HL Deb 05 November 1946 vol 143 cc961-7

2.48 p.m.


acquainted the House that the Clerk of the Parliaments had laid on the Table the Certificate from the Examiners that no further Standing Orders are applicable to the Bill. The same was ordered to lie on the Table.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in the Bill before us we are afforded an opportunity of paying tribute and making possible a memorial in London to the late President Roosevelt. It is an opportunity which I feel sure will be welcomed from the heart by everyone of us. Never in history, I think, has there been such a desire by all the people of one nation to honour and to express their affectionate regard for the head of another. His voice and messages were eagerly listened to by well-nigh every family in the land. He gave us encouragement in the hour of danger and he inspired us all by the strong leadership he was giving to the American nation that was beside us in the struggle to save their liberties and ours.

We can never forget that even in the days before the United States came into the war and when our purchasing power in that country was becoming exhausted, his original expedient of Lease-Lend made the gigantic sum of £7,000,000,000 available for aid to countries resisting oppression. It was a characteristic example of the boldness of his character and vision that will make him famous in history. We can never forget, either, that, under his leadership, as early as November, 1939, the embargo on the purchase of arms in the United States was lifted in favour of the United Kingdom and France; that in the time of our dire peril after the fall of France in June, 1940, guns were rushed over to this country to help in our defence, and that in September of that year a great fleet of destroyers was transferred to us to help to safeguard our vital supplies.

I make no apology, therefore, for quoting once more in your Lordships' House from his historic speech of March 17, 1941. He said: Humanity will never permanently accept a system imposed by conquest and based on slavery. These modern tyrants find it necessary for their plans to eliminate all Democracies, eliminate them one by one. The nations of Europe, and indeed we ourselves, did not appreciate that purpose. We do now. The process of the elimination of the European nations proceeded according to plan through 1939 and well into 1940, until the schedule was shot to pieces by the unbeatable defenders of Britain … So our country is going to be what our people have proclaimed it to be, the arsenal of democracy. Our country is going to play its full part, and when the dictatorships disintegrate, then our country must continue to play its great part in the period of world reconstruction for the good of humanity. We know how well he lived up to it. What an unspeakable relief his speeches and actions were to us; how staunch a friend he was even before he became our ally. He was also, with Mr. Churchill, one of the architects of the Atlantic Charter. It is true that the world has not yet risen to the inspiration of that great document, and many year may pass before international rivalries are so abated that nations will be willing to co-operate sincerely in the endeavour to realize its ideals.

The fact that he is not here to-day to share in the work only makes our sense of loss the more poignant and increases our sense of the debt the world owes to him. The part that he played in the many conferences that gave direction to the war effort is fresh in all our minds. In all of them there was on his part the same boldness of conception and warm-hearted friendliness. It is difficult for us to estimate what his skilled guidance and masterly handling of affairs meant in his own country. He welded together in an unexampled unity of effort a great nation composed of people derived from many races with deep differences of tradition and interest. I think the greatness of this achievement has not yet been fully realized, but we cannot wonder that, despite strong tradition, he was the first man to be elected three times President of the United States, and we do not forget that in all this he provided mankind with a wonderful example of how character and mind can overcome bodily infirmity. The British people, as well as his own, loved him. We are glad that the provision of this memorial in a place so well-known to multitudes of his fellow country-men is to be one in which, by the aid of the Pilgrims Society, the men and women throughout the land can take their share together. He lives in our hearts and will live in history. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Addison.)

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, on behalf of my friends on this side of the House, to support most whole-heartedly what has been so well said by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. Sometimes we have before us in this House legislation which may be said to be of a somewhat controversial character. I can imagine nothing less controversial than this measure with which we are now concerned. There is one thing which is quite certain. There is not one man or woman in this country, to whatever Party he or she may belong, who will not wish to do honour to the memory of President Roosevelt, that faithful friend of freedom and of this country, who never lost faith in us even when things were blackest. It is a commonplace nowadays to speak of President Roosevelt as one of the truly great men of this century, and possibly of all history, but what constitutes greatness? Some men are great merely by virtue of the posit.on which they occupy; others are great by the sheer force of their own personality. President Roosevelt, I suggest, was one of those rather rare cases in which both those two elements of great- ness were combined. He was a great man in a great position at a great moment.

It was one of the supreme strokes of good fortune for humanity at large that one of the most momentous crises with which the civilized world has ever been faced found at the helm of the United States, a man not only vigorous and courageous, but a man of transcendent vision. From the moment the battle was joined between the Axis and the Western Powers he recognized the fundamental character of the issues with which the United States, as Britain, was faced. As he said in one of the most famous and moving of his utterances at that time: The British people are braced for invasion. Whether such an attempt comes to-morrow, next week or next month, the essence of their superb morale is in the masses of the British people who are completely clear in their minds about the one central fact that they would rather die as free men than live as slaves. That is what President Roosevelt said to his own people, and that was his confident view. As the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has already pointed out this afternoon, he so guided his country that even before it entered the war it gave the fullest measure of help to the forces of liberty. Had it not been for President Roosevelt the result of the war might well have been very different from what it was. This memorial which it is proposed to set up in London commemorates not only the man but the greatness of the human spirit of which he was so predominant in example, and we on this side of the House are proud to be associated with it.

3.0 p.m.


My Lords, when President Roosevelt died so suddenly eighteen months ago, the news came as a shock to all of us, and it left behind something of a heartache. For it was not as though some public personage had died, respected but remote; we felt it as the death of a friend, and a dear friend. That was so not only with those of us who had the privilege of knowing him personally but with everyone. At that time there was a general feeling that there ought to be, in due course, some public memorial, here, in this capital city, so that posterity might be continually reminded of the honour in which President Roosevelt was held by his contemporaries.

The Government, in this Bill, have rightly interpreted the wishes of the nation and of Parliament, and your Lordships will surely welcome it whole-heartedly. In that welcome, we on these Benches fully share. The proposal, itself, is, I think, well conceived. It would have been easy to have come to Parliament for a vote to defray the financial charges, a vote that would readily have been granted; but it is better to give the people at large an opportunity of participating by means of a general subscription. It would have been easy to have chosen some more accustomed site, side by side, perhaps, with many existing memorials, but it is a greater distinction to give to this memorial a location of its own, especially one, such as in this instance, which is so closely associated with persons and events in Anglo-American history. The City of West-minster, now, will have the honour of possessing memorials to the three Presidents of the United States whom history is likely to account the most illustrious—Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. They were the Presidents who were called upon to deal with the three greatest crises in the history of their country and all of them rose to the full height of the occasion.

Not only will this memorial symbolize our respect and admiration for President Roosevelt as a statesman but also our gratitude for the help which, in the hour of our greatest danger, under his leadership and at his appeal, the people of the United States afforded to us. We can never forget how, as previous speakers have said, before direct attack brought the American people into the war, President Roosevelt, grasping the realities of the situation, used all his executive powers and sent us ships, munitions, materials, and food in great abundance and on easy terms. And they arrived just in the nick of time. We may be sure that every effort will be made to render this memorial a worthy one to a man honourable and lovable, to an allv loyal and staunch and to a statesman among the greatest men of the modern world.

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.

Then Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended (in pursuance of the Resolution of October 17):


My Lords, I beg to move the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Viscount Addison.)

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, may I say a few words at this point? I wish to make a suggestion which I would rather have put to the Leader of the House before, but I never read the Bill until this morning. I am not quite sure that there is not a trivial legal point upon which the Bill is not effective. I have had some experience, during the last six years, of what happens to squares when they are not enclosed by railings. Now I see no reason why this square should not be enclosed by a railing—the existing railing. And I would add this: I am not quite certain that, on the Bill as it stands, there would be authority in the Minister to shut the doors at night, and that will make a very great difference to the amenities of the garden. The Bill says at line 22 on page I that the Square shall be opened for the use and enjoyment of the public and kept open for ever for that purpose. It may be argued that that does not mean that you cannot shut it at night, but the matter ought not to be left in doubt.

That is not the only thing which I should like the Government to consider. The next matter is this. Ownership of the site of the garden will remain where it is now. It is not transferred to the Crown; or the surface is not conveyed to the Crown, which I should have thought would have been the best plan. But, at any rate, what we know about the garden in the future is that it is to be managed and maintained by the Minister for the use and enjoyment of the public. I venture to think—and as a lawyer I hold this view rather strongly—that there ought also to be a few words added here to say that he shall be entitled to make by-laws for that purpose, and to authorize him to take proceedings against malefactors—by that I mean misusers of the square—and, if necessary, to take them before a magistrate. That I do not think would be possible under the words in the Bill as they stand. All I want to suggest is that that point should be considered. I did not know, unfortunately, that it was hoped to get through all the stages of the Bill to-day. If the noble Viscount the Leader of the House tells me that this has been considered, then I am content. But as, I am afraid, a very old lawyer, I have a feeling that you might have trouble here-after with regard to the management of the square, which would be a disastrous misfortune. Nobody is more keen than I am not only that this memorial should be worthy of the great man who has passed on but that the garden should be one of the best in the country.


My Lords, I can say, from the memoranda which has been supplied to me, that I think all the circumstances mentioned by the noble Viscount have been taken into consideration. It is understood that by the word "open" we mean open. The garden will be safely guarded and well looked after. I feel sure that we can rely upon our fellow countrymen to see that this is done and to look upon it and treat it with all respect.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.