HL Deb 26 October 1948 vol 159 cc5-24

The King's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, 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."

My Lords, it is a great compliment, of which I am fully sensible, to have been asked to move the Address of Thanks to His Majesty for the gracious Speech which has just been read to your Lordships. Having, for the purposes of greater accuracy, obtained a copy of the gracious Speech a little before the assembling of this House, I have read through it carefully, and particularly through that part of it which deals with prospective legislation. According to the measurement of a foot rule, there does not seem to be much to grumble about. It was King Gama who said: And isn't your life extremely flat With nothing whatever to grumble at! Yet, but for about one-tenth of the gracious Speech, I think it would be very difficult for any Party in this House to find much to object to.

A number of subjects are covered which are important but hardly controversial: national parks, access to the countryside, better conservation of wild life—and I do not imagine that the Conservative Party would object to the conservation of wild life, although they might have something to say about the order and genera—legal aid to be more readily available to persons of small or moderate means, improvement of the organisation of magistrates' courts, payment of jurors, extension of the powers of local authorities in reference to housing and private owners, better training of nurses (and as a member of a committee of a big London hospital I am very much interested in this measure and shall be more so when we see its terms, because the nursing problem is a serious one at the present moment) protection of the coast from erosion by the sea, safety of life at sea, improvement of water supplies in Scotland, development of the white fish industry—not red fish, or blue fish, but neutral fish. All these things are very important. But tucked away at the very beginning—I say "tucked away" because it would be quite easy for at least a casual reader to overlook the two important paragraphs before getting into his stride—we have the question of the Bill to Amend the Parliament Act, about which a great deal has been said (I have had my say upon that question in the past) and the question of bringing into public ownership those companies "extensively engaged in the production of iron ore, or of pig iron or steel, or in the shaping of steel by a rolling process." I am given to understand that that particular measure is going to be a cause of considerable perturbation in both Houses of Parliament during the coming Session. In the immortal language of Serjeant Buzfuz: The serpent is on the watch, the train is laid, the mine is preparing, and the sapper and miner is at work. I would like here to make a digression which will lead up in due course, I think, to the general question of public ownership. It is the custom for the mover of the corresponding Resolution in another place to refer in complimentary terms to his constituency—and, not too infrequently, let us hope, the constituency deserves the compliment. We in this House are unable to follow a custom so graceful since we have no constituencies to compliment, even upon the wisdom of choosing our noble selves to represent them. Nevertheless we have, so to speak, territorial qualifications or affiliations, and to one of these I beg leave to refer because it has some relation to certain passages in the gracious Speech. The village of Amwell in Hertfordshire, and the parish of Amwell, as it was once called, in London, are the top and tail of that great adventure in civil engineering of the time of James I which is still called the New River. I was born near enough to the head of it to have been plunged into its normally refreshing waters with neatness and dispatch if anyone had thought of it in time. As things turned out, I came to represent a Parliamentary constituency into which from there I could have thrown a stone, almost at that early age, if I had been given one to throw. Also nearby were the grim walls and massive door of a prison where mail bags were sewn by the prisoners. Mail bags are being thrown but not sewn on that spot at the present time, for the prison has long since been replaced by a Government institution of an entirely different kind—the largest postal sorting office in the world. I am reminded of these forms of public ownership because of my association with that district, in which I was born and from which I take my title.

I have no intention of arguing the case for iron and steel. It would be hardly appropriate for me to attempt to do so, or to anticipate the course of the debate that will follow the moving of this Resolution. In any event, it would not be possible for me to do so to any practical purpose, for obviously the measure (which we have not yet before us) will be one of some intricacy. But what is raised at this moment by the first of the two highly controversial items of this gracious Speech is the general question of public ownership. The Labour Party and Socialists have method in their madness—if it is madness. We are not in favour of public ownership or of nationalisation as an end in itself, but as a means to an end. The idea depends entirely upon what we propose to nationalise, and the basis upon which we consider that there is necessity for nationalisation. I am impelled to say a word or two in an explanatory way, if I may, if only to dispel a number of current misconceptions. There are many people who imagine that a collectivist State is necessarily a Socialist one; but that is not so. State ownership is by no means inconsistent with other orders of social life—for instance, dictatorship—and it is not inconsistent with or alien to any structure of class privilege. There is no need to quote examples of that.

I may point out that London's water supply, to which I have referred, and the nation's postal organisation (one brought under public control after generations of corruption and scandal, and the other going back for its origins to Tudor times) are instances of public services which work very well without altogether undermining what is called the capitalist system. And that is what I mean when I say that Socialists look upon nationalisation as a means to an end. It depends upon what end it is desired to reach. The principle of socialisation or nationalisation applied to key industries is simple enough, as the Labour Party understand it. Where there is private monopoly, whether by reason of ownership in limited natural resources or by concentration of industrial finance into huge masses, public monopoly, in the view of the Labour Party—I am not arguing the case in the least—should take the place of private monopoly. But there are natural and developed monopolies. Let us take one or two examples. In this country, land, at any rate, is very limited in area—so much so, that our ability to live upon it is in doubt. That is what I call a natural monopoly. You cannot add or take away. The Socialist view, therefore, is that it should be public.

As regards finance, many who are not Socialists agree that money credit is by nature monopolistic. Both land and credit are held to be fundamental to the national economy. So is transport, subject to geographical limitations. Mines are as much a natural monopoly as land. Whether iron and steel come into the category of natural or derived monopoly or are monopolistic at all, I must leave to the debate. It is a matter for discussion. I do not wish to prejudge. I merely point out what the question is. It is desirable to know what we are talking about and what are the views of all sides, especially those of the side which proposes the nationalisation of these big industries. The question is held to be not between State ownership and private ownership but between public monopoly and private monopoly. Perhaps the debate will provide dialectical contortions that it will be a pleasure to watch.

I am concerned most to say here that the categories are not exhausted by what I have had to say about many industries. There is municipal enterprise, which is essentially local and has aspects of a different character, to be considered. Also there is the field of voluntary co-operation. Socialists do not desire to put industries or individuals into a straitjacket. I myself want to see a great extension of voluntary co-operation, and I sometimes very much wonder why the great Co-operative movement of this country has not made more than it has of its strong historic link with the pioneers of English Socialism. Morris, Carpenter, Blatchford and hosts more, by no means Stale Socialists in the rigid sense—shall we say, in the contemporary Russian sense?—did not believe that Socialism, or for that matter democracy, was possible in a highly industrialised economy. Neither do I. I will say a little more on this point in a few moments. Individual craftsmanship was important to these men. The artist was recognised as the supreme and true individualist. Socialism was to be a way of life, not a chromium-plated, streamlined Utopia in which the common man was to do as he was told with no back answers. It was something more than just a mechanism.

The gracious Speech begins by drawing attention to the state of the world and the distrust and dissension that exist among nations. I have no desire to discourse upon foreign affairs, for that is by no means my province, but no one can escape uneasy awareness of the fact that, taking one consideration with another, the state of the world at present is not a happy one. Maybe human nature is not good enough for human intelligence, as exemplified by modern science; or maybe human stupidity is too much for human nature. But it does seem to me that humanity in small aggregates is more human than in large. That is not an argument against a world federation, against Western Union, against the British Empire or anything of that kind, but is an argument for a simpler, co-operative and democratic mode of life.

A Bishop worried himself very much about the state of the world and the condition of mankind. Night after night, he tossed about upon his pillow in great mental distress. One night he thought he heard the voice of the Lord say to him quietly, "Get some sleep now, Bishop; I'll sit up for the rest of the night." I think we might do well sometimes to listen to the small, quiet voice. I myself have worried about the state of the world for no less than half a century, in the conviction, I suppose, that I was born to set the world right in the pursuit of life, liberty and other people's happiness. I regret to say that the world is yet far from perfect. There is a fashion these days to regulate thinking by the clock, by the time-table or by the calendar. One is never right or wrong, or even good or bad, but "modern," "reactionary," "dynamic," "Victorian" or other sorts of antitheses of that character which are equally silly.

There is one variation of the popular clock mentality—that is in the phrase, "You cannot put the clock back." That is just what you can do all too easily, I am afraid. People who say that you cannot put the clock back rave about primitive art and dance to primitive music, even if they are shy of primitive shirt sleeves; and they are the very people who say that another war will bring barbarism. In my old-fashioned Victorian logic—and at my age I am more than one-third Victorian—I should have imagined that barbarism was putting the clock back, with a vengeance. In any event, I confess to no spiritual age or fashion and I would prefer to take my glands for granted. I believe in some absolutes, such as truth and justice, even if only to explain the relatives which otherwise seem to me to hang in the void.

In his Essay upon Sir James Mackintosh's History of the Revolution, Macaulay has this passage about old religious bigots; and it applies equally to new power politicians: The doctrine … which has been held by bigots of all sects, when condensed into a few words and stripped of all rhetorical disguise, is simply this: I am in the right and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger you ought to tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate truth. But when I am the stronger I shall persecute you; for it is my duty to persecute error.' This idea of power worship is a widespread infection, which is not confined to any one country or any one sphere; nor is it merely a question of East or West. Those words of Macaulay are written in a foreign language to vast masses of people and, I am afraid, to large numbers of the rising generation, because they have been indoctrinated with a clever but poisonous modernism. Those words will be as unintelligible as was the uncensored Press to the Russian lady who could not understand how people could think properly if they were allowed to be confused by reading contradictory opinions. Evidently that lady thought it was a case like that of Borodin's ass, which starved to death because it could not make up its mind between two equally luscious bales of hay. Perhaps the world is too complicated for freedom. I speak rather for myself at the moment, but I am sure that it is impossible to obtain or maintain complete mechanical efficiency side by side with very much human freedom; and the real question for all of us is how much efficiency we want and how much freedom.

Let us put the clock back a bit, as we shall have to do next week-end, and, paradoxically, just for a moment look a little ahead. Frankly, I think it is worth while to consider the desirability of less efficiency, at any rate of the kind that makes man the slave of the machine, and of more freedom of the kind which is the truer efficiency of the artist. I care more for the soul of man than I do for the soul of the machine, even though there is put before me the prospect of the plums of material comfort being dropped into my lap without much effort. That is no doubt reactionary. It is putting the clock back, but I believe that that is getting back to Socialism. However, it raises questions of immediate and great importance. We are still maimed by war. We are unable to feed ourselves and to become an agricultural nation, even to the degree that France is an agricultural nation. Notice that with all the near-feudalism of the French peasantry about which we sometimes hear, the countryside of that nation shows that it is not the peasant who is going short of food to-day; it is the industrialised proletarian. I know because I have just come back from France. I have seen the amount of food there is in that country, in spite of the terrible conditions in which the proletarian workman is living in the great cities and towns.

To become a more agricultural nation (which, in my view, we must do, or we perish) will take time, and I think the present Government are to be congratulated upon their work at the Ministry of Agriculture and their tremendous interest in the development of the countryside, apart altogether from any of the larger industrial questions of nationalisation. I look to the future in that direction. But there is another side to the question. We must rearm not only for defence, but also for commercial conquest. We are in a cleft stick. We have to pay for past follies. But we must not call that Socialism, just because it involves planning. It is nothing of the kind. Commercial conquest is not Socialism; it is not co-operation; for if one is on top it means that others have to be subordinate. However necessary it may be to step up production and to improve our mechanical facilities in order to hold our own in the world, that has nothing to do with the fundamental principles upon which this Party of mine has been built.

I would invite your Lordships—and I think a good many people need to consider the matter—to ask yourselves the question: What is to happen when the present world shortage is made up? Is there to be fiercer competition than ever before in history, with atomic power industrially well on the way? As I say, I invite your Lordships to consider the question, because it is a question that involves all countries, including our own Dominions, who seem to be—or, at any rate, may be—involved in the same mechanical "Rake's progress" which will mean an end to personal liberty, collectivism or no collectivism, if we are content with the specious doctrine of high industrialisation, high wages, high production, high profits, high prices and high cockalorum in general.

After all, these things go together. There is no solution, even if one believed that it was possible, in perpetually priming the capitalist pump by these means and staying on top of an everlasting synthetic boom, like the celluloid balls on top of a jet of water in a shooting gallery at a fair. I do not believe it is possible in the long run, and I believe that no social insurance or wage structure can stand up to a world situation which may arise if nothing but bigger and bigger competition is to be the rule when countries never before developed in secondary as well as in primary production—and that applies to our own Empire—together plunge headlong into the rapids of a new Industrial Revolution. It is no use telling people that a few more years of austerity alone will do the trick. Neither austerity nor supersonic aeroplanes can overcome or overtake the laws of capitalist production. In a world where, as never before, markets will contract as a consequence of an increasing national self-sufficiency, production will expand as a consequence of intensified industrialism.

I would like to draw the attention of noble Lords to a passage in Professor Blackett's recent book, The Military and Political Consequences of Atomic Energy. He says this: It is quite certain that any nation which intends to reach or surpass the present productivity of America—and what nation does not?—must base its plans on the provision of a power supply of at least the magnitude of that in America to-day. Because of the very high level of her existing supplies, says Professor Blackett, America has less need of atomic power than any other country in the world. But she would regard atomic power in other nations as an undesirable competitor.

Are we to stick at that kind of thing, or are we willing to go back to a less complicated state of life, to what we in the Socialist Movement used to call Socialism—production for use (for that is the alternative) springing from the soil and character of the country? If that is reactionary, then I am reactionary. If that is impossible, then Socialism, nay, democracy itself, is impossible in the modern world. I am firmly convinced that, whatever may be the urgency—and I am not questioning it—of the need to step up production to huge figures, we must remember that others will be doing the same thing, multiplying machines, wants and commodities, hastening the mechanisation of man; and if there is to be nothing more, if we are not to move to better fundamentals, that will lead with catastrophic force (after serving the immediate purpose maybe) to human disintegration. I want to make the best of this country; I want our people to make the best of themselves. That is a better ideal than the ideal of force and of a mechanised world. The ideal should be to have a healthy, sane and principled body of human beings who will realise that, after all, we have not so long to live in this world and so we might as well be decent to each other, recognising that we have a beautiful world, that we here have a beautiful and productive country, that co-operation, not competition—however much one may differ on the way in which it is to be brought about—and the co-operative, simple order of life is far better than the ideal of mere high production and industrialisation which, instead of producing men, will just make machines of them. My Lords, I beg to move.

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."—(Lord Amwell.)

3.14 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to second the Resolution which has been moved in such eloquent and interesting terms by my noble friend Lord Amwell. In so doing, I am very conscious of the honour of addressing your Lordships on this august occasion, the more so because I am a comparative newcomer to your Lordships' House. For that reason, added to the fact that until some nine months ago I had spent the whole of my working life in one of His Majesty's Services, and thus am not well versed in the niceties of political life, I feel that I must crave your special indulgence on this occasion.

First, may I say how delighted I am—and I am sure we all are—at the reference in the gracious Speech to the visit of their Majesties to Australia and New Zealand next year? It is hardly necessary for me, in these troublous times, to stress the immense importance of the ties of sentiment and regard which bind these two Dominions to the Mother Country; and there is no doubt that these ties will be greatly strengthened by their Majesties' visit. In this connection I would also mention the great satisfaction that has been caused throughout the country by the success that has attended the recently concluded meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. One cannot help remarking that the harmony which characterised the proceedings of that Conference stands out in marked contrast to the disharmony apparent in some of the recent meetings of the United Nations Organisation. Nor can it be said that this harmony is the result of racial affinities, because the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth represent people of every race, colour and creed. We can, I think, say without conceit that the Commonwealth affords an outstanding example to the world of fruitful co-operation of diverse and different peoples for a common end.

As a member of one of the Services, I am especially gratified at the reference made in the gracious Speech to the steps proposed to be taken to improve the efficiency and equipment of the Services, and to stimulate recruiting. I regret to say that such a stimulant appears to be particularly necessary in the case of my own Service, the Royal Air Force, whose recruiting returns, from what I hear and read, are at the present time the least satisfactory of those of the three Services. Indeed, it was reported in The Times only last week that during the quarter ended on September 30 not more than 2,670 Regular recruits were enlisted in the R.A.F. Unless urgent steps are taken to improve this rate of recruiting, it looks as though the R.A.F. will, before long, die on its feet. One naturally asks oneself what is the reason for this lack of recruits for a Service which in the past has had a special appeal for a large proportion of the most adventurous and enterprising youths in this country. After all, aviation is a new and exciting field of endeavour, of special interest and attraction to young people. How is it, therefore, that, for the moment at any rate, it appears to have lost its old appeal?

Of course, it is true that the type of young man, of good education and with a mechanical bent, who used to join the R.A.F. can, in present circumstances, easily obtain a well-paid job in civilian industry. That is all to the good, but it seems to me that it does point to the necessity of giving the skilled and semiskilled men in the Services rates of pay which compare not unfavourably with those that can be obtained in civil life. Moreover, I find on inquiry that this pay question bears particularly hardly on the young married man in the R.A.F., and, I believe, in the other Services also. That applies both to officers and airmen. I am personally acquainted with several young officers married and, in one case, with a child, who have resigned their commissions because they say they cannot make ends meet. And if it is hard for the young married officer, it must be even harder for the young married airman. I would therefore suggest that not only the rates of pay but, even more, the rates of married allowance in the Services should be studied with a view to some appreciable increase.

I would also suggest that special attention should be paid to the National Service entry in the R.A.F. It is true, of course, that one cannot make an operational pilot or a skilled mechanic of a man in twelve months. But if a National Service man's work can be made interesting, and his life generally pleasant and companionable, it seems to me that there will be unrivalled opportunity of "enthusing" and thus recruiting the right type of young man into the R.A.F. I wish to make a personal appeal to the youth of this country to come forward and help to keep the R.A.F. on its feet. Duty comes into this as well as personal inclination—perhaps more so. The R.A.F. is now recognised as our first line of defence, and if that goes we are liable to lose all.

I welcome also the statement in the gracious Speech that a measure is to be introduced for the future organisation of Civil Defence. In view of the hazards of our present situation, it is, in my opinion, of the greatest importance that our Civil Defence organisation should be reconstituted as rapidly as possible. There is, to my knowledge, a wealth of voluntary enthusiasm for Civil Defence among all classes of people of this country, waiting to be tapped.

This brings me to the reference in the gracious Speech to the situation in Germany. I have spent almost two-and-a-half years in Germany since the war, eighteen months of that time as Commander - in - Chief and Military Governor, and I view the troubled scene with special interest. In the first place, I welcome the unmistakable signs in Germany of economic recovery in the Western Zones. It has been a long and uphill struggle for our administrators there, as well as for the Germans themselves. Our administration in Germany has come in for "more kicks than halfpence" from the Press of this country, and I think it is high time that the good work carried out, often under unpleasant and difficult conditions, by the British Control Commission in Germany received its due meed of recognition and praise. This economic recovery in Western Germany is particularly important at this time, since it is clear that the Marshall Plan, the European Recovery Programme, cannot succeed unless there is a substantial contribution to it from Western Germany and, in particular, from the Ruhr, on which so many of the nations of Western Europe depend for coal and other products. This recovery is of importance for another reason—namely, that it enables the people of Germany in particular, and of other countries in Western Europe also, to make a direct comparison between the economic results of Western democracy on the one hand and of Communism on the other. Here, in Eastern and Western Germany, we have two shop windows, with rival goods displayed. Let the German people, and others too, take a good look, a critical look, and decide with which shop they would like to deal.

But the situation in Berlin is still one of gravest tension, the gloom enlightened only by the success and efficiency displayed in the Anglo-American air lift. This situation, as your Lordships know, has been the subject of recent discussion in the Security Council in Paris. I do not wish to be contentious on this occasion, but I cannot refrain from a few general comments. In the first place, from my first-hand experience of dealing with the Russians, I am convinced that we must stand firm on our undoubted rights in Berlin. To give way or, worst of all, to scuttle out of Berlin, would stultify our whole position in the eyes of the democratic peoples of Europe and of the world, and, not least, of the Germans themselves. We must stand firm on this issue and there must be no appeasement. But to stand firm is not the same thing as issuing ultimatums to the Russians, threatening them with the atom bomb unless they toe the line—our line—as some people seem to recommend. I want this country to be strong militarily, as I have said already, so that if—which God forbid!—we have to fight a war, we can win it, but even more because I believe that the best way to prevent a war is for ourselves and America and the nations of Western Europe to be strong, to have the military strength to be a real deterrent to aggression. But, as I say to take the precaution of making ourselves strong enough to resist aggression is not the same thing as issuing ultimatums which we have every reason to believe would be rejected. Let us lot court war nor, as it were, clasp war to our bosoms.

And surely, my Lords, the lesson of the post-war years has been that the battle against Communism is not necessarily, or even primarily, a military one. Look at what has happened in Czechoslovakia and at what is happening now across the Channel in France. The battlefield seems to be in the Cabinets and Parliaments of nations, in every organ of government, and in the trade unions. It is here that the battle is now being fought out—here, and in the hearts and minds of the democratic peoples. It is in this field, even more than in the military field, that we must be strong and active. And here we find something of a parodox. Economic well-being is the most effective deterrent to the spread of Communism. A people that is economically prosperous is unlikely to adopt the Communistic creed, which indeed feeds on misery and poverty. The more of our resources we devote to armaments, the slower will be our economic recovery. But, on the other hand, we must be adequately armed. Thus there exists a delicate balance of interests which will call for great judgment on the part of the Government and, indeed, of us all. My Lords, I beg to second the Motion.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, in past years, as your Lordships know, it has been our practice in this House, after the speeches of the mover and seconder of the humble Address, to proceed immediately with the general debate. But on this occasion it has been agreed between the Parties—and I hope it is an agreement which will continue into the future—that we should confine ourselves on the first day to the speeches of the mover and seconder and a few brief remarks by the spokesmen of other Parties, and that we should postpone the opening of the general debate until the second day of the Session. I hope very much that this agreement will be generally approved. I believe it to be thoroughly sensible, for it provides an opportunity for the spokesmen of all Parties to give some mature consideration to the proposals of the gracious Speech before they rise to speak. We should in this way enhance the importance and weight of the debate which follows.

In these new conditions, my task this afternoon is an easy and pleasant one. I have merely to congratulate the mover and seconder of the humble Address upon the admirable way in which they have performed their task. In one way, I think that these two noble Lords were a little more fortunate than Lord Shepherd and Lord Kershaw, who moved and seconded the Address in the short Session six weeks ago. As was said at the time, they were asked to make bricks without straw. This time there is plenty of straw—some of it a bit mouldy, perhaps, but still it is straw. I was interested to note that both the noble Lords who have been selected to perform this important function to-day are connected with the air. The noble Lord, Lord Amwell, when in another place, was Under-Secretary of State at the Air Ministry. The noble Lord, Lord Douglas, was one of the doughtiest leaders of our Royal Air Force in the last war.

I do not know whether this air connection has any special significance. I had an uncomfortable suspicion, as I listened to the gracious Speech, that it might be an indication that the heads of the Government were still well up in the clouds. We might all have felt a little happier if there had been some more definite connection with the ground. But, at any rate, as I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, has one qualification which should be particularly valuable to the Government. He made no mention of it this afternoon, but I understand that he is in fact a most distinguished and skilful conjuror—what I believe is technically called a magician. I should have thought that a magician was just what the Government needed to get them out of their present difficulties. That is a point which I would recommend most respectfully to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House. However, it would be an impertinence for me to pursue that aspect further this afternoon.

I am concerned, not so much with the noble Lord himself as with the speech he made this afternoon, and of this I can speak with the most wholehearted admiration. Although, of course, the noble Lord has a very long experience of another place, he has not as yet been long in this House, but I think all your Lordships would agree that he has already established a reputation here. His speeches have two great qualities—namely, forthrightness and conviction. We do not always agree with everything that he says, but we know that he is saying what he sincerely believes, and that if he did not believe it he would not say it. That quality of forthright sincerity will always recommend itself-to this House. His charming, witty and thoughtful speech this afternoon was no exception to that rule and will add very greatly to the reputation which the noble Lord enjoys.

The noble Lord, Lord Douglas, has not as yet spoken quite so often in this House. We know him principally, as I have said, as a great war leader and as a man who, over a particularly difficult period, occupied an extremely delicate and responsible position in Germany. Such a record, of course, is a high qualification for membership of a Second Chamber. I should like to take this opportunity of saying, if I may, how warmly we welcome the noble Lord here. He made to-day what I thought was a remarkable contribution — remarkable both for its knowledge and common sense—on subjects on which, of course, he speaks with deep experience. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Douglas, and the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, that we will give careful attention to what they have said.

At one moment I felt strongly tempted to join issue with Lord Amwell over some of the arguments which he advanced this afternoon, but, for reasons which I have explained, I kept myself under stern restraint. I should, however, like to say just this. I should like to make it clear, both to those two noble Lords and to the Government, that while, as Lord Amwell himself said, there is a great deal in the gracious Speech which is unexceptionable and, indeed, entirely non-controversial, there are certain proposals which we on this side of the House regard as quite deplorable—in particular, the proposal for the nationalisation of iron and steel. If I may say so, the Government really seem to have a genius for fiddling with matters which are much better left alone. They have already nationalised a number of industries. In all those industries one of two things has happened: either they have made a heavy loss or the price of the product has been increased to the consumer; indeed, in most of them both of those things have happened. I do not say that that need necessarily continue for ever. But obviously this experiment of nationalisation, on which the Government have entered so lightheartedly, requires most careful re-examination in the light of experience before complete success is possible.

Surely, mere elementary common sense would have suggested that before embarking on the nationalisation of what is by far the most complex industry in the country—an industry which, unlike the others which they have nationalised, is open to acute foreign competition—they ought to have given time to enable the lessons of experience in those other easier industries to be learned. The proposal to change the ownership of this industry at the present juncture, at a moment of great international urgency and danger, and at a time when the industry itself is working so smoothly and efficiently and producing results which are the admiration of the world, is surely reckless and improvident; and it is likely to be both destructive of that national unity which the Government themselves want, and fraught with danger to the nation.

I felt bound to say just that at the outset of our proceedings. But, having said that, it only remains for me once more to congratulate the two noble Lords on the tone and character of their speeches, which I feel, and I am sure we all feel, have fully maintained the high standard to which we are accustomed in this House, and have given a notable send-off to a new Session which is likely, in more ways than one, to be one of the most important Sessions of modern times.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, I should like in the first place to associate myself with what the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has said in regard to the conduct of our business this afternoon. He and I have had opportunities of discussing this matter between ourselves, and I have had the opportunity of taking the views of others, and, for the reasons which the noble Marquess has given, it was clear that it would be convenient if a certain time were given to enable noble Lords to think further about the contents of the gracious Speech, and that to-day we should confine ourselves to the more formal parts of the opening of our proceedings. We shall see how the change is appreciated by your Lordships. I can well believe that it will mark a welcome departure from what has been our custom.

I will not be tempted to follow the noble Marquess in what he said in the concluding part of his speech. He said it with his characteristic clarity and vigour, and he said exactly what I expected him to say. I have no doubt that in the forthcoming Session there will be many opportunities of returning to the topic. In those circumstances, I will not be tempted to say any more about it now. I should, however, like to join with the noble Marquess in expressing my sincere appreciation of the speeches of both the mover and the seconder. One thing was prominently in my mind after my noble friends had concluded their speeches. Those two noble Lords, completely different in their life experience, in their work and in their Parliamentary experience, illustrate the wealth of ability and character, without any distinction of Party, on which we in this House can call to help us in our deliberations. I have no doubt that we should have to go only a very short distance amongst any of these Benches to be able to reproduce in another form equal illustrations of the significant richness of our public life of which this affords an example.

I expected my old friend Lord Amwell to make a speech full of thought-provoking material. When your Lordships read what he has said, and more still when you come to think it over, you will perhaps be little puzzled that the noble Lord is a lifelong exponent of British Socialism. Some of your Lordships have hitherto, perhaps, not been able to understand it, but the noble Lord's speech epitomises a life of thought and experience in the development of the Socialist Party in this country; and, if I may say so, it is one which is rich in lessons for us all. I was more than glad that I ventured to ask my noble friend to move the Motion, and I was particularly glad that at the back of his mind, and underlying what he said, there was the value that he attaches to wholesome country life in our own country, to the improvement of our country life, to the appreciation of its values and to the cherishing of it. Without distinction of Party, I am quite sure that it can fairly be said that noble Lords in all parts of this House are champions of the charms of England—or rather, I should say, of Great Britain.

I expected that my noble friend Lord Douglas would discuss foreign affairs, and particularly those of which he himself has first-hand experience. I was glad that he took the line that he did in advising us on the method of approach to the problems which are presented, particularly in Germany, at the present time. But as one of those who was privileged to attend its meetings throughout, I may perhaps say how glad I was that the noble Lord said what he did about the Commonwealth Conference which has just concluded. It was in many ways, as we shall see as the results emerge, quite different from any other Commonwealth Conference of which I have had any previous experience. For example, round the table, discussing things freely, with complete frankness and as equals, we had the representatives of India, Pakistan and Ceylon. They loyally contributed throughout with complete, helpful frankness to every discussion. But its great significance—the one which I am sure impressed us all and which I am sure will become more and more realised as time goes on—was that it was a Commonwealth Conference in which, by the pressure of the world outside, there was promoted a greater measure of common thought in the terms of future co-operation than there has been in any other Commonwealth Conference of which I have had knowledge. It was exceedingly significant and, I believe, very fruitful, because we are entering, almost unconsciously, shall I say, into another form of the Commonwealth of the world; and it is clear that unless like-minded nations, not only of our own association but of others, can come closer together and work more closely together, there is a poor prospect both for peace and for development in the world. I was glad that the noble Lord referred as he did to the proceedings of that Conference.

As to the rest, I agree with the noble Marquess that the noble Lords who have just spoken had a great advantage over our colleagues, Lord Shepherd and Lord Kershaw, the other day. I remember that when we discussed it in my room I ventured to commiserate with them upon the paucity of the material which was presented in the opening Speech of the last short Session. I am sure that we all appreciated the ingenuity with which they made full use of what was there, or even of what was not there, in making exceedingly attractive speeches. My noble friends to-day have had no such difficulty as that, for there is indeed a plethora of material. I, for one, have no doubt that we shall tackle our tasks and deal with them with the friendly efficiency which has marked our proceedings on other occasions. I believe it is the wish of the House that at this stage we should conclude the discussion upon the Address to-day. There are one or two formal Motions to be adopted before we finally adjourn. Therefore, on behalf of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Viscount Addison.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.