HL Deb 01 November 1950 vol 169 cc25-78

2.58 p.m

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Lawson—namely. 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, 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 falls to me to open the debate on the gracious Speech which incorporates the policy of His Majesty's Government for the forthcoming Session of Parliament. In one respect, of course, this year 1950 is rather an unusual one. In a normal year, Parliament has the opportunity of considering one gracious Speech. It usually gets this towards the end of the year, when the old Session comes to an end and a new Session begins. But this year we have been given what the Minister of Food would no doubt describe as a double ration. We had one Speech from His Majesty in February, following the General Election, and now we have an-other at the normal time. It is, I suggest, worth while for us to consider and com-pare these two Speeches, to see to what extent they differ and to draw conclusions from such differences as may appear between them. In one respect, I imagine, one would not expect the emphasis to be quite the same. The gracious Speech to which we listened in February was a post-Election speech. What is more, it was a speech following an Election of an extremely inconclusive nature; it was, therefore, of an exceptionally anodyne character. Everything which was likely to lead to any acute controversy was studiously avoided; indeed, the speech was mainly notable, if I may say so, for the fact that it omitted nearly all the main proposals in respect of which the Government had asked for the support of the electors at the General Election.

The present Speech, on the other hand, is in the nature of a pre-Election speech. I do not say that it indicates another immediate appeal to the country but clearly it looks forward to some such eventuality in the not too distant future. To that extent, it is more interesting. It indicates what, in the Government's view, is likely to be attractive to voters, and also, by implication, what is not: what is likely to shepherd the sheep into their fold, and what is likely to frighten them into bolting into the fold of their rivals. This question is particularly intriguing, I suggest, when we examine those portions of the Speech which concern themselves with the question of nationalisation, which is another word for Socialism. It is notable that the approaches to this subject in the present Speech are of an extremely hesitating and limited character. There is no more talk about the wholesale taking over of industries into public ownership; there is no suggestion that that is the cure for all our ills. It is perfectly true that nationalisation has not been entirely dropped: we are to have a Bill to nationalise home-grown sugar, or to take over the British Sugar Corporation; but that is clearly the minimum that the Government think they can "get away with." Anything more extensive than that is rigidly excluded, and I think it is evident that the Government have realised at long last that the electors are becoming extremely sceptical about the benefits of nationalisation. I do not say that even these limited proposals are likely to make a very strong appeal 1o those of us who sit on these benches, but we shall examine them objectively, as we always do.

Then there is the measure to deal with leasehold reform, the main aim of which, to judge by references in the Labour press, if not in the gracious Speech itself, is to clip still further the wings of "the wicked landlord." There still seems to me an impression in Labour circles that all the land of England is owned by a small number of immensely rich and almost mediæval territorial magnates, and that to "have a whack" at them every now and then is almost a public duty. But, my Lords, that conception, of course, is really long out of date. To-day, in this country, a very great proportion of the land is owned, not by these territorial magnates, of whom very few, if any, still exist, but by great foundations such as City companies engaged in public work, and even more by innumerable small men and women with limited resources, who have invested the proceeds of their thrift and industry in land and houses. All these people, as your Lordships know, as a result of crippling taxation, rent restriction, development charges, and so on, are already finding it very difficult indeed to carry out their obligations to their tenants. I hope very much that the Government will bear that aspect in mind. We recognise fully the immense problems connected with leasehold tenants. But if the Government are concerned (and not unnaturally concerned) about the hardship to tenants, I hope that they will consider also the many problems facing the owners of land and houses in doing their duty by their fellow countrymen. It is in that spirit that I feel sure your Lordships will consider the legislation on this subject when it comes before the House.

Then there is a reference to housing. The Government say that they will continue to give a high priority to housing. That is very nice indeed, but it does not indicate any very intensive speeding up of the programme. As the Government know, we on this side of the House believe (and in this we have the valuable support of Mr. Coppock, the representative of the building operatives themselves), that by a more imaginative outlook, by an improvement in organisation, by bringing into play all the resources of private enterprise (there I am not sure that Mr. Coppock would entirely agree with us, but anyhow that is one of the factors to be considered), by simplification and reduction of harassing and limiting restrictions, the target of housing could be raised to 300,000 houses per annum. Moreover, it is our view that that target can actually be achieved. The brief, and I am afraid, rather chilly reference in the gracious Speech to the subject of housing—which compares, if I may say so, rather strangely with the lavish and glowing promises made by the Minister of Health after the last General Election—will not give much encouragement to the many hundreds of thousands of British citizens who are at present waiting for houses.

Now I want to turn to a third measure which I would put in the same category, the proposal to make permanent the provisions of the Supplies and Services Act. This is not expressly stated in the gracious Speech, which used another form of words, but, judging by the almost supernaturally intelligent anticipations of the Press, that is the meaning of the paragraph in question. I take it that this proposal is also regarded as part of the pre-Election campaign. It is not so vulnerable as nationalisation, and yet it is thoroughly Socialist in character, and calculated to appeal to the Socialist voter, in that it aims at increasing the power of the Executive at the expense of the Legislature. Sir Stafford Cripps used to advocate a policy as far back as 1934, long before the war, of putting Parliament to sleep for the first years of a Socialist Government until the Socialist State had been established on unshakable foundations. This measure seems to me a substantial step in that direction.

It will, no doubt, be defended, as the Lord Chancellor defended the prolongation of the regulations last week, by the argument—I will quote his own words: Unfortunately, the long and short of the matter is that we must all realise that we are now living in a different world from the world in which we lived before the war…. The world of to-day requires all sorts of measures which were unnecessary in the world then. Of course, my Lords, that world is different from what it was before the war. But I should have thought that the condition of this new world made safeguards of the Constitution not less but more necessary, if our liberties are to be preserved. If new measures are necessary, at least let them be under the direct control of Parliament. I can well imagine that the Government might come to the conclusion—if not this Government, some Government—that it would be very convenient in this new world if they did not have to submit proposals for taxation to Parliament every year. In such a case, no doubt, we should have exactly the same sort of speech from the Lord Chancellor, or from his successor, couched in almost identical words. Indeed one could defend almost anything on those grounds; but few of us would regard such a defence as wholly valid.

I must confess that I am astonished that noble Lords opposite lend themselves to such a proposal as that contemplated with regard to this Bill. If it were carried beyond a certain point it might easily mean, in the hands of an extreme Government, killing Parliament stone dead as the watch-dog of the nation. It would indeed be a very strange event if the House of Lords, which has received so many wounding blows from the House of Commons, had to intervene to save the Commons from suicide. But, at any rate, it is not necessary for us to decide or define our attitude on this proposal to-day. We had better see the Bill first. There is mention in the gracious Speech, I fully recognise, of "appropriate Parliamentary safeguards." Well, we had better see what they are—and we shall look at them very carefully. I feel sure that in any action that we may take we shall be ever, in this House, mindful of our solemn duty to safeguard the rights and liberties of the British people, of which your Lord-ships seem to me at the present moment to be the only defenders.

So much, my Lords, for what I may call the pre-Election provisions of the gracious Speech, which differentiate it from the Speech that we heard last February. But, of course, there is another and a wider change in our situation which has inevitably coloured the present Speech and given it, if I may use the phrase, a somewhat different slant from that to which we listened last February. Events have occurred in the international sphere which have entirely altered our situation and have already led to profound repercussions, not only on the foreign but on the domestic policy of this country. It may seem strange—it is strange—that the invasion of South Korea by the Government of North Korea (an episode which a hundred years ago would hardly have fluttered the dovecotes of democracy and would certainly have been viewed with very distant detachment by the ordinary man in the street) should now entirely transform the world situation. It is startling evidence of the degree of inter-dependence between nations which now exists in the world. To-day anything that happens anywhere affects everyone every-where. Any spark that is lit, even at the furthest ends of the world, may blaze up into a conflagration which may spread with lightning rapidity and engulf us all.

No doubt the danger to the world would not be so great if all nations were linked in a single spiritual unity and animated by the same aim, the achievement of enduring peace; for then one might be sure that if a conflict did break out it would be limited to a very small area. But unhappily (and we must face the fact), that is not the situation to-day. To-day, the world is very deeply divided. There are those like ourselves who believe in "Live and let live": but equally there are others who pursue, no doubt sincerely, an aim of world domination by the supporters of their own ideology and are prepared to go to any lengths to bring their policy to fruition. There are, in fact, in the world to-day, not only fire-fighters but fire-raisers as well; and the only chance of frustrating their evil purposes is for the fire-fighters to be so strong and so well organised that they are in a position to prevent sparks from bursting into flame, or, if they do, to stamp them out before they get out of hand. In the case of Korea itself, as we all know, the swift and courageous action of the United States has, we may hope, achieved that result; and we must all commend the action of His Majesty's Government in making common cause with the United States. Noble Lords opposite will, I am sure, agree that they have had united support of all Parties in assisting their efforts.

But Korea is not the only part of the world which is full of dry tinder waiting to be ignited, and events there show how quickly a cold war can flare up into a hot one. If another world war is to be avoided, the peace-loving nations must act with the utmost speed and resolution. General Marshall—I believe he calls him-self Mr. Marshall now, but we all remember him as General Marshall—said the other day, that there is not a moment to be lost. That, as I see it—and no doubt I shall carry the whole House with me— is the cardinal issue at the present time. It outweighs every other, and every other consideration must be subordinated to it; for if a real, general world-war breaks out, the Welfare State and everything else will go down in a welter of ruin. In saying that, I am not saying anything very controversial; indeed, the Government themselves, in speeches both in Parliament and throughout the country, have fully recognised the necessity for rearmament. There is only one thing that I still feel uncertain about, even after reading the Speech— namely, how far His Majesty's Government are prepared to go to give effect to the policy which arises from the recognition of these hard facts. But I do not propose to pursue that point at the present time; it will be dealt with by my noble friend Lord Swinton later in the debate.

In the international sphere itself much preliminary work has already undoubtedly been done. First steps have been taken in New York for setting up—I do not know its exact name, but what in effect is a Joint Staffs Committee. I take it that that committee will be responsible for drawing up a broad strategic plan, for deciding where the available forces are to be centred; what are to be those forces; how they are to be armed, and what is to be each participating country's contribution. And, parallel to this, by means of the Acheson Plan, a simplified machinery is, I hope, being devised to ensure that the World Peace Organisation, which is ultimately responsible for general policy and to which the International Army will only be ancillary, does act swiftly and effectively. I am very glad to think—and I hope I am right in assuming it—that His Majesty's Government are giving full support to this plan.

I know that doubts have been expressed in various quarters whether it does not constitute a drastic alteration of the character of the Charter as it was agreed at San Francisco. May I say, with all deference, that personally I do not share that view? What it does is to provide an alternative method for securing peace where the Security Council, owing to the existence of the veto, is debarred from performing the function for which it was brought into existence. The Security Council is not an independent body out-side and above the United Nations; it is an organ of the United Nations and so is subordinate to it. If the United Nations, who are the sovereign body, choose to set up alternative machinery for use in case of need, they surely have a perfect right to do so. The main purpose of the United Nations, as is laid down in very clear and unequivocal words in the Preamble of the Charter, is "To maintain international peace and security." That is a solemn obligation on Member States and they are bound, as I see it, to take whatever means and whatever steps are necessary to fulfil it. I feel sure that all of us will be behind the Government in support of the Acheson Scheme, which I hope will be finally adopted, and also in support of the steps which have been taken at New York.

Now, my Lords, so far as they go, all these developments are encouraging, and they should go a considerable way to stabilise the situation in the difficult years which lie ahead. But we must recognise the hard fact that in themselves decisions are not everything; they have to be put into effect. And that means for us that we have to rearm on a massive scale, with all the vast extra expenditure involved. How do the Government intend to deal with this extra expenditure? How do they propose to raise the money? There is not much information about this in the gracious Speech. There were certain general phrases about "efforts and sacrifices," but nothing more. No doubt we shall hear more about that when Budget Day comes along. So far as I can see There are only three main methods of —if I may use a vernacular phrase— "raising the wind." One is to increase taxation, another is to cut other expenditure, and the third is to step up production and so increase the national income to meet these new burdens. Those are the three main means of dealing with a situation like that. Which of those three methods do the Government mean to adopt, and on which of those three methods do they propose to throw most emphasis?

Judging by the statements of Ministers and Labour Members at Margate and elsewhere, their main attention is at present directed to the first method, that of increasing taxation. As I understand it, taxation is to be steeply raised, especially in regard to certain sections of the population. "Soak the rich. Clap on a capital levy. Increase the tax on profits"; that was the burden of the song which was sung at Margate. I have no doubt that what are now called the "higher income groups" will be very ready to bear their full share of the cost of rearmament. They are already bearing uncomplainingly the highest scale of direct taxation which the world has ever known, and they will go further if necessary. But I would respectfully point out to the Government that that is not, by itself, going to get them out of their troubles. Indeed, they must already know this. Sir Stafford Cripps told them months ago that the limit of productive direct taxation had been reached, and I am certain they will get the same opinion from the Treasury officials. No doubt, they intend to "soak the rich." That will be extremely popular with their supporters. But I have a shrewd suspicion, if I may say so, that they do not expect to get much of that; and it has now become only a camouflage, to conceal the fact that the policy of the Government is becoming more and more a policy of "soaking the poor." That is what is happening.

Look at the position of the unhappy working man to-day. The value of the pound is less than eleven shillings compared with what it was before the war, and it is steadily falling, not perhaps in exchange value—as I have no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, would say—-but in internal purchasing power. The working man has to pay 3s. 6d. for a packet of 20 cigarettes, and of that 2s. 9½d. is accounted for by taxation. He has to pay 1s. 1d. a pint for beer, and of that practically 8½d. is accounted for by taxation. A publican in my old constituency, whom I saw the other day, told me that his customers used to buy a pint of beer a day, but now they can afford only about one pint over the week-end. The working man also has to pay purchase tax of 33⅓ per cent, on such necessities as soap, razor blades, cutlery and pencils. That tax, as your Lordships will remember, was originally imposed during the war to restrain expenditure upon luxuries. But surely the purchase of a razor blade or a pencil can hardly be regarded as an act of sybaritic luxury. One can only conclude that purchase tax has come to stay permanently as part of the normal taxation of the country.

All these taxes fall most hardly on the poor, and, so far as I can see, as the richer classes are snuffed out of existence—which is the avowed policy of the Government—the burden on those less well endowed will grow progressively heavier. Already, in spite of what Mr. Morrison said in his very jolly broadcast, prices are steadily rising, and they had been rising long before the Korean war began. This is no mere general statement. I can quote figures to justify it, which I have obtained from those who have to sell the articles in question over the counter. Take Axminster carpets of a size which is used for the average working man's house. In January, 1950, such a carpet could be bought for £24 3s. By February, long before the Korean war began, it had risen to £27 8s. By June, the cost of such a carpet had gone up to £30 2s. On October 30 it was £33 18s.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess, but is he suggesting that that is the fault of the Government?


Yes, I am suggesting that it is the fault of the Government. The noble Viscount will have a perfect opportunity of answering when he comes to speak. I would say to the noble Viscount that the case which I have just cited is a particularly bad one.


I quite agree.


Not at all; the noble Viscount has not heard what I am going to say. Carpets, he will remember, are subject to purchase tax on a percentage basis, and the purchase tax alone on that carpet has risen from £4 11s. to £6 13s. The Government themselves, therefore, are making a profit out of the rise in the cost of living. Then take the mater ill called afgalaine, which I have no doubt is entirely familiar to your Lordships. It is a material which is greatly used in nuking up women's frocks. In January, 1950, it was sold at 8s. 11d. a yard to the retail purchaser. By March the price of that material had gone up to 9s. 11d. To-day I was un-able to get a firm quotation, but I imagine it would probably sell at 13s. 11d. a yard. Or look for a moment at shoes—and this is the last example I am going to give. Ladies' black glace shoes, which I understand are much in use, were sold in January, 1950, at 49s. 1d. a pair. By September 6 they had risen to 56s. a pair. On October 18 the cost to the purchaser was 59s. 6d. per pair—so there has been a rise of 10s. I have many other examples with which I will not trouble your Lordships now, but they all show the same trend, and I would emphasise that they all refer to articles of consumption which are bought not principally by the rich but by wage-earners and members of the professional classes.

Already—and who shall blame them? —wage-earners themselves are beginning to press for higher wages in an effort to ease their difficulties. But each time those wages go up, unless production is in-creased the price of the product goes up too, and though, indeed, the increases benefit the wage-earner in his character as a producer, he suffers almost equally in the character of consumer. Mr. Morrison in his broadcast last week I thought sounded almost a paean of praise about the brave new world which the Government have created. I doubt very much if he would hear it re-echoed if he paid a visit, unofficially and anonymously, either to middle-class or to industrial districts to-day. I cannot believe—and I am sure my view is that of the ordinary man in England to-day—that crippling taxation either of the rich or of the poor is going to provide a solution of our present problems.

And now I come to the second method of meeting our new obligations—those that have fallen upon us largely as a result of the international situation— economy in Government expenditure. The Government seem determined not even to consider this. It is apparently an essential quality of the Welfare State that it must be extravagant. Sir Stafford Cripps said quite bleakly—it has been quoted a great many times—that no economies can be made. The Minister of Health seems disposed to reject equally abruptly suggestions that have been made for reductions in the cost of the Health Services. And there was no mention in Mr. Morrison's broadcast, so far as I could hear—and I listened quite carefully to it—of any economy. I do not pretend that I think any practicable economies would enable us entirely to defray the new expenditure which we have now to shoulder, but they would help; and I believe profoundly that the British people, who are now suffering so severely, would like, at any rate, some serious efforts to be made to cut out avoidable waste. For it may well be—as most people are beginning to recognise—that unless something is done it may not be possible for this country, even with American help, to carry the burden both of rearmament and of the full Welfare State. Something must be done to produce the results which we all wish to achieve.

This brings me to the third alternative —that of going all out to step-up production with a view to increasing the national income and enabling it to carry an expenditure which now seems almost beyond our reach. There is no doubt, I think, that the productivity of our industry could still be increased, and increased substantially, if only we were willing to learn from others who are already imbued with a new outlook. Look at the United States, from whom we are now borrowing vast sums of money to keep ourselves going at all. I should like to give your Lordships two quotations from the remarkable Report which was produced by the team of trade unionists who were sent out by the Anglo-American Committee on Productivity to investigate conditions in the United States of America. This is an interesting Report and extremely well done. The first one is this: Competition in the United States exists in fact as well as in theory and it is the pressure of competition which compels management to be progressive. What a strange commentary that is on the vast, unwieldy State monopolies which are now being set up in this country! The second quotation, which I commend equally to the Government and which was quoted by Mr. Eden in his broad-cast last week is: High profits are considered a sign of efficiency and relatively high output per man-hour, and the main concern of unions is to obtain a fair share of them. Noble Lords will note the profound difference that exists between the approach to industrial problems on the part of workmen, as well as employers, on the two sides of the Atlantic. There, in the United States, different from here, there is no question of any rigid adherence to any ideological nostrum. The question is purely one of practical devices for increasing industrial efficiency. Here, I understand, and perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, will contradict me—I hope he will—private profit is regarded in Government circles as some-thing not merely unnecessary, but morally wicked.


May I contradict the noble Marquess at once? The Government do not hold that view.


I hope they will explain that to a number of their Ministers and also to their supporters. At any rate, in the United States private profit is regarded as a definite asset so long as the workman receives his fair share of the increased earnings in the industry in which he works. And that surely is right. For a recent analysis of the finances of 17,000 public companies in this country shows that between thirteen and fourteen times as much is paid in wages and salaries as is paid out in dividends to share-holders. Therefore, the larger the total amount, the more the workman should get. I would most respectfully and in no controversial spirit beg the Government to give this aspect more attention than they have done up to now.

The type of proposal which is unhappily apparent in the gracious Speech— increased centralised control, the clapping on of additional taxation, more restric-tions, more sacrifices—things of that sort are by themselves going to get us absolutely nowhere. Let the Government turn their minds to the objective examination of the possibilities of expanding production, not only in industry as a whole, but also in individual industries and even individual firms. Let them consider how this expansion is to be brought about— by payment by results, by improved organisation, by improved mechanisation, by improved management, and by a thousand and one devices that might be thought out and examined. Let them seek to devise means of giving an absolute assurance to the workmen that they are going to get a fair share of the increased profits which result; from this higher production. Let them call into consultation employers, trade unions and anyone who can help as part of this larger unity. Let them strive to build up a social and industrial system where neither employers nor workmen are penalised or pilloried, but both work together in amity for their own and the country's good. If we can only achieve that—and I am not speaking from a Party point of view—we should be in a fair way to the solution of our difficulties.

But there is unhappily nothing of that spirit in the gracious Speech before us to-day. There are things in it which we all view with sympathy—development of the Civil Defence services, steps to confer the right of re-employment to Reservists recalled to the Forces, restoration of land devastated by ironstone extraction, and, above all, the expansion of the production of food at home, which I would entirely agree is a matter of the highest importance. But on the great wide issues of social and industrial policy on which our fate is likely to depend, there is no fresh breath of life: merely the stale air of outworn prejudices and controversies. For that reason, I gravely fear that the policy which the Government have announced in the gracious Speech will do little to get us out of our present troubles, and I am afraid, though I am sorry to say so, that it will be received with deep disappointment by every thinking man and woman in the country.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, the Speech from the Throne this year is being scrutinised by Parliament and by the public to see whether it is likely to give any indication of the probable course of events in the existing doubtful Parliamentary situation. We see the Government like an acrobat crossing Niagara on a tight rope, holding in his hand a swaying balancing pole, which he is trying to balance carefully between right and left. We see him and wonder whether he will successfully reach the other side. But so far little indication of the outcome can be drawn from the gracious Speech, either from its omissions or its inclusions. In the first place, I would venture to say a few words to your Lordships on the form of the gracious Speech. And it is no disrespect that we should refer to that, for it is universally known that the Speech from the Throne is drafted for submission to His Majesty by the Government of the day, and the various Departments are invited to make suggestions for their respective paragraphs. I have known nearly fifty Speeches from the Throne, and I have noticed a growing practice in recent years to make them, to some extent, a catalogue of minor departmental Bills. I do not suggest that the King's Speech should consist of a set of grandiloquent phrases as it often did in earlier times. The British people seek businesslike means to practical ends.

For example, when our Sovereigns proceed up Westminster Hall to celebrate some joyful occasion, we do not, as might have been done in Greek or Roman times or during the Renaissance, send a bevy of beautiful maidens, lightly clad in flowing garments, to strew flowers before Their Majesties. On the contrary, we send women of the cleaning staff in overalls, to sweep up the carpets. I do not quarrel with that. No doubt it is necessary. But is it right to employ all the panoply of State, to see His Majesty crowned and robed and speaking from the Throne, in order to proclaim, as last year, that a Bill would be introduced to provide cattle-grids on highways, or, as this year, a Bill to give compensation for land damaged by ironstone extraction, or a measure "proposing more effective means of dealing with the poaching of salmon and trout in Scotland"? I do not wish to underestimate the importance in its proper sphere of any of these proposals, and particularly the last one, which I know is of great interest to many noble Lords. But I would ask for consideration whether measures such as these are in tune with an occasion so august.

With regard to the Speech as a whole, it stirs no deep emotion in any heart. I happened to notice in The Times yesterday a headline which might well be applied to the Government's proposals this year. It was a single headline to the Stock Exchange news and read: "Slightly dull again." The Speech, indeed, has certain rather striking omissions. I was distressed to see no reference in it to the great service of the United States to the whole world in the leadership she took, and the responsibilities she bore, in the matter of the aggression of North Korea upon South Korea. There have been two exceedingly critical moments in the postwar period: one was the blockade of Berlin, and the other the attack upon South Korea. Both have been received here with a somewhat phlegmatic calm. The American journalist, Alexander Woollcott, said that "the English have an extraordinary ability for flying into a great calm." But, fortunately, in America the people rose at once to the realities and the gravity of the situation. The President took immediate action, with the support of Congress and his nation, and with immense energy and admirable swiftness proceeded to pour national forces into that peninsula. Immediate support came from here and from the British Commonwealth, although. for geographical reasons, as well as the limitations in the available resources, it was naturally on a comparatively small scale. But all these forces, from here and from other countries, arrived only just in time. Had they been only a few weeks later it is possible that the campaign would have been concluded, at all events in its first stage, by the complete victory of the Northern Korean Armies. But the most significant fact in the whole of this matter is surely that fifty-three nations have rallied to the movement for the penalising of aggression, and that all these forces are deployed under the flag of the United Nations.

For my part, I am always chary of dealing in superlatives. I notice how trippingly from the tongue very often comes the statement that this and that in this country is the best in the world; or that the present Government are faced with difficulties infinitely greater than any that a previous Government have ever known; or that something that happens is unparalleled in human history. These are phrases in common use. But inflation of language, as of currency, merely debases the coinage. I say this as a prelude for suggesting to your Lordships that what is now happening in Korea can be described truly only in terms of superlatives. It is probable that posterity will view the events of to-day, in our own time, as some of the most significant and important in the whole of history during the last thousand years since the end of the Roman civilisation.

Again and again, mankind has striven to find some means of preventing the continual recurrence of international wars. There was the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire, and the efforts towards a Universal Catholic Church; later on there was the episode of Napoleon; following upon that there was the Holy Alliance; and then, in our own time, the League of Nations. All these purported to have similar objects. They all failed, some because they relied too much upon force, and some because they had no force at all upon which they could rely. Now, at last, for the first time, the greater part of mankind has gathered itself together effectively and victoriously; and on the battlefield has, as yet, defeated the forces of aggression. In this great event it is the United States of America who have had the privilege and the honour of taking the lead. It is the United States of America, that new arrival, as the scale of history goes, in the theatre of world affairs, abandoning that detachment which had prevailed as the policy of the country ever since the establishment of the Republic, who, with immense vigour and a readiness to suffer unlimited sacrifices, has succeeded, with the co-operation of all these other nations, in vindicating the liberties of mankind. That is a great event, and one would have expected that some recognition of it would appear in so important a document as the Speech from the Throne at the opening of a new Session of the British Parliament. The Government, in ray view, have been remiss in that regard.

There is an omission, also, in that no reference at all is made to the development of the Council of Europe. That, surely, is a movement which in a survey of the world situation should have received at all events some mention from His Majesty's Government. But I pro-pose not to touch further upon these matters, or upon any other questions of international relations, as I understand that there will be a debate in your Lordships' House, as well as in the other place upon these matters, and that we need not, therefore, refer to them here to-day. However, I would make an incidental and passing reference to an item of news that appears in the Press to-day—namely, that the United Nations have taken the first steps towards lifting the embargo against a full interchange of diplomatic representatives with Spain. On one or two occasions I have ventured to advocate to your Lordships that that step should be taken, not because our dislike of the Franco regime is any less than it has been, but on grounds of general principle; that it is not a good way of showing moral disapproval of the policy of another Stale—to withdraw or limit diplomatic representation. What one says with regard to Spain one would also say with regard to Bulgaria, or Roumania, if the case arose, or China. Indeed, the more one disapproves of the policy of another country, the more important it is that one should have a strong and constant diplomatic representation in its capital.

There is another omission, in another sphere, from the Speech from the Throne —it has already been referred to by the noble Marquess who has just spoken. That is, with regard to the cost of living, which appears in that document only in an incidental side glance—a mention of the Government's endeavour to ensure as far as possible the stability of costs and prices…. In three debates I have ventured to invite your Lordships' attention to the question of prices, to the cost of living, which I have urged is the very central factor in the whole of our economic situation and upon which depend very largely foreign exchange, housing and all other such questions. In the past we have been entirely in the wrong in seeking merely for means of meeting the cost of living; of trying to keep pace with the rising cost of living, and to decide whether or not wages can be frozen. In fact, the problem is rot how to meet the rising cost of living often regarded as something inevitable and beyond our control, but how to prevent the rise in the cost of living, and how to reverse the trend. Yet most of the measures which have been undertaken have proved futile in achieving that object, and the result is that we find that the cost of living is steadily rising.

This is the matter which fills the minds of the people in this country. Other things are not understood by the ordinary man and woman. Questions of international policy are often not understood, and the people know nothing of questions of indirect legislation through regulations and Orders in Council. But the cost of living —what they have to pay in the shops, day by day and week by week—is understood by every man and every woman; and I am convinced that, both now and at the General Election, whenever it comes, that will be the dominant issue. Yet in the Speech from the Throne this year nothing is said about that. As the Session goes on, week by week, we shall watch with the most intense interest the measures that are taken, and the measures which might have been taken but are not, by His Majesty's Government in this sphere, but with little assurance or confidence in their sufficiency or success.

There is one inclusion in this speech— so far I have been speaking only of omissions—which is very conspicuous, as conspicuous as though it were printed in red ink. That is the declaration that a permanent measure is to be introduced for conferring upon Ministers great powers for dealing with production, distribution, consumption and prices. I do not know what will be the title of that Bill, but for convenience sake we may call it the Ministers' Powers Bill. It is announced that the provisions of this Bill will be subject to "appropriate Parliamentary safeguards." "Appropriate" is a very open word, upon which there may be differences of opinion. Most of us on this side of the House would say that "appropriate measures" would have to be large and effective measures, but I am convinced that there are many members of the Party of noble Lords opposite who would say that measures would be appropriate only so long as they were weak and illusory. We must await the terms of the Bill, of course, before thinking of forming any opinion with regard to it— your Lordships would not wish to form any premature judgment. We cannot, however, regard the prospects of this Bill with anything but considerable anxiety, in view of the attitude taken by His Majesty's Government on the Liberties of the Subject Bill which I had the privilege of bringing before the House last June. Your Lordships gave close attention to that Bill and, rather to my surprise, it attracted a very great degree of attention, both in the Press and among the public. On that occasion the opposition of the Government to that Bill was vehement and uncompromising—so much so, indeed, that one could hardly help forming the opinion that they opposed it not so much because of the Bill's detailed proposals as because they thought that it ran contrary to the general trend of their whole domestic policy.

The possibility presents itself to our minds that the more Socialist wing of the Labour Party, finding its progress blocked along the direct road of specific nationalisation of particular industries, is now to be pacified by a general measure which will open the door wide, without any further legislation, to any and every measure of a Socialist character which a future Socialist Government might desire to introduce. Among the more extreme Socialists we know that there has always been a desire for a general Statute to be passed by Parliament by which, once it has been passed, any Government may carry through any measure of nationalisation without further direct reference to Parliament. We shall watch with the most scrupulous care to see what are the "safeguards" which this Bill will contain. If, indeed, the Government intend to frame, by general agreement, a measure dealing with this subject—for that is not impossible, since all Parties agree that regulations there must be, and it is impossible for the regulations to be superseded entirely by new Acts of Parliament —and if the Government desire to have an agreed Bill, I am sure that all Parties will co-operate in trying to frame a workable scheme of Parliamentary control.

It may be that considerable changes would have to be made in our procedure. Just as we have evolved in the course of generations separate, minute and well- established methods of procedure for dealing with Private Bills, so it may be possible to devise some new machinery, carefully designed for making laws of this kind, which would be separate from the ordinary run of Statutes and parallel to the measures dealing with the Private Bill or other local legislation, which stands on a separate footing from the Public General Acts. That is a suggestion which I venture to make to the Government. I believe that general co-operation of all Parties would not be denied on grounds of principle—and this is vital and essen-tial—so long as the control of Parliament over all future measures in this direction, even when taken under a General Statute, was specific and adequate, and so long as the real control of both Houses of Parliament over proceedings taken under such a Statute was in no way fettered. If, on the other hand, this forthcoming Bill is to be merely a device to enable the Socialist State to be established surreptitiously, and without the clear under-standing and express approval of the British people at each stage, then the Government must expect from great bodies of opinion in this country—we believe the great majority of the nation— resolute and unflinching opposition.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened with great interest to the two speeches which have been made upon the gracious Speech, and we have heard the gracious Speech referred to in various terms. The noble Marquess who opened the debate referred to the gracious Speech as a pre-Election speech. Then there was a reference to it as containing very little of much con-sequence. On the question of the foreign situation and defence, may I say at once that we completely agree with him? Indeed, the Opposition in both Houses have approached the present foreign situation and the problem of defence on the basis of assisting the Government, as far as possible in the circumstances. That centre of the sandwich I thought was very agreeable; but the beginning and the end of the speech of the noble Marquess I should at once regard as a pre-Election speech, with some of the points of which I hope to deal during the course of my remarks.

I was not quite sure what description the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, gave of the Speech—whether he regarded it as a dull Speech or whether he was quoting some reference to it which appeared in the Press. But there was no doubt about his attitude towards the Speech: that he regarded it in the sense of the words which I have used. I have seen the Speech referred to as "a tame speech." Strange to say, I saw another reference in a newspaper with which I think the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, is in close association, which referred to it in these terms: In the abnormal circumstances of to-day, it is not a bad one, for it reflects the Labour Party's confidence in its own ability to govern with a small majority, given not a big increase but just enough to take a few more distinctive Socialist steps. To this extent the programme which the speech reveals is at least an honest one. I think that an impartial examination of the Speech will lead your Lordships to the same conclusion, that it is in all the circumstances an honest speech.

The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred to the many omissions, and thought that the gracious Speech from the Throne is now gradually becoming far too full of minor Bills which are routine matters. He considered that the Speech should be confined to something much more important. His Majesty's Government feel that the Speech is suitable for the occasion. That is the reason why it was produced in that form. I think I had better deal with the non-controversial part of the Speech, and with those remarks of the noble Marquess which had relation to foreign affairs. I am not going to touch upon some of the questions which were put, because, as both the noble Marquess and the noble Viscount rightly said, the problem of foreign affairs is to be dealt with again in the near future. I will see that the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, receives a reply to the question which he put in relation to Spain.

I entirely agree with all that has been said in relation to the Acheson plan. Indeed, one can say that this has been a notable period for the United Nations, both at Lake Success and in Korea. As your Lordships know, the Political Committee of the General Assembly has adopted by an overwhelming majority a resolution to ensure that the General Assembly should be able to make prompt and effective recommendations in the face of an act of aggression when the Security Council is paralysed by the veto. This resolution, which will no doubt be endorsed by a similar majority of the full Assembly, provides for emergency sessions of the Assembly to be called at short notice, and recommends steps which will enable member States to respond promptly to any recommendation, including one involving the use of armed force, which the Assembly may consider necessary. This means that the United Nations will no longer be prevented from acting against aggression through the use of the veto in the Security Council. I think your Lordships will welcome this suggested change in the constitution of the United Nations Charter.

The noble Viscount and the noble Marquess rightly referred to the situation in Korea. The United Nations Forces have now defeated all but a small fraction of the North Korean army, and I want to pay great tribute to the United States and to the South Korean Forces for what they have done. But I think one must take note of this, too. It is most pleasing to observe the contribution which the Commonwealth Forces have made to this victory. The Royal Navy was on the scene, not weeks or months after the attack was launched, but within hours of the attack. His Majesty's ships joined up with ships of the American Navy and ships from other Commonwealth countries, and have been busily engaged in Korean waters from almost the first day. The British Brigade, including British and Australian troops, has also played a notable part in this victory. In the air, an Australian lighter squadron and Royal Air Force Sunderlands have played their part. Indeed, wherever our Forces have been engaged they have proved themselves worthy of the best British traditions on sea, on land and in the air.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, rightly said, the price in casualties has not been light, particularly for the United States. But the determination of the United Nations to resist aggression has been made clear to the world. The task now before the United Nations is to pro-mote the establishment in Korea of a unified, independent and democratic Government, and also to rehabilitate the shattered Korean economy. The Economic and Social Council are at present considering a relief and rehabilitation administration, and meanwhile appeals for immediate assistance for the civil population of Korea have been addressed by the Secretary-General to the various Governments thought to be in a position to help. His Majesty's Government have agreed to contribute an immediate sum of £500,000 for this purpose.

Some reference has been made to Western European defence. Your Lordships are aware that the North Atlantic Defence Committee is now meeting in Washington. Just prior to this meeting the French Government laid before the French Assembly proposals for the formation of a European Army. These proposals are now being carefully studied by His Majesty's Government, both in London and. with other North Atlantic Treaty Ministers of Defence, in Washington. The main principle by which His Majesty's Government is being guided is the setting up of a supreme command and an effective common defence force in Europe under the North Atlantic Treaty system. The noble Marquess asked whether any discussions are going on in relation to the overall size of the forces which are required, the equipment with which they will be served, and the cost of providing that equipment. Certain aspects of those matters are being discussed in Washington at the present time and I think it can be said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is fully seized with the importance of arriving at a decision in relation to the global requirements for resisting aggression.


I did not ask exactly what they were doing, but I asked whether all those questions which I mentioned came within the purview of the Committee, and I understand they do.


That is so, and there is a good deal of consultation and action going on under the control of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. That has been going on for some time, and it is expected that in view of certain appointments which have been made the speed with which this work will be carried out will be greatly accelerated. As has already been made clear, His Majesty's Government consider that Germany should be enabled to make an appropriate contribution to the build-up of the defence of Western Europe. This is also under discussion in Washington. As I am sure your Lordships quite understand, until that study is completed it is not possible to give any further information.

The financial aspects of the Treaty defence programme have been considered in London by the Committee of Deputies, and in order to assess the burden of defence expenditure and to distribute this burden fairly among member nations an economic and financial group is being set up, Meanwhile, as your Lordships are aware, His Majesty's Government have announced a £3,600,000,000 defence programme to be spread over three years. It was stated that we could not carry out this full programme without assistance, but immediate approval has already been given for the expenditure of £200,000,000 for additional defence equipment, of which priority is given to the Royal Air Force. Contracts already placed under the expenditure to which I have already referred, or contracts in active negotiation, and requisitions placed with production authorities by the user Departments, amount to no less a figure than £122,000,000. Your Lordships will see. therefore, that industry is being geared-up to produce the extra equipment required for defence. Final details of the £3,600,000,000 programme cannot be settled until the assessment of the burden of defence expenditure, to which I have already referred, has been completed so that we can ensure that this burden is shared equally by all the North Atlantic Treaty Powers.


I understood that the £3,600,000,000 was our total expenditure on all services over the next three years, and that £122,000,000 of orders have been placed. Are we to understand now that the £3,600,000,000 is really all in the melting pot and depending upon what contribution other people make? I thought it was a programme to which His Majesty's Government was committed and one with which they were pressing on.


No, the £3,600,000,000 is a programme which was agreed upon in consultation with certain other Powers when it was specifically stated we were expecting to get a certain amount of assistance to enable us to carry out that full programme. In the meantime, the Government decided that two sums, each of £100,000,000, should be used in addition to the Service Estimates for the year, for the purpose of meeting deficiencies in equipment until such time as we dealt fully with the £3,600,000.000 programme. It is hoped that, so far as possible, the £3,600,000.000 will be the amount spent upon defence during the course of the next three years.


Would it be possible for the Government to say how much assistance they require towards this £3,600,000,000?


As that is a matter of negotiation, I hardly think it right that any statement should be made upon it.

Now I come to the more controversial part of the gracious Speech—namely, in the first place, the Government's intention to introduce legislation to make permanent, subject to appropriate Parliamentary safeguards, powers to control prices and to regulate production, distribution and consumption. The Government already have obtained and continue to have the powers to deal with food rationing, fair shares, the allocation of scarce materials, the concentration of the export drive, measures to facilitate rearmament and, indeed, much of the apparatus on which the orderly use of national resources depends. As your Lordships know, those powers were debated in both Houses last week and it was generally agreed on all sides that they should be continued. Some reference was then made to the advisability of making the powers permanent. It is hoped that the proposed legislation referred to in the gracious Speech will enable that to be done. The reference to this pending legislation has now become the centre of much controversy, as was displayed by the Leader of the Opposition in another place. I should have thought that, since it is agreed that there must be controls, it was much better to have them clearly defined and "subject to appropriate Parliamentary safeguards"; and I have no doubt that when this legislation appears before Parliament it will receive the closest scrutiny of both Houses. That the Government do not seek controls for controls' sake can best be judged by the fact that no fewer than 78 out of the 150 controls existing in 1946 have already been revoked. But it should be clearly stated that economic planning has become an essential part of our democracy, and no Government can properly plan and control economic policy on a year-to-year basis: they must have the permanent powers which will be asked for when the legislation is introduced, which I trust will be passed.

As was expected, foremost in the gracious Speech is the fact that His Majesty's Government "will continue to give high priority to housing." Notwithstanding what has been said by the noble Marquess, His Majesty's Government do not apologise for referring to houses in these terms. It is as well that your Lordships should know that the Government's housing programme has not failed, for by the end of September over 750,000 new permanent houses and flats had been provided under the Government post-war housing programme. Altogether, accommodation has been provided for over 1,250,000 families during the last five years. This is a great achievement, in the conditions which have prevailed during the last five years, and it can be rightly said that the 200,000 houses a year is not just a programme; it represents a performance already secured and assured for continuance. His Majesty's Government have built, and will continue to build, as many houses as possible. Their aim is a decent home for every family in the country; but demands for houses, schools, hospitals, power stations and factories must be set side by side, and priorities must be accorded to fit the national interest.

The noble Marquess referred to the new Tory target for housing. The Tory Party are committed to a programme of 300,000 houses per annum—a target set not after due consideration of all the facts but as a result of the chanting of the delegates at the Tory Conference. One journal has reported that in an uproar of enthusiasm the floor demanded a target of 300,000 houses from the platform, and the noble Lord who takes such a prominent part in the Tory organisation, like an auctioneer, applauded this magnificent bid. It is reported that he said, "Why not 400,000 or 500,000?"


Who said this?


The noble Lord, Lord Woolton.


I am sorry that Lord Woolton is not here, but I happened to be at the Conference in question and with great respect, there really is not one vestige of truth in the statement that Lord Woolton said "Why not 400,000 or 500,000 houses?" I should like to in-form the noble Viscount that of course the decision as to what we thought we could do, and intend to do, was not reached without the closest consideration, because we have all been directing our minds very assiduously to housing.


If the report which I have quoted from the newspaper is inaccurate, then I at once withdraw, but I will not withdraw on the reluctance of certain members who were at the Conference to accept this target of 300,000 houses. It is interesting to note that in his broadcast last Saturday Mr. Eden was much more cautious than the Leader of the Opposition in your Lordships' House, or indeed the Leader of the Opposition in another place, for he said: Our target will be immensely formidable to attain and cannot be reached in one bound, but we have accepted it and we mean to go for it. An impartial journal stated a week ago that it was plain to see that this target was received with the greatest reluctance by the more thoughtful leaders of the Conservative Party, and on cool calculation it is difficult to see how it is possible to build an extra 100,000 houses a year and still retain the rest of the investment programme without seriously adding fuel to the flames of inflation. Grave men of the Conservative Party have already shown how embarrassing this demand is for them. That was said by the Economist.


Per-haps the noble Viscount will now say something about Mr. Coppock's statement, instead of referring merely to news-paper statements. Mr. Coppock said that it was within the capacity of the industry. Did the noble Viscount not hear that?


Well, Mr. Coppock should know what the situation is in relation to the difficulties, because Mr. Coppock has played a very important part, and we should be very willing to have all the assistance that Mr. Coppock can give, if he shares the opinion of noble Lords opposite. But I can assure your Lordships that the Government have bent their energies, having taken into consideration all the other requirements, and have built all the houses that they can. Although we are not content, the average number of houses built annually in the inter-war years from 1919 to 1939 was little above the 200,000; it certainly did not come anywhere near the 300,000 which is the target to which noble Lords opposite appear to hitch themselves at the present time. In the period before the war there was no difficulty about investment programmes, and no difficulty about the necessary materials. But that was the situation. I think the actual figure of houses built in the twenty years between the wars was something like 4,300,000 houses, or fewer than 220,000 per annum. Experience since the war and between the wars has shown that with the available resources of labour and materials, and when so many calls are made from other urgent services on the same resources, it is not possible to reach anything like the Tory target. In these circumstances, the casual announcement of a larger programme will only mislead people who want houses, and, indeed, will greatly disappoint them later.

I thought that if the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, tried to read into that reference in the gracious Speech to "the stability of costs and prices," he would understand that it was a reference to the cost of living. And it is the intention of His Majesty's Government "to ensure as far as possible the stability of costs and prices," upon which the cost of living depends. This will be welcomed, for the cost of living—as has rightly been said—is the concern of everyone. Price control, purchase tax, cost of imports and production, all enter into this important question, and despite the upheavals and difficulties of the past war, the Government have endeavoured to give everyone in the country reasonable equity in the cost of living. They have also maintained a high wage rate, which should be taken into account, for this has to some extent counteracted high prices. Although prices have gone up by 87 per cent. between 1938 and 1949, earnings, on the average, went up by 129 per cent.

This does not, of course, signify that it is a good thing to have rising prices and wages. Prices, so far as possible, should be stabilised and we should like to see them reduced. But what was forgotten by the two noble Lords who have spoken is that in a country like ours, which depends so much on imports of foods and raw material, we are bound to be affected by what happens in other countries. In the last few years there has been a worldwide tendency for the price of many commodities to go up. In fact, they have gone up a good deal more in many other countries, including the United States of America, France and Italy, than they have here Wholesale prices rose by just over 3 per cent. in September, the biggest monthly increase since June, 1950. The actual prices of foodstuffs have not in-creased in the last six months; the index figure is much about the same. While iron and steel prices remain steady, non-ferrous metals are now 53 per cent. higher in price than a year ago, while prices of other commodities also have been steadily rising.

I was interested in the figures which were given by the noble Marquess. He referred to the increased cost of carpets. Of course, carpets, and every other commodity which depends upon wool as the basic raw material, have gone up in price. I wonder whether the noble Marquess has made a study of the increases which have taken place in the price of wool. If he has done so, he will know that cross-bred wool, from which medium suits are made—that is not the best wool —has increased in price to nine times the pre-war figure. The price has almost trebled since the beginning of 1949. Does the noble Marquess expect that commodities which depend upon wool for their basis will remain stable in price, particularly in view of the fact that that wool has to be imported from other countries?


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Viscount, in order to put this point to him before he leaves the question of wool?—I do so without disputing in any way the rise which he has quoted. I put it simply in fairness to the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition—


Speak up; we cannot hear you.


My Lords, I apologise. I am speaking in surroundings which are now unfamiliar. Without disputing anything which the noble Viscount has said with regard to the rise in wool values, I would remind him that the noble Marquess, speaking of the increases in the prices to the general public, of commodities made of wool, pointed out that to a considerable extent they were due to the purchase tax which is added to the increased price of the raw material.


My Lords, I think I am quite competent to understand what the noble Marquess said in this connection. He followed up statements that he made concerning increased prices with a reference to the increase in purchase tax. But the increase in purchase tax was nothing compared with the increase caused in the price of these goods, of which wool is a raw material, by reason of the increase in the cost of the wool. The same thing applies to the other commodity to which the noble Marquess has referred. With regard to cotton goods in this country, any noble Lord who has any experience of the cotton trade will frankly admit that cotton, whither it comes from Egypt or from the United States, has gone up to seven times the pre-war figure.


The noble Viscount and his Party are always saying what enormous advantages were derived from devaluation in assisting the import of commodities from the United States. We have always said that there are great disadvantages attached to devaluation; and this is one of them.


That is really beside the point with which I am dealing. I am dealing with the question of costs. In the case of some of these commodities, it has to be remembered that the wool does not come from countries where sterling was devalued. Cotton is in exactly the same position. It is no use the noble Lord's saying: "We will stabilise" and asking "Why arc prices going up?" without giving some thought as to the real cause of the increased prices.


The noble Viscount must face the facts. When I mentioned cotton, he "skidded off" on to wool. The fact remains—at least this is my information; I have not studied this subject lately—that the type of cotton used for cheap goods does come from the United States. It is the long, staple cotton that comes from Egypt. Therefore, the effect of devaluation has been to put up prices. The noble Viscount may say: "You must balance the advantages and disadvantages of devaluation." But noble Lords opposite are always claiming the advantages which they say have been obtained. We say that this is one of the disadvantages.


The then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, clearly pointed out the disadvantages which were likely to arise as the result of the increase in the purchase price of raw materials coming from dollar countries, and the noble Marquess must not think that we were not mindful of what was taking place. That does not alter the fact that in the case of these commodities in this country—


My Lords, I only want to make my position clear. I said that there were aspects of Government policy which influenced this matter. I think that devaluation did influence it.


I am not suggesting that devaluation docs not interfere to some extent. Indeed, it enters into the matter to a large extent, if the raw material comes from dollar countries. The noble Marquess referred to the question of Axminster carpets. Wool, as I understand it, is a basic material of Axminster carpets and it comes from other than dollar sources. I am afraid that the game of politics is being played to a considerable extent in relation to the high cost of living by the Party to which the noble Marquess belongs. If he thinks that, should he and his colleagues become the Government of the day, they could reduce the cost of living in such conditions as exist at the present time, he is living in something of a fool's Paradise. I rather expected that something would be said about shoes—indeed, the noble Marquess referred to ladies' glace shoes. Hides and skins of all kinds which are imported into this country have increased in price no less than six times. It cannot be said, as I rather expected it would be said, that these increases are due to bulk purchase. That is wrong, for wool, hides and leather, and most other materials entering into clothing and footwear, are bought on free markets by private enterprise. Raw cotton is bought by the Cotton Commission, but the prices at which it is sold reflect week by week the world prices of every variety of raw cotton.

Noble Lords who have dealt with the cost of living have not suggested how a reduction of prices can be brought about in such conditions. No Government in this country can bring down world prices. His Majesty's Government have done their utmost to prevent a catastrophic rise in the cost of living by maintaining controls, by securing Budget surpluses and by spending £400,000,000 a year on food subsidies. The removing of controls or the cutting of food subsidies would mean largely increased prices, and a serious reduction in the purchasing power of the people. This position must be watched, but it is evident that there will be some increase in the cost of living in the next few months. Any suggestion that this can be avoided must be made either in ignorance of the facts or in an irresponsible spirit. All steps are being taken by the Government to minimise these increases.

The noble Marquess referred to the proposals of the Government to introduce legislation to deal with leasehold proper-ties, and asked that the Government should give serious consideration to all the effects of that legislation. The noble Marquess will know that the Bill is to postpone certain action for a period of two years to enable the Government to examine the whole situation fully before they introduce permanent legislation. I have no doubt that the organisations which he has in mind will be able to make the necessary representation. There is another aspect of this matter. I come from a part of South Wales where this has become a burning question. Earlier, in the building up of our industries, leases were granted by landlords for sixty years and ninety-nine years, and now these leases are falling in. I wish all landlords would be as generous in extending their leases as some have been. I know of numerous cases where substantial sums of money have been demanded for renewal, and where ground rents have been increased three, four or six times. I have even known of cases where twenty times the previous ground rent was asked; otherwise the lease would fall in, and the house would be handed back, in accordance with the contractual obligation. There must be tens of thousands of house owners at the present time, many of whose forbears built the houses they own and whose families have always lived in them, who are being asked to renew leases on these terms. If landlords were reasonable in their requests for increased ground rent for extension of their leases, there would be no need for the contemplated legislation to deal with this matter.


My Lords in what I said I had no intention of defending the extortionate land-lord. I have always regarded the ownership of land as a trust and I have tried to work my own estate in that way. What I felt was that there were difficulties on the other side. I said it was a very difficult problem and hoped that any legislation which was brought forward would be of a balanced character. The noble Viscount pointed out, very rightly, that this is only an interim measure. But interim Treasures tend to be extended and extended, and that, I think, would be a pity. It would be better to face the problem and get a final settlement of an equitable character.


I cannot add any-thing more to what I have said, but I have no doubt the Government will take into consideration the cases which the noble Marquess has in mind.

May I refer briefly to a Bill mentioned in the gracious Speech—namely, the Bill to establish a courts-martial appeal court? The establishment of such a tribunal capable of hearing appeals from trials by courts-martial in all three Services is in accord with the recommendations of the Lewis and the Pilcher Committees, and I am confident that such a court will be welcomed as an improvement in the administration of justice in the Services.

Before I sit down I want to deal with our economic recovery and prospects, particularly in the light of the winding-up of the noble Marquess's speech. The economic recovery of the nation continued throughout the early part of this year at a pace which was very pleasing to us all. This was primarily due to the continued rapid increase in production, which enabled us to continue all our plans at home and at the same time to expand considerably the rate of our exports. As a result, our reserves have also shown a heartening improvement. In the twelve months prior to devaluation the sterling area had a gold and dollar deficit of 1,876,000,000 dollars. In the twelve months since devaluation this deficit has been changed to a surplus of 376,000,000 dollars. The surplus of 187,000,000 dollars in the third quarter of this year, together with E.R.P. receipts of 147,000,000 dollars bring the reserves up from 2,422,000,000 dollars to 2,756,000,000 dollars. In the first half of 1950 the total volume of United Kingdom exports was the highest on record and the share going to dollar countries the highest since the war, with an export volume 55 per cent higher than that of 1947. On the other hand, imports were up only 16 per cent. and dollar imports were only one-sixth of the total compared with one-third in 1947. I think it will be admitted that this is a magnificent effort, for which every credit is due to the enterprise and hard work of all sections of the people. I thought the noble Marquess could have been a little more generous in his speech in regard to what has been done by industry during the last four or five years.

There has been a growing increase in production, and our labour force is fully employed to an extent never before achieved in our history. Unemployment is still very low and vacancies exceed the numbers which are unemployed. It is interesting to know that in spite of the introduction of a five-day week, the average weekly hours worked are 47 in 1950 as compared with 47.7 in 1938. Both these figures include overtime and bonuses. Incentives are paid in the majority of industries. The result is that average wages are higher than ever be-fore. There was an increase of 8 per cent. in industrial production in the first half of this year compared with that for a year earlier, and this production has since been more than maintained. Seven-eighths of this increase came from the manufacturing industries, the chief contributors being engineering and vehicles. Steel production in September last was at the annual rate of 17,000,000 tons, thus exceeding the previous best September a year ago.

We must all, therefore, feel consider-able disappointment at the check on the rate of our recovery which will undoubtedly result from the necessity for in-creased defence expenditure. The considerable additional expenditure which we ourselves are undertaking must impose a direct sacrifice at home, and must limit our powers to do other things which we had hoped to be able to do. Further-more, the additional defence expenditure of our Allies is likely to worsen our situation in many ways. It must, therefore, be evident to everyone that our whole economic position and the amount of progress we can make with our plans must depend on our ability to carry still further the increase in production on which our recovery has so far been based. We are not yet at the end of the road, for the nation is faced with further difficulties, requiring continued hard work and sacrifice, which alone will bring us through.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just sat down concluded his speech by referring to the country's industrial and economic achievements. Perhaps, therefore, it will not be out of place if I first refer briefly to the inclusion in the gracious Speech of reference to the Festival of Britain, which, after all, is designed, as the Speech says, to demonstrate to the world the greatness of British achievement in the arts and sciences and their application to industry… One can but pray that the high hopes expressed in the gracious Speech as to the success of the Festival of Britain will be fulfilled. I make that prayer asking your Lordships to believe that it is really sincere, in view of the remarks that I am going to make about it. At the same time, in so far as this great project can be justified, and in fact the object can be achieved only by the visit to this country of tens of thousands of travellers from overseas, surely we must all agree that its success will be entirely dependent on the international situation. If, as the gracious Speech describes it, "the menace of war" recedes, then we hope and expect that visitors will flock to this country from overseas. But if the menace of war does not recede, we may well ask: "Will they come?" I realise that it is late in the day to do much about it now, but the present world situation raises again the doubts that have previously been ex-pressed as to the wisdom of holding this project at this time in world affairs. We naturally all hope that those doubts will prove to be entirely unjustified, but they are doubts which I have reason to think are fairly widely held in this country, and I feel it would be wrong not to mention them.

I now want to turn for a moment to the reference in the gracious Speech to the proposed further development of the Civil Defence Services, as it says, "within large industrial units." That obviously comes very close to the point that I have endeavoured to stress in your Lordships' House in more than one debate on civil defence—in fact, I did so only last week. It gave me great satisfaction to see its inclusion in the gracious Speech. I suggest that it is a matter of real importance, because it involves not only the safeguarding of important plants and installations, and the individuals who work in those plants, but equally, and in some respects more, important, it includes the safeguarding of production, so that, in the event of hostilities, even if there is no actual material damage to plant, there may be a minimum of dislocation and interruption of production of high priority war supplies. I note from the gracious Speech that this development of civil defence is to be "after due consultation with managements and workers." That obviously is as it should be, but I shall be interested to know more of what is intended here.

First, I would ask: Is it intended that consultation will be at all levels? In other words will it be, at the top of the scale, on the central Government level, with the great national trade organisations and our trade union leaders, and, at the other end of the scale, on the local authority level? As regards the local authority level, is this consultation to be with individuals or local trade associations or, perhaps, with both? And, as regards consultation with the workers, is it to be with the local trade union officials? These matters I have raised are admittedly points of detail, and whilst I put them in the form of a question I do not anticipate that the noble Lord will be able to reply to them to-day. I mention them only because it seems to me most important that we have the proper approach, so that whatever steps seem to be necessary can be agreed and accepted by all concerned. It is only in that way that the consequent work, whether it is material work or the training of individuals, will be carried out with any measure of real conviction. Conviction on a subject like civil defence is a difficult thing at which to arrive, when it means that somebody has to give up time and spend money on it, but without conviction in this way as to the real need of what has to be done, we shall not get anywhere. I hope the noble Lord will bear that in mind, although, as I say, I do not expect him to reply to-day.

The last point to which I want to refer is the mention in the gracious Speech of the rights of certain National Service men. I am certain that any provision to safe-guard the civilian employment of National Service men, and more particularly those who are specifically referred to in the gracious Speech who voluntarily agree to an extension of their full-time service, is a very proper provision. But there are more ways than one of safeguarding the future of National Service men. I should like to mention one in particular which seems to me to be of vital importance. It: is a point that arises under the whole National Service scheme, and it concerns more particularly stations in this country or in Europe—at any rate, stations other than those, such as certain stations in the Far East, where active operations are in progress. I relate my remarks primarily to the Army, but I do not wish to imply that they may not apply also to the other Services, in so far as they also have National Service men in them.

Before the war, when the Regular Army was primarily a volunteer professional army, the responsibility of the officer, and particularly the regimental officer, in relation to his men was one which in a sense was a limited one, in that it was confined only to those who for the most part made the Army their primary career. In other words, it was limited to only a small proportion of the country's man-power. To-day, of course, that position is vastly changed. With a few exceptions, the whole of the nation's youth pass through the ranks of the Services in their two years' service, at a time which is the most impressionable of their lives. Therefore, the responsibility of the Regular officers who have to command these men is immeasurably in-creased. Not only have they the responsibility of turning these young men into soldiers, sailors or airmen, but to a very large extent on their shoulders will rest the responsibility as to how these young men, when they return to civil life, make or mar their future careers. In other words, to no little extent on the actions of these officers, and on their example, will depend the outlook and attitude to life in general of the vast majority of the nation's young men. I hope that I am not overstating the case, but it is so important that I realise I may be at fault in that way. It is a tremendous responsibility that the Regular Army in particular has had thrust upon it, and the question is: Is this responsibility fully appreciated?

I have no doubt whatever that a great many Regular officers are fully alive to this great task, and arc conscientious in their approach to it. I have no doubt, also, that there are a great many more who, even if they have not argued it out quite so specifically as I have tried to do to your Lordships, instinctively do their utmost along these same lines. But I am equally certain—and I have this from talking to a great many people—that there are some who are lot so attentive to their responsibilities. All I would ask is that no opportunity be lost for bringing this matter—the importance of which I think cannot be over-emphasised—con-stantly before all whom it may concern. The gracious Speech includes, as every noble Lord who has spoken in this debate so far has said, reference to intended legislation to give powers to Ministers to regulate production, distribution and so on, for the purpose of ensuring that the resources of the community are used to the best advantage. But we shall be wasting our most important resource of all, our man-power, if the point which I have been trying to make is not continually and constantly watched by all those in authority.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords. I should like to support the last plea of the noble Lord, which I am sure will have a very ready response from these Benches. The question of the officer's responsibilities is paramount in the Armed Forces, and I am sure that my noble friend the First Lord can speak for the Admiralty and say that it is continually watched in the Navy, as I hope it is in the other Services. I also agree with what was said about the Festival of Britain. In that connection I presume there will not be an Election this year, for we are approaching the season of fogs and snow. I hope he and his friends will be careful next year not to make things so difficult in Parliament that we have to have an Election before the Festival of Britain is over. The noble Viscount the Leader of the Liberal Party, and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, yesterday congratulated my two noble friends who moved and seconded the humble Address, and I should like to join in their congratulations. They are neither of them here for the moment, but that is not to be wondered at considering the lateness of the hour. They arc both old friends of mine, and I am sure that my pleasure was shared by the whole of your Lordships in their very able performance.

I must say a word about the remarks of the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition with regard to this Chamber. I should have thought he would be glad to get back to this Chamber, but apparently he is reluctant to leave the little place at the other end of the passage, which we have been occupying through the King's generosity. I hope we shall return to this Chamber as soon as ever we can. That little place at the other end of the passage is very suitable for Committee work and for deals and arrangements between the Government and the Opposition, which, of course, are sometimes necessary to get the business through. But this is a House which has always been famous as a House where great oratory is heard; and for great oratory you need a large Chamber. That little place at the other end—the King's Robing Room—is not suitable for the kind of oratory for which this House has been famous and is still famous if the atmosphere is right. Before I leave this subject, may I make a suggestion to my noble friend Lord Morrison, who I believe speaks for the Office of Works? I think it would be a very good idea to put under the galleries and right opposite the Despatch Boxes on either side, two extra clocks about the size of the clocks now on either side of the Throne. These would serve as a reminder to the Front Bench speakers that "time flies, and it is later than you think." If they could be chiming clocks, I think it would be even better.

If I might make one general remark about the gracious Speech, I would describe it as a good Speech from the fisherman's point of view. This point was taken up by the noble Viscount. I consider it is marvellous from that point of view, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, and the other Scottish Peers can congratulate themselves. First of all, we are promised legislation (which I think is particularly due to the efforts of my noble friend, Lord Morrison) to put down this obnoxious commercialised poaching in Scotland. We are promised that for Scotland, where the need is urgent, but I hope there will be similar legislation for England and Wales also. At any rate, the need for legislation is most urgent in Scotland. Then we arc to have stronger measures against the pollution of rivers— a crying scandal—and lastly for the sea fishermen we are to have a White Fish Board which has been pressed for by the deep-sea fishing industry for many years, as I know too well, as I was chairman of the Fishing Advisory Committee and I am at present a member of the existing Committee. To get three catches like that in the King's Speech makes quite a basket, and I congratulate and thank the Government accordingly.

I have, however, to deal with a rather painful subject which I shall do with as much delicacy as I can. It arises out of the remarks in the gracious Speech about the fighting in Korea which has been referred to by all noble Lords who have addressed your Lordships, with the exception, I think, of Lord Rochdale. Of course, we all supported the resistance to aggression in Korea. If I may say so most respectfully, I entirely agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that this is a great event in human history; that for once, at long last, the nations should come together and, by arms, resist a breach of the peace. The repercussions of the taking of this combined action are at present immeasurable. The United Nations may from this point go forward until it really becomes a world government, or at any rate a means of preventing all future armed conflicts. All that we agree; but if what I am afraid is going on in Korea is really going on there, that great achievement which Lord Samuel described in superlative terms will be soiled and besmirched. I refer to the excesses on both sides by the Koreans themselves against each other. I emphasise "on both sides." I am sure that your Lordships must have noticed the remarkable despatch from The Times correspondent in the issue of October 25 last, in which a horrifying account is given of the treatment, in this case by South Korean officials and police, of the unfortunate people who have been reconquered largely with our help. I am going to quote from what The Times correspondent said because I think that this ought to be put on the record of your Lordships' archives. It is a very serious matter.

It may be said, especially by those who know Asia as I myself do, "Ah, well, these things of course happen in Asia, especially if there is a civil war." They always do happen in civil wars in the West as well. We have had terrible events happening in all civil wars—for instance, in Spain, where horrible atrocities were committed on both sides. It may be said that wherever there are wars there will be excesses and there will be bad elements here and there in all the armies who will disgrace their uniforms. But that is no answer here. This cruelty and killing is on a widespread scale. This is our responsibility. These South Korean forces are nominally under the flag and leadership of the United Nations. We are a member State of the United Nations. Our troops, our airmen and our seamen are engaged in this campaign. This House has a direct responsibility in this matter. Parliament cannot shuffle off its responsibilities here. I am not engaging in a general Foreign Affairs debate, for I understand that will take place later on. I want, however, to state this. I think that we must use our greatest endeavours, together with our colleagues in the United Nations, to see that there is no unnecessary cruelty and oppression in Korea by either side. The North Koreans, the Communist Armies, are reported to have committed great cruelties. What could we do about that? What have we done about that? We have acted by fighting them back to their own territory, and eventually those armies will be disbanded and disarmed. But the South Koreans we have an opportunity of directly influencing. As I say, they are our Allies. Without our help they would have been completely overrun.

We have a further responsibility. I have here the White Paper (Cmd. 8078) issued only yesterday, in which, amongst other documents dealing with the events that we are discussing, is the text of the demand to surrender issued by the United Nations Commander-in-Chief—not by the American Commander-in-Chief, but by the United Nations Commander-in-Chief, our Commander-in-Chief—to the North Korean commander on October 1 last. I will not read it in full. It rather reminds me of the "Unconditional surrender" demand arising from the Casablanca Conference in the Second World War, but at any rate it does contain one condition. The condition that I quote is this: North Korean Forces, including prisoners of war in the hands of the United Nations Command, will continue to be given the care dictated by civilised custom and practice, and permitted to return to their homes as soon as practicable. That is a pledge made in our name—in the name of this Parliament, of this House of Lords—and every one of your Lordships is responsible if this pledge is departed from.

Let us see what is happening. I make no apology for quoting from The Times despatch. It is not from Communist sources but comes from our own Times newspaper, which once more has rendered a service to the country. I will not quote the whole of it. It describes the police methods taken at the recapture of Seoul, the recovered capital over which now flies the United Nations flag. These are things witnessed by corespondents on the spot, and, as is said, they are known to our representatives, known to the military command, known to the High Command in Tokio, and known at Lake Success, known to the United Nations; and, my Lords, it is going to be known in your Lordships' House. I quote only a small portion: Interrogation— the correspondent is speaking of police interrogation in the case of villagers and others, the victims of the South Korean Republic which we recognise as a Government, whose soldiers are our allies and who, but for us, the Americans and the Commonwealth Forces, would have ceased to exist as a Government in any part of Korea— Interrogation is a neat word, like liquidation. In this case it meant beating with rifle butts and bamboo sticks, and the insertion of splinters under fingernails. No attempt was made to hide these methods; in fact the policemen concerned worked harder to prove their diligence, and to ensure that no aspect of their work was overlooked. During that morning a rifle butt was shattered on the back of one prisoner, and two women, one suckling a baby, were also interrogated. The mother confessed to have joined the Communist Party a month before, and two men denied any sympathy or formal affiliation, but they were beaten into insensibility. A police sergeant who spoke English, which he probably learned in a mission school, tolerably well, said that the interrogation would proceed when they regained consciousness. They may have been Communists, but they were accused by individuals, and there were no witnesses. Obviously, it was impossible to decide fairly whether they were Communists or victims of malice or revenge. The scene described has been, and is still being, repeated throughout Korea. An officer of an United Nations investigation team said that reprisals are as numerous as reports of Communist atrocities. I knew Korea when it was known as the Land of the Morning Calm. I was there before the Japanese annexed the country. They held it from 1910 to 1935 and with Japanese methods debauched the formerly gentle and peaceable people. Then there were the general upheavals of war and I am afraid there have been cruelty and oppression on the part of North and South Korean Governments since the peninsula was reconquered from the Japanese. The South Korean Government have tolerated methods of terrible brutality and cruelty which should not be allowed. But now we have the responsibility. We are there. We and the Americans are representing the United Nations and we cannot allow these things to go on.

What is to be done about it? I beg the Government to act. I understand that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor will be replying and I believe he will deal with this matter. I have been in communication with the Foreign Office myself this morning and I under-stand there will be a reply, at least in principle. I understand also from other members of the British Government that we are raising this matter at Lake Success, and I am sure that our representatives there will do their best. I am sure the American people, the French people and other decent people will be with us. These things have only to be known in the United States. I have quoted only a part of the despatch, of the mass of respectable evidence that I can produce. In these wars of my generation there have been great horrors and excesses, and in the civil wars and upheavals and disturbances between the two World Wars there have been so many scenes of violent fighting and devastation that I notice a tendency for our susceptibilities and even our consciences to become a little blunted. There has been much cruelty going on in the world, some of it inevitable. I would ask those of your Lordships who can remember to recall the reactions in this country to the Turkish atrocities during the insurrections in the Balkans. The whole of Britain rang with denunciation. It only needed the oratory of a Gladstone to arouse the people, and the British conscience was moved and acted. I am certain that the same thing applies to the United States to-day. I am certain, too, that in our own country, if these things were known, as they will be known and as they are becoming known, thanks to the newspapers, it will be clear that we at any rate will not be privy to and connive at such terrible excesses.

I am sure that I have the support of your Lordships here in this matter. I have spoken to several noble Lords who are very experienced in these things, and I know I have their support. I have also spoken to several of my own friends on the Front Bench in this connection. It is a terrible thing that these things should be done in Korea. I feel confident that His Majesty's Government will be as vigorous as possible, and that we shall do our best to see that these Allies of ours, the officials, soldiers and police of the South Korean Republic, who do these things in Korea, are checked and prevented from continuing. We have hardly finished the trials of the war criminals of the last war, and we do not want similar crimes committed now by people fighting under the same flag as ourselves and subsidised and supported by us, alongside whom our own men are sacrificing their lives. This is a matter which I make no apology for dealing with at rather more than my usual length; and if, by ventilating this state of affairs in your Lordships' House—the most public place in the world—I can save the life of one helpless wretch there, I shall feel myself justified. I beg my noble friends on the Government Bench to see that the reply we receive to-morrow is constructive and helpful.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to address myself for a minute or two to the agricultural implications of the gracious Speech from the Throne. There is, of course, mentioned therein the general need for increased agricultural production, and I think there is no one, on either side of the House, who would not associate himself with that need. It may well be that, in the not too far distant future, not only our prosperity and our comfort but even our existence as a great nation will depend to some extent on the extra production we achieve. But that is, after all, a pious sentence: that is verba non acta. It is on the acta rather than the verba which the agricultural policy of the Government will be judged.

I find that there is one problem above all others which at the present time is worrying the agricultural community, the land owners, the farmers and the agricultural workers; and that is the never ceasing, and indeed almost increasing, raping of good agricultural land. This raping is carried on by different bodies. May I point out to your Lordships just a few of them? There are, of course, the War Office, and at this time we can hardly dissent from their needs. There are the Ministry of Education. No one feels more than myself the need of playing fields throughout the country, but sometimes the Ministry of Education take an area for playing fields which is too great for their requirements. Then there are the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, with their new towns spreading over vast areas, with gardens all round. There are the Ministry of Transport, with the big new arterial roads occupying far more space than the ordinary person would think was necessary, and certainly doing little or nothing to increase the safety of the people who use those roads. There is opencast coal and iron ore mining. And in the absence of my friend Lord Radnor I venture to say that the Forestry Commission also are not entirely guiltless in this matter.

With all these Ministries attacking agriculture from every side, to whom do we look to help us? We look to the Minister of Agriculture, and I will say here and now that he puts up a pretty good defence, and he is strongly supported by the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon whom I see sitting opposite to me. I feel, however, that he is somewhat like the commander of a military column who is proceeding through enemy country, with guerrillas in front of him, guerrillas to the right, guerrillas to the left, and guerrillas to the rear. In just such a way we have to ward off the attacks of all these Departments who seek to grab unconsidered trifles from us. I had hoped to see in the gracious Speech some endeavour to cope with this great problem which faces us to-day. Every year 50,000 acres of good agricultural land is lost to agriculture. Every year 50,000 acres, that is 80 square miles, of the good agricultural land of our small island goes. I hoped to see, perhaps, an overriding authority appointed, to whom all applicants for good agricultural land would go, and which would strike a balance between them and possibly even ration them.

But, my Lords, whatever is done—you may restrict this taking of agricultural land, or you may stop it entirely—what is there with which to offset it? I venture to think that there is only one thing to do, and that is to make further and better use of the marginal land of this country, the millions of acres which are sometimes called, somewhat euphemistically, rough grazing. Are there any indications in the gracious Speech about any steps being taken in that direction? I think there are two. There is the one with regard to iron ore. I think all of us would agree with that step. Big areas of land have lost their beauties, their amenities and their agricultural value, and there seems, to me every justification for making those people who have destroyed the value of this land, and made considerable profit thereby, restore the land to agriculture in the state in which it was before. I do not understand why we stop at iron ore. Surely the same thing applies—possibly in less measure; I do not know—to open-cast coal.

Then we come to the other measure, that "to encourage the rearing of live-stock in upland areas." No doubt that is an excellent step, but I would ask: Why the upland areas? Do His Majesty's Government propose to take a level of, say, 700 feet at which cattle raisers are to be subsidised, while those at 699 feet are not? I do not understand. Marginal land, at all events, is by no means all in the uplands. In East Anglia, in my own county of Suffolk, there are many thou-sands of acres of marginal land, covered now by bracken and so on, which could be used. There is one area that I know well. It comprises about 6,000 acres of the worst land that I ever saw outside the Sahara; it was so bad that it would not grow bracken, and grew nothing but moss. By suitable cultivation, by the application of lime, by the establishment of lucerne, those 6,000 acres are now producing large quantities of milk, large quantities of cattle, big crops of sugar beet, of barley and of oats. What has been done in this place could have been done elsewhere. It costs money, but surely it is worth it. If the Government are going to help marginal land, why not help it just as much when the elevation is perhaps fifty feet above the sea as when it is six or seven hundred feet? I applaud those two measures, but I do think that they will yield an inadequate and disappointing crop.

I now come to the one part of the gracious Speech which fills me with a considerable sense of alarm, and indeed despondency—I refer to the proposal to nationalise part of the beet sugar industry, the processing of the beet. I notice, of course, that the word "nationalisation" is not used. I venture to think that perhaps that is rather wise. Nationalisation is not quite the name to conjure with as was at one time thought. Our experience of it so far must have disappointed the quite honestly felt enthusiasm with which it was welcomed; we have seen that it does not mean all that was hoped. We see costs and prices rising, but production falling. Industrial peace is by no means established. I think perhaps it is wise not to stress the word "nation- alisation." So far as I know, the only big nationalisation experiment that His Majesty's Government have undertaken in agriculture has been the nationalistion of groundnuts in Tanganyika. I hope your Lordships will not think I am overstating my case if I say that that has not been an unqualified success. What I fear in this matter is that on nationalisation of the factory end, the industry will cease to be effective; there will be no incentive and a loss will be incurred. And the immediate reaction, I fear, will not be to scrap the nationalisation, but to say, "That is because we have not taken the whole of the industry; we will now nationalise the production side." That would be the end of the sugar beet industry.

I do not know whether your Lordships will appreciate what sugar beet means to agriculture in vast areas of the country. In the first place, it is a cash investment. In the second place, it fits into the rotation of farming in a wonderful way. Where you find good crops of sugar beet, almost invariably you will find them followed by good grain crops. It provides food for cattle in the form of pulp and "tops." Even now, sugar beet pulp is being taken down from the sugar beet areas in East Anglia to help distressed areas in the West which have lost their hay and their straw. Finally, it provides sugar at a reasonable price to the community.

My Lords, this is not the first attack that I recall upon sugar beet. Between the wars, when a Government of my own complexion were in power, there was an attack upon sugar beet. A Committee known as the Green Committee were appointed to investigate the sugar beet position, and it transpired that if their recommendations had been adopted the sugar beet industry would have been finished. A defence committee was set up, of which I had the honour to be appointed chairman. I received the utmost support from the C.L.A. and the N.F.U., and the best report that I received was from a Mr. George Dallas, who was chairman of the Labour Party; and a better friend of agriculture there has never been. Our members addressed meetings all over the country, and at some of them we had attendances of more than 10,000. We marshalled our arguments and we put before the Government our case for saving the industry. Perhaps as a partial result of our efforts, but I think more owing to the common sense of His Majesty's Government at the time, the Green Committee's recommendations were turned down, and the sugar beet industry was saved. Had it not been saved, our position, grave as it was in the last war, would have been much graver still. I think perhaps your Lordships will understand why I feel somewhat keenly this threat to sugar beet. In conclusion, I would say merely that I applaud the verba of His Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne, but with regard to the acta, I reserve my right to make the fullest criticism, and I hope that other noble Lords on our Benches will do the same.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, in addressing you for a few moments on certain items in the gracious Speech, I should like first of all to assure you that although two "country bumpkins "are sitting alongside each other on these Benches, there has been no collusion between us. May I just make reference to one short paragraph in the gracious Speech to which, so far as I know, no reference has yet been made—namely, the forthcoming visit of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands? I had the very great privilege of placing my family home at her disposal after her own country had been overrun and she had fled under enemy fire to the asylum of this country. Apart from the fact that for 250 years there has been the most intimate friendly relations between her country and ours, I should like to express the hope that the welcome to her on the part of His Majesty, the King, will be a welcome also on the part of people of all classes in this country. In this regard I should like to add a word of a personal nature. In those critical days, when Princess Juliana (as she then was) came over with her children and a very small and inadequate staff, we found her a woman of infinite personal charm; one equipped with those simple homely virtues which we are always proud to find in members of our own Royal Family; one who was a great admirer of nature, a fervent champion of the Christian ethic; and, above all perhaps, one of abounding human sympathy, a quality which endeared her very greatly to all classes of the community, during her short sojourn with us in the West Country.

Like my noble friend Lord Cranworth, I turn almost inevitably to this very difficult problem of providing, so far as possible from our own soil, for the food requirements of this country. Here I want to take the opportunity of reiterating what I ventured to say a fortnight ago. Incidentally, I am bound to tell your Lordships that I remained somewhat unconvinced by the reply which I received from the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who represented the Government on that occasion. In the light of what I feel justified in calling the appalling experience of those of us who have been farming in the south-west of England and in Wales during this present season, I want to reiterate very strongly the suggestion I then made—and I have made it on previous occasions also—that cereal crops for human consumption should be grown mainly, if not wholly, in those counties of this country which, climatically and otherwise, are best suited for their production. Put a premium upon their production in those counties, and leave us who live either in Wales or in the south-west of England to produce to our utmost capacity those things for which our land and our climate are best suited.

Further, I want to suggest particularly that some committee or tribunal should be set up without delay to consider what, on balance, is the optimum use of land for the production of human foods in this country. Such a committee might draw on the experience of what, in the old days, and in the course of nature, were found to be the best wheat-growing areas in this country. In those areas, as I say, a premium should be placed upon the production and storage of wheat (as my noble friend Lord De La Warr urged so loquently the other day), while we in other less-favoured cereal areas may be enabled to produce meat, which will be the crux of our food problem in days to come, and milk. In other words, let consideration be given to the possibility of our using our land to raise food for our animals and for producing milk and meat for our people, rather than expect us to grow, in unfavourable conditions, cereal crops for human consumption. I beg the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, and his chief, and his colleagues, to give serious attention to that problem. Surely, if it can be proved that, on balance, by adopting such a programme they will more abundantly feed the people of this country, it is worth serious consideration.

I notice that reference is made in the gracious Speech to the regulation of production—which, of course, must include food production—and the control of prices. In the debate a fortnight ago, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, emphasised that there is in fact no control (I think he said no control, or very little control) of production. If that really is so, those of us who live in such areas as I do should have it made clear to them that although production may be regulated—whatever that may mean— then only prices are controlled, and not cultivation. My fear is that by the processes of regulation of food production, over-regulation in certain respects may considerably decrease the availability of essential human foods.

I was not present in the House when he did so, but I understand that the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, referred to wool in connection with the making of carpets— I do not know whether he referred to wool in its more important aspects, in relation to the production of clothes. So far as the cost of living is concerned, I venture to suggest that there is going to be a more serious and distressing increase in it owing to the very high—indeed, I may say the unprecedentedly high—cost of wool than from any other cause. It is all very well to control prices, but you cannot control prices of commodities which you have not got. I want seriously to ask the Government what is to be their attitude in regard to the rise in prices of cloth in this country owing to the abnormal rise in the prices of raw wool? What is to be their attitude in regard to what may be a very serious problem? Of course I am fully aware that for many years past, ever since the price of wool began to rise, there has been talk about large developments in the production of synthetic wool. I do not know whether the Government have in mind the encouragement of the production of this so-called synthetic wool. I venture to think that something will have to be done before it is too late, to ease the minds of the public with regard to the ever-rising prices of clothing in this country. I do not know whether all noble Lords realise it—I realised it when I was on a good-will mission to Australia on behalf of the Royal Agricultural Society, three years ago—but one curious effect of the high price of wool in Australia has been to reduce materially the export of food products from that country. One result of prosperity—and there has been overweening prosperity in Australia during recent years—derived from any particular crop or product is that there is a much higher standard of living, and particularly a much bigger consumption of food. What is actually happening—I found it in the two great cities of Sydney and Melbourne —is that as the prices of wool have risen, so the exports of essential foods to this and other countries have diminished. That is a factor which I think one has to bear in mind.

I wish especially to ask whether the Government have realised that there is a certain class of the farming community in this country which is getting more and more into a condition of adversity, with less and less hope of recovering its position, even in the light of guaranteed prices. That is the class of what I may call the middle-scale farmer, the farmer, we will say, with a farm of average good land, occupying from 50 to 150 acres, who is bound to employ labour. Labour now, of course, receives relatively high remuneration, and the farmer of whom I speak cannot afford the labour-saving implements with which the capitalistic farmer (if I may use that term) may equip himself. To my mind there are only two classes of farmers—or shall I say food producers—in this country whose outlook is fairly favourable. One is the class to which I have referred—namely, the large-scale capitalistic farmer who has his combines and every other labour-saving improvement, which enable him to harvest his crops rapidly and, incidentally, if he is fully equipped, to dry his corn as well as cut it and render it available for human consumption. The other is the family farmer who carries on his farm with the help of his wife and children, and employs no outside labour. He is on a very good wicket at the present time. I am particularly interested in that class because they are the backbone of our rural population in overseas countries. When I was Governor-General of New Zealand I found many of them prosperous farmers. To-day large-scale farmers are the sons of men who were family farmers in this old country. But I hope that the middle-scale farmers, which used to be the yeoman class of this country, are not going to be allowed to go to the wall.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Cranworth in what he said about the sugar beet industry. I can endorse it warmly because at the time sugar beet first received a subvention from His Majesty's Government, towards the end of the First World War, I was Sugar Controller. There is no doubt whatever that, apart from the sugar now produced in this country, the growing of sugar beet has, by the required deep cultivation, materially improved the standards of cultivation for other crops, particularly in the Eastern Counties from which my noble friend comes.

I saw my old friend Lord Boyd-Orr sitting in the House during the earlier part of this debate, and in connection with his magnificent work of preaching the gospel of the Food and Agriculture Organisation I wanted very much to learn how he regarded the new item in the Government's policy announced in the gracious Speech—namely, the proposed effort to raise the standard of living of the peoples in the impoverished and only partly developed countries of the world. I believe I am right in saying that at least one-third of the people of the world are half starved. I understand the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Orr, puts the figure higher. However that may be, I am certain of this: that the relative under-nourishment of these peoples is a valuable weapon in the hands of the Communists. I have a special interest in the native populations of South Africa, Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and I dare to say there is no country in the world to-day where the Communists are more active beneath the surface than in that part of the world. That is largely owing to the fact that, by comparison, the white people are raising their standard whereas the standard of the black peoples remains almost stationary. I should like to ask the Government what they have in view to help carry out that paragraph in the Speech from the Throne, because it is extremely difficult to find money to-day to commence and carry on a campaign of this sort. I almost wish that such a campaign could have; been carried on pari passu with the improvement of our own standard of living and the standard of living of the other countries of the world. I am sorry to take up your Lordships' time, but I want to emphasise again the question which I think is vital. How can we make that optimum use of the agricultural land of this country, to obtain the largest possible amount of food from it for the feeding of our own people?