HL Deb 08 November 1938 vol 111 cc5-33

The King's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.


My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I should like to convey some impression of my feelings of deep appreciation that I should have been entrusted with this Motion. As a junior member of your Lordships' House I have frequently listened with great interest to your Lordships' debates and I feel I have learned a great deal from my attendance in this House, but I never expected that I should be so honoured as to have been asked to undertake this responsibility, and I crave that indulgence which I trust those of your Lordships who, like the noble Earl who leads the House, have shared the same experience, will feel generous enough to grant to me.

We have been informed that His Majesty has invited the President of the French Republic to pay a visit to England in the spring of next year. This will afford the people of this country a most welcome opportunity of returning the hospitality and warm-hearted friendship with which Their Majesties were received in France last summer. It will also give proof of the determination of His Majesty's Government to maintain the closest relationship with France and to let nothing divide us from that great nation whose friendship was consecrated by the common sacrifices of the Great War. I feel that in this connection your Lordships would wish to join with me in sending our respectful congratulations to Their Majesties on the success of that visit, which success we appreciate was largely due to the personality and charm of Their Majesties, which won for them the respect and affection of the French people. His Majesty has told us that he has invited the King of Rumania to visit him this month. This visit from the King of a country with which we were allied in the Great War will serve to strengthen the bonds of interest between this country and that part of Europe.

His Majesty has declared his intention to visit his great Dominion of Canada with the Queen. This is surely a venture which shows how great is His Majesty's interest in his Dominions and his devotion to his subjects in the New World. Since the passing of the Statute of Westminster, which set the seal upon the attainment of full status by the Dominions, His Majesty is as much King of Canada as of the United Kingdom, and it will be a momentous occasion to the Canadian people to welcome the first British King who has ever set foot on their shores. The inspiring and unselfish devotion of Their Majesties and the pleasure that they invariably show in the discharge of the exacting duties of their high office have won for them not only the admiration of the people throughout the Empire but also their true and lasting devotion.

When looking back to the early days of British supremacy in Canada, you are somewhat struck by the fact that, while the two great rival nations in Europe at that time—France and ourselves—were taking part in a series of conflicts, which culminated in the fall of Napoleon, the two races on the other side of the Atlantic were already on the way to a complete settlement of their differences, had begun to adjust themselves to circumstances and were living in peaceful relations with each other. Thus they laid the foundation of the Dominion of Canada. The announcement of this visit, followed by one to the United States of America, will give immense satisfaction to those who share the view that the continued enjoyment of freedom and civil liberty in the world depends to a great extent upon the closest understanding between the two great English-speaking democracies of the world. The unity of aim between ourselves and the United States presented itself to the world in the recent crisis a few weeks ago, and the visit of His Majesty will be evidence to every nation of how strong and sincere is that understanding between the Old World and the New.

Your Lordships may not think it out of place if I touch on the international difficulties during the past few months, which culminated in the Munich Agreement, bringing relief to us all, if not entire satisfaction to those of every opinion. Almost every nation has voiced its appreciation of the Prime Minister's action, and the whole world owes him a debt for his personal achievement. He alone, a short month ago, saved this country, this Empire and the whole world from the supreme calamity of war. The critics of his policy at that time implied, to my mind, no alternative but war, and the apprehension with which that contingency was viewed was by no means confined to this country. The generation to which I belong has not had to face the horrors of war at first hand, but even without a very vivid imagination, the contemplation of the imminence of war is such as to give a sense of complete insecurity to our national existence, and it is this sense of complete insecurity which stultifies so many of our aspirations towards the advancement of our civilisation, and destroys so much of our creative capacity. As will generally be accepted, fear is the forerunner of enmity, and until this distrust which so widely exists between the nations of the world can be removed, the danger to peace will continue.

There does not seem to me to be any intrinsic reason why a democracy such as ours cannot freely and confidently hold friendly relations with the so-called totalitarian forms of government without at the same time endangering our own traditional freedom. No doctrine could be more dangerous to the cause of international peace, and fortunately no doctrine could be less soundly based in history. Those who argue thus surely forget that we entered the Great War allied on the one hand with a democracy, that of Republican France, and on the other with the autocracy of Tsarist Russia. The fact that, as a result of Mr. Chamberlain's endeavours, a mutual response and understanding between the Governments of Germany and this country can be arrived at despite their differences in form, strikes me with a sense of greater hope for the future than I have felt for some time past.

This policy also implies a renewal of happy relations with Italy, a country with whom we have been on terms of alliance and close friendship. The proposed bringing into force of the Anglo-Italian Agreement should be the best guarantee for peace in the Meriterranean, which, as well as being supremely important to the European Powers on its coasts, is no less vitally necessary to our Empire in the East. At the same time, in considering the conditions under which this Agreement is to be brought into force, we must not lose sight of the terms of the Agreement itself. However anxious we may be to renew active co-operation with our old ally, we must not lose the opportunity of a possible settlement of all outstanding questions. In particular, we share with other European Powers the responsibility of using our influence towards bringing a peaceful solution to the Spanish conflict.

In the bringing into force of this Agreement, I see evidence of the intention of the Prime Minister and of the noble Viscount, the Foreign Secretary, who adorns your Lordships' House, to forward their foreign policy along the road of international appeasement, of which the Munich Agreement was but the first milestone. They have the opportunity now of leading this country and others to a better understanding of international differences and a closer co-operation between the nations, based on a more real apprehension of the economic necessities which are so often the underlying causes of international jealousy and mistrust. In Britain, freedom through democracy is the great privilege of our race. This system has been chosen as one eminently suited to our character and to our ideals, but I do not feel that we shall retain its privileges either by a policy of isolation or by a refusal to defend them, if need be, by force of arms. Our democracy cannot stand, nor does it deserve to stand, unless we can show the world that we consider its principles sufficiently justififiable to protect them.

I am very glad to hear from the gracious Speech that His Majesty's Government propose to take steps to accelerate the measures designed for the protection of this country against possible aggression. If this generation has to undergo that experience, there is every reason to believe that they will face it with the same resolution and courage that our forbears have always shown in times of national emergency; but what we do feel is that we are entitled to ask that we be adequately and efficiently armed, and that we shall not be exposed to attack and bombardment without defence and without the means of reply. As has been made clear in the light of recent events, there is everywhere a spirit of self-sacrifice, which can only be compared with that of 1914, and the people of this country are crying out for guidance. We look with confidence to the Government not to let so fair an opportunity pass by, but to employ this generous spirit usefully and to the full.

The prosperity of this country and of the world depends on international trade, and it is only in an atmosphere of peace that that trade can develop. The Government polity of appeasement is designed for this end. We must, however, at the same time be prepared to defend our country in case of war, and I hope that the acceleration of defence measures will be undertaken, as far as possible, in such a way as not to interfere with the normal industries upon which the prosperity of the country depends. It is clearly recognised on all sides that a national effort must be made, and the moment is ripe for a recasting of measures taken for defence, both in regard to the emergency measures for the organisation of the population for voluntary work on their own behalf, in time of necessity, and in connection with industrial co-operation with the Defence Services for armament equipment. The events of the last week of September have revealed to the public many weaknesses in both those aspects of the defence of the country, and now is surely the time to remedy them in case they should ever be needed. I know that your Lordships will agree that a much wider knowledge of the emergency measures which were, and might still have to be, contemplated would lead to a greater confidence and trust in the Government.

I am glad to see that emphasis is laid in the gracious Speech on the continuance of improvements in the Social Services, in spite of the call which a must be made on the national funds for defence purposes. This should go far to allay the feeling of uneasiness which at present undoubtedly exists in many quarters. No Government can justify itself to the country, even in times of threatened international trouble, unless it can show evidence of a real interest in progress at home. It is essential that progress in housing, education and the administration of unemployment assistance, must be maintained. I am particularly glad to see a reference to continued interest in the Special Areas, and I hope and believe that the measures taken will include the continuance of the present Acts, whatever their defects may be, at least until opportunity arises where more permanent arrangements can be made. The difficulties experienced in the Special Areas are very largely due to national causes, and it is now recognised that they cannot be cured by purely local efforts. Any revision of the Acts at the present time would involve a wholesale readjustment of the areas which are, or are not, to be included within the scope of those Acts, and it is perhaps not too much to hope that the technique of administration in the next year or so may be perfected, and that lessons may be learned which later it may be possible to apply to other parts of the country.

While I would not claim any hereditary sympathies with Scotland, I have read with great interest the reference to the Government's intention to centralise Scottish administration in Edinburgh. Whether this implies merely a geographical concentration of the administrative departments, or whether it involves a much larger degree of local autonomy, I do not know, but I can assure your Lordships that any experiments in the latter direction will be watched with great interest from this side of the Border. I hope it implies a realisation that local government, both for Scotland and for those parts of England which are far from London, should be decentralised. The recent crisis has demonstrated the vulnerability of a concentration such as London; and the innumerable day-to-day problems of local government administration, with which many of your Lordships will be familiar, show weaknesses in the system from the same cause. If, as we hope, our system of democratic government can continue to develop along lines which will give still better and better standards of life for all sections of the population, and can still give industrial conditions which will allow us to compete commercially with countries organised on a different and sometimes more ruthless basis, it must continue to grow and adapt itself to modern conditions. A fuller realisation of the importance to our national life of the well-being and prosperity of the farming community is foreshadowed in the gracious Speech, and will meet with the approval of those who are concerned with the economic future of the country, both in time of peace, for which we all hope so ardently, and in case of a national emergency, from which we are so thankful to have escaped.

In conclusion, my Lords, I hope and believe that the Government have undertaken, and will pursue, a policy of constructive friendship in foreign affairs, of which the Munich Agreement was the beginning, and a policy of wise and thoughtful planning for progress and development at home in every sphere of national life.

I beg to move, 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.

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."—(The Duke of Northumberland.)


My Lords, in rising to second this Motion, may I first of all express my deep sense of the honour of being chosen to perform this task, and may I also venture to add my humble but very warm congratulations to the noble Earl who leads this House on his appointment to his present office. He is no stranger to the Admiralty, and many of your Lordships will remember him there ten years ago, as the firm friend and valued colleague of my father in the days when arguments for a strong Navy did not meet with the same wide approval as they do now. Then, may I associate myself most sincerely with the noble Duke who moved this Motion, and whom we were so glad to hear speaking in this House, when he referred to the forthcoming visit of their Majesties to Canada and to the United States. There will be many people in the United States who will be anxious to renew a contact with our Royal House which they formed by listening, as I believe so many Americans used to do, to the Christmas broadcasts of King George V.

We have just heard in the gracious Speech the words "that relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly." On this occasion these accustomed words are no idle phrase. The phrase is one which, a few weeks ago, I think few of us would have had the courage to hope could be used to-day, and it cannot be amiss to express, even for the thousandth time, our profound gratitude for the deliverance of the nation from war—gratitude due in particular to the Prime Minister and to the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary, to whom this House owes so much. Though I am convinced that such a war never could have ended with the defeat of our arms, it would none the less have entailed incalculable misery and untold waste of human lives and of the resources of civilisation by a world crying out for peace. I belong to a generation older than that of the noble Duke who has just sat down, the generation which went straight from school to the war; and while we are confident that the generation which has come after will prepare itself for the battle, we fervently hope that it will never be called upon actually to experience war.

So we stand at the beginning of a new Parliament and, as we do so, let us have that thought in mind and let us also remember the lessons of peacemaking which we have just learned, and perhaps have learned better than we did in 1919. Let us determine to do everything possible to maintain the peace so narrowly won in Central Europe, and to extend that peace to those many quarters of the globe where disorder still prevails. We have heard of the efforts which His Majesty's Government have in mind for mediation in the Far East, for securing a peaceful solution in Spain and for the restoration of order in Palestine, and these efforts, I believe, are in one way even more vital to the welfare of this country than the maintenance of peace in Central Europe.

There are certain parts of the globe which adjoin the routes of our foreign trade and of our communications with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations; there are certain areas in which we have been accustomed for generations to seek markets for our goods, and it must always be the special con- cern of the Government of this country that those places should enjoy a strong and peaceable Government, friendly to great Britain and to the Empire. Where these places are always seems to me to depend quite as much on geography as on anything else, ever the nature of the people who happen to live there. The Mediterranean area is one of those places, with Spain at one end, Italy in the middle and Palestine at the other; so is the Far East. Moreover, Palestine is mandated to this country, and the people of this country will give a special welcome to any steps towards the settlement of the dispute, which has been aggravated not merely by bitter feelings but by the abundance of arms and ammunition which both sides seem to have at their disposal. Let us hope that the cutting off of the supplies of these munitions may be speedily accomplished, and that when civil order has been restored it may be possible to effect a compromise—for compromise I think it must be—by which both Jews and Arabs will agree to abide.

In the meantime, we have the agreement With Italy already approved. It is the first step to normal conditions in the Mediterranean, and to the return to the traditional policy of Anglo-Italian friendship based on strategic and economic considerations far more powerful than a sentimental liking for the Italians, or their art, or their country. It is more even than that, for it implies the readiness of the Government to deal on the spot with facts as they are and with other people's policies as they are. I believe this facing of the facts to be an essential preliminary to the return to peace, especially in the Mediterranean, without which the development of oversea markets can never become a reality, for during the past six months the growing fear of war has caused a flight of money from Europe and it has laid a dead hand on international trade, not merely in Central Europe and in the Far East, but over the whole world. No real recovery, such as has been forecast in the gracious Speech, can begin till confidence in the continuance of peace enables the business community to undertake forward commitments and to arrange forward credit in place of the present hand-to-mouth methods of commerce.

I am one of those who regard the Munich Agreement as likely to prove the turning point on the path to peace, but the goal appears to me to be still far distant, only to be reached by months, perhaps years, of patient negotiation backed by firmness and by the power to offer an effective threat of war if such a threat be necessary, as I feel it may yet be, in order to support a policy of peace with justice. Perhaps peace can be had without armaments, but not the kind of peace which this country can afford or the kind of peace which this country wants, and one of the conclusions I draw from the proceedings at Godesberg and Munich is that the task of the Prime Minister was made all the harder, and his achievement all the greater, by the backward state of our preparations for national defence. For these reasons we welcome the assurance in the gracious Speech that steps for the acceleration of the Defence programme will be taken in hand "in clue course," and if that phrase, "in due course" seems to imply no precipitate haste, yet I feel, after listening to debates in this House last week, that those preparations will be undertaken by His Majesty's Government with the least possible delay.

I would express one hope that, as the difficulties in regard to supply are overcome, wider publicity may be possible and that the rate of delivery of, say, anti-aircraft guns may no longer be expressed in percentages of x or any other unknown quantity, but that we may be told in plain English that this or that requirement has been completely met. During the recent crisis a good deal of emphasis has been laid on the magnificent achievement of the Territorial Army, especially the Air Defence units. While that emphasis was fully justified, I would venture at this moment to put in a plea that the Regular Army be not wholly forgotten. After all, it is the Regular Army which sets the standard for the Territorial and Reserve forces. It is the Regular Army which trains them, it is the Regular Army which experiments with new organisation and new equipment, and, still more important, it is the Regular Army which must be prepared to go in large or small numbers at the shortest of notice to any point overseas where their presence is required by His Majesty's Government.

So much has been said on the subject of defence during the past few days that I hesitate to tread the well-worn path again. I would only mention two fundamental changes in the problem of defence since the Great War, which have only recently been fully appreciated by the public—first, that the advent of air power has done away for ever with the day when the conduct of war can be restricted to armed forces or restricted to the battlefield; and, secondly, that the pace at which dictators conduct their affairs has done away for ever with the old precautionary and mobilisation periods, during which a democratic nation had a respite in which to make up its mind. To put the matter in plain words, in the totalitarian States it is far easier to put a policy quickly into practice than it is in the democracies. It is far easier for a totalitarian State to organise the nation efficiently for war or for any other purpose. But democracy surely confers no prescriptive right to inefficiency without taking the risks of inefficiency and, perhaps, paying the penalty.

Thinking over the lessons of the crisis, I recalled a book called Ordeal by Battle, written in 1915 by the late Mr. Frederick Oliver, whom many of your Lordships will remember as a philosopher of no mean order; and opening it almost at random I found a passage which, with your Lordships' leave, I will quote because it expresses what I feel far better than any words of mine: Democracy is not unlike other human institutions: it will not stand merely by its own virtue. If it lacks the loyalty, strength, and courage to defend itself it must perish as certainly as if it possessed no virtue whatsoever. Manhood suffrage implies manhood service. Without the acceptance of this principle democracy is merely an imposture. Surely those words have lost nothing of their truth.

For my part I am firmly convinced that, directly the Government tell the public how many people are required for defence services of all kinds, where they are wanted, and what are the ages and qualifications; directly they say who are to stay in their peace-time occupations and who should be spared, who are to be evacuated and who ought to stay where they are, there will be a response of offers of service far exceeding the wildest dreams of six months ago. I believe that there will be found an overwhelming opinion, not perhaps ready to support National Service in peace, but to welcome national registration in peace as the necessary prelude in these swift-moving days to National Service directly war threatens. I feel that the appointment of the Lord Privy Seal to attend to the problems of what is now called Civil Defence is a very marked step forward, not merely because of the personality and record of the holder of that high office, but because he will be dealing with the problem which, so far, I feel, has been comparatively neglected—the co-ordinating of the several Government Departments in their use of the available man power and resources of the nation; and that I feel will mean the end of a state of affairs when local and central authorities and voluntary societies were often to be found competing with each other and against each other for the available supplies of what they required.

At a time like this the traditional division between home and foreign affairs seems to become less distinct, and for the moment it appears justifiable to regard the home affairs programme first and foremost in its relation to the requirements of national defence. The proposals for completing the agricultural policy, to which the noble Duke referred, designed as they are to stimulate production, are a very important part of our preparations for defence, if only because agricultural measures are the harder to improvise and therefore require the greater foresight. A speed-up in production methods can take place with success in such a direction, shall we say, as aircraft components, but it fails, and always has failed and will fail, when it is applied to a production unit which is the pig or the cow, or even the domestic fowl.

Success in dealing with the prevention of crime and with housing problems and with the problem of unemployment in the cotton trade and elsewhere must lead directly to an improvement in the physical and moral fitness of those who benefit by them. That improvement in fitness must surely lead to an increased will and increased capacity to serve the country on the part of people who up till now have been able to offer nothing to the country but who have only taken from it. So it seems to me that during the coming year the priority of expenditure in all Government Departments, and not only those which are sometimes given the misleading title of the Defence Departments, must inevitably be regu- lated in some measure by the test of whether or not that expenditure has any real bearing on national defence, interpreted in the very broadest terms.

The Bill to prevent fraud in relation to investments will remove a danger to the uninformed and speculatively-minded public—a danger that is always more acute when trade is thriving—and although I believe that the Bill now announced is really the effect of the last trade boom, yet I am tempted to think that its introduction now sounds almost like a note of optimism on the part of His Majesty's Government. As to the Bills for amending the business of insurance and unemployment insurance, I find these measures always so complicated and so controversial that I would beg to be excused from any comment on the proposed measures until they are actually laid on the Table of the House.

So, to end, I do not feel that we can look to the coming year with any great enthusiasm. Perhaps our mood should rather be one of sober confidence. The policy outlined in the gracious Speech is one which, to implement it, requires firm diplomacy abroad coupled with proper preparations at home, and we look confidently to His Majesty's Government to give the lead in both. We must all of us realise that such a policy entails calls both on our personal services and on our purses—calls which are small indeed compared with the cost of war, but which are unprecedented in time of peace. Yet if real peace is to be had at that price I do not think that we shall reckon it too high. I beg to second the Motion.


My Lords, the leadership of a small minority in your Lordships' House confers on the holder of that position few moments of general satisfaction, but one that the present holder greatly welcomes is when, as now, he may, on behalf: of the whole House, congratulate two of its junior colleagues on the competent performance of a very difficult task. They have accomplished this traditional service with dignity and grace, and the House is as satisfied that the high standard of these occasions has been maintained as the two nerve-wracked victims are thankful that their agony is over. The noble Duke is the representative of a family that has rendered notable service to our country for many generations, and if he has not revealed more of the fighting spirit of his father, his duty to-day imposed upon him an embarrassing restraint; but I feel sure that hidden in the fiery zeal of his house there are surprises for us at some future time. We shall watch him very carefully; meanwhile our very hearty congratulations. Viscount Bridgeman has already shown a competency in your Lordships' House that would have pleased our old friend and colleague his father, and must be equally cheering to the distinguished lady who is his mother, whom we also know both as friend and as valuable colleague in many worthy enterprises outside this House. I hope that we may hear from both the noble Lords on frequent occasions, unless they allow the frozen appreciations of their Front Bench to take the spirit out of them, as befalls so many. In that case I ask them both to remember that if the depressed area in which they are now living becomes too trying and that only by flight can they save their political souls alive, we on this side accept refugees with gladness and without too close an inspection of their passports.

The gracious Speech begins by dealing with matters which arouse our complete sympathy—the pleasurable contacts of their Majesties with the heads of other States. We trust that His Majesty the King of Rumania will return to his country helped by the memories and the experiences of our own. The proposed visit to Their Majesties of the President of the French Republic will be welcomed by the whole of His Majesty's people. It will be a privilege to welcome the head of that great people whose country has contributed so much to modern civilisation, and whose welfare is so closely associated with our own. The proposed visit of Their Majesties to the great Dominion of Canada is an event of real significance, which will give satisfaction to everybody in the Dominion and throughout the Empire. They will be received with pride and with great enthusiasm. I look forward to Their Majesties' visit to America with unalloyed satisfaction, and I am sure that the American people will rejoice to have Their Majesties visit them. Only those of us who know and therefore love America can estimate, I think, the quality and sincerity of the welcome that they will meet, and we hope that their visit will bring blessing and benefits not only to America and to ourselves but also to the world.

I must pass from those words of appreciation to a few words of criticism of the omissions from and the contents of this gracious Speech. I must do that lest the Government should think that this Speech is unassailable both from what it says and what it ignores. I think it is a rather spiritless performance. That the two noble Lords who have moved and seconded this Address should find such nice things to say about it was, of course, due not to its own quality but to their own political enthusiasm and inexperience. They spoke in faith rather than with knowledge, and not from the conviction that it was a great document, for their faith was that of "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The Government ought really to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for taking advantage of youthful innocence in this way, and in accepting from them compliments that they know that they do not deserve. Youth should be put to far better uses.

Now I desire to say very briefly one or two words about the omissions from the gracious Speech. There is not, for example, one direct word about the great problem of unemployment and yet there are nearly two million unemployed in this country, men some part of whom have lost hope. We feel that the continuance of unemployment on the present scale is a very real criticism of the competence of His Majesty's Government to deal with the affairs of our own country. I remember that when the Labour Party assumed office, when they inherited from their predecessors an unemployment problem, a member of the present Cabinet within six weeks moved a Vote of Censure on the Labour Government because it had not solved the unemployment problem. Now this Government and its predecessor have seen this creeping paralysis of unemployment going on for seven years, and on this occasion they ignore it as though it was of no account. I should like also to lament that I do not see any reference in the gracious Speech to the United States of America Trade Agreement, and yet that is quite certainly one of the major issues of the time in which we are living. I had hoped that we might have had some reference to the Debt question also. In regard to the peace of the world there are a few words of vague appreciation, but so far as I can gather there is no evidence at all of concerted action to develop whatever peace feeling there may be in the world so that we may capitalise the benefits that that temper offers to us. There is no assurance that the Government have in mind a programme of real understanding and of general appeasement. Neither is there any reference to the Colonial problem that we may some time have to face.

I should like to ask about the Social Services. One of the noble Lords felt sure that the Social Services were going to be preserved and even extended. I wish that I were as sure. At any rate we have had suggestions made by people in some authority that we must look forward to the Social Services being restricted rather than continued. Then in regard to things generally I would like to say that personally I am very thankful to be able to make a speech in your Lordships' House without the emphasis having to be placed upon foreign affairs. But there are one or two things I should like to ask in passing, and one is whether His Majesty's Government are considering any action in regard to privateering which is going on and which is of doubtful legality. I think we shall have to ask your Lordships to consider that specifically on a later date. But a Government that allows our own ships to be sunk with impunity is not likely to get excited about the sinking of the ships of other people. I desire to say only this one word about Spain. In the speech which the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made to us the other day, he gave us to understand that whatever happened Mussolini was not prepared to see Franco defeated. Now the noble Viscount is not like myself. He very rarely is guilty of verbal indiscretion. Therefore I can only assume that His Majesty's Government have also made up their minds that Franco is not to be defeated.

The final question with which I will deal is that we find no reference in the gracious Speech to any promise of action in regard to the composition and status of your Lordships' House. And I do not wonder. The Government have every reason to be satisfied with it as it is, but events may arise at no distant date, as Dartford and Oxford suggest, that may give a shock to this comfortable complacency. I would like to ask whether there is any possibility of Bills being in- troduced into your Lordships' House rather than that we should have to wait until the end of the Session when our time-table gets so congested that we have scarcely time to deal with them. There is another point, and that is that I should like to inform your Lordships that my noble friend Lord Addison will move an Amendment to the humble Address, regretting that the gracious Speech contains no reference to the setting up of a Ministry of Supply. In conclusion, I would say that we begin this new Session in a period of general anxiety and of very deep depression. If the Government have any plans for allaying these anxieties they have not made them clear to us. It will nevertheless be our duty to work in the hope that with charity to all and with malice towards none we may contribute to an abiding and a blessed peace for the world.


My Lords, each year as I listen to the speeches made by the mover and seconder of the humble Address made in reply to the gracious Speech I am more and more impressed, like the noble Lord who leads the Opposition, with the extreme difficulty of the task—a task which I myself never had to fulfil—and by the skill and tact with which in almost every case that task is carried out. Certainly I think we should all agree that this has been eminently so to-day. The noble Duke and the noble Viscount, the mover and seconder, are, if I may say so, fully entitled to hunt in couples. Both of them, as the noble Lord, Lord Snell, pointed out, represent in their names the highest traditions of the Conservative Party. Both of them are the sons of fathers well remembered by many of your Lordships, honoured and esteemed for their work in public life, and affectionately recollected by many friends. Both the noble Duke and the noble Viscount, especially the latter, have already intervened with effect in debates in your Lordships' House, and that fact and what they have done to-day entitle us to hope that they will give much assistance in future to the deliberations of your Lordships' House.

The State visits which are mentioned in the gracious Speech have already been alluded to. That of the King of Rumania next week will place emphasis on the close interest of this country in the affairs of South-Eastern Europe, and that of the President of the French Republic in the spring will, as has already been pointed out, draw still closer the ties which unite us to France. I cannot entirely pass over the impending visit of Their Majesties to Canada and to the United States. In both countries they will receive a welcome the fervour of which I think we can hardly venture to draw a picture, it will be so marked and so enthusiastic. In making this expedition Their Majesties are performing a national service of great importance and one which could not be performed by any other.

As to foreign affairs, on some aspects of which the noble Lord, Lord Snell, touched, I have no intention of referring to the past, nor of saying that if X, Y and Z had been in control of affairs instead of A, B and C, all would have gone differently and all the hopes and principles of the League of Nations might have been brought into effect. That is one of the assertions which can neither be proved nor disproved, and is therefore most valuable for use on the platform but perhaps less so in your Lordships' House. I might, however, be permitted to say that in the terrible conflagrations which have broken out all over the world in the last few years, the impression is not confined only to those who are not supporters of His Majesty's Government that the fire engines have arrived on the scene rather late, with the result that His Majesty's Government have found themselves less in the position of a fire brigade quelling a fire than of a salvage corps endeavouring to collect as much as possible from the ruins. For the future we can merely express the hope that the good understandings which are mentioned in the gracious Speech may be developed and create a state of friendship between the different European countries, of which for the moment we cannot see any very favourable sign.

From foreign affairs it is a very easy transition to defence. On Sunday Herr Hitler, in the course of an address which was not entirely good-humoured, made a good-humoured comparison of his own country to a hedgehog. He said, quite accurately, that the hedgehog is a pacific animal, that it is able to defend itself by its formidable armament of spines, and that if it did not possess them it would become the prey of predatory animals such as foxes and polecats, who would see before long that the race of hedgehogs became extinct. But when you attempt to apply the analogy to international affairs, it seems to be somewhat different. Each highly-armed country declares itself to be an authentic hedgehog and nothing else, but all the time it has in its mind the feeling that some of the other hedgehogs in its immediate neighbourhood possess the magical faculty of, at short notice, turning themselves into polecats and therefore that they have to be regarded with suspicion and a safe distance has to be kept from them. So long as that belief exists, there is no hope that what everybody would like to see will happen—namely, that the spines of the hedgehog, from disuse, should diminish in number and finally fall off, and a system of general disarmament should grow up.

In the meantime it is undoubtedly true that, in the absence of such hope, this country has to see to rearmament. Everybody, I think, in all Parties welcomes the advent of Sir John Anderson, with his almost unique experience, to the great position at which he has arrived. I trust we may hope that, on whatever scale our defence preparations have to be made, economy will not be altogether lost sight of. We on these attenuated Benches profess to be, and I believe are, the only hereditary guardians of economy. Neither the Party which is represented on the Front Bench opposite nor, certainly, the Party represented by the noble Lord who leads the Opposition can claim anything like the historical desire for wise retrenchment that the Liberal Party can claim. Therefore I venture to put forward a plea that, however much money may have to be spent, we shall not see the sort of wild expenditure which, as I very well know—probably quite excusably—took place while the Great War was in progress.

As regards domestic problems, the great matters of housing, education, public health, and, as Lord Snell pointed out, the Special Areas, are dealt with in so cursory and so general a manner that it is idle to attempt to comment on any of them at any length. I pause for a moment to mention the proposed changes in the penal law, one of which, I suppose, has the object not so much of making the punishment fit the crime as of making it fit the criminal, which is, I take it, a far more difficult task. I assume, however, that many of the reforms, which it is rumoured are the particular care of the Home Secretary at this moment, are reforms which would rather be carried out by regulations than by legislation, and therefore they do not find much place in the gracious Speech.

I should like to say one word on the agricultural paragraph of the Speech. Since this country has become a country of protection it is obvious that agriculture is one of the industries to which protection is likely to be most applied, for one reason that the existence of the industry is an absolute necessity, and also that if other industries are protected it is obvious that the costs of production for the farmers must be increased. That is one of the difficulties of the problem, especially when it is combined with the existence of Imperial Preference. Of course one of the problems which every Government has to meet is the fact that agricultural labour is in the main skilled labour, and yet it is exceedingly difficult to give the agricultural labourer the proper reward of a skilled labourer without raising prices to a degree which the average consumer will resent. Therefore I have always sympathised with the efforts—not always, I am afraid, successful efforts—made by successive Governments, by the creation of different boards and otherwise, to meet that special difficulty.

At the same time I hope that too much emphasis will not be placed on the word "wheat," which I see stands out prominently in the wording of the gracious Speech. For reasons well known to every farmer, it is obviously desirable that a considerable breadth of wheat should be grown in this country, but I would ask that no encouragement should be given, by any form of national subvention, to grow wheat on land which is not really suitable. After all, the pride and one great distinction of this country is stock breeding—cattle, horses, sheep and pigs—and we all know that our breeds are famous all over the world. Not only that, but the buyers from overseas have perpetually to come back again, because the breed tends to change as the animals in other countries are acclimatised. I trust, therefore, that in any assistance to agriculture the fact will not be forgotten that this country should be primarily a nursery of the finest stock, rather than anything else.

I pass over the sad feature, to one well on in life, which is presented by the present condition of the cotton trade and industry. When I think of what all through my life one has known of the splendid production of the looms in this country, it is indeed painful to think of the depression which that business has endured and the suffering which has come to so many of the workers in that industry. Nor do I venture to speak of the obviously very important paragraph relating to Scotland, which no doubt will arouse deep interest at a later stage of the Session among noble Lords connected with that country. The particular phrase "centralising the Government Departments in Edinburgh" is almost exciting in character, but how far it extends I am not in a position to state. I observe also that there is evidently some intention of dealing with the problem of Gretna Green, which still seems to have a strange fascination for couples in this country who believe that the marriage ceremony can be carried out there in five minutes, with no previous notice and with no trouble whatever. I am not going to detain your Lordships any longer, and I can only say that no doubt the whole House will join in the hope expressed by His Majesty in the gracious Speech, that the deliberations of Parliament will tend to the betterment of the condition of the people in this country, and also tend to the advancement of peace in the world.


My Lords, the joys and sorrows of our Royal House are so much the joys and sorrows of their people that I think your Lordships will not consider it inappropriate if I refer for one moment to the recent death of His Royal Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught. He was not a member of your Lordships' House, and therefore this is not the place in which to refer to the great services which he rendered in the Army, as the Governor-General of one of the King's Dominions, and in many directions in the cause of charity, not least as the head of one of the great voluntary hospitals of London. But I think your Lordships would desire that on hehalf of this House I should offer our deep and respectful sympathy to Their Majesties the King and Queen and other members of the Royal Family in their bereavement, and not least to that father who throughout a long life has given us all such an example of single-hearted devotion to duty that has won the admiration and, if I may be allowed to say so, the affection not only of your Lordships and of the Army, of which he has been for such a long time the senior Field-Marshal, but of the people both of these islands and of the King's Dominions overseas.

I turn to the gracious Speech, and once again it is the duty and the great pleasure of the Leader of this House to congratulate most warmly those who have proposed and seconded the reply to the gracious Speech. As both the noble Lord opposite and the noble Marquess have said, we are indeed fortunate in finding year after year noble Lords who undertake this very difficult and responsible duty—one which, as I know from past experience, is indeed an alarming one; and I fully understand the desire of the noble Lord opposite to do a little poaching in a quiet way and to see if he cannot endeavour to get some extremely valuable recruits to the rather thin ranks behind him. Many of us, I think, remember the noble Duke's father and his grandfather in this House, and we, at any rate on this side, used to rejoice in the speeches of both those noble Dukes, which were always of considerable effect in your Lordships' House because they were delivered not only with great ability but with that sincere conviction of strongly held sentiments which always has its effect in your Lordships' House.

The noble Duke, as I think the noble Lord opposite realised, has probably also got much of the fighting instinct of the Percy family, and we very much hope that we may have many opportunities of hearing him speak in this House. He made one all too short, but most courageous, speech on the Coal Mines Bill last Session, in which I think he somewhat attacked the Government—which was of course very wrong of him; but on this occasion he has made a speech which I think we all welcomed, both for its freshness of outlook and for its felicity of expression. We hope therefore that he may find time to attend our proceedings as constantly as he did when he was a Parliamentary Private Secretary to various Ministers in this House, anti that, having now escaped from the shackles of that office, he may now be able often to address your Lordships and give us the benefit of his advice.

My noble friend Lord Bridgeman, after a distinguished career in the Army—and I happen to know that the authorities felt very sincere regret when he saw fit to bring it to an end—has since taken the opportunity of addressing your Lordships' House on several occasions, and I think that on each occasion he has always had something interesting and valuable to say, from which this House has profited. We hope therefore that he may continue to attend the House as frequently as he has done in the past, indeed more frequently, and that we may have real advantage from his intervention in our debates, not least in the debates on important aspects of defence on which he can give us such valuable advice.

He was kind enough to refer to the time when I had the honour of serving under his distinguished father at the Admiralty. I had nearly five very happy years there under one whom I have always looked on as an ideal chief. My trouble now is that I realise fully that he left me an extremely high standard, and that as a new First Lord I shall have all I can do to attain anywhere near the example which he left me to follow. Those of us who had the privilege of the friendship of my noble friend's father know how much we all enjoyed that quiet sense of humour which used to appear, sometimes at unexpected moments, and that which never failed him—the sterling common sense which pervaded all his doings, and which was of such immense value to any Government of which he was a member. We rejoice, as I think all the friends of both his parents rejoice, at finding that once again inheritance plays its part, and that the interest in politics and the skill in taking part in them have once again descended from father to son.

I understand that it has been arranged that a debate on foreign affairs shall take place very shortly in your Lordships' House and, as we have the advantage of having the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs as a member of this House, I am certainly not going to make any reference to foreign affairs on this occasion and try to steal his thunder, and perhaps say things which would be far better said by him next week. But I think your Lordships would desire me to follow other noble Lords who have expressed their great appreciation of various statements made in the gracious Speech. First, the visit of His Majesty the King of Rumania to this country in the course of a very few days, a visit which will be most warmly welcomed; and, secondly, the visit of the President of the French Republic which, it is announced, it is hoped will take place next year. As my noble friend the noble Duke stated, the reception which was given to Their Majesties the King and Queen on their visit to Paris last summer warmed all our hearts, and we shall welcome this opportunity of showing how much we appreciated the welcome which was then given, and that we ourselves rejoice at the opportunity of welcoming the head of that great and friendly State.

The noble Duke also, I think, mentioned the visit proposed to be made by Their Majesties to the great Dominion of Canada, which is of course an unprecedented event. It is the first time that a reigning sovereign has visited one of his Dominions and as, since the passing of the Statute of Westminster, he now visits that country as King of Canada, of course it forms a very memorable occasion. We all know the tumultuous welcome which Their Majesties will receive from that warm-hearted and patriotic people; but I must add that I hope that that welcome will be tempered with mercy, and that the King and Queen may be able to enjoy to the full their visit to that very wonderful country, and may not be asked to fulfil a programme so full as to become a burden rather than a pleasure. We shall all feel too that the extension of that visit to the United States of America, made in response to the invitation of the President, will be of incalculable value in cementing the happy relations which have so long existed between the great democracies of the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

Turning to further paragraphs of the gracious Speech, I think your Lordships will be interested to know that the Report of the Partition Commission on Palestine will be published to-morrow, and that His Majesty's Government will at the same time issue a statement in the form of a Command Paper. That will be in your Lordships' hands to-morrow.


Will there be a statement of policy?


A statement of immediate policy, but if the noble Lord will wait until the statement is issued he will be in a better position than if I tried to describe it to him now. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, remarked that there was no reference to unemployment in the gracious Speech. There is very much a reference to employment, because if he will look at the top of the second page he will see that His Majesty's Government hope, by "a wider spirit of confidence" and so on, to supply "a fresh impulse for expansion in trade, industry and employment." Surely that is the way to deal with unemployment. We do not believe, ourselves, in giving "doles" to the unemployed and trying to deal with them in that way. What we are anxious to do is to try to find employment for them. It is rather a curious commentary on the views which some people held not many years ago that unemployment could really be dealt with and abolished by giving State work. The noble Lord rather complained that my Party attacked him and his Party soon after they formed a Government because they did not deal with unemployment, but my recollection is that at the General Election which preceded that date all the hoardings were covered with the slogan "We can cure unemployment."


That was the Liberal Party.


So it was the "Party of Economy." I thought it was the Party of the noble Lord opposite. But we could not put it to the Liberal Party in another place, so it had to be put to the Government, as the Liberal Party at that time were hand in glove with the Party opposite, though they have not been so since. It is rather curious to follow what has happened. I do not think any Party in the State ever dreamt of spending such a vast sum of money on Government contracts as are now being placed in connection with the rearmament policy. Vast sums are being spent—over £1,500,000,000 in the course of the five-year programme—and yet in spite of that we find unemployment, as the noble Lord said, still at a tragically high figure, and one which I regret to say shows very little sign of shrinking.

One day in which the Governments are attempting to meet that situation is by making trade agreements with foreign countries. It is rather remarkable how the course of trade has proceeded during this year, when everybody recognises there has been a considerable recession. In the first six months of 1938 our total exports fell by no less than £26,000,000 from the figure which they had attained in the corresponding six months of 1937, but in the same period the fall in exports to countries with whom we had trade agreements—either Ottawa countries or others—was only £5,000,000 out of the £26,000,000. That is a remarkable sign of the value of these agreements, and that is why my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade is endeavouring to push on with the making of agreements with a number of countries. We made one recently with Eire out of which we hope to get considerable advantage, and, as the noble Lord opposite knows, negotiations are in progress with the United States. We have every hope that that agreement may come into force. I am certainly not going to count my chickens until they are hatched, and therefore I cannot say more than that at this moment. We are also entering into negotiations with India, Burma, and Switzerland and also with Colombia for a commercial treaty. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Snell, I am sure will agree, the key to the whole of this trade depression is really the United States, with its large population and great wealth, which materially affect trade throughout the world.

The figures which have appeared in regard to employment to-day are, I am glad to say, a little better than those given last month—17,000 fewer unemployed than in September, although 391,000 more than a year ago, in October, 1937. They are, however, 1,000,000 less than in 1932, Therefore when people are inclined to be depressed over the question, let us remember that we have made considerable progress in this matter, and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman said, once we get a greater feeling of security and peace in the world we have real hopes that the whole situation in regard to international trade may improve, and that necessarily will have a very real effect indeed on the unemployment position in this country.

The noble Lord opposite rather twitted the Government with not having put into His Majesty's Speech some reference to the reform of your Lordships' House. That interested me considerably. I had not realised until now that the Labour Party were anxious for the reform of your Lordships' House and were prepared to co-operate with us in dealing with the matter. The noble Lord now disclaims any such intention, but he undoubtedly raised my hopes when he expressed regret that this subject was not included in the gracious Speech. Then he asked whether we would remember that Bills should be introduced into this House as well as into another place. I have done my best in that direction, and I have reason to hope that various Bills will shortly be introduced into this House. A great many cannot be introduced here because, as he knows, they deal to a greater or smaller extent with financial matters and on that account must originate in another place But I hope that several important Bills will come here at an early date.

One which may come here, although the matter is not quite settled, is an important Bill dealing with agriculture. It does not deal with the wheat question, the noble Marquess will be glad to hear, but with the important question of milk. I entirely agree with him in regard to the great value of maintaining the quality and quantity of animals in this country, both beasts and horses, which are, as he said, the foundation for the best quality stock throughout the world. He will no doubt remember, however, as regards stock, that very often it entails a very large amount of imported feeding stuffs, and therefore from a defence point of view that is a less important question than the growing of wheat. He will be relieved to hear that, although the question of the price of wheat will come under consideration, there is no question of touching the actual quantity on which assistance will be given.

The noble Lord opposite seemed rather nervous that we were likely to cut down the Social Services. I can assure him that there is no intention on the part of the Government to do anything of the kind. Indeed I should have thought that the phraseology of the gracious Speech would have made that clear. We deal with the drive which is still going on in order to improve the housing of the people and their education and the like, and there is also a reference to yet another Social Service which is one of great value, and that is one dealing with the terrible scourge of cancer. I am told that something like 200 people die every day of cancer, that three out of four do not get adequate medical advice and attention in time to arrest the disease, and that really this scourge has become a far greater danger than tuberculosis, which has attracted the attention of so very many of us for a long time past. The noble Marquess referred to the alteration in the penal law, and there I can tell him that the objects of the Bill which will be presented to Parliament will be, first, to improve the probation system; secondly, to give due power to the courts to deal with young offenders; and thirdly, new methods of dealing with persistent offenders. There will be various other important parts of the Bill, but those I understand will be its main provisions.

I think I have dealt with most of the questions that have been raised by noble Lords. I am glad to hear that the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, will watch the Government with attention to see that we do not waste the public's money. Certainly we shall require a very large amount of it. I have always understood that the Party which described itself as for "peace, retrenchment and reform" was more inclined to retrench on the Defence Services than in other directions. I hope that now, under the noble Marquess's leadership, they have learned better ways, and therefore will be merely a Party of economy and not a Party of retrenchment. It is not unusual—in fact I have never known it otherwise—that the gracious Speech should be severely criticised by Parties who are not in entire agreement with the Government of the day; still I think your Lordships will realise that there are a number of measures, many of them of an extremely useful character, which, whatever our Party predilections may be, we should all like to see placed on the Statute Book. Therefore I feel sure I can count on the co-operation of members of all Parties in your Lordships' House to assist the Government to make these Bills better Bills than they may be when they are first presented to us, and that, as the noble Marquess said, we shall be able to collaborate to advance, in the words of the gracious Speech, both the happiness and well-being of the people of this country and the peace of the world.


My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Snell indicated in his speech, we propose to move an Amendment, which has been put down in the name of my noble friend Lord Addison, and on his behalf I beg to move the adjournment of this debate.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Strabolgi.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.