HL Deb 29 November 1944 vol 134 cc5-50

The King's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.

2.13 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. This is the first occasion on which I have addressed your Lordships' House and I must therefore crave that indulgence towards inexperience which your Lordships are so generously inclined to show on such occasions. Since I became a member of this House following the death of my brother in action before Dunkirk, I have had but little opportunity to attend your Lordships' debates and it is therefore with an added sense of appreciation of the honour accorded to me by my noble friend the Leader of the House that I find myself entrusted with this Motion to-day. His Majesty in his mast gracious Speech has been pleased to survey the achievement of the nation at war at home and in all theatres. There are also references in the most gracious Speech to numerous and far-seeing measures which. His Majesty's Government have found themselves able to initiate towards the future peace of the world, the security of the nation and the betterment of the people of this country.

Despite the lessons of the campaigns of 1914 to 1918 we entered this war with small and inadequately equipped Forces. We have paid, and are still paying, the inevitable price for such initial weakness in a manner which I hope none of my generation will ever forget. The responsibility for that state of unpreparedness lies with previous Governments, with Parliament and with the public, and not with the Army and the Royal Air Force which, though starved of the necessary funds and at times even of their due measure of public support, had done their utmost with the means at their disposal to prepare for war. By great efforts maintained during and since those early days and despite the most formidable reverses, we have progressively improved our position until now we can fairly claim that the prospect before our Allies is, to say the least of it, highly encouraging. Indeed, since the battle at Alamein and the landings in North Africa, when we first went over to the offensive, we can say with justifiable and sober pride that our Forces have had an unbroken record of successes. These results have been rendered possible only by the selfless co-operation of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force with the ground troops.

Well calculated strategy has culminated in the great landings in Normandy, undoubtedly the greatest military venture of its kind ever undertaken. The magnitude of that task and the triumph of ingenuity over the most formidable natural obstacles will only be appreciated when the various projects, such as artificial harbours, are fully revealed to us. All these efforts have enabled us to put on to the Continent an Allied Army of over 2,000,000 men and over 4,000,000 tons of stores; and now our Forces stand on the threshold of Germany itself. Our Armies in Italy and our Russian Allies in the East are poised for the final knock-out blow and nothing can now save the Reich from complete military collapse. In the Far East the tides of war are plainly turning against the Japanese. In Burma our Fourteenth Army in conjunction with Chinese and American troops, in a hard and skilfully conducted campaign, have driven the enemy back to a safe distance from the frontiers of India. The air supply route to China, our hard-pressed Ally, has also been secured. In the Pacific, United States Forces are rapidly taking up a position from which they will sever the lifeline between metropolitan Japan and the territories which she has overrun, including those from which she draws her oil. Throughout the long and laborious process of this war the Dominions, India and our Colonies have played their full and gallant parts. Their contribution on every front has earned the admiration and heartfelt gratitude of us all.

As one who was a very humble member of His Majesty's Forces, I trust that your Lordships will not think it inappropriate if I say a word about the soldier. The armed Services and the women's organizations contain the flower of this nation. Their contribution in peace is going to be as vital as their part in war. Not only do we owe it to them in gratitude, so soon as they can be released, to establish them in civil life under the best possible conditions, but indeed this course is essential to the future strength and well-being of the community. The acknowledgment, in the gracious Speech, of the war effort of the civilian population throughout the Empire will everywhere be most warmly welcomed. The fighting man recognizes that his success depends upon the timely provision from the factories of the manifold tools of modern warfare and the supplies of clothing and food which he needs. The quiet courage of those at home who have stuck to their work in spite of damaging air attacks, and the dauntless and devoted service of the Merchant Marine are everywhere gratefully recognized by the soldiers.

I have dealt at some length with this review of achievement, and I have intentionally stressed the military side of the picture, in order that I may express a hope for the future of the Fighting Services. We have paid the price of unpreparedness not once but twice; we have given man-power and wealth unstintingly to ensure success on the field of battle. Let us not forget our Armies when peace comes. When we consider that small pre-war corps of officers and men who, in spite of lack of recognition, and even of discouragement, were able to form the nucleus of, and to build up and train, the magnificent Armies we have in the field to-day, we should realize the debt we owe to them.

His Majesty has referred among other measures, undertaken or pending, to measures with regard to housing. To provide a sufficient number of houses of the shelter standard to meet the deficiency caused by the cessation of the building programme occasioned by the war, and by the devastation resulting from enemy action, is, as I am sure this House will hold, one of the most urgent and pressing concerns of Parliament. All would agree that it is better to build permanent rather than temporary houses. Equally, it is certain that the noble Lord who recently held the position of Minister of Works has, by his work on temporary houses, not only made a significant contribution to the immediate housing of our people, but has also opened up new vistas to those who are interested in building. I express the hope that by learning the lessons of prefabrication of, for example, the kitchen units, and by the introduction into the practice of the normal building industry of the most up-to-date methods of design, construction and handling of materials, the programme of emergency houses may very soon be merged into one for permanent houses. The raising of the standard of dwellings, particularly of the working classes, is our clear aim, and while I agree that the long-term programme is dependent on many contingencies which cannot be accurately foreseen to-day, I suggest that the maximum effort is demanded to start—at the earliest possible moment—a programme of permanent housing.

While a degree of standardization is, no doubt, desirable and necessary, the ghastly uniformity in design and materials used, with which we have all been so painfully acquainted, must, I am sure this House will agree, be most assiduously avoided. Those who believe that mass production is the cure for all difficulties ignore the fact that the industry of this country is composed of a large number of small units. If standardization is carried to extremes, there is grave danger that the larger firms will get all the work, which will mean the complete extinction ultimately of the smaller firms. There is still great need for the smaller production unit, which can adapt itself with ease and without great overhead cost to the fluctuations in public demand which arise from changing world conditions and improvements in the standard of living; and these small units can, I feel sure, play their full part in the programme. Let us get our houses quickly, but let us make the most of the sources of production which we have and on which we know that we shall have to rely in the future.

The siting and control of future housing under the conditions which obtain to-day will involve consideration by no fewer than five Ministries—Health, Works, Town and Country Planning, Labour and Supply, and in addition, no doubt, by the Ministry of Production and the Board of Trade in regard to manufacturing capacity. The more efficient collaboration of Departments presents an administrative problem which must be solved. We do not want a repetition of the memorable muddle which arose with regard to agricultural cottages. It should surely be possible to devise a system of control which will make rapid progress possible by giving the maximum encouragement and freedom to the local authorities and the private builders who have to get on with the job. This, indeed, is the vital problem which faces us in the whole range of post-war construction—not whether controls shall continue or not, but how we can work and maintain the necessary controls in such a way as to release those who are engaged in production from too detailed regulations, and thus give them scope for free enterprise and free endeavour.

In rural areas individual owners can contribute a great deal to the long-term programme. In the country the requirement is not so much for new houses; a great deal can be done by the conversion of existing cottages. As regards both these, however, the legislation in force is obsolete and bears no relation to present-day building costs. Nor, indeed, are the powers of local authorities to order improvements, such as the installation of bathrooms, uniformly interpreted throughout the country. It would be a great encouragement in rural areas, and would, I am sure, produce speedy results, if this legislation were brought up to date. In the introduction of a national water policy and in improvements in rural sewerage great opportunties exist now for raising the standard of the cottages of agricultural workers. Both landlords and local authorities are ready and eager to plan together, but they must know where they stand. I would express the hope also that local authorities, especially in our smaller towns, may be encouraged in every way, financial and other, to obtain professional advice regarding lay-out and architectural design more highly skilled than any which is normally at their disposal. Unless this is done, we shall not easily avoid the creation of new slums.

His Majesty has referred to the setting up of a comprehensive National Health Service. As president of one of our largest voluntary hospitals, I shall venture to make a few remarks on this subject. The Bill foreshadowed is assured of a general welcome. The administrative framework of the scheme must, however, be a matter of some concern to your Lordships. To be successful, it must enlist the whole-hearted co-operation of the medical profession, the voluntary hospitals and the local authorities, as the three principal agents, in association with the Ministry of Health. Compulsion and regimentation either of doctor or patient would be alien to the spirit and design of the scheme. A great deal will depend on the action to be taken on the recommendations of the Goodenough Committee as to the co-ordination and the medical staffing of hospitals, local and voluntary alike. Arrangements will be necessary for the proper distribution of these staffs in areas linked with universities and teaching hospitals. I hope, therefore, that the areas which are to be the planning units of the service may be of sufficient size for each to contain a university, whose influence can spread throughout that area.

Apart from the special problem of the teaching hospitals, it should surely be our object to retain our existing voluntary hospitals unimpaired. They have been and can still be the vital force and influence in a service accessible to all; and I trust that any doubt which may have been created in the public mind by the White Paper as to the continuing need for the voluntary support and the personal interest which the voluntary hospitals have been so successful in mobilizing in the past may be removed. While no doubt it will be necessary to set up in each area an effective regional council, which should be representative of the universities and the medical profession as well as of the local authorities and municipal hospitals, to arrange for the staffing and location of the various types of hospital, I suggest that the management of each of those hospitals, whether municipal or voluntary, should be left free to conduct the internal affairs of their respective institutions. Moreover, in my humble opinion grants of public money in respect of the voluntary hospitals should proceed direct from the Government. The voluntary hospitals are willing to co-operate, and have shown themselves capable of co-operating, to the full with the local authorities. They are eager to play the part in public health which they alone can play. Our aim must be to ensure that the Government, in their preoccupation with the organization of a comprehensive service, do not unwittingly destroy a system which has always given the lead in the medical, social and economic problems involved in a modern and progressive health service.

His Majesty has referred to the great and welcome schemes for social insurance. The crux of the whole matter appears to me to be the price which the people of this country will have to pay, not only through public money but also in private contributions, for the benefits to accrue therefrom. It will be for the people of this country, after full consideration and careful thought, to decide whether they are prepared to pay that price. That we can pay it the Government have given assurances; but, as the Government have been at some pains to point out, the whole success of the scheme will depend upon the maximum efficiency of production. This can be achieved only by a nation freed from disturbances due to industrial unrest. The smooth transition from war to peace, therefore, and the re-establishment and re-equipment of our export trade, to which His Majesty has made timely reference in his most gracious Speech, and on which so much of our future prosperity depends, will be matters of vital concern to this House.

His Majesty has also referred to the need for maintaining maximum food production at home. The farming community will welcome this reference in the hope that it may prove to be the forerunner of more detailed and specific proposals. While appreciating the achievements of the Ministry of Agriculture during these war years, the farming industry (which, I need not remind your Lordships, is the largest single industry in the country in peace-time) is facing an unknown future with considerable foreboding—a natural result of experiences during the last twenty-five years. In spite of considerable pressure the Government have so far been unable to produce that absolute necessity for the future of farming—a long-term policy. The noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, has contributed recently to a pamphlet which can be bought on the bookstalls, entitled Outlook for Fanning. It is a contribution for which all engaged in that industry will be very grateful and I hope it will reach a wide public. The noble Lord in that publication stresses the need, not only for maximum food production but also for maximum consumption of home produce, at prices which will enable the industry to pay wages adequate to provide the agricultural worker with an enhanced standard of living. That is a principle which I trust His Majesty's Government accept.

We have had a four-year plan, of which only three years are left to run. We have had certain reports on hill sheep farming and post-war forestry which have raised hopes in the minds of those engaged in those special aspects. But those hopes are rapidly receding in face of a grim silence, persisted in by the Government with regard to the whole future of farming. What is required now is a long-term programme covering at least fifteen years, and I feel confident that the farming community—landowners, farmers and workers—would be prepared to accept a certain measure of control and guidance to ensure security of prices and a stated policy within which they could lay out their capital and plan their labour for a number of years to come. That, surely, is essential to attain the maximum efficiency of production in any industry, but it is particularly essential in the industry of farming.

I am afraid I have unduly trespassed on your Lordships' patience, but my excuse must be the importance of the topics dealt with in the gracious Speech. We stand at a grave but hopeful hour in our history. Victory is almost within our grasp and I feel confident that, despite the numerous and manifest dangers which lie ahead, we can so use victory this time as to provide lasting benefits for this nation and for the future of the world in general.

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 had addressed to both Houses of Parliament."

2.43 P.m.


My Lords, my gratitude to the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, who has asked me to second the humble Address, is somewhat qualified or discoloured by the difficulty of the task, especially on this occasion when the most gracious Speech seemed to me—perhaps that is natural, I having to speak to it—to contain more than the usual amount of matter. It would be impossible to go through all the points that the gracious Speech has raised, but apart from those to which the noble Duke has already referred, there are two in particular of which I should like to speak. The first is one which I am sure will give your Lordships very great satisfaction, as it gives me—the promise of an extension of both the period and the resources available for the Colonies under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. It has appeared to some of us that in the past not sufficient attention has been paid to the welfare of His Majesty's 80,000,000 Colonial subjects, and the reference of the noble Duke to the contribution of the Colonial Forces—their willing and voluntary contribution—to our war effort is particularly pertinent in this connexion. It now remains for us to see that the promise made in the gracious Speech is implemented and carried into action as soon as, and as generously as, possible.

The second point, which is emphasized by being referred to twice in the gracious Speech, is that of the export trade. That two references should be made to it is no doubt a sign of the importance which is attributed to the export trade, and as we stand on the threshold of a new period when we shall reconstruct ourselves for the world which is to come after the end of hostilities, there is no factor which plays a greater part in our well-being and economy than the export trade. The production for war purposes during the last four years has made it clear that in this country we still possess the inventiveness, the technical skill and the capacity to manufacture anything in the world. The contribution which the people of these islands have made to new inventions and new processes, will, of course, not be recorded for many years to come, and some of them may never be recorded, but many of us in our several ways are aware of some of the things that have been done and thought out and produced. Those things which have been adapted to our own war needs and have been made available to our Allies, have not necessarily always been adopted or adapted as quickly in this country as they have been in the countries of our Allies.

It is to that adaptability that I would give special emphasis in regard to the export trade. We must, if we are going to survive in the export market, adapt ourselves quickly to the needs of our customers in our Colonies, our Dominions and our foreign markets; and it is for the industrialists, the shippers and the merchants to see that we produce what our customers want, instead of confining our activities to producing things which we want to sell. What they want to buy and what we have sold in the past are by no means necessarily the same objects. The second point, which is almost as important in that context, is that of the relations between merchants, shippers and manufacturers and the Government Departments with which they have dealings. No one would be childish enough to propose or even to suggest that controls can or should be swept away the moment hostilities cease. They must inevitably go on and it is no doubt desirable that many should go on, quite apart from their necessity. But if the export trades are to regain their footing, the manufacturer and the shipper must have confidence in the Departments with which they deal, that those Departments are there to help them, to assist, to suggest and to provide them with information; and the present attitude or frame of mind which rightly or wrongly exists in so many quarters that the Departments concerned are mainly engaged in "finding out what Tom is doing in order to tell him not to," must alter or we shall get nowhere. If the Departments concerned and the officials employed in those Departments were, of their own initiative and without being asked, to offer their assistance, instead of accompanying every form, return or permit which they send out with a threat of fine or imprisonment for misuse or fraud, they would reconcile the public to the continuation of controls readily and quickly; and the example of other countries in this connexion is one that we would be well to follow.

But these subjects, as well as those to which the noble Duke has referred, are really dwarfed by the references in the earlier part of the gracious Speech to the events of the last few months; and if I may, with your Lordships' permission, pick up the theme with which the noble Duke opened, of the part played by our Armed Forces, by referring to the consequences of their successes, it would seem to be more in keeping with the tone of the debate and of the Speech at this particular juncture of the war. About a year ago the noble Viscount the Leader of the House referred to our fortunes in the terms of a poem by the poet Clough. His simile was, and still is, more than apt. The tide frequently begins to flow in creeks and inlets while it is still ebbing in the main stream; and so it has seemed to me that during the last four years the events which led up to this pageant of liberation of country after country in this year, were like the tide which began to flow in the remoter creeks and inlets of the world. Long before the lowest ebb of our military fortunes was reached, already in 1940 that tide had begun to flow in the creeks and inlets of Africa. Already, in the summer of 1940, before ever the incident at Dakar took place and when to so many Frenchmen abroad the name of de Gaulle was scarcely known, certain of the French colonists in Equatorial Africa raised the standard to fight with us and refused to accept defeat. It was those Colonies which gave us the air reinforcement route from West Africa to the Middle East without which the events in the Middle East might have been very different. I am proud to have been associated with those first beginnings in French Equatorial Africa, before ever it was known that a gnawing away at the enemy had begun, as indeed it had begun.

In the years which followed, if your Lordships will forgive me for speaking of personal matters, I have seen this tide flow in so many places—in Italian East Africa, in Italian North Africa, in Madagascar and in Syria—until the flood in the main channel turned with the invasion of North Africa, the battle of Tunis and the first landing of the Allied troops in Europe, in Sicily and the Italian mainland. But these were small events compared with what has happened this year when we have seen liberated the whole of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece, Yugoslavia, Rumania and a large part of Italy, and the rest perhaps not very far ahead.

It is perhaps by reason of my association with so many of these liberated territories in the earlier part of the war that I may be entitled to make one plea before closing, and that is that critics and commentators should address themselves with a little more, shall I say, charity and broadmindedness to what is happening in the countries that have recently been liberated and freed from the oppression of the enemy. In any territory with which I might have been associated, if in six months after fighting has ceased I had been able to feel that the situation at any rate was no worse and if in a year's time it had shown an improvement, I should have been very proud of the result, because I should have known how much work and how much devotion that had involved. We have seen something of the material destruction of war here, but what happily we have not seen is the social and spiritual destruction which follows the flood of war over a country that has been oppressed and governed by the enemy for years. It is not the material things that have been broken down there that matter; it is that the fabric of society has broken down, and that is not a thing that can be mended in a few weeks or, indeed, in a few months.

If I may emulate the noble Viscount the Leader of the House in quoting poetry on this occasion I would like to do so, but from rather a more colloquial poem than the one that he chose. I have no doubt many of your Lordships will know the verses or recognize them. A poet wrote: Until thy feet have trod the Road Advise not wayside folk, Nor till thy back has borne the Load, Break in upon the broke. Time, not thy ne'er so timely speech, Life, not thy views thereon, Shall furnish or deny to each His consolation. Or, if impelled to interfere, Exhort, uplift, advise, Lend not a base, betraying ear To all the victim's cries. Only the Lord can understand When those first pangs begin, How much is reflex action and How much is really sin. On that theme I would like to put forward in all sincerity a plea that the men who are trying to restore order today in France, Belgium and Greece and their activities should be judged by what they have done and that they be not pestered with criticisms on what they have left undone in the few weeks during which they have been in power. The criticisms that I have seen have seemed to me distasteful and out of place. They have tended to create dissension where unity is necessary and very often discouragement where faith is required. I would like to see us mind our own businesses a little more also in the taking of tides among the political Parties which we are glad to see have arisen in the countries with which we are familiar. Those political Parties are the business of those who live in those countries and not our business and it is not for us to take a partizan or unfair attitude with regard to some as opposed to others. I beg to second the Motion.

3 p.m.


My Lords, I think it will be agreed everywhere in the House that we seldom have listened to speeches from the mover and seconder of the Address that have contained more vigour and a higher quality than those to which we have just listened to-day. If I may say so as an old man, I confess that it was to me a great encouragement to hear the noble Duke. His speech showed independence of thought, sympathy and statesmanship of outlook combined with a sense of responsibility that must have appealed to all of us. I only hope that the time to come will see the noble Duke taking an active part in the deliberations of this House, for I am sure that both the House and the country will be much enriched thereby. I shall take the opportunity in a few minutes to refer to what the noble Duke said about a little paper that I myself have written because it does relate to something that I had previously intended to say. The same applies to something that the noble Lord the seconder of this Motion said.

We are all glad that the Speech on the Prorogation of Parliament as well as the gracious Speech from the Throne to-day contained tributes to our Forces everywhere, and we all welcome the White Paper (which I am afraid many of us have not yet had time to read) setting out the effort of the United Kingdom. It is now made available in the Printed Paper Office. Quite ignorant of the fact that this Paper was to be published to-day I had intended, and do wish, to open my remarks with a plea that somehow or another means should be found to give us more appropriate tributes to what the British soldier is doing. I do not know why it is, but because of the way that things are presented the people of this country are unable to get a full realization of the contribution that is being made to the military effort by the soldiers of the homeland. We know, for example—and in saying this of course we pay our affectionate tribute to all our Allies—that three-quarters of the Canadian Army is composed of soldiers from the United Kingdom; but I do not think the public as a whole realizes that fact. They do not realize that nearly half the fighting men in France at the present time are British soldiers in one unit or another. We are a self-effacing race, too much so sometimes; that is why I am saying this. I believe it important that His Majesty's Government should use their good influence with the War Office, or whoever it is who presides over the presentation of news, to see that without any egotism the superlative efforts of the British Tommy are more appreciated. We do appreciate them, but I want them to be seen a little more in their proper perspective and I would make a plea that steps should be taken to that end.

I would also like to say how gladly I listened to what the seconder of the Motion said about our attitude towards the troubles that necessarily have arisen in recently liberated countries. I think that if in this country for twenty years decent people had been obliterated from public life and the standards of public morality had been debased, as they have been for example in Italy, we should find it exceedingly difficult to improvise in a short time an administration of the kind we should like to have. I do therefore most heartily support what the noble Lord the seconder of the Motion said on that subject. We have plenty of work of our own to attend to without being impertinent enough to think we can remedy the troubles of everybody else at the same time.

I am glad that the Speech from the Throne made reference to the necessity of getting our export trade going again as soon as possible, and it is a significant and encouraging event that those references are made in the gracious Speech. There again I hope we shall keep our chins up, as I have suggested we should in regard to the British soldier. I am sure that after the war many countries will be anxious to have British-made goods and I hope the Government will make sure that no artificial obstacles are placed in the way of our people producing and selling those goods.

If we look at the list of measures referred to in the Speech we seem confronted by what might be looked upon as a crowded Session. A considerable number of Bills are catalogued and some are placed in a conjectural class. It is upon them that I wish to say a word or two. Of those that are definitely promised I would say that we need not be appalled. A good many are relatively simple Bills and a good many will be dealt with by money provisions. Whilst I have the fullest possible sympathy with the Parliamentary draftsmen, having had an intimate acquaintance with those distinguished and most friendly men for many years, I do not think we ought to be intimidated from tackling good sized Bills because we think it is throwing an extra amount of work on their department. If the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, is going to make that suggestion, I want to discount it in advance.


I am not going to do that.


I thought the noble Viscount was too wise for that. It would not impress me very much. The vista which legislation in the concluding period of the war opens up suggests that somehow or another Parliamentary procedure will have to be adjusted to deal with it.

We cannot deal with it quite by the leisurely methods which sometimes have been adopted in the past. I must say that the conjectural class of legislalation seems rather to have the shadow of the impending Election over it. There seems to be a suggestion that we will get rid of a lot of little things and leave the big things until afterwards. I understand we are going to have an Election, and it will not be for us to intervene in that matter, but I would like to express the hope that the good will which prevails at present will be continued notwithstanding the General Election.

There are some indefinite references in the most gracious Speech to housing and I was glad to hear what the noble Duke had to say about that matter, because quite frankly I am disappointed at what is contained in the most gracious Speech. I would like to associate myself here with what the noble Duke said about the loss of Lord Portal to that service. I think the noble Lord rendered very distinguished and very special service and I think we all acknowledge it. No matter is more urgent. I could not present the multiplication of the Departments dealing with housing more picturesquely and tersely than the noble Duke has done and I will not try to add anything to what he said. The number of Departments that have to do with housing explains the lack of progress and I do not think that the form of words in the most gracious Speech that "progress will be made in fulfilling the urgent tasks of providing additional housing accommodation" will get us any further. What we want, and I am quite sure what the country wants, is that this should be made the business of one man, and not of half a dozen men, to get on with the job, and he should be armed with the necessary powers. I see no prospect of that essential condition being complied with.

Then there is an omission to which I attach great importance and I am glad that the noble Duke has enabled me to touch on it. There is nothing said about land in the most gracious Speech. Whatever we do we have got to have land if we are to build houses and whatever we do about the location of industry land will persist in cropping up. We cannot avoid the subject and I am not going to avoid it. I came across a very interesting publication the other day. It is a book issued to the troops by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs and it is entitled Show me the way to go home. That is the title of this official publication, and it is distributed, I suppose, to hundreds of thousands of British troops. I am not quite sure that I like the imitation of Fleet Street jargon, but that is what this book is called. One section of the book headed "Fresh action stations" tells the soldier what is going to happen to him at the close of hostilities. I commend this book to your Lordships. It is worth reading. On page 5 there is this statement: When Germany is knocked out the planners will be ready with their proposals for a re-allocation of Britain's man-power and Britain's resources. The planners will be ready; that is the statement in an official publication issued to His Majesty's troops. I confess I should have liked to have seen something in the most gracious Speech which would have enabled the planners to be ready.

There is one other quotation I should like to make from this book. It is stated that the Minister of Town and Country Planning in October of last year said: The Government take the view that the solution of the compensation and betterment problem is a necessary precedent to successful planning. That is what the Minister said twelve months ago, but I do not see in the most gracious Speech from the Throne anything about this necessary precedent. I believe the noble Viscount below the gangway is going to speak on this and so I will not say more on that point, except that until we have settled the question of compensation and betterment, which was said twelve months ago by the Minister to be an essential preliminary, we cannot get on with the re-location of industry or other matters connected with land development.

I would like to refer also to what the noble Duke said about agriculture. About four years ago His Majesty's Government told us that a healthy and well-balanced agriculture was an essential part of our national economy. I entirely agree with that and I greatly appreciate the reference which the noble Duke made to what was said by me on that subject. But four years have passed and there is nothing in the most gracious Speech from the Throne to give to the farming com- munity an assurance of stability, although this will probably be the last Session of this Parliament. All that is said is that it is proposed "to maintain a high level of food production at home." I am quite sure that we can rely on the farming community for that; but what is wanted—the noble Duke very eloquently expressed it—is an assurance for the future. I suggest that the time in which we live presents in an unprecedented degree an opportunity for arriving at an agreed policy on agriculture such as we have never had before. It will be a calamity to the agricultural industry if this opportunity for arriving at an agreed long-term policy is lost.

Then there follows in the most gracious Speech a paragraph which has three governing words in the first line. The paragraph says: "My Government intend that, as opportunity serves, progress should be made with legislation" arising out of proposals for national health insurance, a health service, industrial injury insurance and family allowances. "As opportunity serves." That does not buoy me up with much hope. Being an experienced politician I should think it is quite likely that opportunity will not serve. I do not think it is good enough. It cannot be said that these things have not been thrashed out. It is not as if we were starting from the beginning. We have had the Beveridge Report and the Government's splendid White Paper before us for a long time, and I am quite sure that there has been plenty of time for the Parliamentary draftsman to have got on with the business of drafting a Bill, if he had been told what it was he was to draft. I have always found that the Parliament draftsman is a very rapid worker, as well as a very expert worker, but he does require the fulfilment of one preliminary condition—he must be told what it is that he has got to do. Now in that, I am rather afraid, lies the reason why the Parliamentary draftsman has not been put on to this job. We have been discussing it a great deal, and the Government have expressed their views upon this and upon other topics. I am afraid it looks as though there had not been the essential agreement on the instructions to be given to the Parliamentary draftsman, and that that accounts for the appearance of these three words in the first line of this paragraph.

I think that we are entitled to ask the noble Leader of the House whether he can give us a little more ground for hope on this subject. There is no getting away from the fact that the people of the country expect these things—and they have been led to believe that they are going to get them. They want them; there is nothing new about them. I hope that we shall have something better than the prospect of putting them all off for "an enlarged and unified scheme of national insurance, a new scheme of industrial injury insurance and a system of family allowances," as well as the improved health services to which the noble Duke referred. I hope that we shall have something better than ground for misgivings that they are going to be put off because opportunity will not serve until after a General Election. It will be most unfortunate if that is to be the result of these years of work and this raising of the expectations of so many people. I know that the programme is a crowded one, and it may be that it might prove physically impossible to get through it all. But the reason we are presented with .these words to which I have referred is that there has begin over two or three years—on some subjects nearly four years—of delay and hesitation.

In regard to planning and agricultural policy, as well as these matters, I am bound to say that I am really very disappointed at the ambiguity of and the omissions in the Speech which we have heard from His Majesty this morning. It means, I am afraid, that all these things, on which people have set their hearts, and which are the essential preliminaries of restoration, are going to be subject to further postponement. The people will be disappointed, deeply disappointed, if, with regard to planning or agriculture, or any of these great social schemes which we have all hoped for and discussed so anxiously, it is made clear that none of them can be realized in the year that is now opened. Further, I think that if they should not be realized, it might jeopardize a great measure of the national unity which is of such priceless value to the people, and to the world, at the present time. In order to put into words the misgiving that I feel and that my friends feel on this subject, I beg to move to add to the Address these words: But this House humbly regrets that in the gracious Speech there is no definite assurance that effect will be given to the Government's pledge to secure the establishment of a healthy and well-balanced agriculture and for making possible the use of land necessary for efficient planning and the appropriate location of industry, or for the passage into law of the measures referred to in the gracious Speech for the provision of adequate health services, social and industrial insurance or family allowances.

Amendment moved—

At the end of the Motion insert: ("But this House humbly regrets that in the gracious Speech there is no definite assurance that effect will be given to the Government's pledge to secure the establishment of a healthy and well-balanced agriculture and for making possible the use of land necessary for efficient planning and the appropriate location of industry, or for the passage into law of the measures referred to in the gracious Speech for the provision of adequate health services, social and industrial insurance or family allowances".—(Lord Addison.)

3.28 p.m.


My Lords, the course taken by the noble Lord who has just spoken is a very unusual one in your Lordships' House, I believe. I do not think that he would expect, or desire, that the remainder of this afternoon's discussion should be devoted to the terms of his Amendment rather than to the terms of the original Motion. I feel sure that the House would desire that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, should address himself to the wide range of subjects included in the Motion of the noble Duke the proposer and the noble Lord the seconder rather than to the more limited purposes in view of the Leader of the Opposition. Consequently, with his permission, I shall rather devote myself to the larger aspects.

My first duty and pleasure will be to add my congratulations to those which have already been tendered to the noble Duke and the noble Lord who have been the mover and the seconder of the Address in answer to the gracious Speech from the Throne. Their task is an honourable one, but one which is usually regarded as something of an ordeal. It is a pleasanter thing to have done than to do, for, once done, all future speeches will appear easy in comparison. Especially is that so when, as in the case of the noble Duke, his speech in moving the Address is his maiden speech. He has given us a concise summary of a very wide field, admirably phrased and spoken; and his plea for the soldier and for an active policy on housing, health and agriculture indicate that on these matters in particular, on which he evidently feels keenly and about which he has thought much, his future contributions to our debates will be very valuable. My noble friend Lord Rennell, who seconded, has already taken an active part in our debates, and I will only say of his speech to-day that it is up to the standard which he himself has already set. He is a man of wide experience. After five years service in the last war, he devoted himself first to diplomacy and then to finance, and during the present war to administration, particularly of the liberated territories of our Allies. This wide experience will enable him in the future to take a very active and helpful part in the debates of this House.

Of neither of those noble Lords could it be said that he is youthful, but they are young relative to the standards of this House. I remember reading recently an address by one of the leaders of the cotton industry who, referring to the mechanical equipment of that industry, said "There is a national reluctance to recognize obsolescence." The horrid thought occured to me, "Does this apply to members of the House of Lords?" But even the most reluctant obsolescent must some day recognize that he is undeniably obsolete, and therefore the older ones among us will welcome those of the younger generation who are willing in the future to accept responsibility for the indispensable work of the Legislature.

There is one who is not a member of this House but of the other, and who is neither obsolete nor obsolescent, although to-morrow he will be celebrating his seventieth birthday. I am sure that on that occasion this House would wish to extend to the Prime Minister its congratulations and good wishes. He celebrates that auspicious anniversary surrounded by the gratitude and good will not only of the whole nation but, it is true to say, of the greater part of mankind. He has had in view two purposes during these years of stress and crisis: military success and Allied unity. The first is wholly dependent upon the second. It is true to say that he has attained both objects; for in the gracious Speech to-day tribute was paid to "a year of resounding achievement." It is a fine phrase. Recognition was given in that Speech and in the Speech of Prorogation yesterday to the members of the Services and to all others who have contributed to those great results, and there is a phrase relating to the tireless effort and inventive genius which characterized our production of munitions. That is a tribute to our scientists, and we ought to recognize that without them and the results of their work our Forces, gallant and successfully led as they have been, would have been outmatched and defeated.

In the same Speech His Majesty said that it gave him particular pleasure to have been able to visit units of all the Forces in Western Europe and in the Mediterranean. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that His Majesty may rest assured that in this House and in the nation there is a universal appreciation of those visits having been undertaken by him, bringing encouragement to those an. whom necessarily have fallen the greatest hardships and dangers of five years of war.

Allied unity has been maintained thanks mainly to the close co-operation between this country and Commonwealth and the United States of America. That has been the central core of the whole vast organization and fellowship of the United Nations. We learn that Mr. Cordell Hull, the Secretary of State of the United States, is now retiring from office. He has done much to contribute actively to that union. For some time he has fought manfully against frequent ill health, and now, on the eve of the fulfilment of the purposes to which he has been devoted, he finds himself compelled to retire from office. He does so with the gratitude of all in this country. His successor, who has been designated, Mr. Stettinius, is well-known to us here owing mainly to his recent visit to England, when he addressed in this building members of both Houses of Parliament. There was revealed to us then a cheerful and friendly personality, evidently characterized by great vigour and efficiency. His book on Lend-Lease, which many of your Lordships will have read, shows a very firm grasp of the essentials of the situation, and a full recognition of the necessity for the closest and most friendly co-operation between the leading democratic countries of the world.

Allied unity has been greatly promoted during the past year by the conferences with Russia at Teheran and Moscow. The Germans have long seen with much wishful thinking the lines growing, as they suppose, of a future division of Europe into Western and Eastern blocks, which they think will sooner or later, for their advantage, come into conflict. It is our task to defeat those anticipations. General Dittmar, the spokesman of the German High Command, referred about a fortnight ago to Napoleon's desperate situation in 1814, and said that the similarity of our period is obvious. So also is the German attitude towards Russia in relation to Napoleon's. In a book by Dr. Gooch, it is recalled that when, in 1812, Napoleon was driving incognito across Europe after the failure of his Moscow campaign, he said to Caulaincourt, who was his only companion and who recorded it: "Every Cabinet in Europe is interested in keeping the Cossacks beyond the Niemen. The war against Russia was in the interests of civilization. We ought to see only one enemy in Europe, and that enemy is the Russian Colossus." That has a considerable similarity to the sayings of Adolf Hitler. The Allies of that period paid no attention to this and remained solid, and the outcome was Leipzig and St. Helena.

In 1814, France showed a remarkable resilience. She did so again in 1870, and once more after the defeats of 1914. Once more now, after the collapse of 1940 and four years of suffering and humiliation, she has shown the same powers of moral and material recovery and regeneration. The French are fortunate, and we are all fortunate, that they have now a personality as their rallying point. There has been from time to time considerable criticism of General de Gaulle, and the recognition of his Provisional Government was very tardy, for which, it is said, His Majesty's Government were not to blame; but it is now recognized that the French have a central figure, brave and tenacious, whose leadership is recognized and whose authority is accepted. That fact is very hopeful for the future recovery of France.

We only wish that it were the same with some of our other Allies who have suffered by German occupation—Italy, Greece and Poland. It is our duty to give to all our Allies whose territories have been liberated advice and assistance, but we all hope that it will be in the spirit of the very apt verses which were quoted just now by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell. It was expected that the moment the military victories had released those territories supplies of food and materials, which were said to be all in readiness, would be very rapidly rushed in and the necessities of the peoples at once relieved. That, unhappily, has not proved to be so, and distressing accounts have been received of the conditions, first in Italy, then in Greece, afterwards in France and in Belgium, and considerable economic unrest has been the natural consequence, which has even bred political disturbance. We know the immense difficulties in making available those supplies—difficulties of transport especially—and we know the military necessities. Still there has been considerable disappointment that more was not in fact accomplished for the relief of those populations, and we would express the hope that the very real difficulties may be overcome, and that the utmost effort will be made under the direction of His Majesty's Government and the Governments of the Allies to secure that result.

With regard to conditions in the Allied countries, I would only make reference to one of our Allies, to Poland. We are all distressed to see the great difficulty in establishing a political union there. As I said on a previous occasion in this House, the history of the last 200 years has shown that a strong and independent Poland cannot live unless Poland makes friends either with Germany or with Russia. It cannot survive with hostile peoples to the east and to the west, and as in present circumstances it is out of the question that it can be reconciled and establish an abiding friendship with Germany, it is essential for their own security and safety that, even at the cost of great sacrifices, Poland should reconcile herself with her great neighbour on the east. That is, I believe, the conviction of people in this country, and it is to be hoped that that course may be found practicable.

The future co-operation of the United Nations when the war is over, for the organization of peace and security, is now being outlined, and to my mind the most important of all the events of this last memorable year, outside the military sphere, has been the holding of the Conference at Dumbarton Oaks and the proposals there made for the future organization of the world. That was emphasized in His Majesty's speech of yesterday. And appended to that on the economic side there are the results of the monetary conference at Bretton Woods. There we can see the pattern of the future organization of mankind taking shape. I share with the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, a feeling of great satisfaction at the mention in His Majesty's gracious Speech of future proposals with regard to Colonial development. There are great arrears to be made good, and that paragraph in the Government programme will, I am sure, command unanimous approval in your Lordships' House.

As to home affairs, this is not an occasion for controversial debate, and therefore I shall say very little. Most of the proposals included in the Government's programme are such as have been anticipated, but there is one very grave omission and that is with regard to town and country planning. When the Bill was before your Lordships' House three weeks ago its inadequacy was condemned on all sides, and the Government replied that it must not be regarded as an ultimate measure; it was merely an interim, provisional measure, which would be followed by a more comprehensive Statute. Now we find in the Speech from the Throne, although a great number of different proposals are included, no mention of this subject whatever, except the Bill dealing with the distribution of industry, which in itself is in the nature of a preliminary measure. Nothing is said about the powers for land acquisition, nothing about compensation and betterment; so that the interim is likely to be an interim of years. Those who have been struggling during the last four years to put off what might be for them an evil day of somewhat drastic land legislation have now succeeded, and the Government evidently have abandoned all hope of being able to present, at all events to this Parliament, any measure on these most important and essentially urgent matters.

It is clear that this question will have to be fought out in the constituencies. It is likely to prove a leading issue in the General Election, which probably will not now be long delayed. It is uni- versally expected to take place in coming year, and it is indispensable that the electorate should have freedom to express their views. There has been some criticism of the action of the Liberal and Labour Parties in declaring that they would not take part in a joint appeal to the electorate. Such an appeal would really be depriving the people of their right of choice of the next Parliament. It is not to be contemplated that everything should be arranged beforehand by an agreement behind the scenes between the leaders of a Coalition who should allocate the manner in which seats should be filled at the next General Election, and so determine the character of a Parliament which will govern the country possibly for a period of five years.

The noble Duke in his speech spoke of the advantages of prefabricated houses, and they may be excellent for people to dwell in, but a prefabricated House of Commons the nation will not have. To say this is not to derogate from the principle, to which we are strongly attached, that in time of national emergency or danger Party controversy must be suspended until that danger has been met and overcome. That also is essential to the working of a successful democracy. Our danger has not yet been overcome; the war still continues. Its area is more concentrated; the prospects are improved, but it is still being waged with unceasing violence. Therefore at present coalition remains still necessary in order to direct the full national effort. Until victory is achieved or close at hand all Parties, I believe, will agree that national and political unity should be firmly maintained until that task is accomplished.

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to submit that it is a subject of regret that there is no mention in the gracious Speech from the Throne of any intention on the part of the Government to set up a Committee to inquire into the subject of officers' pensions after the conclusion of this war, with a view to introducing further legislation on the subject. Your Lordships passed a Motion only quite recently declaring that such a Committee was necessary, so that I need not move an Amendment. Your Lordships' opinion on the subject is well known. There are many legitimate grievances up and down the country among men and women as to the way in which they are being treated. They are suffering under mean injustices. Only two days ago I was present at a meeting of retired officers, all men of a good age who have passed the whole of their lives in military service under the Crown, and who are practically the backbone of all the voluntary effort made in this country. You find retired officers in almost every activity. They are constantly opposed to anything in the shape of a union or of obstructing the Government in any way, but they are considering forming a union so that they can be heard and their case considered.

I wish to refer to the Merchant Navy in particular. The Merchant Navy is not mentioned in the Speech although all the three Services are, unless it is included, as it ought to be, under the heading "my Navies." If it is not, why is not the Merchant Navy treated as part of the Royal Navy (which it is)? Three years ago the noble Lord, Lord Marchwood, asked for a Royal Commission to go into the whole subject of the Merchant Navy and into all the conditions, and one of the objections raised, among many others that were quite trivial, was the slowness of a Royal Commission to act. The slowest Commission that ever was would have got something out in the three and a half years that have passed, and the Government might then have taken some action. Only last week I got a letter from the Ministry of Pensions drawing my attention to the fact that merchant sailors were considered on a different footing from sailors in the Royal Navy. If they are, I consider it an injustice. They do just as much fighting and they do it under worse conditions. Without their services and sacrifices we should have gone under and become a base for long-range rocket firing at the United States.

During the last fortnight there has been much correspondence in the Press on the subject of the Merchant Navy. It went through the whole range, starting with the fact that a merchant sailor does not have his place in civil life kept open for him, as a man in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force has; and that I consider an injustice. It also went through, of course, their right to pensions and it went down to such a minute subject as the withdrawal of a cook from a coaster when returned to her owner, the last by the secretary of an association who had opposed a Royal Commission inquiring into the conditions of the Merchant Navy. At the present time there are wounded and maimed men, widows of the last war and of the South African war, widows of this war and a great number of people, all with the same feeling of a sense of injustice. It cannot be healthy that that should exist, and there has been ample opportunity to reassure them that their cases will all be considered. I submit that the failure to recognize that fact and to hold out hope for them is a grave omission and is to be deplored.

3.54 P.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the appeal made by the noble and gallant Earl in regard to the Merchant Navy. It will always be a matter of regret to me that the Government were unable to accede to the request made to them three years ago for a Royal Commission to be appointed to inquire into the conditions of that service. There are undoubtedly people to-day who think that the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy should have only one thing in common, and that is risk and sacrifice. It is incomprehensible that the same people should oppose equal treatment in other matters. In the matter of human requirements, there is no difference between the needs of merchant seamen and those of naval seamen. It takes the same money to maintain the one as the other; and the needs of their wives and dependants are also similar. There is an oft-repeated slogan of "Equal pay for equal work." To my mind there should be another slogan which we should keep before us at all times in these days, and that is "Equal recompense for equal risk and sacrifice." The noble Duke who moved the Address in reply to His Majesty's most gracious Speech, made the moving appeal that we should not forget our Armies when peace comes. I make a similar appeal for the Merchant Navy and I ask that we may be given a definite undertaking that the men of this great service shall receive the equal treatment which their services and sacrifices entitle them to expect.

3.56 p.m.


My Lords, the opening of a new Session of Parliament by His Majesty the King is always a ceremony of a deeply impressive character. It is symbolic of the close connexion that exists between the Crown and the people, and moreover, in peace-time, at any rate, it gives an opportunity for a display of that sober magnificence for which this country is famed and which is in such entire keeping with the solemnity of the occasion. In war-time it is of course shorn of much of its outward glory. The King himself does not appear in all tie pomp and panoply of sovereignty; he comes in Service dress. Equally, the Peers do not appear in their robes; they are present in their ordinary, workaday clothes. But though this ceremony is, as a result, less grandiose than in the piping times of peace, I do not think for this reason that it is less dignified or less impressive. On the contrary, I think that to most of us it must seem more moving and mare in harmony with the austere times in which we live.

I do not suppose that there can ever have been a gracious Speech from the Throne which we as a nation ought to have been more proud to hear than that to which we listened this morning, with its stirring catalogue of warlike achievements by His Majesty's Forces, military, naval, and air, in all parts of the world, and with its comprehensive list—whatever some noble Lords may have said, and I propose to deal with some of their points later—its comprehensive list of social legislation by means of which we may hope that Parliament will be enabled to lay the foundations of a new and better world after the war.

Moreover, I am quite sure that all your Lordships will agree that the speeches of the mover and seconder of the humble Address were entirely worthy of the occasion. I would very much like, if I may, to congratulate the noble Lords concerned on the admirable way in which they acquitted themselves in what is always bound to be something of an ordeal. Both, as is entirely fitting, have served in the Armed Forces of the Crown. The noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, is of course a newcomer, as he said, to your Lordships' House; but I thought to-day—and it has been borne out in other comments—that he showed us in full that he has those Parliamentary gifts which have always been associated with his family. His thoughtful and constructive comments, both on questions of the pre-war situation of the Army, on health services, on agriculture and also on housing—as to which I have to say something a little later on in my speech—his comments on all those questions I am quite certain deeply impressed the House. He has obviously studied deeply the questions on which he spoke. We shall not forget his maiden speech, and I hope very much it will be the precursor of many others as charming and as clear sighted.

The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, was in a different situation. He had not to-day to pass what I may call his baptism of fire. We have already had very many effective contributions to our debates from the noble Lord on a wide range of subjects, but he never spoke with more effect that he did to-day. Though I seemed to detect a rather satirical approach to some aspects of the policy of His Majesty's Government, especially in regard to the results of control, with regard to which I have a faint and sneaking sympathy with him, his satire was of so good-natured a character that I do not think anyone could conceivably complain of it. The noble Lord, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has already pointed out, has had an almost uniquely wide experience. He has been a diplomat, he has been a banker, and he has been a Major-General, so that he has had what I think we may fairly call a liberal education. He drew on all his experience in the speech he delivered to your Lordships this afternoon.

Personally as an old Colonial Secretary, I welcomed particularly warmly his words with regard to the importance of developing the Colonial Empire, and your Lordships also listened with attention to what he said about the export trade. He uttered the profound truth, which may appear a very simple one but which, alas, is all too often forgotten, that if we want foreign countries to purchase our goods, we must be prepared to produce what they want to buy. That is very true, but it is very frequently forgotten. I hope his wise words will be noted by those who are concerned with these matters. He spoke, I thought, equally wise words from his personal experience about the difficult task before the liberated countries. There are some people in this country who seem impatient because these countries have not already surmounted all their difficulties. The wonder is they have done as well as they have. Both the mover and seconder put up admirable performances and I am sure your Lordships will all wish me to congratulate them most warmly. They certainly paved the way for a most interesting and valuable debate.

My task is now to wind up that debate on behalf of His Majesty's Government. It is the third year in succession that that duty has fallen to my lot and I know that on the last occasion I inflicted upon your Lordships an unconscionably long speech. The same may be true this afternoon. I apologize to your Lordships, but, as you will know, the canvas that I have to cover is a very wide one. Last year, in November, when I spoke, there were certain special questions, as your Lordships will recall, about which the House required information. In particular there was the situation in the Ægean about which I was asked to give a full account. I got the impression that the explanation that I gave did not entirely satisfy all your Lordships, but I do not withdraw one word that I then said. Indeed, I believe that events have justified the account that I gave to your Lordships on that occasion. I am quite certain that the diversion of German forces from Italy at the critical moment of the landing at Salerno played a considerable part—I will not put it higher than that—in easing the situation of our hard-pressed troops in Italy. But whatever may be thought about that particular occasion, to-day at any rate we can look at the situation in the Ægean with complete serenity. It is true there are a few islands where German troops are still in occupation. But they can no longer be regarded even by the most jaundiced pessimist as the spearhead of a German assault upon our position in the Middle East. On the contrary, to-day they are small handfuls of troops, deserted, abandoned to their fate, hanging on by the skin of their teeth, virtually prisoners in a prisoners' cage, with no hope of rescue or relief. To-day the war has passed them by. They are almost historical monuments.

They are chiefly interesting, I think, as a concrete evidence of the astonishing change which has come over our fortunes since I spoke in this debate last year. Had I prophesied in the speech which I made last November that within a year Greece would have been liberated, France would have been liberated, British and American troops would be fighting within the borders of Germany and a Free French Army would be standing on the Rhine, and had I prophesied, too, that Russian Armies would have overrun Rumania and a large part of Poland, would have been liberating Yugoslavia and would have been battering at the gates of East Prussia and Budapest, had I lent myself to such recklessly optimistic prognostications, I should have laid myself open to the well-merited rebukes that your Lordships would certainly have showered upon me. Yet all these things have happened in this last year. It has indeed, I think you will agree, been an annus mirabilis. The Allied forces have accomplished more than we could have had any reason to hope. I do not propose to go to-day any further into these notable events or into those other aspects of the international situation which have been dealt with by Lord Samuel in the very thoughtful and profound speech he has just delivered to your Lordships. It is only recently that we had a war debate in this House. Moreover, within recent months we have had the benefit of more than one of those unrivalled expositions by the Prime Minister for which he is world-famed. There is nothing I could helpfully add to what he has said. Therefore I propose to confine myself, if I may, to dealing with one or two specific points which have been raised in this debate.

First of all, there is the point made by Lord Addison with regard to publicity for United Kingdom troops. I do not suppose there is anyone in this House or outside it who will not have warmly sympathized with what he said. We all desire a true recognition of what I think he called "the superlative efforts of the British Tommy." But, as those of your Lordships who have been directly connected with the conduct of the war know, publicity is not always quite so easy as it looks. It involves all sorts of questions of operational security. Things that look to us completely harmless may give extremely valuable information to the enemy. But having said that, broadly speaking there is no difference of view, I can assure the noble Lord, between him and His Majesty's Government on this matter, and I am quite certain we all of us warmly welcome the stirring words he spoke to-day. I shall see that they are transmitted to the proper quarter.

There is also the question of France which was referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. Here again, we shall all again warmly welcome the wise words which he spoke. Personally, I feel there is nothing more cheering in the rather dreary world in which we live than the immense vitality that has been shown by liberated France. She is a great nation, a nation with age-long traditions, and I imagine that any one of us who has had the good fortune to know her would have expected her to rise again to her former grandeur. But surely the way in which she is tackling the very real difficulties which inevitably face her have exceeded all expectations. I profoundly believe, with the noble Viscount, that the visit of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, at the invitation of their great leader General de Gaulle, to Paris and the talks that took place there will be of the first importance in cementing friendship between the two countries. We salute France, our Ally of the past, our Ally of the present, and our Ally of the future. It must be our object to work closely with her both now and in years to come, for on close collaboration between us within a world organization must surely depend the peace of Europe and with it the peace of the entire globe.

There is one other aspect of what I will not call the international situation, but the world situation, about which it is perhaps natural that I, as Dominions Secretary, should wish to say a word to your Lordships' House this afternoon. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the admirable relations which at present exist between the various parts of the British Commonwealth. To anyone who considers these things at all, that must be a matter of the most profound satisfaction. In saying this, I do not mean that we should think of the British Commonwealth and Empire as an entity apart from, or opposed to, the rest of the world. I do not mean that we should take up in any sense an isolationist attitude. That, to a Commonwealth which has such world-wide interests as we have, would be in any case quite an impossible position to take up. We must always regard ourselves as a part, though an essential part, of a greater world organi- zation in which we must work in collaboration with other peace-loving nations. But surely it is vital that all members of the Commonwealth, while reserving an absolute right to come to their own decisions, should move as far as possible together. Only so shall we be able to wield the full influence to which our traditions, experience and geographical position entitle us.

And if this is important to us who live here in the United Kingdom, it is, I suggest, even more important to the other Commonwealth countries. For, after all, we, with our vast Colonial Empire, our strategic position at the gates of Western Europe and our far-flung economic and financial interests, are always likely to be a great Power. But they, with their widespread territories and comparatively limited populations, could not alone speak with that full authority which we should all wish to see. For that reason, I suggest that our interests, the interests of this island and of the other Empire countries, are inextricably linked, in peace as in war, and therefore the broad unanimity of views which was shown at the Prime Ministers' meeting in May last was, I believe, an event of the first importance both to the Commonwealth itself and to the world. As your Lordships know, all aspects of public policy were fully discussed at that meeting. The conduct of the war, foreign policy, the future peace organization, all came under consideration and review, and on all we found ourselves thinking on the same lines. That, surely, is a sufficient reply to those pessimists who used to prophesy that the Statute of Westminster would mean the beginning of the disintegration of the British Empire. On the contrary, the spiritual and material ties that bind us—and I would not deride material ties—are, I believe, to-day stronger than ever before. So long as that happy situation continues, so long shall we be able, I am confident, to make our essential contribution to the future of civilization. The meeting of Empire Prime Ministers last May and the discussions that then took place was certainly not the least notable event of this remarkable year.

Now I would like to turn for a moment to questions of home affairs, with which the larger part of the debate has been concerned. On these, I do not propose to speak very fully to-day. For there are few aspects of our domestic policy which have not been the subject of debates in recent months or on which Motions are not already on the Paper of your Lordships' House. Indeed, it is a remarkable feature of the deliberations of your Lordships' House that we have had so many valuable discussions on such a wide variety of subjects within these last years. They have, I believe, been of value not merely to your Lordships but to the country as a whole, and—so I am told—the reputation of your Lordships' House has steadily risen since the war in the eyes of the people of Britain. Take the subjects mentioned in the most gracious Speech; education, housing, employment, national health and water. All these subjects, which were mentioned in the Speech on the Prorogation, have been fully debated in recent months, I might almost say within recent weeks. We have also discussed the export trade, food production, the distribution of industry, which find a place in the gracious Speech, and there is clearly not much I can say on these matters until the further details of the measures the Government propose to take come before Parliament. I understand also that there are important Motions impending dealing with national insurance, industrial insurance and demobilization.

Certain specific questions have however been raised in this debate about which I think it would be proper for me to say a few words. The phrase "as opportunity serves" appears in the paragraph in the most gracious Speech which deals with health service, national insurance and family allowances, and it was mentioned in the speech which the noble Lord, Lord Addison, made in moving his Amendment. Let me say frankly that the Government cannot accept the Amendment. Indeed, I do not think the noble Lord expects them to do so. His object, I suspect, was to underline certain points to which he and his friends attach importance. I can assure him that I will give the fullest reply I can on this particular point. As I understand it, there is genuine doubt as to the meaning of the phrase "as opportunity serves," and the suggestion has been made that there is something sinister behind those words, that they indicate the possibility of some unnecessary and even intentional delay in dealing with the subjects in question. The noble Lord himself suggested that they would be postponed until after the General Election. I can assure him that any such suggestion as that is utterly unfounded. The words used are intended to have no such interpretation at all. The explanation is a perfectly simple one and I am not sure that he did not in part give it himself.

As your Lordships will be aware, the legislation foreshadowed in this paragraph in the most gracious Speech is immense in scope. The noble Lord, Lord Addison, I thought, talked in rather an airy way about it, but he is far too experienced in political life not to know that it is a huge body of legislation. In ordinary times—"the piping times of peace" as we now call them—it would certainly have occupied several Sessions of Parliament, and, even at the present time, it is quite uncertain how long it will take to pass these Bills through both Houses. I am not concerned with Parliamentary draftsmen, to which Lord Addison referred. It is of Parliament I am talking now. The Government do not wish to promise more than they can certainly perform. If I may, I would remind your Lordships of a rather unhappy experience which befell my noble colleague Lord Woolton. He was strongly pressed by the House to give the date at which certain legislation would be introduced. Your Lordships will remember that he said: "After Christmas." Subsequently, owing to inevitable delay—it really was in fact quite inevitable—he was accused almost of a breach of faith by a number of your Lordships. Now, those same noble Lords who accused my noble friend of breach of faith are complaining because the Government have not given them a great many more similar pledges. Those noble Lords really cannot have it both ways.


Why not?


Well, they cannot! In any case, this is largely a question for Parliament itself. Only Parliament can ultimately decide how quickly legislation passes through. Parliament can make it a long business or a short business, as it likes. If these Bills are passed through rapidly, I can assure the House that no one will be more delighted than His Majesty's Government. I still think—and I feel that I shall have the majority of the House with me in saying this—that some cautionary phrase was clearly necessary, not because in these days we are dilatory, or because we wish to be dilatory in the future, but merely for the very opposite reason that we are attempting at the present time, under pressure of war, to cram through, for the benefit of the post-war years, a great mass of legislation in a far shorter period than would have been thought possible in normal times. So much for that point, which was raised by my noble friend Lord Addison.

Your Lordships will now perhaps wish me to give you what information I can with regard to the housing position, which was referred to by the noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland. As he said in his speech, this is clearly an issue of the first moment. I should have thought that no one who goes about the country at the present time could have been tempted to underestimate the urgency or importance of the housing problem. It is, as your Lordships know, likely to be by far the most intractable problem that we shall have to face. During five years practically no houses have been built, and an enormous number have been destroyed by enemy action. Moreover, many of the building operatives are away in the Armed Forces, and it may not be possible to release them all immediately, without injustice to others. These are the sort of difficulties with which we have to deal, and that is the situation we have to face. It is no good burking the fact that this problem presents immense difficulties. The noble Duke said how much better it would be only to build permanent houses. I am quite sure we should all agree with him, but it is not practically possible, as your Lordships know, to build the requisite number of permanent houses in the time, and, therefore, we have had to try to find methods of supplementing them, so that the largest number of British citizens can be adequately housed in the shortest possible period.

I have here a good many details relating to the housing situation. I do not know quite how far it will be the wish of the House that I should go into them, but I think I may give just one or two figures which may be of use to your Lordships. As your Lordships know, the Government's proposal for meeting the immediate housing shortage takes the form of a two- pronged attack with both temporary and permanent houses. While the long-term housing need will require something of the order of 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 houses in the next ten years, the immediate need is put at about 1,000,000. The Government's proposals for meeting this need are bound to be related to the amount of labour and materials which can be made available, and, having considered this point very carefully, they believe that, notwithstanding the vast amount of war damage which must be made good, they can adhere to their original programme of 100,000 permanent houses built or building by the end of the first year, followed by a further 200,000 in the second year. By calling in factory workers to reinforce the building industry, they believe that it will be possible to produce approximately an equal number of temporary bungalows during the same period. The Government's programme, therefore, amounts, in all, to some 500,000 to 600,000 dwellings ready or under construction in the first two years, and steps have already been taken to put this programme into effect.

The noble Duke who initiated this debate pleaded against excessive standardization. But while I warmly sympathize with what he said about "ghastly uniformity," at the same time I would point out that we must recognize that our primary problem is to get the houses built. That is the real thing. It is going to be difficult enough in any case. Therefore, for the first few years I am afraid we shall have to put up with what we might normally consider to be an excessive amount of standardization. I suggest that it is better to have too great a standardization than to have an insufficient number of houses. If we are put in that dilemma, I have no doubt which view we shall take. I would only say, in addition, that local authorities are being advised to look to their permanent houses, which will, in general, be in course of erection concurrently with the others, to meet the needs of the larger families, and to the bungalows for the smaller families. Local authorities are also being asked to give special consideration to the claims of men and women who have been on war service, and who are unable to obtain a separate home of their own, and, in particular, to the claims of those who have been disabled. The outstanding factor will be that the family are without a home, and such families may be of all types.

It is not necessary, I think, to say anything more to prove to your Lordships that the Government, whatever may be said for or against them, are in fact straining every nerve to cope with this extremely difficult problem. I do not pretend that the results which we achieve, however hard we try, will be likely immediately to satisfy all demands. I think that is beyond all hopes. Lord Latham, of course, speaks with a great deal more authority on these matters than I can ever command, but I think that he would probably agree. At any rate, I can assure the House that housing will have first priority, and that no suggestion, however novel, will be left out of consideration. My noble friend Lord Addison made, by implication, two suggestions which, with all due deference, I would like to deny. He said that the provision of houses was being held up because five Ministries were responsible. I am quite sure that he would not wish to mislead the House. Whatever may be the more satisfactory method of administration, whether by one Ministry or by five Ministries, that is not the reason why houses are not being built to-day. The true reason, of course, is to be found in the shortage of building labour and building material. I do not care what set-up you have in the Government to deal with this subject; there will be no difference in these fundamental factors at the present time. There was one other suggestion which I understood Lord Addison to make. He quoted from a Government pamphlet which he did not much like, and went on to say that no planning was going on.




I do not wish to misrepresent the noble Lord.


I did not go as far as that.


It may be true, but he did not go as far as that.


At any rate I hope that what I have said shows that there is no truth in any such suggestion, from wherever it may come. I do not suggest that the noble Lord made it, but these things are being said, and they are not true. We are in fact straining every nerve, as I have already said, to deal with this most intractable problem.


My Lords, I do hope that it will not be attributed to me. I assure the noble Viscount that I quoted from the document without making any unfair selection. It is a document which has been issued to the troops and explains to them what is going to happen on demobilization. I do not want it to be thought that I quoted from it unfairly; I am sure that I did not. I quoted it exactly as is stands, and it is a Government publication.


The last thing in the world that I want to do is to misrepresent the noble Lord, and therefore I withdraw anything I said which might give that impression.

Another question which was raised by the noble Lord, and referred to also by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, is that of the use of the land necessary for efficient planning. I think that it is actually referred to in the Amendment. I was not clear, even after listening to his speech, exactly what the noble Lord had in mind. No doubt, that is my fault. I was under the impression that the question of the use of land necessary for efficient planning was largely covered by the Town and Country Planning Act which has just been passed. It may very well be that the noble Lord was not entirely satisfied with the provisions of that Act, and indeed I think we all know that varying views on this question are held in different parts of the House; but I had thought that it was generally accepted that the Act was as near as we could get to a fair compromise between the varying views held by different sections of the community, and it would surely be very wrong to go back on that now. Nor do I believe that that was what the noble Lord had in mind.

If, on the other hand, he had in mind further proposals which ought to be put forward with regard to the White Paper on Compensation and Betterment, all I can say to him to-day is that they are under urgent consideration, but that it is not yet certain that they have reached a point when the Government can promise legislation during this Session. I am being absolutely frank with the House. That is the position. As your Lordships know, the most gracious Speech is not exclusive; it does not exclude the possibility of other legislation; but it is not desirable to raise hopes which it is conceivable may not be realized.

That applies also to the question of the location of industry, about which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, spoke. In that connexion, I should like to refer the noble Lord to the White Paper on Employment Policy. The Government have outlined in Chapter III of that White Paper their policy for promoting a better balance in the geographical distribution of British industry, which is, as I understand, the point that the noble Viscount was making. They will seek to check the development of localized unemployment in particular industries and areas by promoting a more diversified industrial life in areas which have in the past been unduly dependent on a single industry and the subsidiary industries which have grown up around it. Their attention will be directed especially to areas which have been unduly dependent on industries which are especially vulnerable to unemployment. That is a very brief résumé of what is said in Chapter III, where the matter is dealt with fully. All that I want to make clear this afternoon—and I am certain that my noble friend Lord Woolton will support me—is that the Government stand firmly by the policy outlined in Chapter III of that White Paper.

I do not want to harp on this question —I have mentioned it already—but Parliament must not light-heartedly assume that it is going to be able to achieve in this Session more than is in fact practically possible. We are introducing reforms at a pace which was never contemplated before this war began, and at a time when the war is still in full spate. We must not overtax the capacity of Parliament, or we shall only produce a mass of ill-digested legislation which will do more harm than good. If we can get through the legislation which is mentioned in the most gracious Speech, then, if time remains and it is possible to prepare the legislation on these other subjects, I am certain that my noble friend Lord Woolton will agree that nobody would be more pleased than the Government; but we are not going to promise more than we are certain that we can perform.

Both the noble Duke and Lord Addison referred to agriculture. This is clearly not the moment for me to start, even if I were competent to do so, upon a detailed discussion of the problems of agriculture. But, as the Government pledge to secure the establishment of a healthy and well-balanced agriculture is mentioned in the noble Lord's Amendment, I should like to state quite briefly, and I hope quite clearly, that His Majesty's Government stand by every word of that pledge. The question of agriculture, as your Lordships know, is in itself difficult and complex, and is interwoven with many other questions; but the pledge has been made and the Government stand by it.

The noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, raised the question of Service pensions, and said that there was no reference to this question in the most gracious Speech. That is true, because there is no question of immediate legislation. I have already assured the noble Earl, as the House will remember, that the Government's mind is not closed on this subject, and I have already told him that in my view it must almost certainly come up for further consideration at the proper time. I consider that the reply which I gave to the noble Earl on tie last occasion when he raised this subject was a perfectly fair one, and I believe that it had the general support of the majority of your Lordships. I cannot say anything further on this subject to-day, but I do assure him and the House (which I know takes a most sympathetic interest in this matter) that we all, wherever we sit in this House, and whatever other views we hold, sympathize with the objects which he seeks to achieve.

I have very little more to say, but, as this is rather a special occasion, at the beginning of a new Session, I should like to make one general observation. In all our consideration of affairs, whether it be in the international or in the domestic sphere, I do hope that we shall all, wherever we sit in this House or whatever position we may take up outside it, decide to look forward and not back. With the approaching end of the most terrible war in the whole history of the world or at any rate of that part of the war which is being waged against Germany, we are to all appearances approaching, at a fairly early date, a General Election in this country, and this fact seems to have revived a spirit of controversy among the protagonists of the various Parties which has hitherto been absent from us during the war. I do not say this of any particular Party; I think it applies to them all. They have begun to manœuvre for position, and in doing so they have started an attempt to assess responsibility for the events which led up to the war.

There have already been some rather unedifying exchanges (as I regard them) in the newspapers, and I now see certain signs of a tendency to extend this controversy to the public platforms. I am sure that I shall have the agreement of your Lordships when I say that I can imagine no development more sterile, more mischievous, and more calculated to destroy our national unity, which is today the admiration of the world. One thing is quite certain: it is that none of us, to whatever Party we belong, is likely to convince the others that we were all right and they were all wrong. It is my personal belief, which I give to your Lordships with all deference, that we are all alike, in varying degrees, to blame for the situation that developed before the war. This applies to all Parties, and it applies not only to the leaders but to the rank and file as well. I say this because I see now various attempts on the part of the rank and file to say that not they, but the leaders, were responsible. Personally, I believe that everyone was responsible, and that all of us, with the shining exception of the Prime Minister and one or two others, a very small band, failed to appreciate the urgency of the German danger.

We all woke up to that danger too late or, if we did recognize the spectre of war looking over our shoulders, we thought the sight so unpleasant that we tended to avert our eyes. The honest truth is that it was a thoroughly bad period in our history, and it is not the slightest use our trying to whitewash ourselves now, whoever we are. If we do look back, it should be for the purpose of blaming ourselves, not others, and learning the lessons which we failed to learn before. Indeed, I think it would be very much better not to look back at all, but to look forward and concentrate our attention on the future and the building of a peace system, which this time will endure rather better than the one we tried to construct after the last great war. That at any rate is a question on which we are all agreed, and it is the only thing that is really worth our attention in the present plight of the world.

If I might go one step further, I should like to make a similar suggestion about home affairs. There is a tendency nowadays, not in your Lordships' House but in some quarters of the Press at any rate, to paint pre-war England as a hell upon earth, where everybody lived in misery and destitution. Your Lordships have all seen that type of article in the Press constantly. In point of fact, nothing is more untrue, and—this is more important—nothing is more likely to mislead young people who have grown up since the war. There is no doubt that things in this country before the war were very far from perfect: we had slums, we had unemployment, we had agricultural depression—I have no doubt noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite will be able to suggest many additions to that list. But, broadly speaking, the condition of the masses of the people was better in the years between the two wars than it had ever been in the country before. Wages were higher, the social services were more widely developed. There had been a steady improvement which had gone on all through the last hundred years. And I am perfectly certain there was a much deeper sense of responsibility on the part of the whole community for their poorer and more needy neighbours. I do not say this in any spirit of complacency, because there is certainly no room for complacency, but I do state it as a self-evident fact, and I do not believe that it can be contradicted.

I am sure, therefore, that what we need to-day is not to scrap the past but to build upon the firm foundations which we have inherited from the past. By all means let us modernize, let us improve, let us make far-reaching changes —such changes as may be necessary to modernize the existing structure. That process, indeed, is already going on: it is the object of a large part of the gracious Speech which we are discussing this afternoon. But do not let us sweep away everything that was bequeathed to us by our fathers. That would not be constructive, that would be purely destructive. I have not the slightest doubt that we shall not all see eye to eye as to the exact form of the improvements that are necessary. As to certain aspects, it is quite possible that we shall be strongly at issue with each other. But I believe there is a broad measure of agreement, over the whole field, as to the kind of country we want to make here. You could see that to-day in the noble Duke's opening speech and in the response it got from the noble Lord, Lord Addison, on the other side of the House. I am not advocating the abolition of the Party system. I am certainly not suggesting that Parties should be fused into a general unanimity. On the contrary, in my view, the Party system is absolutely essential to Parliamentary government, if Parliamentary government is to survive. By the Party system I mean two or three or, at the most, four Parties, not the mob of Parties that we sometimes see abroad; but the existence of political Parties is essential.

While however the Party system obviously cannot exist without differences between Parties, equally I do not believe Parliamentary government can survive if those cleavages become too deep; for evidently there must be some common ground if there is to be any continuity of public policy at all. To-day, as the debate has shown, a great deal of common ground exists. We are agreed, I think all of us, on the broad lines of foreign policy; we are agreed over Imperial policy; and if we are not agreed over domestic policy that is to a considerable extent—not altogether, but to a considerable extent—a matter of degree. Do not let us exaggerate our differences, and above all do not let us distort facts to suit Party interests. I am not saying this about any particular Party, but merely to draw attention to a natural tendency when a General Election is coming near. Times are far too difficult and the future is far too uncertain for that kind of thing. If we face our difficulties in the coming year, as your Lordships in my experience always face them, that is to say, objectively and realistically, I believe that we shall yet prove to the world that Parliamentary democracy, in peace as in war, is the safest, the surest, and the wisest system of Government that the wit of man has yet produced.

4.45 P.m.


My Lords, I should only like to say that having put down the Amendment and drawn attention to the matters contained therein, I do not wish to press it any further. In doing so I should like to express my appreciation of the exceedingly interesting conclusion of the noble Viscount's speech. I think I can say truly that a mere acrimonious calling up of past differences has never characterised this Bench white I have sat here, and it never will. I quite agree with the noble Viscount that we have plenty to do to discuss the problems that are before us. It is true, we have learned a lesson from the past and we should not be wise if we had not; but I am quite sure that there is plenty to address our minds to in a constructive way without in any way allowing ourselves, or those whom we influence, to engage in stupid, sterile past controversies. I should like to say again how much I appreciate the concluding portion of the noble Viscount's speech, and I am glad he made it.

4.47 P.m.


My Lords, perhaps I also may be allowed to say how deeply interesting I found the latter part of the noble Viscount's speech, to which I hope wide publicity will be given in some form or other. When he was referring to the weakness and folly of a great deal of the policy of all Parties and all Ministries in the years before the war, he ought to have made one exception, that was in respect to his own resignation of the office of Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, on account of the policy adopted in this country in respect to Italy and Spain.


I thank the noble and learned Viscount very much. I only wish that I had seen the light a little earlier.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente; the said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.