that kind, dangerous as they are to health, destructive as they are to child life and to the future generations of this country.
The next paragraph states that the whole field of legislation with regard to the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor is to be investigated by a Royal Commission. I know enough about the disputes that have arisen and the differences that exist between people on this very disputed question of liquor legislation 13 and the supply of intoxicating liquor to realise that this is a very large order. I can only say that those who have the courage to take on that job will, I think, find that it will last them some time, and I am not optimistic, from previous experiments that have been made in the same field, that it is very likely that, at the end, they will present a unanimous Report; and unless they do so we are no further with this question. It is a question that does require dealing with, but it is a very difficult question and one upon which the best of people with the best intent ions do not agree, and apparently cannot be brought to agree. I wish the Government well in their undertaking but without, on my part, any undue optimism as to the result.
Then your Lordships will notice—and this is the last paragraph with which I propose to deal—that a measure is to be introduced to remedy the situation created by the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927. This somewhat formal occasion is not a proper one for the use of anything like strong or violent language, and I will therefore merely remind your Lordships of what the debates on that measure, both here and in another place, made abundantly clear—namely, that it is a measure upon which members of my Party have always felt very deeply and felt that grave injustice was done to Labour and to the aims and objects of Labour. Your Lordships will not be surprised to find that at the earliest possible moment legislation will be introduced to remove the injustices that we then thought, and still think, were indicted upon us by a majority which for the moment, perhaps, did not view the situation with the calm that was desirable.
His Majesty's gracious Speech contains in it much matter. Whether all this matter is likely to be dealt with before the end of the Session in 1930 is, I should think, very doubtful. But I am sure of this: in such efforts as the Government make for social amelioration they will have, at any rate, the best consideration of Parties opposite, both here and in another place, and I am sure that there will be no desire to obstruct them in undertaking a task which I think it is the general view that the electorate of this country have desired them to undertake. I can only wish well 14 to this great programme, and I can only assure your Lordships that His Majesty's present Ministers are not going to weary in well doing but are going to use their utmost efforts to achieve the objects which they here profess to desire. It is now only my duty to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign.—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Earl Russell.)
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (EARL DE LA WARR)
My Lords, I beg leave to second the humble Address to His Majesty. The noble Earl who has just sat down has already referred to the fact that we are somewhat unconstitutionally performing backbench work, because the Government are not in possession of a Back Bench. However, as he has already said, as we are both of us young men we do so with gladness and with pride, not altogether unaccompanied by the consciousness that perhaps after a few years spent under His Majesty's present Government there will not be behind us that aching void to which the noble Earl has just referred. It certainly has one advantage, in that it gives us our last chance of speaking as free men. That is the very least that can be allowed—that for the last time during the future long life of this Government we should be allowed to say what we really think of them.
I would like to join with the noble Earl in saying that I believe that on all sides of the House, and in all sections of the nation, there is a genuine feeling of pleasure and delight at the increasingly good news that we receive of His Majesty's health. We are delighted that his period of recuperation on the south coast has been so successful, and we humbly beg to wish His Majesty future good health. During his period of sickness it has been borne in on all of us that he is not regarded just as a remote figure-head of government, but as a personality 15 in whose well-being every man and woman in the whole Empire is most vitally interested.
Not one of us, I think, can read that agreement has been reached with regard to Reparations without feelings of relief. We can only hope that the "complete and definitive settlement" of which the gracious Speech speaks will be carried through to a successful conclusion. If further negotiations are necessary we can, I think, rest assured that they will be carried through in that spirit of consideration for the rights of others coupled with that firm regard for our own interests which is so essential for the handling of this most delicate question. The promise of agreement with the United States of America will be received with gladness throughout the country. Not only have we been brought up to regard the inhabitants of that great Continent as friends and relatives, rather than as potential foes, but they constitute the key to any agreement with the other great naval Powers. We are looking forward to seeing these negotiations carried to such a position that it will shortly be possible to approach those other Powers with a real hope of attaining to something like a substantial form of disarmament. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, whoever they may be, who carry through these negotiations successfully, will go down to history as the greatest statesmen of their age, to whom our sons and our grandsons will look back with reverence and gratitude.
If we turn for a moment to the discussion of home policy, here again we must all agree that the gracious Speech gives us a real message of hope; but the most important proposal, to which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, has already referred, does not come into the gracious Speech, because it has already been carried into effect. My excuse for referring to it is that on its proper functioning depends all the proposals in the gracious Speech for dealing with unemployment. A Cabinet Committee on Unemployment has been appointed whose especial task will be the development of our industrial and our economic life. This Committee, or some Committee very much like it, may very well prove to be the foundation of that economic general staff which Mr. Ramsay MacDonald referred 16 to in his speech at the Albert Hall. If I may use his own words:modelled exactly on the Committee of Imperial Defence which has done so much good work in the defence of this nation.Even under the first year's programme of His Majesty's Government, as outlined in the gracious Speech, an immense amount of public money and energy will have to be expended in the reorganisation, reconditioning and re-equipping of our great staple industries. Hitherto the policy has been in the main to stand by to wait for industry to accomplish the task itself—and to content ourselves with using our public resources for maintaining those who cannot find work. This policy has failed. It has cost us the misery and the degradation of hundreds of thousands, almost of millions, of the best of our workers in this country, and millions, hundreds of millions, of pounds to maintain them in idleness. Since 1921 over £500,000,000 has been so spent. "Work or maintenance" is a good cry, but we must all be thankful that we have at last a Government in power who are prepared to put the emphasis on "work."
The exact form which this economic general staff will take it is impossible to prophesy—time and experience alone will show—but I hope that it will not be limited to politicians and civil servants. They, of course, must form the nucleus of it, but the best brains in all other ranks of life must be brought in and consulted. This Committee will find no shortage of work. On all sides we are surrounded by urgent and pressing problems with which the Minister in charge of a busy Department cannot always find time to deal—problems which require to be dealt with at once, but which also require the most expert and careful consideration. I will give an instance. Mr. McKenna, the Melchett-Turner conference, and the national conference on agriculture that was held a month or two before the General Election have all asked for an inquiry into our present monetary system and its relation to our industrial life. Sir Josiah Stamp has gone so far as to say that, unless the problem of the attainment of a stable unit of currency in purchasing power was solved in the next ten years this country would find itself in the position of a second-rate nation. Without venturing to express an opinion on the merits of this extremely complicated question, 17 surely we must all admit that on such authority as that there is at least a case for inquiry.
Then our railways are out of date, and need reconditioning. Both employers and employees in the iron and steel trade have asked for an inquiry into the state of their industry. In the gracious Speech we say that that inquiry is to be held. The cotton industry is also to be thoroughly examined with a view to helping it out of its present difficulties. The whole system of agricultural marketing, including our methods of importing wheat and meat, require a thorough overhauling: this also is promised in the gracious Speech. The state of the mining industry has brought misery to thousands of homes and devastated whole areas. This cannot be allowed to continue. We are told that His Majesty's Ministers are to deal with this problem. These are just a few of the questions which require consideration. In the solution of some of them some functions may have to be taken over by the nation, some industries, such as the coal mines, may require compulsory organisation. Others may need only a certain amount of assistance, either of consultation or co-ordination of effort, or the offer of facilities for arranging new capital.
These are different problems requiring different solutions, but one central point emerges—not one of these problems can be solved by single Departments working on their own. There must be a central driving force—let us call it the Economic C.I.D.—concentrating on these issues, determining where the national resources and national energies can best be applied, mobilising the best brains of the nation, not only political but financial and industrial, and presenting their final reports to the Cabinet, whose energies are of necessity too dispersed to deal with such matters themselves. The proposals contained in the gracious Speech for inquiries into the iron and steel industry, the cotton trade and the agricultural industry bode well for the future, while the promise of the reorganisation of the mining industry and of the transport system, both road and rail, shows that the Government's policy is to be essentially one of action, and that they intend to use inquiries, not as a means of delaying that action but of promoting it. The whole Speech, if I 18 might venture an humble opinion upon it, shows that blend of courage and considered statesmanship of which this country stands in such vital need to-day. Ill-considered progress, we know, will lead to disaster, but so also, in our opinion, will continued stagnation.
The gracious Speech shows that His Majesty's Government intend to pursue another course. In home affairs it will undertake the progressive development of this great country and Empire, and utilise thoroughly and scientifically all its vast resources both human and material. In foreign affairs it will seek to destroy the lurking and ever-present spectre of war. Only by the reconstruction of our economic life and by establishing such international relations as will enable us to cease from spending over £100,000,000 a year on armaments shall we be able to achieve the end which we have set before us, and which I believe is before every politician in this country—at least I hope it is—of bringing happiness and prosperity into the lives of the ordinary men and women of this country. I beg leave to second the Address.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, before I venture to address a very few words to your Lordships this evening, I think it would be fitting that a word should be said from these Benches as to the great loss which the country has sustained in the death of Lord Rosebery. No doubt, a first reference to that great bereavement would have come more fittingly from the Liberal Benches on my right, but by the accident of the form in which these debates are always arranged, it is my duty to address your Lordships first, and therefore I may be forgiven for saying one word upon this subject. I shall not attempt to repeat all that has been very well said and very well written upon the many-sided brilliance of that great statesman, but what I think would be specially fitting for us to say here is with reference to Lord Rosebery's Parliamentary life. It was wholly passed as a member of your Lordships' House. There have been other such instances, but I do not think that of late years any politician has passed the whole of his political life in the House of Lords and yet risen to the highest eminence of all in the political service of 19 the Crown. He became the Leader of his Party and the Prime Minister of his country. It is not merely historical but historical in a very special sense, because Lord Rosebery's political life practically came to an end some eighteen or twenty years ago, and we are therefore able to contemplate it as from a certain distance.
He was a statesman, an orator, a wit, and possessed of great literary genius. Undoubtedly, speaking in the best and the fullest sense of the word, he was an aristocrat, and an aristocrat, of course, with liberal opinions. I think that without attempting to criticise the century in which we live or to praise it in comparison with the nineteenth century, we must all feel that, whatever be the general level of cultivation prevailing now, there has been a certain cheapening, perhaps an averaging of the standard of cultivation, against which the contemplation of the life and character of this brilliant, cultured, broad-minded, Liberal statesman and aristocrat is very impressive. I think we must all feel whether we agreed or disagreed with him, that his death is a great loss, and we may be glad and grateful that we were witnesses of his high qualities.
I turn to the present discussion. May I first venture very respectfully to congratulate noble Lords who sit upon the Government Bench upon having acquired the great position and responsibilities which they bear. I am sure they will do their utmost for the welfare of the country, according to their lights, and for the proper conduct of the business of your Lordships' House. I should like to say at once that there was nothing in the speeches to which we have just listened with which my friends and myself, indeed all your Lordships, so cordially agreed as their endorsement of the first paragraph of the Speech in which His Majesty expresses himself regarding the restoration of his own health. We all felt it deeply. The whole country was conscious of an overwhelming anxiety whilst the acute illness lasted, and we join, I need not say, with all His Majesty's faithful subjects in profound congratulations to him upon his recovery to health.
Both noble Lords who addressed us referred to the new precedent they have set. Indeed, it is sufficiently startling—the last effort of independence of the 20 junior members of a Government. I think the noble Earl who seconded said it was the last time they were going to tell the whole truth. They told it with great eloquence and great conviction. There was a detachment about the manner in which they approved of the Speech of their political chiefs. I was going to say, criticised it, but I do not think they ever quite ventured to do that. I was waiting for it, but, unfortunately, it did not come. But they certainly set a new precedent. I could not help thinking as I listened to them how unwise they had been in the past in not encouraging the efforts of my noble friends behind me to secure the reform of your Lordships' House. Had they welcomed and forwarded that great effort they would have had behind them—I will not say an overwhelming support, but a very considerable support. Instead of the new appearance of Under-Secretaries in uniform at the Table congratulating the Cabinet upon the Speech We might have been able, as we ought to do, to thank noble Lords for having addressed us for the first time, to hope that they would often take part in our debates and to congratulate your Lordships' House on the acquisition of two valuable speaking members.
What of His Majesty's gracious Speech itself? So far as a great deal of it is concerned there is very little change from the tenour of some paragraphs for which I myself joined in responsibility. All that is said about Reparations, about the evacuation of the Rhineland, about the hope of disarmament and about our relations with America, would have come equally well from the late Government or, indeed, from any responsible British Government. We, of course, respectfully re-echo what is said in those paragraphs. I confess there was a moment during the Recess when I was a little frightened at the way these subjects appeared to be going to be handled. There was a certain rush about the thing. There were night journeys in a great hurry by newly arrived Ambassadors and air journeys by Prime Ministers. There was an atmosphere of hustle; I think the very word was used. I do not think that foreign affairs can be properly conducted in a hustle. I was afraid that fuss was going to We mistaken for efficiency. But I am glad to say that those gloomy anticipations have been laid to rest by the careful 21 study I have given to Ministerial utterances since and, I may say also, to the speeches of the two noble Earls who have just sat down. There has been a great degree of caution in the way they have approached this subject. They are not absolutely confident that the difficulties can all be swept away in a moment. The instant they passed from this Bench to the Government Bench the spirit of Ministerial caution descended upon them. That is what was to be anticipated.
If your Lordships will forgive me, I will not dwell any longer upon the foreign paragraphs of the Speech beyond saying that, as they appear in the Speech, they are hardly in a condition to be discussed. For example, I do not gather from the words of the Speech that the Optional Clause, as it is called, is to be signed without conditions, and until we know what the conditions are it is impossible usefully to discuss the question. Even the sentence about Russia speaks of conditions—"My Government are examining the conditions." That may mean very little or it may mean a great deal. We on this side of the House shall be very much interested in the conditions upon which the Government insist—that the Russian Government shall keep its word when it is given—and what conditions they stipulate for against the anti-social plotting in all parts of His Majesty's Dominions of which we had to complain when we ware in office. These things had better be discussed when the Government reveal the conditions upon which they propose to insist.
I therefore turn to the domestic paragraphs of the gracious Speech. First of all there comes, as the two noble Earls reminded us, the most important part of the Speech, the paragraph about unemployment. There again the spirit of caution prevails. It prevailed in the speeches of the Prime Minister and of the Lord Privy Seal, and was very noticeable in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Russell. I noticed perhaps a little less caution in the Speech of the young seconder. He allowed his imagination to roam a little over what might be possible. There was no sign of that exhilaration of the imagination in Mr. Thomas's speech. On the contrary, he expressly disclaimed any foolish promises or extravagant claims in dealing with this problem. That is the right spirit, 22 of course, in which to approach it. But when I look at the paragraph in the Speech I seem to recognise a good many old friends—the sort of thing that every Government contemplates as a possible method of dealing with unemployment. By all means let the Government try. We wish them well. I need not say that we desire that they should succeed in this tremendous problem. The difficulties are profound, but I cannot say that I share the youthful enthusiasm of the Under-Secretary for War.
Beyond the paragraph about unemployment the, rest of the Speech is mostly very indefinite. There is, indeed, a pledge about the Factories Bill. I am very glad of that. I have always been strongly in favour of the Factories Bill. It is quite true we had not time to pass it. I wish we had had time. I think the noble Karl, Lord Russell, will find in the course of his Ministerial responsibilities that there are a great many things for which he hopes but for which he will not have time; and indeed the greater number of the subjects mentioned in His Majesty's Speech will belong to that category. As to the pledge about enlarging the widow's pension, that, of course, is merely building upon the foundation which the Conservative Government aid. We carried the structure up a very considerable height. We do not say it cannot be improved, and there is nothing on the face of the statement to which we may make any adverse criticism at this moment. With these limited exceptions—even in respect of the Washington Convention the noble Earl recognised the difficulty—all the rest are what may be called tentative questions without answers.
The coal industry is to be the subject of consideration; the steel and cotton trades are to be objects of inquiry. The Slums Bill is evidently, from the terms of the Speech, not ready. Licensing is to have a Royal Commission. The system of insurance is to have a survey. In fact, I was lost in admiration at the varieties of phrase all of which really meant very much the same thing: the process of inquiry—a resource, may I say to the noble Earl, which all Governments adopt when they have not made up their minds. I might ask at this point to what period the Government are looking when these various inquiries are to bear fruit. Are they to bear fruit in the present 23 Session? And upon that, may I ask exactly what the present Session is going to be? Are we going to have a Prorogation in August, or is the Session which now begins to go the year round and not finish until August next year? For the convenience of your Lordships I think this matter should be cleared up at once. Even the reference to the Trade Disputes Act is uncertain. The phrase is "a measure will be introduced"—not necessarily passed into law. Then I should like to ask, what is exactly meant by "the situation created by the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927" which is to be remedied? The situation, as I take it, is that general strikes were made illegal, that intimidation was made very difficult, and that the working class were not to be coerced any longer into contributing to the political levy. That is the situation, as I understand it, created by that Act. Now which of those particular elements in the Act are to be the subject of remedy? I think your Lordships are perhaps entitled to hear that.
The paragraph with regard to the Election will probably attract the largest degree of public notice. What is precisely intended by it? Is it that the Government intend to have an inquiry into Proportional Representation? What is the object of that inquiry? Is it a belated effort to conciliate noble Lords belonging to the Party sitting on my right and their political friends elsewhere? Is it to pave the way for some working alliance under which the ill-furnished majority in another place may be supplied? I think we should like to know what is the genesis and meaning of this paragraph, and also, incidentally, what is implied by a "constitutional democracy." I have been wondering what a democracy would be like which was not constitutional—something not very unlike chaos, as far as I can imagine. Perhaps when the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House comes to reply he will enlighten us as to the true inwardness of this paragraph. I am quite sure that we should have been very much edified if the two noble Earls who have just sat down had exercised that last moment of freedom in order to tell us precisely what was intended.
There is one other point which I must mention which does not appear in the 24 gracious Speech. Your Lordships will remember that the Labour Party, the Socialist Party, is a composite Party. It does not only consist of noble Lords sitting on that Bench and their friends in the House of Commons. There are, besides, Mr. Maxton and his followers. Mr. Maxton has recently reminded the country that it is not true to say that the political field is confined to three Parties. He indicates that there is a fourth Party—a fourth Party which, it is understood, he (Mr. Maxton) represents. They are not, may I say, very cordial supporters of the Government, and I suppose that His Majesty's Ministers thought it necessary to do something to conciliate Mr. Maxton and his friends. All these inquiries, these surveys, these Commissions and so on, are rather cold comfort to the hungry stomach of a true red Socialist politician, and so something must be done.
There is also the policy of the late Government with regard to Poplarism. Nothing is said about that in the gracious Speech, but the Government evidently thought something must be done to conciliate extreme opinion. They have, therefore, superseded the appointed guardians in those places where the scandals took place. I wonder why they did this? It is certainly a pity that they should have felt compelled to do it. I was reading with some interest a newspaper which supports noble Lords opposite, and this is what it says of the condition of things:—In all these unions the state of affairs was admittedly deplorable. West Ham owed the Ministry of Health nearly £2,000,000, the poor rate was 9s. 4d. in the pound, and there were between 15,000 and 16,000 unemployed persons in receipt of outdoor relief. Chester-le-Street and Bedwellty were also in a bankrupt condition, with their out-relief registers swollen past bearing.That was the condition of things. That is the admitted condition of things, or was until the remedy was applied, and yet this newspaper has the hardihood to say that the action of the late Government in reference to these unions was a grave offence to democratic sentiment.
Is it true that the way to study democratic sentiment is to be tender to abuses of this kind? Is it, in the opinion of noble Lords opposite and of their supporters, upon that that democracy depends? Why did they soil the early 25 efforts of their Government by finding as it were some excuse for the iniquities which that remedy of the late Government was designed to put right?—and which was successful, my Lords, for we did put it right. The Minister of Health issued a notice in which he said that these successful appointed guardians were to be superseded by some other gentlemen appointed by the local authorities with nothing like the same assurance for good government which was afforded by the three representatives who were appointed by the late Government. I profoundly regret that the Government should have taken this course. After all, what is there offensive to democratic sentiment that bodies who grossly misused their powers should be superseded? And what is the peculiar virtue in superseding them by others appointed by democratic bodies when the remedy which we applied was making appointments by the greatest of democratic bodies, namely, the Government responsible to the House of Commons? I should like some explanation from the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House as to this unfortunate proceeding. For the rest, we shall watch with interest the development of Socialist policy—not, I am afraid, immediately—but if and when these various inquiries begin to bear fruit they may rely upon it that we shall study with them, as I hope they will study with us, the best interests of the country.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, I should wish my first words this afternoon to be words of hearty association with what has been said from both sides of your Lordships' House regarding the King. The enthusiastic cheers which greeted His Majesty when he drove through the streets of London yesterday were sufficient proof of the high position which he occupies in the hearts of the people of this country, and must, I am sure, have been a matter of great satisfaction to him. May I also say how deeply we have all sympathised with Her Majesty the Queen in her months of anxiety over the health of His Majesty and respectfully ask to be allowed to associate ourselves with her joy in His Majesty's recovery?
I would wish my next words also to be of a personal character. I join with what was said by the noble Marquess with regard to the loss the country has 26 sustained in the death of the Earl of Rosebery. Many of those who sit here constantly remember him in his prime, when his speeches were more eagerly awaited and listened to than perhaps those of any other member of your Lordships' House. He had natural gifts of eloquence and of diction, a magnificent voice, and all these combined to make his speeches probably the most eloquent that any member of your Lordships' House has ever listened to. Beyond that, he had at any rate this to boast, that he had made one speech which had vitally affected the conduct of affairs in this country. Those of your Lordships who remember the speech that he made at Chesterfield, a speech which even now, if only for its diction, is well worth reading, will remember how it induced the Government of the day to agree to come to terms with the Governments in South Africa, and eventually led not only to peace in South Africa, but to the grant of self-government and to the wonderful and inspiring way in which the South African nation joined with the British Empire when the Great War broke out. All this, I think, may be directly traced to the speech that was made by Lord Rosebery upon that occasion.
I think he had two other particular claims upon our respect. Though it was not for long that he occupied the position of Foreign Secretary, it was quite evident from what he said, though he said it only shortly and without any desire to embarrass the Government of the day, that he was well aware of those dangerous tendencies in foreign affairs which eventually led to the Great War. His long continued anxiety for the reform of your Lordships' House, which he, I think, was one of the very first to advocate in this House, is yet another claim upon our respect. If only his wishes had been carried out, the aspect of this House to-day would probably be a very different and a better one.
Turning to a more cheerful subject, still personal, I should like in the first place, if I may, to offer a word of welcome to the noble and learned Lord who sits upon the Woolsack. I am sure that his presence there will be of assistance not only to His Majesty's Government but also to your Lordships, more especially when we come to discuss the difficult problems that are involved in 27 the state of the mining industry. His special knowledge of that subject will be of material assistance to your Lordships' House.
I should also like, if I may, to say a word of welcome to a noble Lord who is not in his place. I refer to Lord Passfield, who for many years has been well known as, I suppose, the greatest authority upon the local government of this country. It may seem to foreign students of the British Constitution something of an anomaly that in those circumstances he should have been chosen to be the Secretary of State for the self-governing Dominions and Colonies of the British Empire, but I do not doubt that he will bring those great qualities of ability to the consideration of their problems that he brought to problems nearer home. For my own part I most heartily welcome his presence in the Government, for he will add one member to that all too small band of life-long Socialists in His Majesty's Government, and he will be able to explain to us those principles and theories of Socialism upon which their Government must be carried on. Indeed I would venture to say that, while I yield to no one in my admiration of the way in which the Address was moved and seconded, I think that your Lordships will generally agree with me in feeling regret that there are not more noble Lords sitting behind the members of His Majesty's Government to expound and to defend, when necessary, the policy of that Government. If the two speeches to which we have listened this afternoon had not the charm of novelty, at any rate they had the charm of brevity and also of the great ability to which we are accustomed in both noble Earls.
I turn from these personal matters to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I would venture to say, in the first place, that it will bring very poor comfort to the extremists who support His Majesty's Government throughout the country. There are, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, a number of things that are going to be considered. German Reparations are going to be considered; conversations have begun with the Ambassador of the United States; we are to consult with the Governments of the Dominions with regard to the Optional Clause; and there are to be communications with the Governments of the Dominions with regard to Russia. So 28 it all goes on. It might almost have been a King's Speech written by a Government whose slogan at the last General Election had been "Safety First." In fact I should have understood this Speech a great deal better if it had emanated from a Party whose slogan had been "Safety First," instead of from a Party which was by way of introducing a series of important reforms. Even the immediate repeal of the Act dealing with mining hours becomes a matter which is under consideration.
There is another matter, one to which I think I have referred whenever I have had the honour of addressing your Lord ships upon a similar occasion: I refer to the evacuation of the Rhineland. I remember speeches in which this has been approved by noble Lords opposite, and yet I find that it is now contingent upon something else which is being considered. Instead of its being proceeded with without delay it is apparently contingent upon what may happen when there has been a conference of the representatives of the Governments concerned upon an entirely different matter—the problem of German Reparations, on which a conference has been lately held at Paris. I turn to the Optional Clause, on which the Dominions are now being consulted. I think that anyone who had studied the speeches made by most of the members of the new Government would have found that action and not inquiry was the course which they were asking the people of this country to endorse. They thought that the time for inquiry had gone by and that the time for action had come. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that this Speech seems to me to be more like a blank cheque, the amount of which, at any rate, is not filled in. We have very small idea of what may be involved in the various measures that are going to be enquired into and studied and which will eventually reach this House in the shape of Bills.
There is one other matter upon which I would venture to ask a question of the noble Lord. I do not know whether he will be able to tell us whether His Majesty's Government have yet been able to come to any conclusion with regard to the application of M. Trotsky to come and live in this country. We have an old tradition of allowing political refugees free access to this country, and a great 29 many of us would be very glad to feel that His Majesty's Government were not going to shrink from any unpopularity which they may incur in this connection. With regard to the paragraph dealing with the United States of America, I am sure that your Lordships will rejoice in the opportunity which His Majesty's Government have of better agreement with the Government of the United States. We are all anxious that they should be successful in their endeavours. They have been very fortunate in the advent of a new Ambassador, and although I confess that my ideas of hospitality would probably have led me to go from Scotland to London instead of asking the Ambassador to come to Scotland to meet me, these things, of course, strike different people in different ways.
I turn to the question of unemployment, which, as more than one noble Lord has said, is one of the chief matters dealt with in His Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne. We are told that schemes are being prepared. That is very interesting. There is one member of the present Government who, in 1923, in his Election address, said that the Labour Party's schemes had been ready since 1921. If they have been ready since 1921, how is it that they still have to be prepared in 1929? I hope that there will be a very short interval before some of these schemes, at any rate, are put before the people of this country, and that we may see some result from all these consultations that are taking place.
One other matter to which I should like to make a passing reference is Safeguarding and the abolition of the Safeguarding Duties. I quite realise that it is impossible, or undesirable, for His Majesty's Government to say anything on this point in the most gracious Speech from the Throne, and that they probably prefer to defer dealing with the matter until the Finance Bill comes up for discussion. Meanwhile, for my own part, would venture to urge His Majesty's Government not to be afraid of dealing drastically with this subject of Protection at the earliest possible opportunity. I hope that they will not think it necessary to allow the Safeguarding Duties to remain for another nine months before dealing with them, but will deal with them immediately. If they need any encouragement, I think they might find 30 it, in Coventry, where, in the centre of the motor industry, the Labour candidate was returned by an overwhelming majority in spite of his being in favour of Free Trade.
I will now turn to a paragraph of which the members of the Government have so far seemed to be unusually shy, and that is the last paragraph in the Speech, gently referred to by the noble Marquess, but which evokes naturally a good deal of interest in my noble friends. I hope to have some assurance from His Majesty's Government that they propose to deal with this matter without delay, and that this mention of an inquiry is not meant to shelve the matter. It was only yesterday that from an organisation with which the noble Lord, the President of the Council, is associated, I got figures which are so remarkable that I venture to quote them. They are figures dealing with Cornwall. In 1924, apparently, the Conservatives with 60,000 votes held five seats, although there were 63,000 votes cast against them, and those who voted against them had no representation. Upon the present occasion, 70,000 votes were given for the Liberal Party, and they obtained five seats. On the other hand, 93,000 votes were given to the other two Parties, neither of whom obtained any representation.
I venture to say that both cases were wrong. In both cases there ought to have been some representation of the minorities. There ought to be representation of the 63,000 votes given to the Conservatives and of the 30,000 votes given to the Labour Party, in Cornwall to-day. It does not seem to me a sufficient answer to say that it does not matter if there are inequalities in one part of the country, because they are redressed by the inequalities in some other part of the country. Two sets of inequalities do not make one equality. Two wrongs never make a right, and therefore, although I hope the Government will not confine their attentions to the question of the actual methods of voting, I hope that they will proceed with this matter without delay. I am encouraged because I know how very much the noble Lord, the President of the Council, has always had this matter at heart. Matters like University representation and plural voting might very 31 well be enquired into at the same time. It is a remarkable fact that the present majority of members in another place are there although more people voted against them in their constituencies than voted for them. It is a remarkable tact, not generally realised, that more than half the members in the House of Commons are minority members and therefore do not entirely represent the wishes of the people of their own constituencies.
That is a travesty of democracy to-day. The last Government were in a minority in the country, although they had an overwhelming majority in another place, and they acted as though their majority in the country was as large as their majority in the House of Commons. On the present occasion His Majesty's Government are equally in a minority in the country, and I am sure that they will not forget that fact. To-day, when the Parliamentary system is crumbling in other countries, it is a dangerous thing that it should become a gamble in this country which Party should secure a majority in another place. It is not right that the system by which members are returned to the Mother of Parliaments should be almost as illogical as the system of gambling at Monte Carlo. It is a danger to democracy, and therefore I hope that His Majesty's Government will proceed without delay in order to see that this particular reform is carried out.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, I have some difficulty in giving any concentration to the criticisms which have been made by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, or by the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp; but before I come to the particular matters which they have criticised or on which they have asked for information, I should like to say one or two words on matters already referred to, which, as Leader of the House, I cannot pass by. I believe everyone in this House—I think it has been shown already and I am sure there is no exception—is joyfully thankful to think that His Majesty the King can look forward with confidence to complete restoration of health. I should like, also, to refer for a moment to a point that has been mentioned—the public outburst of enthusiasm that was shown in a very remarkable way at the entrance of 32 His Majesty into London yesterday. Lord Beauchamp spoke of the anxiety which Her Majesty the Queen must have passed through during the long and serious illness of the King. We feel for that anxiety, and at the same time we are grateful that the Queen was enabled, with all her care and love, to forward the convalescence of the King during the long and serious time of his very dangerous illness. In the last part of this paragraph in the gracious Speech I notice these words:for which the prayers of my people throughout the Empire, with a sympathy and affection which call forth my deepest gratitude, were offered during the months of my long and serious illness.I think if prayers were ever sincerely uttered on an occasion of this kind, they were so uttered by the whole nation and Empire, praying that His Majesty might be completely restored to health.
One word as regards Lord Rosebery. I agree as to the distinction, in some cases unique, which marked the political career of Lord Rosebery. It is also true that that distinction was shown in a remarkable way in the power and eloquence of his speeches which he addressed to this House. I remember on more than one occasion coming to hear him speak. I think it was the noble Earl opposite who referred to the fact that it was specially in his speeches on the possible changes required by this House in order that it should come into line with modern requirements that he used some of the most eloquent passages which are worth reading for all time as political utterances. Only one word more. I cannot help feeling that Lord Rosebery was immensely indebted to Mr. Gladstone for the friendship which he showed to him in his early life, and I think it was a great advantage to Lord Rosebery and to the country as a whole, and to this House, that he spent some of his early years in travelling in America and our Dominions, so that he had personal knowledge of their statesmen and conditions. If your Lordships consider the enormous area of our political interests, we surely ought to encourage, so far as possible, those who are likely to become prominent in the future in our Government to cover a wide range of travel, a great knowledge of actual conditions and a chance of personal intercourse with statesmen elsewhere.
33 It is very difficult to know exactly what the criticism is, but before I come to the one or two points of criticism let me answer two questions which the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, put in no unkindly spirit—I do not suggest, that for one moment—but with a very proper desire to know what the position of the present Government really is as disclosed in the King's Speech. We all know the great interest that the noble Earl has taken in Free Trade and in opposition to the, practice of Safeguarding, which we have always regarded as the insidious introduction in the worst form of a protective system. Of course, it must be known both by the speeches in this House and elsewhere, particularly the speeches of my noble friend Lord Arnold, that we believe in Free Trade, not only as a doctrinaire principle, but as the only principle which should be applied in our country, which is so dependent on international trade. We recognise that it is our interest to keep open the widest possible range of markets throughout the whole sphere of the world. You cannot do that if you begin by giving an example of Protection in this country and advocating the spread of a principle of that kind under the insidious name of Safeguarding.
I thought it was possible that the noble Earl might ask me a question on this subject, and I am prepared to give him what I believe is the carefully prepared answer of the Government on this question. With regard to the existing Safeguarding Duties, we have consistently opposed their imposition, and made it abundantly clear that we should reserve the right to remove them when the practicable opportunity arose. Opposition to Protective Duties has been overwhelmingly expressed by the electorate. If I might pause there for a moment, I agree with what the noble Earl has said on that point, and in no place has that opposition been expressed more than in Coventry, where an overwhelming majority was for the first time obtained by a Labour candidate, Mr. Noel Baker, in spite of his opposing radically and throughout the McKenna Duties which had been claimed as a source of the prosperity of the motor industry in that town. I had the honour not long ago to speak in Coventry and I can assure your Lordships that in that town, where they have had the experience of these Protective Duties, there is the 34 strongest possible feeling that they are not to the advantage of the trade of this country or of the trade in which they are concerned. I attribute to that the remarkable victory of Mr. Noel Baker at the General Election.
It must therefore be understood (I am now reading a passage further on) that we should in no case renew these Duties should they remain in operation till the statutory period expires, and we reserve the right to repeal them at the earliest dates, if it appears practicable and desirable to do so. We realise the inconvenience which changes of tariff policy inflict upon the trades concerned, and in coming to conclusions on this matter we must have regard to this consideration and also to the revenue aspects of the question. I hope that that is a satisfactory answer.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Well, whether it is a satisfactory answer or not, it is certainly a clear answer, given by a Government which believes in the principle of Free Trade, and which is against the continuance of these Safeguarding Duties. It is true enough, that "the evil that men do lives after them." That may be particularly the case in such a matter as this. If you once begin a protective policy, every step you advance in that direction of Safeguarding makes it more difficult without commercial and industrial dislocation to retrace your steps towards the true policy and basis of Free Trade.
The second question which the noble Earl asked me had to do with the last paragraph of the King's Speech. The noble Marquess opposite also referred to the expression "constitutional democracy." In the view of the Government, and certainly in my view as a constitutional lawyer, for what that is worth, this is simply a synonym for our Constitution under existing conditions having regard to what is stated in that paragraph itself:An extended franchise placed in the hands of the whole of My people of adult years the grave responsibility for guarding the well-being of this nation.I should have thought that the words were appropriate and legally applicable, and I am quite certain that no one in this House believes that a phrase of this 35 kind has any reference to a change in the constitutional system under which we are so happily living at the present time.
Then the noble Earl asked me about the proposalto institute an examination of the experiences of the election so that the working of the law relating to parliamentary elections may be brought into conformity with the new conditions.He stated quite rightly that he and I belonged, I think for some time, to an organisation which is not in favour of anything but a system of Proportional Representation. I may remind your Lordships that not so very long ago, by an overwhelming majority in this House, led by Lord Lansdowne, the principle of Proportional Representation was accepted. What happened? It was thrown out by the Liberals, who were then in power in another place. The difficulty—we may just as well face it—is that this cannot merely be discussed as a matter of theory, and whenever it has come to the trial the Party in power and the Party who hope to keep power on the same basis of election as that on which they were elected have always placed themselves on the opposition side. My answer to the noble Earl is that this proposal goes a great deal further, and is intended to go a great deal further, than the question of a mere reform of electoral methods.
The words are of the widest character—…My Government propose to institute an examination of the experiences of the election so that the working of the law relating to parliamentary elections may be brought into conformity with the new conditions.Let me take, as an instance, what to my mind is of the utmost importance, the publicity of the use of Party funds at election time. How often have we tried to bring about a reform of this kind! Your Lordships will know perfectly well that opposition comes from the Party machine, and that it is almost impossible to make way even for the first great step of reform of this character. In my view there is at the present time an enormous amount of what I call the corrupt use of wealth in connection with elections and electoral methods. That is a matter which ought to be most carefully enquired into. I am one of those who think that electoral expenditure should be cut down to a minimum, and that three-fourths of 36 the expenditure which is now incurred, and which used to be incurred when I was involved in electoral contests—we cannot deny it—is in reality rather a source of corruption than of what we desire, political education and political thought. These are matters of the utmost importance. I do not take a light view of any matter which tends to the corruption of our political life and political thought. The noble Marquess opposite will agree with me, I think, that wherever a tendency of that kind can be properly and reasonably checked steps ought to be taken at once to introduce proper measures of reform. It is quite impossible to say anything about its taking place this week or this month, but when the time comes and this inquiry is undertaken, I hope we shall have the support of all persons interested in elections without corruption and without undue expenditure, and that they will back us up in such a measure of electoral reform as is contemplated in this passage of the King's Speech.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I did not say that, and I do not say that. The inquiry will be a wholesale inquiry. I can give no outlook, of course, as to what the result may be. One thing is certain that it will not be an isolated inquiry. An isolated inquiry into one matter of that sort is not the form of inquiry which the Government are contemplating. It is known, I think, and it is no good disguising the fact, that when you look below the surface there is in all Parties considerable difference on the question of Proportional Representation. It is perfectly well known that although you have theoretical perfection there are doubts whether it can be practically applied in a beneficial manner. I am not going into those matters; they are not questions for tonight; but I say that when the inquiry is made it is intended to include all those larger subjects to which I have referred and which, in my opinion, go to the whole basis of maintaining a pure electoral method now that, with adult electoral rights, we are what may be rightly called, I think, a constitutional democracy.
I go back to one or two matters of a more general kind and I hope in dealing 37 with them to meet, as far as I can, the objections and criticisms of the noble Marquess opposite. His criticism, in the first place, as regards the international and foreign policy indicated in the King's Speech, is that it is not carrying matters further than they might be, and ought to be, carried at the present time. The answer to that, I think, is complete. The difference between us is that of actually proceeding to practical methods in order to obtain beneficial results for international peace and good will as against mere conversations and talks which, unless you have the real spirit and desire for peace in the Government, are so apt to come to little or nothing.
Let me deal with the particular paragraphs. Surely, the statement that Reparations will enable the occupying Powers to proceed with the evacuation of the Rhineland has not by any means been a common outlook or a common opinion as between the late Government and ourselves. I recollect pointing out in your Lordships' House that in my view at any rate under the relevant section (Section 431) of the Treaty of Versailles as soon as these matters are settled, apart from negotiations—of course, all this should be done in a conciliatory spirit—the obligation of evacuation arises under the terms of the Treaty itself. That view was violently contested by the then Lord Chancellor. I do not blame any one for holding a different view from that which I am arguing to be the right one upon a point of that kind. Everyone must hold his own view and come to the soundest conclusion he can. But to say that this paragraph is a mere repetition of views which the late Government held is something that, I am bound to say in the most respectful way to the noble Marquess opposite, I cannot agree with for a moment.
On the subject of naval disarmament, the great conference on naval disarmament, when the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, was at Geneva, ended in a tragedy. I do not think that any worse step has ever been taken by any Government if it really desired peace and good will than what happened at Geneva when the attitude of the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, was overthrown. We have never yet had a real explanation of why it was overthrown. Nay, I go much further than that. There is this difference which in a 38 certain sense is all the difference—we believe that a friendly and conciliatory spirit as between the people of the United States and the people of this country is not only of the greatest benefit to the two countries concerned, but should be the real basis for a world peace and for security that in the future our foreign policy should be based not on wars of the past but on peace. You cannot have it unless you have the spirit of peace and the desire to promote the spirit of peace. This is the intention shown in the second paragraph regarding international affairs and foreign policy. There is, of course, this delay, if it can be called delay. I should have thought that the noble Marquess opposite would at once have recognised the justice of the plea, that when we are introducing or seeking to introduce a policy of this kind there is a necessary element of delay and that we want the co-operation and discussion—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I did not criticise the delay for a moment. Nothing was said in my speech about that. I entirely agree with the noble and learned Lord that delay is necessary.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am much obliged to the noble Marquess. I quite readily apologise to him. He will understand that it is rather difficult to bear these matters in mind. I thought he said that there is nothing new and that the delay was the same as would have occurred under other conditions, but I do not want to follow that up any further. As regards the Optional Clause, how often have we pressed our point of view upon that matter from that Bench opposite! We were not a strong Party. I can recall the noble Marquess blaming me for reiterating points in connection with Geneva and foreign policy. I begged him not to charge me with reiteration, but to give his mind to meet and overcome, if he could, the arguments which I had adduced. But we did with constant reiteration press for the Optional Clause, and what happened? Every time there was some excuse, or some suggestion, or some factor brought forward by the Government as a reason for delay. I do not want to go back too far, but those with whom I act now, and with whom I was acting in 1924, did then, through their delegate at Geneva, express their desire for the immediate signature of the 39 Optional Clause, and their desire, so expressed, had the unanimous approval of every delegate of every country represented at Geneva, including our own Dominions and Colonies.
What is to be said on a matter of that kind? I am not going into the question of the policy of the past except in order to illustrate what history means. I do not suggest for a moment that those who acted with the noble Marquess opposite—the great Conservative Party in this country—did ether than support and maintain their own views of what foreign or Geneva policy should be. But what is the result? Here we are, five years after the Labour Party had expressed a desire to sign the Optional Clause, with the unanimous approval of all delegates at Geneva, no further forward than we were then. That, to my mind, is the essence of the difference between the two Parties—if you look at the facts the true essence of the difference. It is not merely delay. There is a large part of the Conservative Party in this country who are not entirely in favour of the influence and authority of the League of Nations, who doubt the wisdom of bringing matters regarding our respective rights with other countries before the authority and jurisdiction of the International Court. That is quite understandable from their point of view, but it is not our view. Our view is that in order to obtain peace you must submit these matters to an impartial tribunal—the best tribunal you can find—and it is only in that way that you will get an independent and fair estimate of the relationships between two countries. As to the paragraph relating to the Soviet, does the noble Marquess opposite think that there is no difference between our policy towards the Soviet Republic and the policy of the Conservative Party?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not say that. I am not sure what the policy of the Government is, but I strongly suspect it is a very different policy from ours.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I think it is, but not in the way the noble Marquess intends to imply. Our view of the big question is that so far as world peace is concerned you must bring Russia into diplomatic and other relationships with the various Powers concerned, and that so long as Russia stands out, or is placed 40 in an isolated position, the prospect of all-round peace and general good will is not easy to obtain. Secondly, I do not think any greater evil can be done to the artisans and working classes of this country in regard to employment than is done by a policy which excludes this country, even to a partial extent, from the great market that Russia should be. I did not think this question would be raised, but there is one figure that is in my mind which I might give. Only the other day I saw that before what we know as the Arcos raid our exports to Russia were a little more than 21 per cent. of their total foreign imports, whereas at the present time they have diminished to 4 per cent. If you want to deal with the question of unemployment, how can you deal with it if you practically boycott and shut yourselves out from a great market of that description? Let me come to the point to which I think the noble Marquess intended to refer when he asked me to consider his view. It was made absolutely clear by the present Prime Minister when he was Prime Minister in 1924, and on many occasions since, that he takes the same view as the politicians on the opposite Bench have taken, that he will not allow any interference—
§ LORD PARMOOR
He has said the same thing since many times. I do not want to go back to that letter. I have often expressed the opinion that it was a gross forgery, and I do not want to go into those matters on this occasion. The Prime Minister has expressed his opinion several times, and expressed it quite as strongly as it has been expressed from the Benches opposite, that he would not allow, under the cover of diplomatic privileges, improper interference with our social life, our social conditions, and our political outlook in this country. I do not see how it could be made clearer than that. As regards the Arcos raid I prefer to say nothing. I have strong views about it, but I do not want to raise unnecessary controversial questions at this stage. I think that it appears quite clear from the King's Speech that we intend a forward, active, practical policy in order to ensure, if possible, a permanency of world peace. I recall one great speech of the father of the noble 41 Marquess, the present Leader of the Opposition, in which he used the expression that Britain's greatest need was peace. He was a great peace Minister. I have often said, that of all the pre-War Ministers I have read about, or have known about, in recent times—I do no I say it in any sense as flattery—infinitely the greatest was the father of the noble Marquess opposite.
He went on to say in the speech to which I am referring that the reason why peace was the greatest object and purpose of his policy was that under our conditions of industrial life as it had developed up to that time he thought war was absolutely disastrous. He thought war was ruinous, and I think he would have confirmed, had it been said in his time, what was said by M. Theunis in the report on World Economics, that great as are the losses of war to an industrial country they are infinitely less than the consequent dislocation which follows for many, many years. We are still suffering from it in this country. It upsets industrial organisation and causes a large amount of misery and unemployment. I do not think—this has been said more than once—that we differ as to the result we want to obtain, but you cannot obtain it by sitting still and not taking active, forward steps. That is what we did in Geneva in 1924, and from the time our proposals of that date were thrown over I do not think any forward movement has been made towards the settlement of this great question. I have dwelt at some length on this because, as your Lordships know, the question of Geneva and of foreign policy has been one of the subjects which I have studied, and because I believe that subject to be the basis of all prosperity and that no unemployment measure is in the least likely to be successful unless first of all we have assured European peace.
I must not detain your Lordships too long, but there are one or two matters which I think I must not neglect to answer. I will take first the question of the reorganisation of the coal industry. Everyone knows, of course, that our unemployment has been largely due to the disasters and difficulties in the coal industry. I do not want to cross-examine the noble Marquess, but I should like to ask whether he assents that the ownership of the minerals should be included 42 in the question of the reorganisation of the coal industry. I think that that matter has been very much misunderstood. Directly anything of this kind is proposed the cry of nationalisation is raised in a form that very often has very little application. What is the truth? The truth is that when this matter was enquired into in 1919 it was not only Mr. Justice Sankey, as he then was, who reported in favour of the State purchase of minerals: every single member of that large Committee reported in the same direction. I have not the names, but I think there were six or seven members who represented what I may call the Conservative industrial element, and amongst them was Sir Arthur Balfour. Everyone of them agreed with that part of the Report which is based on the State purchase of royalties on minerals. Even Sir Arthur Duckham, who went a very little way in some directions, was associated with his colleagues in that matter.
What was the next step? I will ask the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, to consider this. The next step was a Report of the Commission presided over by Sir Herbert Samuel. He was not startled any more than was Sir William Harcourt in the old days by Socialism as a bogey. He had as his colleagues one of the great commercial men of his day, very well known in your Lordships' House, Lord Lawrence of Kingsgate, and Sir William Beveridge, known as a great authority on economics, and Director of the London School of Economics. What did they say was the first step in reorganisation? They reported that in their opinion all royalties must be purchased and should be purchased by the State in order that a new distribution might be made as regards the areas and places in which the coal industry is carried on. I should like to reinforce that by a statement which was given to me the other day from the research department which, starting in 1924, has investigated the physical and chemical analysis of coal for 85 per cent. of the coalfields. The reason the survey has not been completed is not want of funds or of energy, but that there are not enough trained people to carry on the work more quickly. The results they have found really corroborate the view that I have been stating.
43 I asked for the report in the Department and had the actual words given to me. It says:—Science is to-day placing at our service new processes for making the best and most economical use of our national coal resources. But for success they depend increasingly upon the use of the right types of coal. The right types of coal can only be selected in each case by knowledge of the physical and chemical qualities of the individual coal seams. Similarly, the selection of the most appropriate methods of cleaning, grading and blending requires definite technical data about the seams to be used. Thus for the proper development of new technical processes to-day and for more efficient marketing, we need the fullest information about the many coal seams throughout the country.The moral of that is that to make the most of our coal deposits and to work them in the best way you have to consider in great detail their physical and chemical elements and you have to see in what way they can be best worked. I think it stands for commonsense, if I may use the expression, that in the present conditions of our coal industry you ought to have complete freedom by the State purchase of royalties, and you ought to have State freedom to reorganise the industry with one idea only, and that is that the coal may be worked to the greatest benefit and under the best conditions so as to give a fair return both to the worker and the employer.
Then there is the question of factory legislation. Surely that is another illustration of what I have said. When we left office in 1924 a Factories Bill was left complete. I am not sure about this, but I think that in the very first Session the incoming Government expressed their opinion that a Factories Bill was required and they said one would be introduced. Almost a similar statement was made year after year. Yet five years have passed and nothing has been done—five years of statements that factory legislation was necessary and no change made. The noble Marquess says that he and his Party were ready to introduce this factory legislation. Why did they not do it? I do not want to be over-critical—that is not my desire to-night—but what I do wish to say is that this illustrates the substantial difference between us, between what you find in this document and what was characteristic of the policy of the late Government. Here you find a declaration that the thing shall be done and that no 44 longer shall delay be allowed. It is, in my opinion, a policy of courage as against a policy of stagnation. At times like this, when new idealism and new social conditions both at home and abroad have been brought to the front, the only hope is in courageous action and in real belief that the suggested remedies are essential for the prosperity of our country and our industries.
I think there is only one other point upon which I was questioned, and that is the situation created by the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927. I noticed that the noble Marquess stated what appeared to me to be the fallacy of the political standpoint of the Party with which he is concerned. I regard collective bargaining, as it has been called, as the only possible basis in modern times for preserving some elements of individual freedom. I believe that the trade union movement has been a movement without which the workers in our factories would be infinitely worse off than they are now. Why any objection should be raised to trade unionists using their funds in order to bring about political changes I do not know. It is difficult for me to understand the frame of mind in which a suggestion of that kind is made. What else are they to do unless they become revolutionary? My idea of what has been called constitutional democracy is that these reforms can be introduced and carried through the House of Commons, and I go further and say that it is the glory of our system and of our workpeople that they have resorted to these constitutional means as against more violent methods. Why should they not subscribe collectively if they like?
§ LORD PARMOOR
Practically there is a great deal to prevent them. If the noble Marquess takes that view, and I am glad to hear that he does, let him come over and help us by repealing a measure which, in the view of those directly concerned, places a very great difficulty in the way of the subscription of funds for political purposes. I think that I have dealt as fairly as I can with the arguments adduced against the King's Speech.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am much obliged to the noble Marquess; I had forgotten that. As I understand the position—I do not know that I have asked my colleagues the exact question which the noble Marquess has put to me—the Session which has now begun will run right through the year round to August, or whatever the time may be, next year. I think that is what he wished to know. I believe that to be the intention of the present Government, and I think they have formed that intention because they think that in that way there is the best prospect of getting the reforms which they want within a reasonable time. I hope that this will not interfere in any way with your Lordships. I do feel very strongly, standing here, how much we are dependent upon the courtesy of the two Opposition Benches and how much we are indebted to them for what they have done in the past. I am sure that I can appeal to them without fear of the future to make our Constitution work, and work fairly well, in spite of the great disabilities under which the Labour Party suffer in this House.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will bear with me for a few minutes if I draw attention to two matters which may be said to arise out of the sentence in His Majesty's Speech in which reference is made to a scheme—
§ LORD PARMOOR
Might I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? My noble friends think that I have misled Lord Salisbury. I did not mean that we were not going to adjourn for the entire year. I thought that was understood.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I quite understand. In order to be quite clear, perhaps I should say that, of course, there must be an adjournment, no doubt, in the summer and, let us hope, at Christmas too. What the noble and learned Lord intended to convey was that the actual Session will continue without a Prorogation right over this year and right into the summer of next year.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am much obliged. That is what I intended to convey, but my friends thought that I had not made it quite clear.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
I was at the moment craving the indulgence of your Lordships for continuing this debate for a few minutes in order to draw attention to two matters which may be said to arise out of that paragraph in the gracious Speech which refers to a scheme being prepared for, inter alia, the improvement of agriculture. I should like in the first place to express personally—and I cannot help feeling that I shall have the sympathy of a good many of your Lordships—my profound regret that the Ministry of Agriculture is not during the present Session to be represented in this House on the Government Front Bench by an official and salaried representative. I have special reason for drawing your Lordships' attention to this matter. When I was a somewhat active member of the House of Commons prior to the War the position there became so extremely unsatisfactory when the House was dealing with agricultural topics, the sole salaried Minister of Agriculture being in your Lordships' House in the person of the noble Lord who was then described as Lord Carrington, that on behalf of the Central Landowners' Association I was responsible for introducing to the then Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, a very influential deputation representing all Parties in that Parliament begging him to initiate the establishment of two Ministers representing the Ministry of Agriculture, one to sit in the House of Commons and the other in the House of Lords. The result was that it was decided to take that course, and my noble friend Lord Strachie, who was then speaking—I will not say unofficially, but certainly not as a salaried Minister—on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture in the other House, was duly constituted an Under-Secretary of the usual type.
I only want to say that I think that it is unfortunate that, not only on the last occasion when a Labour Government came into office but also on the present occasion, both the official representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture have been placed in the House of Commons. 47 I cannot help thinking that this is to some extent a violation of the pledge, or at any rate of the intention, that was expressed by the then Prime Minister in 1912, and that if, in fact, there are to be schemes for the improvement of agriculture in this country the Ministry of Agriculture will suffer quite materially from not having any proper representative in your Lordships' House. I am sure that the members of the House of Commons will not consider that I am in any way doing them an injustice if I were to suggest that whatever may be the case with other industries in the House of Commons, agriculture is not so well represented in another place, in the matter of real or practical knowledge, as it is in this House.
Now I want to make a very earnest appeal to the noble and learned Lord opposite who now leads your Lordships' House, and to his colleagues, to see if something cannot be done to establish a concordat or agreement between the respective political Parties on the subject of an agricultural policy. It is a matter on which I have had occasion to refer in the past on many occasions, but as a lifelong student of the agricultural industry in this and indeed in other countries, I venture to suggest that unless and until there is something like a national objective in the matter of agriculture in this country, which can only be arrived at as a result of some inter-Party concordat, there is going to be no lasting continuous improvement of the industry for the benefit of all those engaged in it. I only want to add this. During at any rate my somewhat long political career, I am certain there has been no better opportunity than is afforded at the present time for such a concordat being attempted.
The present balance of political Parties favours this effort to a greater extent than has been the case at any time during the last ten or twenty years, and it is worthy of notice that although each Party has what it calls its agricultural programme, I think your Lordships who have studied those programmes will agree that there undoubtedly are more points of contact and fewer of serious difference in those respective agricultural programmes than have existed at any previous time. There is another point. I do not know whether Lord O'Hagan is 48 here, but he is one of those who have been prominent during the last twelve months in making a real effort to bring the various sections of the agricultural community together, with a view of expressing something like agreement as to the fundamentals of agricultural policy. There was a meeting at the Mansion House just before the General Election attended by representatives of all Parties interested in the land of this country, and resolutions were passed which indicated a very considerable degree of unanimity on many of the outstanding, or what used to be outstanding, agricultural controversies.
There is another matter worthy of consideration, and it is this. There is no doubt whatever that urban industries and populations are realising, to a greater extent than ever in recent history, the enormous importance to them of a prosperous agriculture in this country. I do not know whether your Lordships remember what took place two years ago at that very important World Economic Conference. The important point emphasised was what was described as the essential inter-dependence of industry, commerce and agriculture, and that, of course, is an inter-dependence which is being realised not only among other nations of the world but more particularly in this country. It is a realisation of which I think all political Party ought to take advantage. There is one other consideration which arises out of the end of the paragraph which refers to the agricultural industry. We are told thatmeasures are being considered with the object of providing greater opportunities for overseas migration.I do not think there is any one who has studied the question of overseas settlement in our great Dominions, and notably in our Dominion of Canada, but realises that we are not preparing in this country, to any large extent, a population which is really fit for successful settlement overseas.
It must be very disappointing, and it is very disappointing, to those who have had experience of investigating the question of agricultural settlement in our overseas Dominions, to find to what a large extent the successful settlers are of alien races, and, indeed, come from countries like Scandinavia and Czechoslovakia, where the peasant proprietor 49 and the occupying owner on a small scale represents the preponderating system of land cultivation. That system produces a race which is the result of the development of greater self-reliance, resourcefulness and business capacity—a race which provides better settlers than we are able to raise in this country. I only mention that consideration because I am sure that our agricultural policy in the future has got to be framed much more largely with a view to the production of the right kind of settlers. For these and other reasons I make an earnest appeal to the Labour Government to take advantage of the grandest opportunity which has presented itself for years to bring together those interested in agriculture among all Parties, in order to arrive at a national objective in the matter of our most fundamental industry.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.