§ The King's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ 2.18 p.m.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to offer the thanks of this House for His Majesty's gracious Speech addressed to both Houses of Parliament. May I first thank my noble friend the Leader of the House for the honour he has done me in asking me to submit tins Motion to your Lordships' House. The new Parliament meets amid universal feelings of profound thankfulness and relief that the agonizing second world war has terminated in complete triumph for civilization and a decent way of life. Once again free men have shown that they can triumph over the forces of tyranny. The world is once again at peace. Your Lordships would wish me to express the deep satisfaction felt by the people of this country and of this country's Allies that Russia found herself 22 able to make common cause with us in the last stages of our conflict with a barbarous foe in the Far East.
I think I shall be voicing a feeling which is general among our people and the peoples of our Allies at the form and manner in which the Emperor of Japan has thought fit to accept the Potsdam ultimatum. It would be idle to deny that there is a feeling of disquietude, and I am sure that His Majesty's Government, in co-operation with our Allies, will leave nothing undone to make clear without any shadow of a doubt that the forces of Japan have been utterly and completely defeated. Not only must it be made apparent to the people of Japan but it is not less necessary, in my submission, for the purpose of peace in the future, that the peoples of the Far East and the peoples of the world should recognize that this barbarous foe has been completely overthrown. I feel sure also that, whatever actions may be taken by the nations concerned in connexion with the position of the Emperor of Japan, everything will be done to uproot and destroy this mystical belief in the sinister destiny of the Japanese race. This pestilential ethos must in fact be eradicated; otherwise we shall have the lull of a pseudo peace under which the Japanese will prepare to work their evil designs and do their evil and baleful purposes once again.
To-day we look out on a world racked and riven with six years of war. It is indeed a sombre scene and only by dauntless faith and will can we heal the wounds and repair the destruction which have been wrought. Your Lordships will be gratified at the reference in the gracious Speech to the Potsdam Conference and the assurance that all possible steps are to be taken to restore the stricken lands of liberated Europe and to set ordered life once again in motion. This also will be necessary in Asia and the Far East. It is an immense and complicated task. It is a race against time, for unless speedy and adequate help and assistance are brought, starvation, disease and death may be the final victors in many parts of the world. The Potsdam Conference had another important purpose and it was to devise the means and methods of bringing condign and, indeed, severe punishment upon Germany and its people for the crimes which they have committed or permitted against the 23 [peaceful peoples of the world. There must be, in my view, just retribution, restitution and restoration—for the evil things that have been done must not, in the interests of the future, be allowed to go unpunished.
There is a reference in the gracious Speech to the magnificent achievement in the signature, without reservation, by fifty nations of the Charter of the United Nations. We may well be encouraged by this great effort towards world organization for peace, but we must remember that at present we have brought into existence only the machinery. It can become effective only if the means and the will to maintain and to enforce peace exist. Not only now or in the immediate future, when the sufferings and miseries of war are still within our close recollection, but on the many morrows of the future we must avoid the danger of being lulled into complacency. If we are to preserve peace we must, in some eventualities, be prepared to make war on the intention to make war, and we must keep this great organization in existence for that benign purpose. For, however intense may be their hatred of war, free peoples must, if nothing else avails, be prepared to use force in order to maintain peace.
The world has been faced within the past few weeks by a new and terrifying discovery, the utilization of atomic energy which is truly appalling in its implications and its possible consequences. We are now faced with the question of how this mighty power is to be used: whether it is used for good or for evil. On the answer to that question will depend the future, not only of civilization but maybe of mankind itself. Now it seems we must keep the peace or die. Hitherto nations have taken the view that war was necessary for their survival. I think it is abundantly clear now that survival can only come with peace. Mankind must realize that the progress of science and the advance of knowledge and the extension of power are not enough by themselves. It is not enough to subdue the elements of nature; mankind must subdue himself, to live in peace and concord one with another, one nation with another, all the peoples of the world together.The Timesaid in a most inspiring leading article on August 8, referring to 24 this new explosive power, "If the secular curse is to be laid, it must be by the positive love of peace." It is the supreme task of the future for us to recreate, sustain and exalt the belief in the moral content and purpose of human existence, and we have a great need for faith, active and abundant, in the high and noble endeavour that life can be. And peace is not only the foundation. I think we must now recognize that peace is in fact life itself.
I pass now from the wide canvass of world conditions, replete with hopes and fears, with lights and shades and indeed with many darknesses. I would like to make one or two allusions to matters of home affairs which are referred to in the gracious Speech. I understand that it is the tradition that the more robust elements of controversy should not be introduced into a speech of the character which I am making; that whilst the voice of controversy need not be entirely stilled, it must be respectably inaudible. I will do my best. I will not conceal from your Lordships that it is something in the nature of an endeavour, but I hope when I have finished you may regard it as having been a successful one.
The gracious Speech sets forth an impressive programme of measures and proposals for the first Session of a new Parliament. These form parts of a coordinated policy and programme which have received the decisive and unquestionable approval of the people. They are of the pattern of the people's hopes and expectations. They cover wide fields in the economy of the nation, social, industrial, financial and cultural. Within the time normally permitted to a speech of this character, I can refer to but few of them. Your Lordships, I am sure, will be interested in and will welcome the indications given in the gracious Speech that it is proposed to deal in a comprehensive, and we must hope a decisive, bold and forthright manner, with the grave question of housing. Your Lordships have displayed a sustained interest in this question and many discussions on housing have taken place in your Lordships' House in which I have from time to time taken a perhaps not unobtrusive or hesitant part. I think we must all agree that housing presents the gravest problem on the home front. It may easily become a matter of social dynamite. Therefore 25 your Lordships will, I am sure, be pleased to approve and to assist any steps which will bring into harness every resource, every energy and every agency which can contribute to remedy the grave shortage of housing which is so widespread at the present time.
The reference to the intention to deal with the problems of compensation and betterment will have been noticed by your Lordships, as also will have been the proposals to deal with the improvement of the methods for the acquisition of land for public purposes. If these projects are carried through we can thereby lay fie basis for a satisfactory physical planning and reconstruction of this country. We can preserve the dignified and reposeful beauty of our countryside and we can seek to restore the beauty, the health and tile amenities of our towns and cities. I am sure that the proposals in this behalf will receive the support of all persons of good will.
The preservation of a high standard of health of the people is of supreme importance, not only for securing the greater health and happiness of the people, but for avoiding the social waste which results from bad health as well as the less of efficiency and of productive resources. The public will welcome, I am sure, the proposal to establish a national health service, provided that the scheme and structure are no less comprehensive than the proposals outlined in the Government White Paper. Nothing short of these, in my submission, can provide a satisfactory service under which the best facilities, preventive and curative, of medicine and of health services will be available to all who may need them. I think I am stating no more than the sober truth when I se y that the public will show, and justly show, ail impatience against any interests, whether professional or otherwise, which seek by too narrow a consideration of their limited interests to hamper the earliest provision of such a comprehensive health service.
Some months ago this House was deeply interested in the new Education Act and we shall all be encouraged to know that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to carry into effect as soon as may be practicable the education reforms set out in that Act. There are two reasons why we should seek to do this with all the speed that may be possible. In the first place, we owe it to the school children, 26 who in most cases have had their education interrupted and in many cases their opportunities seriously diminished as a consequence of the war. We all have to make up what we can for that which they have lost. Secondly, for a wider and more permanent reason, it is essential for a healthy progressive nation that it should afford its children facilities and opportunities for the best kind of education, both cultural and technical—an education which will enable them to realize their personalities and to understand their purpose in life as human beings.
There are proposals in the gracious Speech for the planning of investment and the utilization of the nation's savings and its capital resources, so that they can be employed for the well-being of the community as a whole. Recorded fact shows that between the two wars there was a considerable wastage of savings and a considerable misdirection of investment, and I am sure no one would wish to question the desirability, especially in the difficult days which lie ahead, of employing to the utmost degree for the general benefit of the nation the capital resources that from time to time may be available. We must provide security for savings and we must also see to it, especially during the days, when goods and services are in short supply, that purchasing power is put in a safe place and is not left open to the danger of uncontrolled and anti-social influences. The ownership by the nation of the Bank of England will secure control of monetary policy which is so vital to ensure full employment and to maintain an improving standard of living. We cannot, I think, any longer run the risk of those dangers of conflict with private interests which may issue from, and indeed I submit are inherent in, the private ownership of such a powerful and pervasive influence as any central bank can exercise.
The proposals and measures set forth in the gracious Speech constitute definite notice by His Majesty's Government of their intention to carry through without halt or faltering important and far-reaching elements of the mandate recently given to them with full knowledge and intention by the electors of this country. The will of the people has expressed itself through our broad-based democratic constitutional machinery, and we can all be confident, I am sure, that no one would 27] seek in any spirit of faction or of selfishness to thwart or to frustrate the proper functioning of our system of free and democratic Parliamentary government.
I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
My Lords, I would like at the outset to express my gratitude and my sincere appreciation of the action of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, who has done me the honour of asking me to second the humble Address to be presented to His Majesty The King for his most gracious Speech. We meet here on a day which has long been prayed for and looked forward to by millions of people all over the earth, both in the defeated nations as well as in the victorious nations. The victory hells are ringing throughout the world, and everyone says: "Thank God the war is finished." It brings to mind those lines which were written by a famous poet:Ring out the old, ring in the new …Ring out the false, ring in the true…Ring out the years of foul disease…Ring in the thousand years of peace.We hope that there will be more than a thousand years of peace. "Peace on earth, good will to men" I think, the wish of everyone in the country today.
I feel that we can all take great comfort from the wide terms of the gracious Speech. containing as it does an outline of 28 the proposed methods to be taken by the Government to try to solve many of the problems of reconstruction which vitally affect the best interests of our nation and Empire. It is not an easy job but it is one that must be tackled and one that demands the loyal co-operation and support of those who are determined to see that this country and Empire shall not only have been worth fighting for but are going to be made worth living in. We have heard it said repeatedly that the first five years of peace will be worse than the first five years of war. I beg of your Lordships, however, not to be too pessimistic but rather more optimistic. The terms "optimist" and "pessimist" can be defined as follows: A pessimist is a man who of two evils chooses both, while an optimist is one who of two evils chooses neither. I think that we can all be optimistic today as to the future of the country. The more optimistic we are the more progress we shall make.
It is quite true that some criticisms have been made concerning a lot of people who stayed at home during the war and were more concerned in adding either to their bank balances or to their wealth—people who were profiteers and black marketeers. This calls to mind those words which we have heard so often:Ill fares the land to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates and men decay.I am afraid that the consciences of many who have profited—and I want to be quite frank about this—will, with reason, be not too easy now that the war is over. They have been making profits in an unlawful way, and we hope that the day is not far distant when their consciences will show them the error of their ways.
The new Government start upon their task with a clear mandate from the people to carry through the policy which has been submitted to the nation. One of their first jobs will be to see that all men and women who were, as well as those who still are, in the Fighting Services, the men of the Merchant Navy, those who were in the Home Guard and the Civil Defence, in the factories and workshops and in the bombed areas, are assured, as they so richly deserve to be, of a happier future than faced so many of their kind after the last war. We know what happened after the last war, and we do not want it 29 repeated. We know the promises that were made just on the eve of the Elector after the last war. A very well-known statesman said:Turn your face to the promised land, where the weary will he at rest, where the women and children will Ire cared for, where the men who fought in the war for freedom and democracy will lie and bask in the sunshine beneath the shades of the tree on which hang the rare and refreshing fruits of victory.But victory did not bring fulfilment of those promises to millions of people Victory brought men selling laces in the streets, poverty, packed Poor Law institutions. It is with a view to that not happening again that we mean to take steps to ensure something different prevailing after this war. The Government, as I have said, start with a clear mandate and we hope that the men and the women who have made sacrifices and are celebrating victory to-day, will be looked after in the years to come.
As outlined in the King's Speech higher living standards with greater economic and social security are essential. Steps are also to be taken to ensure that people who want food, want work and want houses are given good food, useful work and homes—comfortable, labour-saving homes in which the working women of the country can take a pride. Houses are to be built that will take full advantage of the resources of modern science and productive industry. Of the majority of houses to-day in certain working-class districts of the country it can truly be said that whereas we have been told that on this Empire the sun never sets, it is the fact that many of the working-class homes in this country to-day are places in which the sun never shines. Surely, we are going to take steps to remedy such a state of affairs as that which exists in many districts throughout the length and breadth of this country of ours to-day. Such a state of affairs as that, I am confident, will be tackled urgently by the new Government.
I thought that I would emphasize the question of housing. We recognize that housing should be, and will be, a No. I priority. We know what the want of houses has meant to young married people. Many of those people have lost the best years of their lives in cases where the man has been in the Forces and the children have had to go away. We who have had the pleasure of seeing our 30 families growing up around us from childhood to school age and beyond, know the great pleasure which these people have missed and we recognize the serious loss which they have suffered during this great war. We are bound to do something to try and make up for and compensate for that great loss. If the building of houses had been as necessary as the construction of aircraft factories and ordnance factories or the building of ships or the manufacture of tanks, guns or munitions of war of any kind for the winning of the war, then houses would have been built; but they were not. First things come first. It was very necessary for these things to be done, hut, if all those things can be dealt with during a period of war, then surely the necessary houses can be built, and built quickly, during a time of peace. The noble Lord who has moved the Address referred to the atomic bomb, which cost £500,000,000 and five years of effort to produce. Surely if we can spend £500,000,000 on something which it takes five years to produce, a bomb which can blot out civilization, then there should be no excuse put forward that we have not the money, the brains or the man-power to build the houses which are so essential for the people of this country.
I am confident that the reference to the coal-mining industry contained in the gracious Speech will be welcomed by the people of the country, as we are all somewhat sick and tired of the repeated failures which have been encountered in trying to solve the difficulties while the industry remains under private ownership. The situation at present is not a healthy one, nor is the outlook for the winter too promising or encouraging. Wide-scale planning and mechanization in this industry are necessary. We must encourage the revival of pit production committees and happy relations between the managements and the men. Confidence must take the place of mistrust and suspicion when meetings between men and managements take place. Ex-miners and all in the Services and factories who can help in the increased output of coal, recognizing as we do the need for the acceleration of production, must be returned to the work without delay. We want maximum output, and that carries with it maximum pay, and not only in the coal mines, because in no 31 industry can you afford to pay maximum wages for minimum output. As one who has had lifelong experience in dealing with negotiations in certain industries, I have never yet advocated that there should be a "ca' canny" policy, but that men should be well paid and give a good return in work done.
Let us turn to the question of exports. The need to expand exports and to produce the goods is imperative, and if we are to hold our own in the markets of the world there must be no brake put on which will endanger our export trade, which means so much to the workers of this country. What do exports mean to us? They mean shipping. Shipping means increased ships, increased ships mean more work for the shipbuilders. That in turn means more work for the factories, for the stevedores and for the Harbour Commissioners. There is no end to what increased export trade means to the welfare of this country. If we cast our minds back we can remember the time when shipbuilding has been quiet in this country and in consequence the trade of the country has been depressed. When shipbuilding is busy the different forms of industry are also busy and the trade of the country is good.
We welcome the statement in the King's Speech regarding the repeal of the Trades Disputes and Trades Unions Act. This has been a great injustice over a period of years, and one is at a loss to understand how it could ever be justified that civil servants, or the King's servants, are denied the full rights of the King's subjects. I trust that early steps will be taken to see that this anomaly is put right.
Another reference we are glad to observe in His Majesty's gracious speech is the one dealing with social insurance. Nothing will be more gratifying to the industrial workers of the country than to see that at long last measures are to be taken to provide a comprehensive scheme of insurance against industrial injuries and to extend and to improve the existing scheme of social insurance. When we examine the present insurance scheme dealing with national health insurance, we who have been interested in the matter as leaders of men recognize how hard it is that when a man has had an accident 32 at work, at the very time he needs more money, his wages are cut down by half. At the very time when he becomes sick and needs something to encourage him in restoring his health, his wages are cut down to an almost non-existent level. No wonder that so many men, recognizing the position, are forced to accept niggardly settlements which, if they had been provided for during the time of injury or sickness, they would not have accepted because they would certainly have got a much fairer deal. I am sure that the scheme for industrial insurance will be received with delight by the workers of this country.
On the question of demobilization, let no time be lost in returning our men and women to their homes and to their jobs. Many are kicking their heels even now in the Services while the country is crying out for every type of worker. The happy father who has been in the Services and who may be serving in Germany, Italy, Belgium or the Far East will now look forward to being returned soon to his loved ones. We all looked forward to the day when peace would be declared, and we sincerely trust that everything possible will be done, that full steam ahead will be the signal or the slogan in this matter, so that the men and women may be returned to their respective homes and jobs at the earliest opportunity. We must not be too optimistic that these things can be done by a wave of the pen or by someone giving an order. It will take time. We recognize that the people in the country will become impatient, but they have got to exercise patience and the Government have got to make every effort to see that their patience is not exhausted. I sincerely trust that when these men return, the winning of the war will not be all that they fought for but that they will share in the victory of the peace. An era of conflict must be superseded by an era of creation. Many young men and women who never really had a job prior to joining the Services and many craftsmen called up at the very beginning of their apprenticeships must be looked after on their return. They must be encouraged to follow employment which will fit them to become good citizens. Everything possible must be done to see that they are resettled in industry and become skilled artisans without undue delay.
33 It was a tragedy that it needed a war to wipe out unemployment in this country. Just prior to the war we had over a million unemployed, but during the war there was almost no unemployment. There is any amount of work waiting to be done, and there should be no unemployment in this country for many years to come, if ever. It is a terrible indictment, however, that before the war we should have had from one to two million unemployed, and that it needed a war to absorb them. We recognize that workers and employers must get together. A real team spirit must be engendered throughout industry. Neither employers nor workers must be sleeping partners in industry; all must be active partners, and all must be interested in their jobs. We all deplore unofficial strikes and unconstitutional stoppages, but do not let us lay the blame always on the workers. I have had a large experience of industrial matters, having been for seven years the president of a federation representing 1,750,000 workers. I am happy to say that during the whole of that time we had no major stoppages. There are sources of irritation, however, in industry, such as unnecessary delays in settling local agreements, arrogance on the part of managements when meeting trade union representatives and men, and an unwillingness to discuss legitimate grievances. That spirit may sometimes give rise to an unofficial strike. I say quite frankly, however, that, while the employers are sometimes to blame, there are occasions when the workers' side may also be to blame; but all the blame must not be attributed to the workers' side. I believe that if we examine the history of unofficial strikes we shall find that the greater part of the blame must be attributed to the attitude adopted by some employers throughout the country.
We recognize that all grievances must the end be settled round the table, even if there has been a strike, and therefore hope that in the future we shall not have unofficial strikes, but that everything possible will be done to settle all grievances which arise round the table before a stoppage of work takes place, and not afterwards. We do not want one side to be suspicious of the other but each to have confidence in the other. I hope that employers in the larger industries in particular—industries which will be important in the success of our victory—will see that 34 this attitude is adopted. One of the largest employers in this country, who runs what is almost a family concern, knows almost every worker, and indeed every boy, in his establishment, though it employs thousands of people. That undertaking had the greatest output in shipbuilding during the period of the war, with never a stoppage and never a strike, and had better time-keeping than any other yard in the country. That was simply because the employer had a human touch in runing his business, and the people engaged in it were a happy family, everyone trying to do his best, and the employer doing his best on behalf of his workers. We have many experiences which bear on this matter, and I am confident that we can profit by our experience.
Every country in this world watched with anxious eyes the result of the recent General Election. A new Government were given power by an overwhelming majority. This is not the occasion for any expression of Party arrogance. The Government made no baseless promises. They recognize that the future will not be easy, but they will try to achieve in their lifetime the promises which they made in the policy which they submitted to the people. I can assure your Lordships that they will not fritter away opportunities nor falter before difficulties. They face problems at home and abroad as staggering in their urgency and complexity as have ever confronted any British Government. We are determined, however, that victory in war shall be followed by a prosperous peace. Let us hope that the now Government are upon the eve of a period of legislative achievement which will take its just place amongst the great epochs of this country.
Let us again thank God that peace has come to this earth, and that the shedding of the blood of our youth has ended. Gone are the fears and the doubts which have haunted us for so long. The shadow retreats; the darkness is passed. Arise, Great Britain! It is the dawn! My Lords, it is with confidence that each and every one of us will work with determination in the best interests of the nation and of our Empire that I beg leave to second the Motion.
§ 3.6 p.m.
My Lords, before I address myself to the proposals of the gracious Speech, I should like, if 35 I may, to say a word of very warm congratulation to the mover and seconder of the humble Address to His Majesty on the way in which they have performed their task this afternoon. The speeches of the mover and seconder are always and inevitably something of an ordeal; they can be so very good, and they can be—not quite so excellent. They require a rather special technique; they must deal frankly with the matter of the gracious Speech, and yet, as Lord Latham said this afternoon, they must so far as possible avoid controversy. In the present instance neither the mover nor the seconder is new to your Lordships' House. Lord Latham is well known to us as a doughty exponent of the Socialist creed, and I must say that I admired immensely his valiant, and on the whole most successful, effort at self-restraint tins afternoon. Lord Westwood is a more recent arrival in your Lordships' House. Already he has won many friends, and he has made some most effective contributions to our debates. This afternoon I must confess that I found myself in such broad agreement with most of what he said that there were moments when I could hardly understand how he found himself on the Benches opposite. We shall all agree that it was a most admirable speech. Indeed, if I may say so with all deference, both noble Lords have greatly added to the high reputation which they already hold. We all enjoyed their speeches, even if we did not agree with every word of them, and we shall look forward to hearing from them again on very many occasions.
I should now like to turn to the gracious Speech itself. Since I last had the privilege of addressing your Lordships, before I departed for San Francisco, a very considerable change has come over the political scene. At that time the war against Germany was still in progress, and a National Government was in power, firmly united for the prosecution of the war. Since then the German war has ended with overwhelming victory for the Allied cause, and now, within the last few days, there has been a further breathtaking event. The Japanese war, which had been expected to last for a year or eighteen months beyond the defeat of Germany, has suddenly come to an end. The Japanese have thrown in their hand. They suffered, as your Lordships know, 36 two shattering blows within the last week or two. First of all, there was the entry of Russia into the war against them, which was referred to by Lord Latham, and secondly there was the dropping of the first atomic bomb. They seem to have realized, and rightly realized, that further resistance was useless.
As to the ethics of the atomic bomb there is no doubt there will continue to be, for some great time, considerable debate. I do not propose myself to enter on that debate this afternoon. Indeed, the full implications of this fearful weapon are not yet, even now, fully known. Certainly, it is a weapon of unparalleled power and it puts on mankind a most terrible responsibility, of which we can only hope it will be worthy. On the present occasion we can only say this: it has brought us peace and it has completed the destruction of the enemies of liberty, and for that, at any rate, we may be profoundly thankful.
With the collapse of Japan this great world conflict, upon which so much blood and treasure have been expended, has come to an end. Yesterday, tributes were paid not only to the courage and endurance of the British people but also to the great national leader who typified that courage. Perhaps I may be allowed, as a very humble member of his Government, to say one further word about Mr. Churchill on this occasion. I think it would be no disparagement of any of the other members of the War Cabinet—of whatever Party—who so ably and devotedly supported him, to say that he stood alone, above all, in the conduct of the war. His bubbling courage, which welled up ever stronger the darker things became, his dynamic energy and his wonderful humanity and love of the British people, whose servant he always regarded himself as being—these were a never-failing inspiration to his colleagues, as they were to the country as a whole. I have heard it sometimes said of him that he expected the impossible of those who worked for him. But he expected the impossible of himself—and he achieved it. Others in all Parties are still making their names—and I hope that most sincerely they will make their names—in the difficult and testing years that are to come. But his name is secure in the inner shrine of British history, and nothing that has happened since can take from him that glory.
37 With the end of that national emergency which brought it into being and with the achievement of victory against Germany—the first stage of that great struggle—the cement which held the National Government together crumbled. The Government split into its component parts, and after a General Election we in this country have returned to the more normal conditions of Party politics. It is not my purpose to-day to discuss the events which led us to the Election or the course which it took. That has already been ventilated in the Press and elsewhere, and in any case this is not an occasion for a post-mortem. But we are vitally concerned with the results of that Election, because it has led to an event of the first importance in the history of our country. For the first time, a Labour Government is in power with a clear majority and a mandate from the country to carry out the policy which it put before the electorate. That is an event of the first importance.
The policy of the new Government has been broadly sketched in the gracious Speech and is the subject of debate this afternoon. To-day your Lordships have to examine these new proposals and determine what is to be your attitude towards them. The first thing that struck me on listening to the gracious Speech was that, over certain wide areas of public affairs, the policy of the new Government differs very little from that of the National Government which carried us through the war or the Conservative Government which succeeded it. This is certainly true, I think, of Foreign policy and Imperial policy. It is, I feel, an encouraging feature of the present situation, which is still somewhat obscure, and to us who sit on the Opposition Benches perhaps not entirely unsatisfactory—it is an encouraging feature that in these two great spheres of public policy there is little or no difference between the Parties. The gracious Speech states with regard to foreign policy:It is the firm purpose of My Government to work in the closest co-operation with the Governments of My Dominions and in concert with all peace-loving peoples to attain a world of freedom, peace and social justice so that the sacrifices of the war shall not have been in vain.Is there anything in that statement with which any Conservative or any Liberal would disagree?
38 No doubt, it would be possible for any Party to put its own particular gloss upon so general a statement as that. I understand, for instance, that the Labour Party think they are more fitted than the Conservative Party to cultivate good relations with Russia. That is a matter of opinion. I should have thought Mr. Churchill and Mr. Eden had not clone too badly in that respect in the last two or three years. But what is really important with regard to Russia is that all Parties, Conservative, Liberal and Socialist, wish to maintain good relations with that country. That is clearly an essential if the tripod, the three-footed tripod on which world organization is to stand, is to rest firmly and satisfactorily upon those three feet. Therefore I think all of us, to whatever Party we belong, should welcome the statement in the gracious Speech on that aspect of our policy.
Equally, it is clear that the new Government desires to maintain close and cordial relations with the United States. That, too, is most satisfactory. If there is one thing which is quite certain in this very uncertain world it is that our fate, socially, economically and politically, is bound up with the United States. We are the twin fortresses of Western civilization and if any rift were to arise between us it would be disastrous both for the two countries themselves and the world as a whole. All that has been gained by 700 years of the efforts of free men would be finally lost and the world would relapse into barbarism. It is essential that the new Government should carry on a policy of good relations with the United States and with Russia, and I am very glad that fact is fully recognized in the gracious Speech. We should also welcome the firm support which is being given by the new Government to the Charter signed at San Francisco. I shall say no more about that to-day, as I understand that there is to be a debate next week in which this particular aspect of our foreign policy is to be fully discussed.
There is just one question, if I may be allowed to turn aside for a moment, that I would like to ask, purely as a matter of information, before I leave the subject of foreign affairs, and that relates to the almost daily declarations of policy which are being made by the Chairman of the 39 Labour Party. We have had quite a number of these; they come in a regular spate. There was first one statement which seemed to envisage considerable changes in our policy towards Greece, although no statement of any kind has been made, so far as I know, by the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary. Then there was a statement about the socialization of the Bank of England. There Professor Laski seems to have hit the bull's eye, and that of course gives an additional interest to his other pronouncements. More recently, there have been in the Press accounts of declarations he made when he paid a visit to Paris to the French Socialist Congress. It may be that a wrong impression has been given by the Press reports. I do not wish to misrepresent Professor Laski, and I know very well that extracts from speeches are often misleading; but on the face of it these statements do appear to be rather startling. He was reported yesterday in the Daily Telegraph as saying, in an interview given to a paper called the Franc-tireur, "It would be difficult for us even to think of a Franco-British pact if you have a reactionary Government in France after the Election." Surely that is a rather unusual statement. It amounts to a direct interference in the internal affairs of France.
I have lately spent three months at San Francisco helping, in a small degree, in negotiating a Charter with representatives of forty-nine other nations. I understand that that Charter has the full approval of the new Government, and indeed I understand they propose to ask next week that Parliament should also give their approval to it. Now quite a number of Governments were represented at San Francisco which I am afraid Professor Laski would certainly regard as being reactionary; and yet that was not regarded by ourselves or the United States or Soviet Russia as a reason for not signing the Charter. It is quite true that a ban was put upon nations whose regime had been brought into being by the Axis Powers, but that, of course, is a very extreme case. I do feel that this doctrine which is now enunciated appears to be a completely new and potentially an extremely dangerous one, and I should be very glad to know whether it is the product of Professor Laski's own unaided genius, or whether it has the support of the Government.
40 Then there were one or two other remarks he made to which I would also like to refer, if I am not wearying the House. There is the character of the pact with France which is to be signed, if a Government acceptable to Professor Laski is in fact elected by the French people. He states that the conditions will be as follows: complete free trade between the two countries; a single currency; pooling of transport and essential industrial resources, and, above all, the continual exchange of population to make our peoples understand each other. I think all of us regard close and cordial relations with France as of the very first importance. It should be one of the cardinal principles of British policy that we and France should get on well together. But these provisions are certainly extremely far-reaching, and I should like to know if we are to regard them as the settled policy of His Majesty's Government.
Finally, there is the question of a Western bloc. About this question Professor Laski appears to have said, if he is correctly reported, that we must form, not a bloc, but a union strong enough to enable us to be intermediaries between our Soviet friends and Allies and the great American democracy. I thought the wording a little odd, because it seems to imply either that the United States are not our friends and Allies or that Soviet Russia is not democratic. But there is a more important criticism which might be made. What does this talk mean about us acting as intermediaries between our two great Allies? I had always assumed that the relationship between them would be sufficiently close and cordial not to require any intermediary. Curiously enough, whilst I was in the United States I heard a similar suggestion there, only in that case it was the United States which was to act as an intermediary between Soviet Russia and ourselves. If each of the Big Three is to be required to act as an intermediary between the other two, it seems to me the outlook for their collaboration is extremely bleak, and I must regret that such a suggestion should be made by anyone in a position of responsibility.
I do not wish to go into these matters any further to-day. But I would ask my noble friend Lord Addison this simple question: Do these declarations by Professor Laski represent his own views or are they those of His Majesty's Govern- 41 ment? If they are his own we have, of course, no complaint at all. Everyone It this country has an absolute right to express his own opinion. Professor Laski has an extremely active and stimulating mind and we shall all read whit he says with very great interest. If, on the other hand, he is speaking as the mouthpiece of the Government, then we are bound to give rather more serious consideration to these proposals than perhaps they would otherwise receive. In any case, I note that these extensive proposals do not find a place in the statement on foreign policy in the gracious Speech from the Throne. With that statement I think I shall be speaking for all my friends in saying that we can express general approval.
What is true of foreign affairs is, I think, also true of Empire policy. Here too, I hope and think that there is little difference, if any, between the Parties In our outlook, in this country, towards the British Commonwealth and Empire there has, I believe, been a great change since the beginning of this century. We are no longer divided into roaring Imperialists and Little Englanders. Phrases of that kind have no meaning for us. To day, all Parties alike take a sounder and saner view. We all recognize the value of each part of the British Commonwealth to the other parts, and we all recognize the value of the Commonwealth as a. whole to the rest of the world. I sometimes have been told that the Commonwealth should not act as what is now called a sectional bloc. I do not quite knew what that means. If it means that it should not act as a. bloc in opposition to the other members of the World Organization, I think we should all cordially agree. For, after all, to-day the British Commonwealth forms part of an even larger confederation, the United Nations, and clearly it must always act in conformity with the principles of that organization. But to suggest that we should never consult together or that we should never agree upon a common policy would surely be extremely foolish. Together we, the British nations, form one of the strongest buttresses of world peace. Separate, we are a mere smattering of small and in many cases under-populated States over the face of the world. For Great Britain, as for the other Dominions, I should have thought that a strong and, so far as possible, united Empire policy was our very life-blood, 42 and I am glad to see that fact recognized by implication in the gracious Speech. I am quite certain that in the pursuance of the policy which has there been announced the new Government will have the support of all your Lordships, to whatever Party you belong.
Now I would say a word about that portion of the gracious Speech which deals with home affairs. Lord Latham said that the Government had put forward an impressive programme, and they certainly have. I only hope it will not prove an indigestible programme. In home affairs clearly we come, as I think Lord Latham said, to more controversial ground; but even here I believe there is a wide area where there is general agreement among the Parties. There is mention in the gracious Speech, for instance, of the carrying out of plans which have already passed through Parliament in regard to the improvement of education. There is no difference there because all Parties alike have already supported these proposals and they have already been passed into law. The gracious Speech also foreshadows legislation with regard to a national health service and the codification and improvement of national insurance. None of these are new proposals. They were subjected to the fullest and most searching examination in the days of the National Government. Legislation was indeed promised and would have been brought in whether the National Government had been continued in power or the Conservative Party had been returned at the recent General Election. All Parties alike are pledged to these measures. No doubt, if I may say so, the Labour Party will claim especial credit for the new schemes. We shall be very ready to give them credit where credit is due, but we shall not be prepared to give them all the credit. If noble Lords opposite will forgive my saying so, I have always seemed to detect a slight tendency in the past for the supporters of Labour to say that anything progressive was due to Labour influences. But at any rate I feel sure that noble Lords opposite will not expect us on this side of the House to let them, if I may use a colloquial phrase, get away with that.
During the last century we in this country have built up the finest system of social services in the world. It is a 43 system which was recognized by Sir William Beveridge himself in his Report as being superior to any other. All the foundations and much of the structure of that system were built before the Labour Party came into existence at all. Even since that Party existed it has only been in office two years and then, its supporters constantly tell us, it was not in power. I certainly would not claim the whole credit for our great system of social services for the Conservative Party. We all know the immense contribution which has been made by the Liberal Party. But I would say, and I believe the facts would warrant it, that our record in the past has been as progressive as that of any other political Party in this country, and though we shall examine minutely the detailed proposals of the Government when Bills come before the House, we shall do so in a constructive spirit with a view to improving them and not with an obstructive or destructive aim. If those reforms are sensible, as I hope they will be, I have no doubt we shall greet them with warm approval.
In the same spirit we shall examine the housing proposals of the Government. The gracious Speech states on this question:An urgent and vital task of my Ministers will be to increase by all practicable means the number of homes available both in town and country. Accordingly they will organize the resources of the building and manufacturing industries in the most effective way to meet the housing and other essential building requirements of the nation.We shall all be delighted to hear that the Government propose to tackle the housing problem with such energy. Housing, as I think Lord Westwood said, is not a Party question; it is a national question. We all recognize the urgency of the housing problem and we shall be extremely interested to read the detailed proposals of the Government when they appear.
The Labour Party made very far-reaching promises to the electorate during the Election with regard to housing, and it is largely on the basis of those promises that they have been returned to power. We shall all want to know how they propose to implement them. Housing, too, is no new problem. I myself have listened to endless discussion on the subject during the last few years, in the days of the National Government, discussions in which the Labour members of the 44 Government took a prominent part, and at that time, as I remember it, there was no problem raised as to the provision of land or finance. All Parties were agreed that this must not be allowed to stand in the way of an effective housing policy. The main bottlenecks were two. Those bottlenecks were labour and materials. There was only a certain number of builders and there was only a certain amount of material. I had always understood that it was agreed by the Labour members of the Cabinet at that time that the proposals which were put forward were the best that could be devised. They were not by any means what all of us would have liked to have seen, but they were the best that could be produced in the circumstances at that time obtaining. It may be that the situation now has changed, and certainly the end of the war against Japan should release man-power for this all-important purpose. If that is so, it will be all to the good. I can assure noble Lords opposite that the Government will find no factious opposition in this House in the solution of this terrible problem. Our object will be to help in any way we can. But if the Government fail to live up to the lavish promises which they made to the people of this country at the time of the Election I do warn them that Nemesis will await them. They are on this question on trial as perhaps never before.
In what I have said up to now I have been discussing those portions of the King's Speech which were comparatively uncontroversial, in fact where the object to be attained was completely uncontroversial. On foreign and Imperial affairs there has been and I think still remains complete general agreement between the Parties. On certain aspects of home affairs the trail has already been blazed by the National Government composed of members of all political Parties. Now I would come very briefly to the last category of proposals to be found in the gracious Speech, which are the products of the unaided genius of the Socialist Party. Into this category I should put the proposals for the nationalization of the mines, for the nationalization of the Bank of England and for the effective planning of investment and others of the same type. I may say frankly that there are many noble Lords, not only in the Conservative Party, who will not find this 45 part of the gracious Speech so entirely convincing as perhaps certain other portions. There are many in this House as there are outside who are really unable to believe that nationalization and tae control of industry are the cure for all our ills.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT ADDISON)
We have never suggested that they were.
The noble Lord's Party has certainly suggested to the people of this country that they were going to go a long way to improve the present position. If noble Lords will accept that, I am quite ready to accept that redefinition. Equally, with regard to commercial policy, we are glad to hear that the primary object of the Government will be to extend the export trade. But I must say that it is not clear how that project is to be achieved merely by putting industry into a strait jacket. A good many years ago General Gordon stated a profound truth when he said:England was made by adventurers, not by its Government, and I believe that it will only hold its place by adventurers.I know very well the sincerity with which the Government put forward their proposals on these matters, but I do beg them to be very careful not to kill the spirit of adventure. That is a matter of the first importance. When I was the other day in the United States of America one of the things that struck me most was the spirit of ebullient energy in that great country. Everybody was anxious to go ahead, to launch out upon his own lines and produce wealth for the country by his own efforts. If by an excessive use of State control that spirit were to be killed, our power of competing with other countries would in my view be fatally injured. I do urge this on noble Lords opposite and I hope they will regard it as a matter to which they must themselves give the most earnest and searching attention.
Lord Latham mentioned the proposals for bringing the Bank of England under public ownership and he stressed the importance of avoiding a danger of so important an institution becoming the subject of the play of private interests. I really do think his fears are somewhat exaggerated. So far as I know there has 46 been no clash between the Treasury and the Bank of England for a great many years now.
No severe clash between the Treasury and the Bank of England. On the contrary, on the most difficult problems which we have had to face they have worked in daily and constant harmony, and, in fact, the Bank has been universally recognized as acting as a semi-public body.
If the noble Lord will wait for a moment he will hear what I have to say about that. I do not believe that this measure is in the least necessary. There exists all the control of the Bank that is wanted to-day. My point is that this policy is not actuated by a sense of need; it is actuated rather by political than by financial or economic reasons. In my view it is purely a political move. But I do not intend to comment further upon that to-day. We shall all, I am sure, desire to wait and see the detailed proposals which are going to be put forward, and I hope that the Government will do rather more to justify this proposal than they have done up to now.
And now I would like to say just a word about the nationalization of the mines. I am only going to speak briefly upon this because, frankly, I do not pretend to be an expert on this very complicated subject. We have been constantly informed by newspapers and speakers of the Left that all the undoubted friction which exists in the coalfields is due. to private ownership of the pits, and we have been assured, equally, that once these mines are taken over by the State there will be a much more congenial relationship between the men and the managements, and that absenteeism and strikes will be greatly diminished. If that proves to be true it will no doubt be a most admirable thing. But I do not believe that there is up to now any evidence of this either in the pits which have been taken over by the State in other countries or in the one or two which were taken over in this country during the war. Here, too, I have an uncomfortable feel- 47 ing, which is probably shared by other noble Lords in various quarters of the House, that this part of the Government programme is actuated rather by political motives than by the object of increasing efficiency, and yet it will be upon their results in increasing efficiency that the proposals will ultimately be judged by the British people.
We shall be also very much interested to know what proposals the Government have for increasing production in the interim period before nationalization becomes an accomplished fact. As your Lordships well know, the coming winter is likely to be a very hard one and our existing stocks of coal are by no means too high. Will the Government be able to persuade the miners, who are an extremely sturdy and patriotic body of men, to produce more coal in anticipation of the great boon which is coming to them in nationalization at a later date? If not, I am afraid that the disappointment of the British people will be very great. As I have said, many of your Lordships—on this side of the House at any rate—will be sceptical of the great benefits which we are told will be obtained from this part of the Government's proposals. We shall watch the development of those proposals with interest, and we shall do what we can to improve them from the point of view of practical efficiency.
But, at any rate, with regard to this and other similar proposals, I would say this to your Lordships and especially to noble Lords on my side of the House. Whatever our personal views, we should frankly recognize that these proposals were put before the country at the recent General Election and that the people of this country, with full knowledge of these proposals, returned the Labour Party to power. The Government may, therefore, I think, fairly claim that they have a mandate to introduce these proposals. I believe that it would be constitutionally wrong, when the country has so recently expressed its view, for this House to oppose proposals which have been definitely put before the electorate. Moreover, I believe, from every point of view, that it would be an error of the first water. The Labour Party have pledged themselves to these measures. We believe them to be economically and politically 'unsound, and I suspect that many even of the supporters of the Labour Party 48 itself, in their heart of hearts, are slightly doubtful that they can implement all these promises.
How are we to prove to the British people that our philosophy and not the Socialist philosophy is right? I do not believe that it is to be done by attempting to prevent a fair trial of the Labour proposals. I believe that it is to be done only by allowing a fair trial of them to be made. No one can say that the opportunity does not exist for such a trial. The Labour Party are in power by a very considerable majority—it was said to-day, I think, by a great majority. Let them show what they can do. Ii they succeed—well and good. If they produce the results which they expect and the prosperity of the country, the happiness of the country and the liberties of the country are increased, I think none of us would not be ready to say they have done what they promised. But if they fail, the British people, who have an unrivalled political instinct, will soon find it out.
Already, quite a number of the more extreme Socialist thinkers and writers, in the newspapers and elsewhere, are beginning to talk hopefully of a "crisis with the House of Lords." Now that the time has come to put their theories into practice, they do not feel quite so confident about them, and they are looking round for a whipping boy. In no long time it may well be that this small farsighted band of men will have swollen considerably, and considerable sections of the Labour Party will be desperately looking for a fight with the House of Lords to save them from their difficulties. I do hope that we shall not give them that satisfaction. They have persuaded the British people to give them a fair trial. Let them have a fair trial. If there is one thing that has struck me in the short time that I have been in your Lordships' House it is this—whatever it may have been in the past it is now no mere Party assembly but rather a Council of State. This is an occasion, if ever there was one, to show statesmanship. If we show wisdom, if we show patience, if we attempt not to oppose the public will but to educate the public to a true knowledge of the facts and to allow the facts to speak for themselves, I think we need not doubt that in due course—and perhaps sooner than we think—truth will prevail.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, we have listened with close attention and with great interest to the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Address. As a rule, or very frequently, that duty is conferred upon comparatively young and untried members of your Lordships' House and the complimentary references such as are usually addressed to members that kind would be out of place and indeed presumptuous if they were used on this occasion. In Lord Latham we have one who is an experienced and effective debater, and we watched, as Viscount Cranborne has said, with much interest to sec how far he would be able on this occasion to retrain a temperament naturally so combative. On an occasion which is by tradition non-controversial, I think we would all bear testimony to the fact that he showed the highest degree of tact and discretion without any visible sign of inner strain! The noble Lord, Lord Westwood, has had a long experience of industrial life and was for some years a member of the other House.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I thought he was I beg pardon. He has beer long in industrial life and he has on several occasions addressed this House in a Parliamentary manner which led me into the mistake of thinking that he derived his experience from the House of Commons. He has been known for his skilled negotiation, but after to-day he will be known for his skilled exposition in an assembly which, though often critical, always seeks to be both friendly and fair.
Since one is making congratulatory observations, perhaps I may be permitted to add a few words of congratulation to a very old friend of so many of us, the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, on returning to office after the long interval of fourteen years and acceding to the high and responsible post of Leader in this House. I am sure he is welcome to the whole of its membership although he himself would be the first to recognize and say that he will have to attain a very high standard if he is to reach that of his predecessor, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, in a leadership which was so warmly approved and cordially accepted in all quarters of this House.
It is just two months since this House last met for the transaction of public 50 business and during that time four events of the highest importance have taken place. Here in our domestic politics there has been a General Election with an astonishing reversal of political fortunes which is reflected to-clay in the new aspect of this House, or at all events in all quarters of it except on the Liberal Benches; for while Governments come and go and Parties cross the floor and afterwards sometimes re-cross it again, the Liberal Peers remain on the Benches to the Left of the Woolsack—although I do not suggest that they need do so in perpetuity. The second event of great importance is in an entirely different sphere—the passage of the Charter of the World Organization by the representatives of fifty nations who amongst them number nearly nine-tenths of the whole of the human race; and, what may be a turning point in world politics, the endorsement of that Charter, almost with unanimity, by the Senate of the United States of America. The subject of the San Francisco Charter is, however, to be given separate discussion in a few days' time and I shall not refer to it further to-day. The third event has been the surrender of Japan and the ending of the second world war after six years of unparalleled and deadly strife. The fourth event, which ultimately may be more momentous than any of the others, is the discovery by man of the means of utilizing atomic energy, its first use having been employed in so terrible a fashion.
Our immediate business to-day is concerned with the King's Speech and with the programme of legislation which is the outcome of the last Election. This is not a controversial occasion and therefore I shall deal only very lightly and briefly with the results of the Election. I shall not touch in any way upon the causes which have led to the striking defeat of the Conservative Party. As Shakespeare said, "Beat not the bones of the buried," and indeed if I were to attempt to do so, in view of the results of the Election for the Liberal Party, I should expose myself to an easy and swift riposte. The programme for the present Session has been announced and I do not propose to comment on the individual items in that programme. I would prefer to await the terms of the measures to be introduced, coming to us either from the House of Commons or brought into this House. But neither to-clay nor later would I go through the lists of measures proposed 51 with a view to seeking for points of disagreement, for a very large part of the proclaimed objects of the Labour Party is identical with the programme of the Liberal Party. Indeed, ever since the Liberal Party propounded its modernized programme in 1929 in a book called Britain's Industrial Future, the Labour Party has taken one by one the proposals in that volume and pressed them forward with added energy and efficiency. While we agree with the Labour Party in the domestic field to a very large extent, in international affairs, as has been stated by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, there is general agreement throughout the nation and in all Parties on the substantial objects to be pursued.
If the Liberal members of your Lordships' House prefer to sit on the Benches of that side of the Chamber which are traditionally those of the Opposition it is in order to emphasize the point that we have given no pledge of general support to the present Government. We are fully independent both of a Conservative Party and a Socialist Party. But it is not to be taken to imply that we are here because we believe in that dangerous maxim that "it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose" and that we shall be looking for points of quarrel or to endeavour to put spokes in the wheel of the Government coach as it makes its way forward. If other Parties introduce Liberal measures or are able to produce new ones which command support on their merits, it would be merely factious and indefensible to oppose them. On the other hand, we here would welcome such measures and in debate and in the Lobbies will do our best to help them on. It matters much that right things should be done; it matters very little who does them.
As to the attitude of the Conservative Party, who represent so large a body of this House, we have heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, this afternoon words which seem to us to be words of wisdom. His views on the value of a democratic system have frequently been expressed in the last Parliament, and it is clear to-day that he recognizes to the full the obligations which lie upon this House not to intervene in any factious or Party spirit with a programme which has been clearly endorsed by the people.
52 The Government, indeed, would be ill-advised if in order to conciliate possible opposition here or elsewhere they were merely to disappoint their own supporters. High hopes have been aroused in the nation. The Government's programme has evoked much enthusiasm and a large measure of devoted support from millions of people. If those high hopes were merely to be deceived, if the outcome were to be nothing better than futility, if the policy which they have advanced, and which has been approved by the people, were to be dissipated in the swamps and shallows of Parliamentary procedure, that would be not only an injury to the Labour Party but a blow to the whole system of democratic government and an injury to the country, for that reason, and to the whole Commonwealth.
The Parliamentary situation might become very delicate and difficult unless handled with much discretion, especially by the noble Lords on this side of the House above the gangway. We have in this Parliament one Chamber of 640 members in which the Labour Party has a majority of roughly two to one over all other Parties, while we have a second Chamber here with a membership of about 800 in which the Conservative Party has, on paper at all events, a majority of not less than four to one against all others. Consequently there might easily arise situations of great delicacy, difficulty and indeed danger. We on these Benches recognize that occasions might arise where any second Chamber, no matter how constituted, would be bound to intervene, as for instance if some new and unforeseen and rash measures were proposed, but we do not anticipate that that is in any degree likely or probable with His Majesty's present advisers, and certainly we should not be disposed to assist in placing any obstacles in the way of the programme of the present Government, a programme authorized by the general mandate given by the Election.
Having said that, I should like to make two quite general observations on possible future points of danger. History shows that the weak points of democracies are often to be found in the management of the public finances. The pressure for expenditure is always very strong, and one must beware of the 53 simple maxim of public finance which was once propounded by a politician who said that he would follow the simple rule of "More from the Treasury and less from the taxpayer." That danger is in creased the more the State becomes directly responsible for the conduct of industry; for if hundreds of thousands or millions of miners or railway men or other workers are brought directly or indirectly into the employment of the State, the danger may at any time become acute; although, speaking as an old Postmaster-General, I must bear tribute to the restraint and responsibility with which public servants have usually conducted their affairs. The same spirit will no doubt for some time prevail, but one cannot he sure that it will always prevail over a very much widened sphere of public employment.
The risk is that recourse will be had to the easy source of public expenditure, and particularly since borrowing now is very cheap, and large sums can easily be raised with a comparatively small degree of immediate expenditure. That course was adopted in the great crisis in the coal industry in 1925, when, in order to meet the danger of a stoppage in that industry, the Government came forward and gave a subsidy, pending an inquiry into all the conditions of the industry, to bridge the gap between the terms offered by the mineowners and the terms demanded by the miners. That subsidy amounted to £750,000 a week, and the total sum spent was £23,000,000 before it was brought to an end by new proposals being put forward.
Furthermore, the danger of public borrowing on a vast scale in order to meet industrial needs is made the greater since we are no longer upon the gold standard. I am not going to argue for or against the gold standard, or to suggest that we should return to it. No doubt it is quite an irrational device; but it does give us something physical and visible, and without it we have nothing but figures on pieces of paper, backed by the policy of a Government and by the actions of a Parliament. The cost of our social reforms is such as can, I believe, be easily borne, and even the cost of considerable extensions of them, such as are proposed in the Beveridge plan and other measures, can be borne; but once a policy of subsidy is adopted, whether visible or concealed, 54 in order to maintain wages or profits, in agriculture, in mining, in the railways or in industry generally, then in a very few years we shall find that the expenditure under that head may be many times as great as the cost of education and of all our social reforms put together. The Government, I am sure, are fully alive to the dangers that may arise from a mishandling of the national finances, and will be strictly on their guard against errors in that sphere; but it is a matter which needs careful watching, and the people should be frankly told that if industries are nationalized they must be made self-dependent in finance, and must not be permitted to have recourse to the public treasury.
In this connexion, while I am speaking briefly on public finance, I would draw attention to the fact that no reference is made in the gracious Speech to any reduction of taxation to follow upon the ending of the war. The immense taxation which has been willingly accepted by the nation was, of course, for war purposes, and although no doubt additional expenditure will be needed in many directions at home, now that the war expenditure of some £15,000,000 a day is likely to be, perhaps, halved before very long, whatever the political complexion of the Government in power the nation will expect that certain reductions in taxation shall be speedily made. What they should be and how far they should go are matters for consideration; but I think there will be very general surprise if the national finances are not reviewed in the latter part of this year and appropriate measures taken by the Government.
The second point of danger to which I would refer is that there is a possible risk that the Government may misinterpret what the mandate conferred upon them by the nation really is. It does not follow that because they have a two-to-one majority in the House of Commons they therefore have a similar majority in the country for a full policy of Socialism. If the House of Commons reflected exactly the number of votes cast, we of the Liberal Party would have no fewer than sixty seats in that assembly instead of the handful who are now there. Of the 12,000,000 who supported the Labour Party it is not to be imagined that they are all convinced and conscious supporters of the full Socialist programme. A very 55 large proportion of those votes were given on general grounds of discontent with the Government then in power. Millions of women day by day, month by month, year by year, have been standing in queues outside the shops grumbling about conditions, and all of them have votes. That discontent undoubtedly affected very considerably the result of the Election. The extreme discomfort caused by housing conditions was another factor, Income Tax falling upon many not far above the poverty line; the slowness of demobilization—all these factors were to be taken into account; and, furthermore, there was the general desire to secure after the war what is known as a "better Britain." All this caused many millions to say "We will vote for Labour this time. Let us give them a chance and see what they can do." That is really a large part of their mandate.
Undoubtedly a large number are politically conscious and convinced Socialists, but I would beg the Government not to fall into the error of believing that the country has given them a free hand to put into effect to any degree a crude theory of nationalization. I would say to them with all respect: "Beware of your intellectuals—and of one of them in particular." Let me enumerate very briefly three or four special points to which I would invite the attention of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. In the first place I would like to know how far the general system of control will be lightened. We realize of course that we cannot decontrol prices and supplies to such a degree as to give room for soaring prices and a general increase in the cost of living. A firm hand must be maintained in that sphere, but there are many other controls that ought to be relaxed with speed, and I trust the noble Viscount will be able to tell us that it is the intention of the Government to do that as quickly as it can be done with safety.
My second point is about the partial suspension of the jury system in the Courts. About that little mention is made, but it touches a matter of fundamental importance and it would be advisable at an early date that the Government should see how far they are able to return to the judicial system which is embodied in the principle of the jury. There is no mention made in the gracious Speech of 56 the Criminal Justice Bill which was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Temple-wood, when he was Sir Samuel Hoare. Perhaps the Government will give a friendly eye to the importance of reintroducing that measure.
Finally, I would express the desire, which I am sure is entertained by all your Lordships, that the freedom of discussion in this House, which is made possible by the opportunity to private members to put down Motions, should be freely maintained. This House has in recent years, I believe, greatly increased its reputation in the country owing to the character of its debates. That is largely because in the time at our disposal here it is far more possible for private members to put down Motions than in the House of Commons. Those debates deal frequently with matters of great public importance and prove often to be guides to the development of public opinion. None of these have been more valuable than several which have been put down by noble Lords whom I now see sitting on the Treasury Bench. Therefore I think they would be the first to recognize the value of full opportunity for those Motions. In another place, it is said, the Government are taking all the time of the House. I hope the noble Lord who is the Leader of this House will be able to tell us that no such course, or even tendency in that direction, is contemplated by the Government here unless and until there is such a pressure of public business as to make it inevitable to do so.
Lastly, the fourth of the events which has occurred since we last met for business, which may ultimately prove to be the most momentous of them all, is the discovery of the means of using atomic energy. That has come about in a most dreadful and terrible form by the construction of bombs of catastrophic character. The future control of such an engine of warfare has yet to be decided, but I think no one will suggest that Britain and the United States, because they have been the discoverers and promoters of this means of using the forces of nature, should therefore keep it and hold it in terrorem over the rest of the world, including Russia and our other Allies. I observe that our Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, has referred to a broadcast by President Truman on August 9, in which he spoke of the 57 preparation of plans for the Inure control of this bomb and of requesting Congress to co-operate to the end that its production and use may be mace an overwhelming influence towards world peace. The Prime Minister said:It is the intention of His Majesty's Government to put all their efforts into the promotion of the objects thus foreshadowed. And they will lend their full co-operation to that end.I am sure that statement will be generally welcomed in all quarters of the House.
While we shall await the policy proposed by the Government in this connexion, it would seem to be obvious that nothing could be more suitable to be brought within the sphere of the new World Security Organization under the San Francisco Charter than a problem such as this. This should not be merely an engine of destruction. This invention utilizing atomic energy—or at all events the possibility of such an invention—was recognized wholly apart from the war and before the war. It is true that it was the impetus of the war and the co-operation and concentration of efforts, the readiness to incur great expenditure, which caused the first appearance of this invention, in the practical sphere, to be in the form of a bomb. Since then, it is the atomic bomb which has monopolized people's minds.
What matters permanently is the use of atomic energy as the source of power. Two great men of our own country, J. J. Thomson and Rutherford, at the Cavendish Laboratories in Cambridge, revealed the structure of the atom, and that surely was the most marvellous discovery ever made in the history of mankind, for the sphere in which they were working was so infinitely remote. Physicists tell us that an electron is as much smaller than a man as a man is smaller than a gala, of stars. Yet they have been able to go into that infinitely remote universe and to discover what are the operations of nature there. Ever since then it became theoretically possible to make energy from the atom available as a source of power It was discovered that energy is the ultimate stuff of the universe; that all matter consists of it, or, as Sir James Jeans has said, "Substance is just bottled energy." To let it out of the bottle, however, may be immeasurably destructive, but if it were converted into another form of energy—into electricity—it could provide 58 for the whole of mankind industrial capacities far beyond the dream even of the writers of Utopias.
Now Sir James Chadwick, the chief scientific adviser to the British members of the Combined Allied Scientific Committee in Washington and one of the chief promoters of this discovery, said three days ago that the development of atomic energy for industrial purposes could be achieved in ten years and would be cheaper than the production of the atomic bomb. That opens a magnificent prospect for the future of mankind: the undertaking of works and of productive measures that are far beyond present possibility, the raising of the standards of living, and the increasing of leisure that may be worthily used, open an immense and most beneficent prospect. If an illimitable anti universal form of cheap power is available everywhere and for everyone, it will have also very serious effects upon some of our immediate problems which we shall be discussing here this year. For if coal is to be replaced by atomic energy within ten years or certainly within a generation, it is likely that when we come to discuss the nationalization of the mines the owners may be the most active and enthusiastic supporters of the measure. When the coal itself was nationalized a few years ago, the royalty owners had spokesmen in this House who made a great to-do about it. It was found, in the result, that they had not been so ill-used after all, and they may regard themselves in future as having been exceedingly fortunate to have got out in good time.
In Canada the Minister of Reconstruction has mentioned that a special branch of the National Research Council of Canada is being formed in order to study the application of atomic energy in industry and in science, and I would ask the Government to state, either to-day or on some future date, whether it is intended to take similar action here, and to concentrate the work of our most able physicists on the problem of how to make this new form of energy available for general purposes. Meantime we may address ourselves to the immediate tasks of to-day and to-morrow, I suggest, in no fearful or pessimistic mood, but rather encouraged by victory in war over the powers of evil and encouraged also by this new command over the forces of nature 59 which may be turned not merely to destruction but to the enhancement in many ways of human welfare.
§ 4.25. p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, there is one point on which I think I ought to consult the convenience of the House before the debate goes further. So far as the Government are concerned, we are your servants and wish to do what the House desires, but it is now nearly half past four and there are seven other speakers, apart from the summary of the debate at the end, together with an Amendment by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork. I should be glad if your Lordships would indicate to me, so far as that be done, whether you would like us to continue and finish the debate to-day or adjourn it at a suitable time and resume it to-morrow.
§ 4.26 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTER-BURY
My Lords, the spiritual Peers do not suffer periodic migrations from one side of the House to the other. I gather that they there resemble the Liberal Peers. But the Liberal Peers stay where they are because they cannot get anywhere else; the spiritual Peers stay where they do because they want to stay there. I would suggest that there is a certain symbolic significance in the fact that always the spiritual Peers sit upon the Government side of the House. You may remember that St. Paul said, "The powers that be are ordained of God." That does not mean that every Government is always right or that His Majesty's Opposition has no right to exist. There is a constant place for criticism and a proper place for opposition, and those who sit on the Episcopal Benches have a right to criticize and to oppose, as much as anybody else. But St. Paul did point to a profound principle, which is that every secular Government has a direct responsibility to God, and that it must discharge its duties and its offices in obedience to divine law apart from which there can be no true human happiness and no real social welfare. I would suggest that it is as a perpetual reminder of that fact to whatever Government happens to be in power at any time that the spiritual Peers sit upon this side.
60 I will not, in view of what the Leader of the House has said, say a great deal that was in my mind to say. May I be as brief and as rapid as I can? There is at least one reason why I think this present Government will have the sympathy and the good will, not only of those who sit on these Benches but, I am sure, of those in every part of the House and of the whole country, and that is due to the sheer magnitude of the responsibilities which rest upon them. We have come victoriously through the most grievous perils that have ever beset this nation and mankind, under a Coalition Government and under an incomparable war leader. Now we revert to the much more familiar system of Party politics and Party Government. But no single person will wish to make Party capital out of the existing situation, for unlike times in the past this is a time in which mistakes made may be ruinous and fraught with doom and disaster, not only for this country but for the world as a whole.
When I say that, I am not thinking of mistakes made in particular matters of domestic policy—they will be matters for domestic controversy, but in the end it will not desperately affect the future of this country or the world whether the Bank of England is always acting with the Government or always directed by the Government, and so forth. Where mistakes may be directly tragic for the whole of mankind are in those other things which lie outside this country; and I have felt during this debate this afternoon that perhaps there was too much attention to our own domestic affairs and too little recognition of the dangerous situation which lies outside our own shores. It is in such matters as the handling of Germany, in the relations between ourselves and our Allies and in all those problems which can never be dealt with by measures but on which depend the future relations between men and men and nations and nations—it is there at this critical time that any heavy-handedness and any mistake may really lead to disastrous consequences. The Government have our sympathy because in this difficult field where national passions, war passions, personalities all clash, where the way of good will is so difficult, their chief responsibility rests in building up a positive, overriding force among the nations of the world of justice and charity, of law and order.
61 And if that was always essential, the atomic bomb, to which reference has been made, makes it compelling. I do not wish to enter at any length, any more than the Leader of the Opposition, into the ethics of the atomic bomb. So far as I can see, there is room for open differences of opinion between honest men as to whether that bomb, having been discovered, ought ever to have been used or not. Although no single person can be anything but horrified that such a weapon could ever have been launched upon lit man beings, those who say that it should never have been used at all can argue on one level that in fact what it has done has not been to hasten the end of the war by very much, for that was already in sight, that the defeat of Japan was already recognized by Japan itself as inevitable, but that all the use the bomb did was to put into the hands of the Japanese people an excuse, which they are already exploiting, for accepting defeat, and thereby preventing them from really learning the lessons of defeat that otherwise would have come upon them. That is at least one argument against the use of the bomb.
On a deeper level nobody can feel that the human conscience cannot receive a searing wound by the mere fact that a quarter of a million people at one moment were destroyed by such a weapon. And from that searing of the human conscience no ready or rapid recovery can be expected. It is also a fact that the history of war has been a steady hardening of the human conscience against that which at first sight repels and revolts, and once used this weapon may only mean another hardening of the inhuman possibilities to which in the evil event of war men will commit themselves. On the other hand, one, cannot but recognize that it has saved more lives and more suffering in the end than that which was desperately inflicted up m the Japanese people, for I think it can be argued that only the actual use, with this terrific destruction, of the fearful weapon would have convinced the world and compelled it to realize how ghastly this weapon is. If it had merely been a thing that people had heard of in the laboratory they would not have realized its power. But now they cannot but reckon that before civilization lies a choice to be made which cannot be avoided, whether to choose life or to choose death.
62 The Government have been asked quite rightly to consider and tell us how this weapon is to be controlled. But it cannot ever be controlled ultimately except by the faith that is in the hearts of men. The Leader of the Opposition said its secret was in safe keeping. Yes, for a brief moment and for no more. It will be open to the knowledge of the world, and only a world of men who are governed by the positive and overriding force of justice, charity, mercy and brotherhood, law and order can ever control this terrific power if it is put into the hands of man. Let me add that I give all honour to the scientists who have discovered this power. Let it never be said that this is a disgrace to scientists. It is their duty to explore and to find truth with all the abilities they have and to extend knowledge of the universe that God has made. I am myself thankful that their researches came to this issue at this moment and none other in the history of the world, for man receives this power at the very moment when (if ever) he knows that it must only be used for the good, the welfare and the salvation of mankind. That, my Lords, is one thing I felt I wished to say.
There is one other thing I would say. Another reason which makes the responsibility upon this Government now at this moment immensely difficult and important is this. I do not believe this country yet realizes the conditions that exist in disordered Europe. We have heard what U.N.R.R.A. said, but it has not got into the hearts of the people. In a letter in The Times this morning it was said that there is a real and immense danger that thousands of people will either freeze or starve in Europe this winter. We have got to take that to heart and be ready to do everything in our power and at our own cost and sacrifice to see that at least the bare necessities of food and clothing of heat and fuel are provided. But it is not only that. There are still in Germany a very large number of displaced and Stateless persons belonging nowhere, belonging to no one, about whose conditions disturbing reports have reached me. These Stateless people who belong to no one cannot be left unshepherded, untended and uncared for. Let me add another class, the millions of Germans who are now being deported from that part of the country which Poland 63 administers and from Czechoslovakia into Germany. I do not wish to question the policy of deporting here. There is much to be said for it, ghastly as it is to take persons from their homesteads, but the process of it requires the most careful control if it is not to be in fact a barbarity. As I understand, the process is not being controlled as it should be and might be. These millions with fears in their hearts are pouring in multitudes into a narrow and confined portion of an already disorganized Germany without clothing, without food, without means of existence, many of them killing themselves in despair. It is that problem which I think must rest upon the Government with terrific force. The Christian conventions must always demand that such conditions in the name of humanity must be ameliorated as rapidly as possible.
But there is more than that. There is a motive that at least will appeal to some not moved by the Christian motive and that is, it is sheer self-interest to see that in this disordered Europe, with conditions of lawlessness and inhumanity already only too widespread, there shall not be sown the seeds of hatred, despair and ultimately of war. At any rate, these conditions as long as they last are an inseparable barrier to the erection of that which must be erected, the overriding and the prevailing will of the people and of the nations to live together in brotherhood, in justice, in charity, in law and in order.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BLEDISLOE
My Lords, while I entirely endorse the eloquent words which have just fallen from the lips of the most reverend Primate, I wish especially to refer, for two minutes, to the position of the voluntary worker in the field of social service. Magnificent work has been done during the last six years by the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John in alleviating the sufferings of our fighting men, and especially in providing for the wants of our prisoners of war. No tribute has so far been paid, in this House, to the activities of those two great beneficent organizations, but I am sure that no one will contradict me when I say that we are deeply indebted to the Joint War Organization of the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John, of which Lord Chetwode, who but 64 lately became a member of this House, is Chairman. I am sure we all welcome him not merely as a distinguished Field-Marshal but also as a great philanthropist.
What I am chiefly concerned with, however, is the National Council of Social Service, of which in the past I had the honour to be President, and over whose activities in the five south-western counties I preside at the present time. Let me say in passing that I hope that if only for the reputation of this House in the eyes of the world, and especially in the eyes of our oversea Dominions, we shall do all in our power in every part of the House to support, so far as we can, the social programme of His Majesty's present Government. What I particularly want to say is this. There are thousands of public-spirited, selfless men and women who have, quite voluntarily, and without any hope of reward, sympathetically and efficiently carried on social service work of various descriptions, especially during the last six years, and in the most seriously "blitzed" areas of this country, in close co-operation and in full sympathy with statutory bodies carrying out, or to whom are delegated, similar functions. These services include welfare work for old people, rest centres, infant welfare hostels, citizens' advice bureaux, community centres and village clubs. I wish to say in regard to the last two that there is a very strong desire on the part of ex-Servicemen that these community associations shall be developed in every part of the country. There has been up to now a happy marriage, if I may so put it, between statutory agencies and well-organized, unostentatious, voluntary effort in the wide field of humanitarian services. Is this going to be continued in days to come? Are these keen voluntary workers in the field of social service going to be encouraged by the present Government to carry on their beneficent work in conjunction with statutory agencies? There is a fear on the part of many of them that all this work is going to become part of the work of the Government and of local authorities, and that private, voluntary individual enterprise will be discouraged. I wish particularly to ask spokesmen of the Labour Government in this House to give some reassurance to these people that there is still scope for their voluntary efforts in the field of social service.
65 Let me add one word with regard to the food position. We are told that the food position is acute. I have every reason to believe that it is acute, and that it is likely to become more acute during the next six months than it has been at any time during the war period. I suppose I am the oldest farmer in this House—indeed, I am not sure that I am riot the doyen of the agricultural industry in your Lordships' House. What I do want to urge upon the Government is that if they want the maximum effort on the part of the fanning community, farmers and workers alike, they should, at the earliest possible, date, provide a long-range agricultural policy. So long as there is lack of confidence or lack of security among the food producers in this country, we shall not get the maximum output from its soil. It is true that during these war years there has developed soil exhaustion with successive white straw corn crops, and there has been a growing lack of artificial fertilizers. But the finest fertilizing agency of all, so far as the rural areas of this country are concerned, is a sense of security and confidence founded upon a long-term agricultural policy. I venture to hope that at an early date the Government will make clear what is their agricultural policy, and that it will be a long-term policy to which all engaged in agricultural pursuits can bend their energies with full confidence that it is not likely to be altered at any early date.
I share so many of the social aspirations of the noble Lords sitting on the other side of the House that I, for my part, will promise that so far as I can I will help in advancing their social aspirations. I should like to endorse what was said in the brilliant speech of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition, this afternoon, to the effect that in all such matters there is no reason why this House should not be unanimous, or at least should not express a preponderant opinion in favour of that social progress with which this old country has got to show itself in sympathy, and to which many of our Dominions overseas have pointed the way in recent years in a more marked degree than has the old country. I apologize to the House for occupying these few minutes in pressing for the encouragement of voluntary effort in social service and in asking the 66 Government at an early date to state a long-term agricultural policy.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I shall not take up the time of your Lordships for more than a minute or two. In the first place there is no necessity to do so, because the Leader of the Opposition has put into such clear and eloquent words all that we on this side of the House felt when we heard the gracious Speech. But there is one thing in the gracious Speech to which I feel I must call attention, and that is the fact that Scotland is hardly mentioned at all. Scotland, in fact, is dragged in only in a superficial manner. It is lumped with Wales—though I do not know that that is in any way an additional insult. It is referred to in a phrase which I might almost describe as meaningless—at any rate it could not mean very much. I remember that when during the time of the last Government the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, was able to announce some concessions for Prestwick, Mr. Tom Johnston, who lately vacated office, said that it required the imminence of a General Election to get anything done for Scotland. It now appears that after the Election is over nothing is to be done for Scotland.
We have many projects that we feel should be put forward by the present Government. If I may call your attention to one only to start with, there is the project of the Forth road bridge. When I was a private member of this House I set forth the needs of Scotland and the reasons why we must have a Forth road bridge project as soon as possible to help in the development of that part of Scotland. I was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, in a speech which, if I may say so, was as eloquent as the one he has made to-day, and in which he informed us that he was speaking on behalf of the Labour Party. That being so, I must confess I was all the more surprised to see that there was no reference to this important project in the gracious Speech. There are several things which can be done to help Scotland, even without the aid of a Bill. For instance, there is the forestry question. Now that we have peace in Europe and in the world, there will be a release of shipping, and I sincerely trust that the timber which is required for this country will come in 67 future from Germany. We require a Forestry Bill to put matters right. We have been practically promised a Forestry Bill, not by the present Government, but by the Coalition Government which embraced some members of the present Government; I do not mean to say that it was promised by the present Government.
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
It was clearly stated that it was only a machinery Bill, and that there would be a further Bill. If I may refer to another subject which can help Scotland straight away, there is the question of housing. We have, at the present time—I dare say it is news to noble Lords here—a far larger Army in Scotland than we had before D-Day, when we had divisions there practising for the landings in Normandy. American troops have been leaving us by the thousand, but in Scotland we have a very large and increasing Army of Poles. There are over 63,000 Poles in Scotland at the present time. They are occupying our schools and hotels, they are billeted in our houses, they still manœuvre over our land (although what they are manœuvring for I do not know), they are still firing their guns across our fields, and their tanks are still going up the hills of Scotland. We have had them there for six years. We were very pleased to have them there during the war, but now, when we want our houses ourselves, if the Polish Army cannot be sent back to Poland, cannot they be put into some of the camps vacated by the American Army? I am informed by the Leader of the House that questions on Scottish affairs are going to be answered by the noble Lord, Lord Westwood. I am very glad that if we have not got a Scot we have got a Northumbrian who knows a great deal about our country. It is a curious fact that in the other House there is a Mr. Westwood in command of the Scottish Office. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, and Mr. Joseph Westwood seem to have been the subject of confusion in this debate, but two people who are less alike I cannot imagine. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, will do what he can for us in Scotland, and I hope the fact that he is going to reply for Scotland will be a matter on which 68 we can congratulate him, because I do not imagine that the Government will want a Back-Bencher to reply on these subjects.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I shall detain you for one moment only, but the matter which I wish to raise is one of urgent importance. Although I speak for no Party, I speak for an immense number of people concerned with national savings. As they have been called war savings, there is some confusion as to whether we should still carry on our campaign. The answer is that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir John Anderson, informed us that national savings were even more urgent for peace reconstruction than for war. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Dalton, has sent a further message to our Chairman, re-echoing what Sir John Anderson said as to the vital necessity to the country of the continuation of national savings. Indeed, we have planned a big thanksgiving week, and many of your Lordships have promised to help in it, to begin in about a month's time. What I would ask the Government to do to-day is to follow up the good work which many of its members did when they formed part of the Coalition Government, and to help the present Chancellor of the Exchequer by giving instructions to all their subordinates, and especially to the three Services. I see that the Secretary of State for Air is here and perhaps it is not improper for me to say that in this House we do welcome the Secretary of State for Air in his new office, which has been so thoroughly earned through his past distinguished services as an airman. We trust that he will give instructions to all the gallant men he controls as Air Minister to help us in every way, as I know they will. A great deal of help can come from the top in this coming thanksgiving week, and if the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, can assure us that the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War can give similar instructions, we shall be extremely grateful.
I was saying that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has sent word to us that he hopes we will redouble our efforts, and I am asking the Government to help us in every possible way. I have no doubt that the Chancellors of the Exchequer whom I have quoted are absolutely right. I have been connected with 69 this movement, first as Chairman and now as Vice-President, for the last eighteen years, and I see quite clearly that these great schemes of reconstruction cannot possibly be carried out unless we carry on with the self-discipline of national savings. No scheme of compulsory taxation can be fair, as has been pointed out by successive Chancellors. It is only by this voluntary effort on our own part, it is only by each one of us saying that we are going to do our part in reconstruction, that that reconstruction can be carried through successfully. It is just because I believe that that I, in common with hundreds of thousands of voluntary workers, am working hard at this. I hope that I may be forgiven for this brief intervention.
§ 5.1 p.m.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, I beg to move to add to the Motion the words: "But humbly regret that there is no mention in the gracious Speech from the Throne of an intention on he pant of the Government to set up an impartial Committee to inquire into and examine the best methods of administering the various Acts and Royal Warrants relating to Service pensions and allowances, with power to report upon what steps, if any, are necessary for the removal of legitimate grievances." It might be thought that it was not necessary for me to move this Amendment, as the gracious Speech contains the words: "We remember especially at this time those who have laid down their lives the fight for freedom." Those who have laid down their lives have no more earthly troubles, yet we have with us great numbers of men who have been maimed and mutilated or whose health has been undermined and destroyed by the conditions of war, and we have large numbers of widows and children who were the dependants of those who have lost their lives.
There is a sense of grievance among a great number of those who are drawing pensions and allowances from the State, not always as to the amount. I am sure that anybody who takes an interest in this subject will support that statement. I submit that this sense of grievance ought not to exist, and, where it exists, should be removed, for its existence is very unhealthy. This question has been gone into before in your Lordships' House, and 70 the details and arguments are familiar to you. I do not propose to occupy your time by going into them. It is unnecessary to do so, moreover, because I am now talking on broad principles and riot going into details. I fully realize that improvements have been introduced from time to time, and that the matter has been kept under review by the Ministries concerned. I have not forgotten the appeal tribunal and the Ministers' Advisory Committee, which I have been accused on previous occasions of overlooking. But all these are within the orbit of the Ministry. The rules and regulations of the Ministry have to be observed. The Minister is the interpreter of the Royal Warrant and the author of the rules and regulations, and none of us like having our own creations criticized. However, your Lordships have never found fault with the rules and regulations as such, but you have recognized that they are not giving entire satisfaction, and you have recorded your opinion that an impartial inquiry is necessary to see whether existing legitimate grievances can be removed and to advise on the steps necessary for their removal.
On the last occasion upon which this subject was brought up, on June 13, just prior to the end of the Session, the noble Lord who responded on that occasion quoted the Minister of Pensions as having said in another place that "if the question of setting up a Select Committee was to be considered with full knowledge of the relevant facts, this could not be done until the war was completely ended." Your Lordships may consider that five-and-a-half years' warfare in Europe should have supplied all the relevant facts for going into the grievances from which those receiving pensions suffer, but we need not waste time in arguing about that, for we have now happily arrived at a time when the war is completely over, or will be in a matter of hours, and when peace has been restored in both hemispheres. I feel very privileged on the second day of national rejoicing to put forward the case of those who have little cause for rejoicing so far as their own lives are concerned.
I would beg the Government, before they start on their schemes of social welfare, to pay off this debt to these pensioners and remove any grievances which may exist by seeing that these people are provided for in the way in which I am cer- 71 tain the nation wishes them to be provided for. The nation desires to be generous to them. If this question is gone into and all petty restrictions removed it will mean a great deal, and the country can then turn with a clear conscience to building the better land which we are told that we are to have. I beg to move.
At the end of the Motion insert:
But humbly regret that there is no mention in the gracious Speech from the Throne of an intention on the part of the Government to set up an impartial Committee to inquire into and examine the best methods of administering the various Acts and Royal Warrants relating to Service pensions and allowances, with power to report upon what steps, if any, are necessary for the removal of legitimate grievances."—(The Earl of Cork and Orrery.)
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, it is clear that before I refer to the general debate I should ask leave to deal with the Amendment moved by the noble and gallant Earl. I am sorry that I do not think it appropriate to add an Amendment of this kind to the Address in reply to the most gracious Speech, dealing as it does with general national policy. That does not rule out what is in fact an absolute certainty—namely, that this Government will be exceedingly sympathetic towards any pension grievance or anomaly which is brought to their notice. I hope that the noble Earl will lose no opportunity of bringing such matters to their notice, but I would recall to him that on a previous occasion on which he raised this subject in this House the noble Viscount, the then Leader of the House, pointed out in reply that there was in existence the Central Advisory Committee under the Ministry of Pensions, and that my noble friend Lord Nathan was a member of that Committee, and he invited the noble Earl, if he knew of any cases of grievance or unfair treatment, to bring them to the notice of the Central Advisory Committee. That is some considerable time ago, but not a single case has been brought. If there was the widespread discontent of which the noble Earl speaks, and a multiplicity of cases which should be dealt with in that way, I should have thought that between then and now the noble Earl could have at least brought one case before the Central Advisory Committee.
72 I hope that the noble Earl will not get the impression, from what I have said, that we are not fully sympathetic—of course we are—in our attitude towards any grievances or inequalities or bad administration that may arise in connexion with the administration of pensions. We shall do our best to deal with those things, if they exist; but that is an entirely different matter from adding an Amendment of this kind to the present Motion, and I hope that this House will not accept the Amendment.
§ 5.9 p.m.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, I do not thank the Leader of the House for his answer. I consider it most unsatisfactory. It is true that I was told that the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, was on this Committee, but I do not remember any pressing invitation.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
Very well, it was given in the House; but I am not going to bring up one letter from some poor unfortunate woman. Why should I bring up individual cases? I am raising this as a broad issue. Every time I raise this matter I am put off with excuses; I am told "We are very sympathetic," and "Something is going to be done." If we are going to have rejoicing, let us first do justice to these people. There are women who are suffering who do not understand all these regulations; there are vexatious little rules which are brought up against men who are sick. How can people make up their family budget if they do not know when some of their money will be stopped?' The noble Lord, Lord Westwood, gave the reasons why there are some unofficial strikes. I could not wish for a better explanation of why there is this discontent of which I have spoken. He has used exactly the right words to explain way people are discontented. It is not necessarily, as I have said, with the amount, but in part with the way in which it is done.
However, my Lords, I shall not give up—I shall go on. I had hoped for a much better answer to-day. I shall wait for another opportunity, when there is a full House, as I believe a great majority of noble Lords have expressed sympathy with these people, and want something to 73 be done. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, I much regret the dissatisfaction of the noble Earl, and if he gives us a little more time perhaps he will be less discontented. Now I come to the general debate dealing with the gracious Speech. I should like to associate myself very heartily with what the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and others said as to the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Address. I confess I do not remember having heard sturdier speeches which kept within the boundary of being non-controversial, and they did it with consummate skill. I think it is fair to say that the whole House was exceedingly interested in the speeches of my noble friends, and, although we are a very small Party on this side, as is obvious, I was exceedingly proud, as I listened to these speeches, of my noble colleagues who moved and seconded the Address.
In that connexion, I should like to say a word with regard to observations which have been made by more than one speaker as to our position in this House. First, if I may, I would thank several noble Lords for the kind way in which they have referred to myself. I shall do my best in the course of time to be worthy of their confidence. Certainly we shall endeavour to uphold the best traditions of this House. It is, of course, exceedingly difficult, as your Lordships will apprehend, with a very small Party in this House, to deal with all the numerous matters of Government policy, Bills and otherwise, which will necessarily come before us, but we shall de our best to promote them and explain them to the House. It may be that in the necessities of the situation —and I am sure the House will understand how exceptional it is—I may sometimes have recourse to some of my colleagues who do not sit on the Front Bench, but who are authorities on the subjects concerned, and ask them to help us deal with matters before the House. I know it is exceptional, but I think it may be inevitable sometimes in the circumstances of the case. At all events we shall do our best to seek to give effect to what is the undoubted verdict of the people at the Election. We shall try to 74 do it fairly and in accordance with the best traditions of Parliament.
I noted with much interest—shall I say with growing satisfaction?—the admonition which the noble Viscount so skilfully directed to those behind him. I thought it was done with consummate art, and I should like respectfully to congratulate him upon it. All I hope is that it will not be forgotten. We shall do nothing to exacerbate the situation, although it will be our duty to put before the House various proposals to give effect to the policy of the Government. It can at least be said that our proposals have not been concealed, for they have been the subject of open and consistent advocacy for many years. It may be that the motives of many electors were a little mixed, as Viscount Samuel suggested, but there is no doubt that it can be said truly that the Government have received authority from the country as a whole to seek honestly and fairly to give effect to the policy which they have placed before the country, and I am sure we shall have the support of the noble Viscount in seeing that Parliament does its best not to obstruct, but to exercise its functions as a deliberative assembly fairly and without prejudice.
Let me deal first with one or two minor matters which were brought up before coming to the more substantial points which were made by the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has been good enough to explain to me why, owing to a previous engagement, he was not able to hear my reply, and we know there is no one amongst us who is more loyal to the traditions of Parliament. He asked me two questions—one as to the jury system and the other as to the Criminal Justice Bill. I am informed that, with regard to juries, the shortage of man-power makes it necessary at present to avoid as far as possible calling up people for service on juries and taking away vital men from key businesses. When they are required for criminal and certain civil cases a Judge can order a jury to be empanelled. "The Government are fully alive to the necessities of the situation, and when we are able to deal with it we will, but I think we must accept the answer in that form. With regard to the Criminal Justice Bill, this is a Home Office matter, and I can only say that up to the present, between last Friday and to-day, we have 75 not had an opportunity of going into it. I will do so as soon as I can and let the noble Viscount know the result of our inquiries.
The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, made some very important points about Scotland, and he did it, if I may say so, in a way that is characteristic of those who come from the north of the Border. I well remember as a Minister myself a long time ago, that when I happened to get a good bargain for England the Secretary of State for Scotland always "nobbled" me before I went into the Cabinet and said, "Where do I come in?" I never found the Scottish representatives in the Government backward in stating their case, and I am quite sure that that characteristic will continue in the future. So that even if the Government were so short-sighted—which they will not be—as to lose sight of some of the cases the noble Earl mentioned arising from Scotland, I am quite sure they would not be allowed to do so, and indeed we have no wish to do so. I can only hope that before very long the noble Earl will feel that Scotland is reaping some of the benefit which she fully expects will follow as the result of the General Election, and I am quite sure that Scottish matters, in forestry and in other things, will be kept well to the front.
Lord Mottistone asked us as to our attitude with regard to the National Savings Association. I can give him, without qualification and very heartily, the assurance that he wants. The Government attach the greatest possible importance to the continuation of the savings movement, and to the continuation of the savings habit, which is of even greater importance. So he can well be assured of our sympathy in that way.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My noble friend Lord Bledisloe asked some questions about the Red Cross. I have not been able to obtain the Departmental reply at the moment, but I am quite sure I am right in saying that this Government will continue the active support of former British Governments to the Red Cross, which has rendered such invaluable service during the war. As to the community centres and citizens' advice bureaux and the 76 other associations he mentioned, I know at first-hand in many cases the good work they have done and I am quite sure we shall wish to continue them.
The most reverend Primate dealt particularly with the awful responsibilities which are cast upon the world by the discovery of the atomic bomb, and he referred, as I think did the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, to a statement made by the Prime Minister a day or two ago on that subject. I should like to say that that statement of the Prime Minister, associating himself with what the President of the United States said on the subject, was deliberately made. It was considered carefully beforehand. It commits the British Government to the fullest possible co-operation in seeing, if possible, in future that the best use of this discovery is made and that in any case we cooperate with other free nations in seeing that it is not turned to destructive ends. It is very early days to say how we are going to deal with this exceedingly complicated subject, but it is evidently one upon which there must be international co-operation; otherwise we face destruction.
The speeches of my noble friends Lord Latham and Lord Westwood do not call, I am sure, for any elaboration from me, and I shall come to the much more active criticisms of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition. They gave one a flavour of the old days, and I was quite glad to hear them. I am sure he rendered us service in drawing attention, in the first place, to the many vital questions in which there must be continuity of policy. I do not think I can improve on what he said with regard to the vital importance of maintaining the clearest understanding and most intimate co-operation between ourselves and the Dominions, of improving the condition of our Colonial Empire and of seeking to develop, by every means possible, the closest understanding and friendship between ourselves, the United States and Soviet Russia. We have discussed this across the Table many times, and I think it is no exaggeration to say that the security of civilization depends upon continued friendly cooperation, getting, we hope, ever closer, among those Governments. In that respect I cordially concur with all that the noble Viscount said.
But I do notice—and I welcome it—that with regard to the more controversial 77 items of the gracious Speech from the Throne, he said that there is a Labour Government in power with a mandate from the country to carry those proposals out. I made a note of those words, and I am quite sure he will never seek to go back on them.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
That is right. And I do not think the noble Viscount suggested they were not those indicated in the gracious Speech. So far as I know —and I have been very closely associated with the policy side of the Labour Party for a good many years—there is no item in the gracious Speech which has riot been the subject of continued and open discussion in the country for many years, and so I think I can fairly take it that the dictum of the noble Viscount applies to them all. Then he asked me a number of questions about Professor Laski. It causes me no uneasiness to reply to those interrogations as best I can. They did not seem to cause much disquiet to the country during the Election, if you take the bulk result anyhow, but the noble Viscount found them rather startling I am sorry he is so easily startled, because, quite frankly, I was never in the least startled about what this gentleman has been saying.
I should say that all the remarks to which I refer were not made at or before the Election, but since the Election.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
It is quite immaterial whether they were made before, during or after. So far as they are concerned, they were made by this individual gentleman on his own responsibility, and that is all. If the noble Viscount wishes to ask me who is responsible for making statements of policy for the Labour Government, I answer at once, the Prime Minister. He is the person. We are adherents of a Party system of Government, and the statements of our policy are made by the Prime Minister and by authorized Ministers. What isolated individuals like to say outside is their own affair, and the Government accept no responsibility whatever for anything those people may say. I hope that is a satisfactory reply. I think the electors of the country would say that that really was not the thing that mattered during the 78 Election and it did not disturb their sleep at all.
I come now to one little point of criticism which the noble Viscount made, to which I myself put a note of interrogation. He spoke of the continuity of the social insurance system and welcomed our support. It is quite true, of course, that the health and social insurance proposals which are brought forward are in the main based upon those which were produced quite recently and which were agreed to. There will, I have no doubt, especially on the health side, be some important departures from decisions which I understand the last Minister of Health appears to have arrived at in camera with various parties, but which were not publicly announced. I leave it at that. I was rather surprised that the noble Viscount's memory was in this respect not so acute as it usually is, because he went on to say that he would not claim for the Conservative Party the whole credit for the progressive health and other insurance measures that have been passed. I thought that was extremely generous of him. I was in the House of Commons when those measures were introduced. I was one of Mr. Lloyd George's helpers in passing the National Health Insurance Bill. I remember that for six months or so we had a ding-dong fight on the floor of the House, and the people who were fighting were the Conservative Party. They were exceedingly ingenious and determined in their opposition to national health insurance. I would remind the noble Viscount that he was quite justified in saying the Conservative Party could not claim the whole credit. I remember there was a demonstration in the Albert Hall where parlourmaids and other people of the West End were exhorted to refuse to lick stamps. A great deal was made of that point.
If the noble Viscount will do me the honour of reading my speech, he will find I was not referring to this one aspect of Conservative policy. I said we had built up a great system of social services. I gave full credit to the Government of which he was a member, but the national health insurance is not the only thing that has been done.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I am aware of that, but I thought it right to present the 79 case in its right proportions. I happen to have a lively sense of those days, and well remember the steps we took with regard to the Albert Hall meeting. I may say that shortly afterwards the Department spent some money in order to ascertain whether the leading protagonists had in fact put stamps on their servants' cards, and we found that the cards had all been properly stamped from those of the butler down to those of the boy. I fully recognize that since then the Party with which the noble Viscount is associated have seen the light, and I welcome this assurance of assistance to us in pressing forward these matters.
He also referred to the "lavish promises" which were made by the Labour Party at the Election and suggested there may be serious disappointment if those promises are not made good. I do not myself remember those lavish promises, but I do remember that we had to spend a good deal of our time in explaining that we were not apostles of the system of the Gestapo. We had to spend a considerable amount of time and energy in doing that. We had to point out, for example, that the means test was a sort of Gestapo invention, but it was not the invention of the Labour Party. Then we had to spend a considerable amount of time saying that in our proposals with regard to the Bank of England we were not going to imperil the savings of the people, as had been suggested. But I cannot remember the series of lavish promises referred to by the noble Viscount. I am quite sure that the responsible leaders of the Party were always careful to point out the magnitude and difficulty of the tasks we were suggesting that the country had to undertake, and what difficult times we have before us. I think the noble Viscount might fairly look up his record. I shall be glad if he can furnish me with chapter and verse for the lavish promises of which he complains.
I am glad the noble Viscount advised his colleagues in the House to give the proposals for national ownership of the coal mines a chance, when the time came, and see how they worked. We know there have been three separate Commissions on this question, and they have all more or less reported the same thing. One was presided over by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and I am 80 glad he said he would give us a fair opportunity. Then some point was made with regard to misgivings that have been created by our proposals for the public ownership of the Bank of England. He pointed out that during the war the Bank was really controlled by the Treasury, and he did not see why that arrangement could not go on. He said it had gone on very happily. That is one of the reasons for making it permanent. It was taken in hand by the Treasury on the first day of the war, and it has worked very successfully. I am not going now to discuss the merits of the case. We shall no doubt have to do that in due time, when we have a Bill before us. But if there is one subject that has been in the forefront of Labour Party propaganda for many years it is this. An undertaking was certainly given that it should be undertaken, and in my view it is a matter of the first urgency that it should be done. Just as we took control of the vital machinery that controls public credit, and has much to do with the standard of living of the people, on the first day of the war, so we contend that a vital matter of this kind should always be under the control of a Government elected by the people, whatever its complexion. I therefore look forward to receiving at all events the friendly admonitions and to some extent the support of the noble Viscount when this proposal comes before the House. As it has worked so successfully during the war, I hope he will support us in advocating its continuance.
There are other matters on which the noble Viscount expressed his misgivings. One was with regard to the direction of investment. This is all part of the same thing, and I shall not trouble your Lordships with it to-day. I feel confident that when the time comes we shall find it exceedingly easy to make a good case for the proposals. We shall be content to wait till then. I think the noble Viscount rendered a public service in exhorting this House and the country, now that the verdict of the Election has been declared, to give the Government in power a trial, and not to be unduly obstructive. We ourselves in this House are in a specially difficult position, as is obvious from the numbers on the two sides of the House. I think it is almost unprecedented in British political life that a Party represented by so small a group in this House should be 81 the token of a Party which is in a vast majority in the other House. However, there it is. We have no doubt that out British aptitude for making the best of things and handling things somehow or other will enable us to manage, with good wilt and toleration on both sides of the House. After this matter has been disposed of, there are two other matters which I hope your Lordships will allow me to place before you that will only take a minute or two. In conclusion, I should like to thank noble Lords for the kindliness and fairness of their criticisms and to express an earnest hope that this is an indication of the spirit which will continue to actuate our discussions.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente, and Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.