§ 2.45 p.m.
Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Polwarth—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her 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.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, yesterday we discussed this matter in rather a birthday atmosphere, and I had the comparatively easy task of congratulating the noble mover and seconder of the Address on the way in which they had carried out their difficult task. To-day we on this side of the House have to look at this matter from a critical but, I hope, friendly and constructive point of view. Of course this House would not perform any useful functions at all if we contented ourselves merely with paying compliments to the other side. It is necessary, from time to time, that we should look critically at the proposals which are advanced. The gracious Speech starts off dealing with foreign affairs and Commonwealth affairs. Speaking for myself, I make no apology for this point of view: that the more the two sides of the House can be together in regard to these matters the better. Though we have minor points to criticise, yet broadly speaking, I like to think that on foreign affairs the two sides of the House speak with one voice. I am sure that that gives our country greater strength and a more influential position in the councils of Europe. Certainly it is true so far as Commonwealth affairs are concerned And I rejoice entirely, with the noble Lord who is going to reply to me tomorrow, that we are shortly to have a Commonwealth conference, and, I hope, with him, that very great things may flow from that meeting of the minds and pooling of ideas and putting them on the table.
I could wish that the Government had stated in terms what must be in their minds at the present time. What I think 36 oppresses the minds of us all—particularly those of us who are now getting older—is that we are wondering what sort of a world we are going to hand over to those who come after us. I have in mind such matters as the hydrogen bomb and the frightful dangers which confront this world therefrom. Though I speak for myself, I believe that the Government have done rightly in trying to build up N.A.T.O., for I believe we can best negotiate from strength. Yet let us not forget that we must negotiate; nothing matters more than that we should meet and discuss this at the proper time. I am not now concerned to debate what that time is; let the Foreign Secretary speak for himself on that matter. But at the proper time we must meet and discuss this matter. All our efforts will fail unless, in the fullness of time, we are able to get people who think differently from us to meet round the table and agree this, at any rate—that the hydrogen bomb will not be used. It must be outlawed; and we must have effective steps taken to see that it is outlawed. That matter is not mentioned in the gracious Speech, and I feel it is one which hangs over all of us today in our outlook for the future. I hope that that will never be forgotten.
I entirely agree with the Government point of view that we must support and sustain U.N.O. in every way we can. The time is coming when the revision of the Charter of U.N.O. is to be undertaken. I devoutly hope that it will become possible to bring into that organisation all the nations of the world. I hope it will be possible to bring in Spain, to bring in China, to bring in all the satellites, to bring in everyone, in order that we may have a forum of discussion there. The fact that we get people there does not mean that we necessarily agree with their policies: it does not mean that at all. It means that all these things are better discussed in that sort of atmosphere than not at all. I sincerely hope, as a corollary to that, that the rule about internal affairs will be strictly enforced. I think our only chance to make this organisation a success at the present time is to see quite plainly that what are internal matters are not dealt with by this body. For instance, the case of Cyprus I regard as plainly an internal matter, one which we must decide for 37 ourselves and which cannot be decided for us by N.A.T.O.
I wonder whether your Lordships will forgive me if I now speak for a few moments on some recent experiences which I have had. I have recently visited Israel, and on the way there, owing to bad weather, I had to spend a night at Athens and the best part of two days in Cyprus, whence I went on to Tel-Aviv. I heard and saw something of the position both in Athens and in Cyprus. I think we must have a debate on this matter soon but, speaking for myself, I hope that the Government will press on with their idea for a Constitution for Cyprus. I believe that to be right. What I do not think is right is to use in this context the word "never." Whether Enosis will or will not come I do not know, but I wish that the attitude the Government would adopt were something more like arts. I wish they would say to the Cypriots, "Try your Constitution; work your Constitution; and if your Constitution works, in so many years' time—in seven years or what you will—let us get together again." Do not let us rule out Enosis at all, but let us see whether we cannot come to some satisfactory arrangement about this matter.
I moved on from Cyprus to Tel-Aviv. I am sorry to mention these matters again because, whilst I was away, there was a debate in your Lordships' House in which the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York made a most interesting speech. I was not here and I feel rather guilty in that I am coming in afterwards to make some observations about it. I may say at once that I feel greatly reinforced in what I am gong to say in that in 90 per cent. of it I find myself completely in accord with what the most reverend Primate then said. He told us that he had not visited Palestine since the State of Israel had been set up. I, on the other hand, had never visited Palestine or Israel before. I hope that his far greater knowledge of the earlier period and my impressions of the recent period, added together, may make some useful contribution to the debate in your Lordships' House. I went out as a guest of the Weitzmann Institute. I was honoured by being entrusted with a message from the Prime Minister who, as your Lordships know, throughout the whole of his life has been entirely consistent in his Zionist outlook. You may say that, going under those auspices, I 38 am naturally taking a pro-Jewish point of view, but I shall try to be impartial and fair in what I say. However, I did not visit only Israel; I went also to Jordan, thanks to the Foreign Office, who ingeniously gave me two passports, and thanks to the kindness of the Jordan authorities; and I believe that I found myself a welcome guest. I have always been an admirer and friend of the Arabs and therefore I can, to some extent, speak from both sides of the border.
I will start with the State of Israel and give your Lordships my impressions—perhaps, after a fortnight's visit, it is ridiculous to talk about impressions in the presence of people who know vastly more than any knowledge I could hope to have acquired; still they are impressions, and for what they are worth I give them to you. So far as Israel is concerned, and what they are doing in that country, I can only tell you that I believe the age of miracles is not past, for what these people have done on their own land really does stagger the imagination. They are draining now the Huleh Marshes, as in the old days they drained the Plain of Esdraelon, and these areas have now become two of the most fertile territories in the world. By their process of irrigation, their use of underground watering and by the terracing which they have done, they are, to use the old familiar phrase, making the wilderness blossom like the rose. To what is this due? In the first place, I think it is due to the tremendous enthusiasm and idealism with which they are tackling their task, and to the fact that, perhaps because President Weitzmann was their first President, their whole effort is tempered and controlled by the most completely scientific outlook that I have ever come across in any people.
Their ideal is a home. The whole effort of these years, is to build for this harassed and oppressed people a home, with everything that that word "home" connotes. They want to build a race, a nation. And they are taking in, as of right, Jews from all quarters of the globe, speaking, I heard, no fewer than forty-five different languages. It is an immensely difficult problem to build a nation, or a race, out of these people when they possess no common language. I saw the transition camps into which they come, and in these camps the first 39 task is to teach them the common language, Hebrew—the language in which Isaiah wrote his immortal poetry. Five months are devoted to teaching them Hebrew, during which time some of the cleverest doctors in the world see to their health and physique; and if these are not as good as they can be, what is wrong is, so far as is possible, put right. I do not know how far this has worked with grown-ups, but of this I am sure: that so far as the second generation, the children, are concerned, the natural language they will speak will be the Hebrew language which they will have learned in their childhood.
The most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York pointed out, truly, that the Arab villagers on the tops of hills look down on the land which once was theirs. That is perfectly true, but when they look down on the land today, they see vast new settlements that have sprung up. I do not say that they are attractive æsthetically—they are not; they are groups of well-built small houses, largely populated in these areas by Yemenite Jews. And the fields on which the Arabs look down they will see have been greatly improved by terracing and by irrigation, where possible, by watering. They will find that a new settlement has sprung up. That is part of the difficulty. Of course, so far as agriculture is concerned, the whole problem is that of water. Given that sun (during the first fortnight in November, while I was there, there was glorious weather: I never saw a cloud in the sky), given the clever agricultural chemists they have, who can analyse and find out exactly what salts or manures are required for various crops, and given water—if that can be obtained—that land can be made as fertile as any land in the world. But water is the problem. The bold conception of the Jews and the things they are trying to do in the way of diverting rivers is exemplified by the fact that they are taking the water of the Yarshor River (my memory for names is bad, and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, will correct that if it is wrong), into the sea near Tel-Aviv by pipes down to the area of the Negev. And there are other big schemes in prospect.
§ EARL JOWITT
I have forgotten the name; but it is the fact that they are contemplating taking the water from that river into the Negev, instead of allowing it to pour into the sea. I saw on the Jewish side the new Jerusalem, about which I will say a word or two in a moment. This is the only point on which my modern experience has led me to change my opinion and differ from the opinion that I previously held, about which the most reverend Primate spoke. I went over the border and, as I say, I went to Jordan. I visited the old Jerusalem and the Holy Places. It is the first time I have ever been there and, for one of my traditional upbringing, it is a most moving experience to see for the first time the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane, and to visit the Church of The Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem. I can assure the most reverend Primate of this: that although at the moment those places are under the control of the Arabs, it seems to me that they are well controlled, and there is no obstacle or difficulty put in the way of anybody who desires to enter those places and see for himself just what he wants to see.
I moved on from Jerusalem to Jericho. I stood on the banks of the Jordan and I saw the place where the Jordan pours its relatively sweet waters into the Dead Sea. In Jordan I did not see, as I did in Israel, the Prime Minister or, indeed, any of the responsible politicians. I met there a charming set of people, rather corresponding, if I may make so bold to say so, to the Back Benchers in your Lordships' House: men of no particular political alignments; men of intelligence and integrity, and men who knew what they were talking about. But, as I say, I did not see anybody in a position of authority. I was deeply moved—I have never been more moved in my life, and this is what leads me to speak of it to-day—with what I saw in regard to the refugees. I saw them in old Jerusalem and I saw them in Jericho. I saw them, after seven years, still living in their inadequate tents. I am going to make an appeal from the heart to your Lordships' House, to this country and to the United Nations to try to do something to tackle and solve this problem. For seven years this has been going on. Some of the Jews will say, "The Arabs left voluntarily." I do not think that is an adequate answer. At Haifa and in the area around 41 there are large numbers of Arabs still living under Jewish rule. I went to the cadi's court and saw the cadi. He said he had 50,000 Arabs there still patronising his court. I spoke to him privately, and he told me that he had no sort of complaint to make about what was being done for them. It is obvious that they are happy and contented living under the Jews. He added: "The one thing we want is that there shall be peace, like we have here, throughout the Holy Land."
In the course of the war, for which the Arabs must bear a great deal of responsibility, there were undoubtedly incidents—and those of us who remember the incidents that took place when we tried to restore law and order to Ireland, in the time of the Black and Tans, will realise that it is one of the features of war that incidents do take place. It was the fear that incidents might happen that induced a large number of these Arabs to leave the country. I am bound to say (I feel it should be said) that I found amongst the Arabs intense bitterness. I found, I regret to say, a distrust of this country and of her promises. One Arab said to me: "You are rather in the position of an Arab who has two wives. He makes all kinds of sweet promises to the one, and when the other wife gets restive he make all kinds of sweet promises to her. Then he finds that the promises he has made to the first wife and the promises he has made to the second are quite inconsistent. That is the position which you adopted in the old days."
So far as the United States of America are concerned (I hope that I shall not be interpreted as saying anything against the United States; I am only reporting the facts to your Lordships, as we had better know them) I found a view prevalent among the Arabs that the United States had not considered this matter fairly and on its merits, but had let their own internal political considerations prevail over their fair judgment. Therefore, I believe we start with this difficulty: that in dealing with this problem both ourselves and the United States are, to some extent, mistrusted by the Arabs who have these misgivings.
With regard to the work of U.N.R.R.A. (and this should be said, because that work is due shortly to come to an end), 42 I am afraid I was not impressed with what has been done, although many admirable people have devoted themselves to that work. I thought I found—these are only impressions—a good deal of over-lapping organisation. There had been in the past some peculation, almost inevitably, I suppose. In order to try and prevent peculation, they now insist on the filling of forms to an extent and complexity which I have rarely seen, with the result that the charitably disposed people who are trying to administer the funds given to them by U.N.R.R.A. are beset by these forms, and have to engage extra staff to fill them up, with little advantage to anyone. I hope that what I am about to say will not be used in evidence against me hereafter, but I am bound to admit that the individual effort which I saw being made by some individuals was, to my mind, far more effective than the work which U.N.R.R.A. were doing.
I am proud to include amongst the individual work that is being done the work of my own Church—the work being done by our Bishop in Jerusalem—which seemed to me to be beyond all praise. He has tried to concentrate on building villages and settling these people where they have land and something to do. The weakness of the U.N.R.R.A. position is that they have concentrated on maintaining these people and not on settling them. I can well understand the reason why—indeed, I saw and heard it: the reason is that there are some Arab politicians who are not anxious that this matter should be settled. When I talked about trying to resettle some of the people of these villages about whom the most reverend Primate spoke, and trying to get them to the fertile lands in the interior, the Arabs said, "No, we regard them as our first line."
I want to say this to your Lordship quite definitely. You cannot resettle these people in Israel. Do let us be quite clear about that. You cannot do it, because in Israel, where they used to be, new settlers have come; and you would not solve this problem at all by trying to resettle them there. You would merely have to remove the existing settlers, and you would have the same problem all over again. As I have said, though you put them on the same land you would find, generally speaking, that 43 that land is very different from what it was; and, moreover, is now full of new houses. I think the Arabs realise this. What they said to me was that they ought to be given the chance to go back. I said, "Supposing they were given the chance to go back, would they go?"; and they answered, "No." So we have this situation—and I am only reinforcing what the most reverend Primate said. There is there a population of something of the order of 800,000 to 900,000 refugees, because a large number of children are born every year. They are without hope; they are without prospects, and they are carrying on a miserable existence on an inadequate supply of food. It is a festering sore. That situation cannot do anything to improve the character of the people who are receiving food but are denied any chance of doing any work or any hope of work in the future. They look back on the past and long to go back to their own lands which, in their imagination, have become now far greater and more wonderful than they ever were.
My Lords, I am quite satisfied that we cannot afford to allow this state of affairs to go on, and I beg you to end this situation. Whether or not they will settle in Jordan—and I did not see any of Jordan, except in the course of my trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and down to Jordan and the Dead Sea; I did not go further north—I cannot bring myself to think that, if they showed the same energy and initiative and had the same capital resources as the Jews, it would not be possible to settle them on the east of Jordan. If I am wrong on that, there can be no question whatever that they could be settled in Syria. I beg the Government to use their influence. I realise that it is not a matter for this country alone, but I beg the Government to use their influence to try to get something done about this matter. All your Lordships will agree that to have something like 800,000 or 900.000 people in this condition is a most serious situation for the peace and well-being of the world. I am not making the smallest criticism of the Government—I want them to understand that. All I am asking is for help in dealing with a problem which strikes me as being the most urgent problem with which I have ever come face to face in my life.
44 Now I come to a criticism of Her Majesty's Government. Let me hasten to assure your Lordships that I never make a criticism of Her Majesty's Government when I am abroad. There I will fight like a tiger to defend them—they are my Government. The place where I should make a criticism—and it is a very mild one—is in this country and at this Box. When we had the debate the other day, my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in what I thought, if he will allow me to say so, a most interesting and well-informed speech, gave a quotation from a recent speech of Major Salem. May I remind your Lordships of it? He said this:As for the problem of Palestine, that is a problem which can only be solved by force. That force will not be achieved until the Suez Canal is freed.I will add one other quotation, if I may—I take it from the Manchester Guardian in the course of the last week, which quoted a statement from the Cairo radio station, "The Voice of the Arabs."An example a week or two ago from the Cairo station called 'The Voice of the Arabs' is illuminating. The station broadcast a recording made in an Egyptian ammunition factory. It began, imaginatively, with a noise of firing. Then came the voice of the announcer: 'These bullets,' he said, 'will restore to the Holy Land its Arab character as it was before. I see this factory as an axe which will demolish the structure of Zionism in Palestine and will recover Palestine as an Arab country.' Workers in the factory then came forward to express similar sentiments and to tell about their devotion to the cause.That quotation comes from the Manchester Guardian, and I have no doubt that it is authentic.
The sort of statement which my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough mentioned, and the one I have just read, are statements which have been going on for weeks past. My criticism of Her Majesty's Government is just this: that, knowing full well that those statements were being made, they signed the Egyptian Treaty giving the Egyptians great benefits and great concessions. They said nothing whatever about freeing the Canal—indeed, they went further and promised the Egyptians some arms. But if the Government give arms to one side, I presume they will give equivalent arms to the other side—they add to both sides of the equation. What have they gained? I beg the Government to give no arms to either side in this matter. I beg them, 45 instead of giving arms, to give tractors or irrigation tools, or what they will; but not arms. We have, of course, the Declaration of 1950, which the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, a few days ago told us was effective. Under that Declaration, anybody who breaks the frontier and indulges in war on either side becomes the enemy of this country and of the United Nations. That is all to the good. I hope they realise that. I believe that if we could have just a platoon of our soldiers in Israel as we have in Jordan—whether they would like them to be there or not I do not know—as a reminder of our position, it would do a vast amount of good.
Let me try to be constructive. What can be done? First of all, the Jews should pay, and are willing to pay, some measure of compensation to the Arabs for the land which they have lost. Secondly, I have every reason for supposing that they are willing to constitute an area in Haifa a free port, so that, without customs formalities or anything of that sort, there may be taken through to Jordan anything that comes to the port of Haifa. Thirdly (though whether the Jews would agree with me or not, I do not know), I agree with the most reverend Primate that there should be minor boundary revisions so that the boundary is made more sensible.
That brings me to the City of Jerusalem itself. This is where I part company—and, so far as I know, it is the only place where I do—with the Archbishop. I had always thought and said—and if it is any consolation to him, which I doubt, he can turn back to the speeches I made when I answered him—that all Jerusalem must be internationalised. There is an old Latin quotation but I will give it in English:Times change and we change with them.I believe that that solution is no longer practicable. Seven years have passed. In the new Jerusalem you find the seat of the President of the Republic, you find their Whitehall and their Ministers' houses; you find the Knesset; you find the law courts; you find their model city and their model capital with all its nerve centres; and you find sentiment on both sides of the border playing a great part. We recall those psalms which we know. Psalm 137 says: 46If I forget thee, O Jerusalem: let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. If I remember thee not, I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief Joy.With the Arabs I found exactly the same thing. Who is going to make the Arabs surrender the Mosque of Omar, built as it is on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite and one of their most precious possessions? I found not one single solitary soul on either side of the border who contemplates any longer that Jerusalem can be internationalised. There must be a barrier, a border. It must run through Jerusalem. But let it be a border constructed on sensible lines through which a traveller, on his lawful occasions, on producing the necessary papers, may pass and repass safely. That, I think, is the only possible solution. I suspect that Her Majesty's Government agree with me. I do not believe it is the least use to put off a decision. Time, in this case, is not on our side. The situation is becoming more and not less, difficult. I beg Her Majesty's Government to do all they can to bring about a real peace: a peace of mind, a peace where it is possible to cultivate and plan this area as a whole, where each helps the other, where no river runs into the sea, where there is real freedom of navigation and where the pipeline to Haifa is once more restored. I hope your Lordships will forgive my saying that and not think it out of place in this debate. I have the advantage of coming fresh from that place and I thought your Lordships would forgive me if I gave your Lordships my impressions. My earnest prayer to Her Majesty's Government is to lend their great influence and their great help to try to bring about a solution of this problem, which is so fraught with peril to the whole world.
As to the rest of the gracious Speech I will say merely this. I am delighted to see that Her Majesty's Government are going to lend all their aid to the Colombo Plan. I observe that there is in the gracious Speech a passage about G.A.T.T. which disturbs me probably a good deal less than it disturbs the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. I shall leave that matter to my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, but, on the whole, I think what is proposed is probably right. With regard to the road policy, it has always seemed to me that there are two lines of attack by which one may deal with the 47 problem. The first is to see that whatever traffic goes upon the roads is used to the greatest advantage. That means to say that there must be a measure of co-ordination between road and rail. I am afraid the proposals of Her Majesty's Government destroying our transport scheme have largely rendered that impossible. The second policy is to improve the roads. I can only hope that there are still some betterment provisions left, because the cost of the improvement of roads could be paid for from betterment.
With regard to pensions, I am delighted to know that something is to be done, and as to schools, I am glad to think that we are already doing something. I believe that the greatest reform which one could make at the present time with regard to schools is so to staff them that the teachers may be able to cope with smaller classes. A vast amount of money is spent but the teacher is left with an almost impossible problem; he is given a class of fifty to sixty schoolchildren, and the money which is spent is largely wasted. With regard to agriculture, we shall wait and see how the Government combine plentiful and cheap food for the consumers with a fair return and stability for the farmers, including, of course, the farmers on marginal land. I was most interested to hear about this and in due course we must have a debate about it. With regard to sugar, I notice that the Government are going to carry out the obligations under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement and end State trading in sugar. I hope they can do these two things and that their approach is not only doctrinaire.
I have left to the last the question of law reform. I am delighted to think that this subject is now in the very competent hands of the present Lord Chancellor. Believe me, it is a matter that I know full well, because I made it very much my own. It needs constant vigilance. If the noble and learned Viscount wants more judges, I hope he will ask for more judges and not be frightened when he is told: "Each judge costs £7,000." Each judge does not cost £7,000; he costs much less by the time he has paid income tax and surtax on his salary. It is far better to have extra judges, even though on occasion they have to go and play a round of golf, than that Her Majesty' 48 lieges should be kept waiting for justice in the law courts. The answer that was always given to me was: "There is no accommodation for extra judges." They will have to double up or live in "prefabs." We cannot let that difficulty stand in the way.
I rejoice to think that the limit of the county court jurisdiction is to be extended. I am sure that that is right. If I may say this to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, I believe that the best thing he could do would be to induce his Chancellor of the Exchequer to do what I confess I never succeeded in inducing my Chancellor of the Exchequer to do—that is, to try now extending legal aid to the county courts. It was reasonable, I think, in my day, when the scheme was all new, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should say, "Well, let us try it in the High Court first, and see how we get on." The result of that attitude is that there is legal aid in the High Court but not in the county court, and that makes it necessary to bring to the High Court all sorts of matters that could be dealt with in the county court. If the Government are now to extend the limit in the county court, I hope they will try at the same time to get the benefit of legal aid in the county court. I hope that the Lord Chancellor will succeed in these matters. This is no sort of Party matter. I only tell him, if it is of the slightest value to him, that if I can give him any help in this matter, I shall be only too proud to collaborate with him.
I hope that he will go on with his consolidation. One of the great evils of our legislation to-day is that legislation is so complicated that no ordinary, intelligent person can understand what it is about. One of the great points of consolidation ought to be not merely that the law may be found set out together in a convenient place, but that it may be so stated that, so long as he brings a reasonable mind to bear upon it, he who reads may understand what he is reading. I believe that that is possible, so long as there are available a sufficiently large, highly trained staff to do it, and so long as they are given ample time. It is common form to blame Parliamentary draftsmen, but the circumstances under Which Parliamentary draftsmen work make their task almost impossible. Politicians will not give them clear instructions, and they have to do the best they 49 can. Often, too, in the course of the progress of a Bill through this House or another place the instructions that they originally received are changed. Provided that there is available a body of highly competent people (and they are there) devoting time and their great skill to this matter, I believe it will be possible, in a consolidation stage after a Bill has passed this House, to reproduce that measure in all its essential substance, in simpler language which the ordinary people can understand.
My Lords, I have spoken all too long and I apologise for doing so. I told the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, that I was going to say a word about the recent "smog" Report—and it will be only a word. I hope that the Government will be able to tell us something about that Report. If the Government could, as that Report states, introduce a scheme whereby, in the next eight or ten years, something like 80 per cent. of the smoke which befouls our atmosphere could be eliminated, then I believe that the health and happiness of the dwellers in our cities would be enormously increased. The Committee estimate that the actual preventable cost is no less than £250 million a year. I should like to see an organisation set up by the Government (I realise that they cannot do it by just passing an Act of Parliament; I realise, too, that the Beaver Report was received only two or three days ago) on the lines of the Ministry of Munitions during the war, at the head of which is someone with the drive of either a Lloyd George or a Churchill, surrounded with competent people like the noble Lord, Lord Layton, who is not here to-day. I should like such an organisation to make a real effort to tackle this problem, so that gradually we may secure a clearer and better atmosphere. Any Government carrying out such a work will be blessed by generations in the future.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I had not intended on this occasion to refer to the question of Israel, but the exceedingly eloquent and impressive speech of the noble and learned Earl who has just spoken obliges me to make a few observations, my own connection with the country having been so close, dating back to the days of the Balfour Declaration and including five years when I had the honour of representing 50 the Crown in the exercise of the British Mandate for Palestine. Since then, I have been constantly in touch with the country and have paid it many visits. Therefore it would be misunderstood if I did not express my thanks to the noble and learned Earl for the account that he has given of the impressions that he formed on his recent journey. I found his speech most moving, particularly with regard to the refugees, a matter about which I have myself felt very strongly. My views were known to the Israel Government, and were, in fact, shared by them.
It should be remembered how this refugee question originated. When the British Mandate ended and there was a vacuum in Palestine, the State of Israel was proclaimed. The five neighbouring Arab States declared war upon Israel and invaded the country with their troops, with the avowed intention of ending the Jewish Zionist settlements by driving them into the sea. Of the Arab inhabitants of the country, some were driven out from strategic points by the Jews, but the great majority abandoned their homes en masse on the instigation of their own leaders, who told them that it would be only a temporary abandonment; that they had much better not stay and endure the rigours of a war; that it would be only a matter of weeks and that they would then not only recover their own land but also would occupy the highly cultivated land and the settlements of the Jews. Military events turned out otherwise, and that promise could not be given effect to, because meanwhile those lands and houses had become occupied by other refugees who had themselves been driven out from Europe; and those refugees from Europe cannot now be again driven out.
The noble and learned Earl said that at least a resolute effort should be made, and perhaps should be led by Her Majesty's Government, to secure some settlement, because this is a shocking state of affairs. He has not in the least exaggerated. These hundreds of thousands of Arabs are living in camps. Although the initial hardships and rigours have been very largely removed, they are there hopeless, eating their hearts out, unable to see a settlement of the question in any direction. The constructive measures that have been taken are exceedingly few and touch 51 only a minority. As the noble and learned Earl has said, the Government of Israel have recognised that they are under a moral obligation to pay the owners, either en masse or in some cases individually, for the Arab lands and houses which they now occupy: they have said that from the beginning. Secondly, they are prepared, without any compensation or undertaking of any kind, to give the Arab countries what they very much lack—namely, free access to the sea as of right, through a free port at Haifa. Those are very important offers. But the Arabs will not sit down at a table even to discuss them, nor will they allow the matter to be dealt with freely at the United Nations. Meantime, this deadlock continues; and if matters remain as they are there is no possibility that a settlement will be achieved.
Large sums of money belonging to the Arabs were blocked in the banks of Israel, and, again and again, the Israel Government have asked the Arabs, through some body or other, to come to an arrangement with them about it. The Arab States vetoed any such arrangement, and it was only the formation amongst themselves of a voluntary organisation that enabled the Israel Government lately to unfreeze all these accounts amounting to some millions of pounds. That has been done and the accounts are now being paid off. The Israel Government is only too willing and anxious to come to a settlement of this matter. They realise that it is a tragic fate that has befallen these Arabs of Palestine, and nothing would satisfy them better than for the matter to be resolved.
The noble and learned Earl is perfectly right with regard to Jerusalem. It is not feasible to internationalise the whole of the area, and neither side would in any circumstances withdraw from what they hold. But the Jews, and I believe the Arabs also, would be perfectly ready to permit and to respect an international control over all the Holy Places, Christian and other. That was the rule under the Mandate and formed part of the Mandate. When I was High Commissioner there it was one of my duties to see that full and free access to the Holy Places was guaranteed to all religions. That was done without any friction, and for those five years and during the Mandate this 52 matter had disappeared from among the troubles and disputes that had so often taken place in Palestine in an earlier generation.
My Lords, Palestine is not a subject referred to in the gracious Speech, and while I do not in any way quarrel with the action of the noble and learned Earl—it is quite in accordance with the usual practice to discuss on this Motion matters generally that are of interest—I would not myself pursue the matter further, but would return strictly to the debate on the Address. The gracious Speech was scanned by political observers to see whether it presaged or was the precursor of an early General Election. The gracious Speech is precisely of the kind that would be delivered were a General Election immediately pending; but it is also precisely the kind of Speech that would be delivered if a General Election were not pending. The present Government could not very well say anything different at this juncture and in the present state of affairs, whether or not an Election was pending. The chief interest of the Session, unless something unforeseen happens, will naturally be the Budget and that is not referred to, and cannot be referred to, in a Speech from the Throne.
For the rest we cannot expect just now, from this Administration, any great acts of policy year by year; and the gracious Speech contains none. When the Labour Government was in office we were accustomed, in Session after Session, to measures of outstanding importance, particularly in the field of nationalisation; but from the present Administration they have not been forthcoming, and, on the whole, it is not desirable that they should. We cannot expect something more or less revolutionary to come along every year. Eating is not the only process necessary to nutrition; digestion is also necessary, and when one has had a period of several years of quasi-revolutionary change (though pursued in a wholly constitutional manner) it is not a bad thing in that sphere of politics for the country to sit down for a while and digest that which has been consumed. We find, therefore, that this year, as in other years, the domestic legislation proposed is mainly on what might be called the Departmental level, important but by no means epoch-making.
53 I counted, in the gracious Speech, no fewer than fifteen references to specific matters, all of importance to one or other section of the community. It is very satisfactory to find so many matters to be dealt with in the coming year, instead of Her Majesty's Government coming forward, as is so often the case, with most plausible reasons why this or that cannot be done. We all know of the old-time civil servant who used to take a pride in being able to produce a difficulty for every solution; but now in these matters Her Majesty's Government are not content to come to Parliament with a plausible list of reasons for defaulting. Instead they are taking definite action. Most important of all is the remedying of pensioners' grievances, about which we have had a statement this afternoon. When my noble friend Lord Beveridge from these Benches a few months ago brought forward the urgency of that matter he found the reply of Her Majesty's Government unsatisfactory. It gave all the reasons why action could not be taken in a hurry and held out little prospect of immediate legislation. But public opinion became very manifest on this subject and Her Majesty's Government have wisely pressed matters forward with all urgency. The reports for which they have waited having been forthcoming, or being about to be produced, they have lost no time in taking action and will introduce measures which in due course will no doubt be judged by your Lordships on their merits.
I am particularly glad to notice a promise for action with regard to our road system. Your Lordships' House has protested again and again with great vigour against neglect in this shocking matter of the massacres on the roads. Now, at last, some effective action is being taken. I was disappointed at the speech by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, from the Government Benches on the last debate on that question on March 13. Although I did not speak on that occasion many of your Lordships did. I thought the noble Earl's conclusion on the main point was quite unacceptable and the present raising of the matter in the gracious Speech is, in fact, a reversal of policy. So far as the toll of road accidents is due to, or has its origin in, the inadequacy of our road system, the remedy is largely a question of finance. If sufficient finances were forthcoming the 54 whole of our road system could be modernised in the course of a certain number of years. It was urged that this is really capital expenditure; that the large sums involved cannot be defrayed from annual revenue and that that is the bottleneck which prevents anything from being done. The noble Earl on behalf of Her Majesty's Government said that the Treasury could not agree to that proposal. He said (OFFICIAL REPORT. Vol. 186, col. 145)… an increase of our National Debt without the possibility of ascribing it to any particular earning revenuewas not legitimate. The noble Earl also said that of borrowing money to pay for national defence. The suggestion struck me at that time, and strikes me now, as being entirely wrong.
I am glad to see, if I read the gracious Speech aright, that Her Majesty's Government are contemplating legislation to permit capital to be used for these purposes. It is really a capital expenditure which, in the long run and indirectly, is economically remunerative. It is not like expenditure upon armaments which is à fonds perdu and, although necessary and essential for national defence and the protection of our liberties, does not bring in directly, or brings in only very indirectly, any economic return. Roads are different. They are part of the industrial and commercial equipment of this Island. We cannot do without them. Instead of the road system developing gradually over centuries, as it did, meeting the needs of horse traffic, when there is a sudden change and when hundreds of thousands of machines are set going upon the roads one cannot cope with the resulting situation without large initial capital expenditure. If you hold back from that expenditure for some legalistic reason, because, for example, it is not directly remunerative, you are making a very great mistake.
I would say, further, that the present road system is extremely costly. The waste of labour and the waste in waiting time is enormous. I believe that the interest and the sinking fund—for, of course, there must be a sinking fund—would be recovered in a very short time by the sheer saving achieved in the avoidance of that kind of waste—waste that is not immediately visible and direct. The long view would show that capital expenditure here is quite legitimate. Let me 55 add that the statistics on road accidents with which we are provided do not paint a true picture and have an unduly pessimistic appearance. We usually have simply the number of deaths and seriously injured on the roads year by year, and they show that the total is almost stationary; about 230,000 a year, year after year, including the Killed—who are, of course, a much smaller number. People say: What is the good of all this campaign, of the educating of the children and of the warnings that are given, when we find that there is no decrease in the number of accidents? These figures are entirely misleading. The real test is: how many accidents are there per thousand cars.
In the meantime, the number of cars has been doubled. If the safety campaign had had no effect, if people were as careless as they had been, the number of accidents would also have doubled with the doubling of the number of cars. But that is not the case. In 1934, which was the peak year twenty years ago, the number of accidents (the Ministry of Transport have been kind enough to give me this figure) was 99 per 1,000 cars. Last year it was 43. That shows that a great deal has been achieved. If we take the killed, the ratio of killed is down further per thousand cars. It has gone down by approximately two-thirds, which is satisfactory, though quite inadequate as a solution, for the total is still terrifyingly large. All the money spent on improving the roads, if it has an indirect effect on further decreasing accidents, is legitimate expenditure. In addition, we are told that the number of cars may be doubled again in the next twenty years. Therefore we may expect, if nothing is done to meet that situation, to see the accident ratio increase.
The third point which I am delighted to see mentioned in the gracious Speech is the development of higher technological education. I had the honour, when I was President of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, to bring this matter before your Lordships' House, in a debate which attracted a great deal of support within the House and a good deal of attention outside. The noble Viscount, Lord Woolton, who was at that time Lord President of the Council, made a most helpful and sympathetic speech and promised an active policy of development. 56 That policy is being pursued, and I am delighted to know that further measures are contemplated in the near future. May I say one word, incidentally, to express the deep sorrow which all of us feel who are interested in this matter at the death of Sir Roderick Hill. It was an unexpected and early death of one who has been a most efficient leader in this sphere of national activity. This whole subject is to be debated next week on a Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, who on this occasion will be representing the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, and it is unnecessary, therefore, for me to say anything further now.
The only other comment I have to make on the gracious Speech, on the domestic side, is that I am very happy to see that the question of the pollution of the sea by oil is to be actively pursued. The country is gradually, but very slowly, becoming alive to this great evil. The emptying of refuse oil from ships' tanks causes great lakes, so to speak, of floating oil upon the surface of the sea, which, when they drift to our seaside resorts, befoul the beaches and cause great inconvenience and nuisance. And, more than that, to the bird population of the sea it causes most shocking cruelty, for the sea birds, diving through this oil film, which they cannot see or recognise, in pursuit of their daily food, find their feathers clogged with oil. They are unable to fly; they have no hope of getting food for themselves. The result is that they suffer a lingering death. When their bodies are washed up in hundreds, and sometimes in thousands upon our coasts, they are a melancholy spectacle. Not all the cruelties which are dealt with by all the Royal Societies for the protection of birds and animals in their total are equal to the cruelty that has been inflicted upon the seabirds by this practice of evacuating oil. One is glad to know that the British shipping industry has now, at last, of its own motion taken up this question and is proposing measures which the Government, apparently, are prepared to implement.
I regret that one comparatively minor question, though it should be ripe for treatment, has not yet been dealt with; that is the question of charitable trusts and the common good fund, about which there has been much inquiry. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, was chairman of a Committee whose recommendations commanded, 57 on the whole, general assent. Nothing has been done, though years have passed, except for the passing of one small Bill dealing with a particular legal anomaly. I believe that action is held up by technical difficulties and complexities. I hope that the new Lord Chancellor, as well as bringing a new point of view to bear, will also bring a driving force which will carry this necessary and useful measure through its later stages and on to the Statute Book.
I would refer to one more important omission (I am sorry that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has left the Chamber, for I know that this is a matter in which he is keenly interested)—namely, the reform of the Constitution of your Lordships' House. That also does not appear in the gracious Speech. We discussed it several times here, and your Lordships will all remember that several years ago we had a conference on the subject, on a Motion made from this quarter of the House and accepted by all Parties. We had a conference in 1948, and that conference was attended by the leaders of all the Parties. For the Government of that time, there sat on it the then Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, Mr. Herbert Morrison, and, from your Lordships' House, the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, who was then the Leader of the House, and the noble and learned Earl (as he now is), Lord Jowitt, then Lord Chancellor. From the Conservative Opposition, there were Mr. Eden, the noble Marquess the present Leader of the House, Lord Salisbury, the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who is now sitting on the Government Front Bench, and Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (as he then was), now Lord Chancellor. For the Liberals there was the Leader of the Party in the House of Commons, Mr. Clement Davies, and myself, on behalf of noble Lords on these Benches. I should say that it is impossible to imagine a more representative body to discuss a measure of this kind.
As some of your Lordships may remember, however, Dr. Thomas Jones said it was his experience, when he was secretary of the Cabinet, that when a number of Ministers were brought together in the hope of getting a decision, more often than not the only result was 58 to arrive at the greatest common platitude. That was not the case on that occasion, because we came to a very complete agreement on a large number of most important issues; and on one in particular there was unanimity: that the Constitution of your Lordships' House ought not to rest on the hereditary principle alone. If hereditary Peers have qualifications, by all means let them sit. If they have none, it is quite indefensible that a Legislative Chamber should consist of persons whose sole right is the distinction of some ancestor. That was agreed—I confess, somewhat to my surprise—subject to confirmation by the respective Parties. When it came to the question of the powers of the House there was not the same agreement, although the difference was an exceedingly narrow one and, in my view, of very little importance. Both the Conservative Leaders and the Labour Leaders withdrew from their position—I think they were a little afraid of what they had done. They were rather afraid of their own tails—and they found an important question of principle in whether the delay under the Parliament Act should be three months longer or three months shorter. Six years have gone by since then. I believe that a great opportunity was missed.
The question of powers is not the most important. I should have been quite prepared, as I think many others would have been, to leave the question of powers as it stands to-day, because what is of importance is the influence of your Lordships' House, not its formal legal power to delay a Bill for two years, for eighteen months or for one year, or whatever the period may be. What is important is the influence which would be exercised by a House of 200 to 300 Members all of whom, and not, as in the present House, only a small proportion, could speak to the nation and would be listened to by the nation. Whether their formal powers be large or small, in moments of crisis and difficulty a body of opinion in an Assembly like that would be likely to influence the electorate.
I do not wish in any way to quarrel with, or to attempt to override, the elected representative system, but there are many people in the country, as we all know, who ought to be in the Legislature but who cannot face the arduous and costly burden of being a candidate for Parliament or a Member of the House 59 of Commons. Surely we ought to devise means to meet that difficulty, not only by the casual admission into your Lordships' House of three or four men of that kind a year. We ought to be able to devise a better Constitution than this for this country, because I feel convinced that, if we do not, the day will come when we of this generation shall be bitterly blamed for having missed our opportunity while it was possible, and for leaving the country in some great revolutionary period or time of crisis or difficulty with what it has now, a Single-Chamber Constitution. For though this House renders useful service in minor revisions of the clauses of Bills, it does not command—whatever may be said—the attention of or present the leadership that is needed by the nation as a whole.
I would now for a moment say a few words on the paragraph in the gracious Speech on the economic position of this country, which depends undoubtedly on world commerce. The gracious Speech says:In company with other Governments of the Commonwealth. My Government … will seek to maintain the advance towards a freer system of trade and payments, and to extend the markets for our exports.My mind goes back, as that of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, may go back, to the year 1932 and the Ottawa Conference. Shades of Ottawa! For a Conservative Government to declare, in such emphatic and unambiguous terms, that what is needed is greater freedom of trade in international commerce! I only wish that that view had prevailed at that time, instead of the pathetic faith in the panacea of general tariffs, the most crude and futile instrument that has ever been conceived for the regulation and handicapping of international trade.
I had the honour of inaugurating a debate in your Lordships' House last April on world population and resources. We urged very strongly that it was essential, on the ground of humanity and on all other grounds, to promote the development of the backward countries of the world, and all of us who took part in that debate will rejoice to find in the gracious Speech a paragraph about promoting the development of the Colonial Empire and full support for the Colombo Plan. Of course that includes the British contribution to the United Nations, a body which has done so much in this field.
60 As to our international position in general, we had a debate on that matter in the last days of the Session that has just concluded. My noble friend Lord Layton spoke from these Benches on matters relating to Europe, and I on other affairs. I have nothing to add on that subject, except one thing—this is my last point, but it is perhaps the most important of all that we shall be touching upon to-day: that is, what should be the fundamental purpose of our international policy, particularly in Europe? I find, to my regret, a lingering belief in the principle of the balance of power. The balance of power, which was accepted almost as an obvious principle of policy in the eighteenth century, and to some extent more recently still, seems to be held by some as the ultimate aim of a wise foreign policy. Many of your Lordships, probably, have been listening, as I have been, to the able series of lectures by Sir Oliver Franks. His latest lecture a few days ago interested me especially. It was marked, as all his lectures had been—and indeed as all his career has been—by high qualities of ability and wisdom. In this last lecture he said that the old Europe is dead and that we shall have to build up a new Europe. But while we all agree with that statement, he assumed, so far as I could see, that Europe meant Western Europe. He said that we must get rid of all the quarrelling, warring, mutually hostile little countries in Europe and combine them together into one powerful whole, implying that that is a needed balance, with N.A.T.O. and the United States behind it, to the countries of the East which are under Communist influence. When we have done that, he implied, we shall have achieved our object. I should have thought that in doing that we should have only begun to achieve our object. I should have thought that the idea of a balance was entirely wrong, and ought deliberately to be discarded from the diplomatic vocabulary of the world. Possibly in one of his remaining lectures Sir Oliver Franks may make good that deficiency.
If one studies the history of Europe, particularly in the eighteenth century, when this doctrine was at its height, as I had a certain obligation to do at one time of my life for examination purposes, one learns that, so far from preventing wars, the doctrine of the balance of power has 61 been an unending source of war, because that balance was continually shifting as alliances shifted. During that period, all the great Powers of Europe—Britain, France, Prussia and Russia: those were the great Powers then—were at one time in alliance and at another at war with every other one of the group: they were continually changing partners all through that century. The result was that in the 130 years between the time that King William III got control of British foreign policy and the Battle of Waterloo, this country was at war for as many years as it was at peace, That was the result of the balance of power.
In the nineteenth century the Concert of Europe did maintain some degree of understanding among the great Powers, but in that century there gradually grew up that system of alliances which came to fruition in 1914, a balance which it was hoped would be stable between the Triple Entente, on the one hand, and the Triple Alliance, on the other. It was not stable: it was the source of war, as 1914 showed. Later, in the time of Hitler, it was thought that there was such a balance against the military power of Germany. There was a balance of power; no-one, it was thought, would venture to break it. There came suddenly the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty; the whole balance was shifted, and the world was once more at war. I therefore beg your Lordships to put no faith in any doctrine of balance of power. It is true that our historical function has been a sound one, to prevent any one Power from becoming dominant in Europe; and we must adopt any Alliances we can to prevent that, whether it is a question of Louis XIV, Napoleon, Wilhelm II or Hitler or, now, the ghost of Karl Marx. That no doubt is our duty. But one cannot possibly accept a policy of drift and anarchy, or in my judgment, a see-sawing balance with Britain as a makeweight.
We are driven, therefore, to the third and, in my view, right course—namely, that of collective security. That, and that alone, should be our ultimate aim. Let us make that collective, security as wide as possible. Even if, owing to the action of the Communist countries, it can for the time being be largely only on a regional basis, let us make that collective security as powerful and as effective as possible. But let us not leave out of 62 account Europe East of the Elbe; let us not leave out of account, either, India, China or the whole of Asia. Successive Governments have in recent years made this the essence of their policy. The present Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, has declared his devotion to it again and again in splendid declarations, and the gracious Speech once more reaffirms it. If I were to put my finger on what, to me, is the most important paragraph of the gracious Speech, it would be the fourth paragraph, which says:My Government re-affirm their belief that the United Nations Organisation is essential to the furtherance of international concord, and will give it their wholehearted support."Essential" is the word. If we hold fast to that, together with the Commonwealth and the United States, the other free nations will follow and, sooner or later, the Communist countries as well. That is the way to stability; that is the road to peace.
§ 4.13 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, the remarks of the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, on Palestine must have moved and interested us all, and I find myself largely in agreement with what he has said on this matter. I can confirm what he has said about the wonderful improvements which the State of Israel, and, before the State of Israel was formed, the Jews, made in the agriculture of that country. I remember in 1913 driving in a cart without springs dragged by two horses over the plain of Esdraelon, threatened at one point by robbers, and finding there a great plain, desolate except for a few farms. I flew over that plain a year or so before we gave up the Mandate, and the plain from the air seemed to be cultivated from beginning to end. But it must be remembered—I do not say this to detract from the value of the work that has been done by the Jews—that the Jews have behind them capital, technicians and help from the United States and elsewhere which has never been given to the Arabs.
I find myself in much closer agreement with the noble and learned Earl than I believe he assumed over the question of Jerusalem. I recognise that at the moment there is complete access within the ancient city to the sacred sites, and the Arabs are most fair in seeing that this access is possible. Our fear is that at 63 some time or another the State of Israel, at a favourable moment, might make a sudden attack on the city as a whole and seize it. Therefore we are alarmed as we find the State of Israel gradually turning the new city of Jerusalem more and more into their capital. But I recognise, and I did recognise in the speech to which the noble and learned Earl referred, that it is now out of practical politics to internationalise the whole of the city. I said that the decision of the United Nations to internationalise the city was a decision which at present is accepted neither by the State of Israel nor by the State of Jordan, but it makes it all the more important that nothing should be done now which could prejudice the carrying out of the decision in the future, or which might prejudice the possibility, even if the city is not internationalised, of placing the sacred places and other sites both in Jerusalem and elsewhere under some international control. Therefore, I really find myself in agreement with the noble and learned Earl on that point.
Quite wholeheartedly I am in agreement with him in the appeal which he made for the refugees. It is impossible to exaggerate the misery and squalor of their position. It is true that many of them left the country at the call of the Arab States which were at war with Israel; but, though I do not want to say anything controversial, in view of the sympathetic speech made by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, I feel it right to remind the House that the first great evacuation of the Arabs took place after that appalling massacre, when women and children were massacred and their bodies thrown in a well, in a village not far from Jerusalem. It was then, I am told, that the great exodus of panic-stricken people started. But this particular problem of refugees concerns us all, however it came to pass, and there can be no settlement in Palestine—and no peace between Israel and Jordan, but a perpetual threat to peace—until the problem of the refugees is settled. Though the responsibility for that does not rest chiefly on Great Britain, it does rest on the United Nations Organisation which called the State of Israel into existence.
Like the noble and learned Earl opposite, I had proposed to say something about one of the omissions from the gracious speech—namely, the omission 64 of any reference to the hydrogen bomb. I expected that in the gracious Speech we might hear of steps which the Government were taking to try to secure some international control of nuclear weapons. After all, this is the most urgent immediate problem. It is an awful thought that if, say, three or four of these bombs—and they are in existence at the present time—were dropped on London, practically the whole of London would be destroyed. The longer a settlement is delayed, the more difficult it will be to secure one. It is pointed out in this month's issue of the Atomic Scientists' Review that since 1945, when the Baruch plan was rejected, matters have been getting more and more difficult. These bombs are now possessed not only by the United States but by other nations. It states that they are possessed in such numbers—nobody knows how many they possess—that it would be impossible now to have anything like a thorough inspection which would make it sure that no nation had concealed such bombs. Therefore, it is the more urgent that steps should be taken as soon as possible by which some effective agreement might be reached which would, at any rate, make it highly improbable—it may go further than that—that these bombs would be used.
I am afraid I have little faith in those who say, "These weapons are so terrible that they are themselves a deterrent to war, and it is most unlikely they will ever be used." Those who hold these rather optimistic views do not appreciate the intensity of the hatred which may obsess a nation, and when hatred and fear are combined a nation in danger of defeat which possessed these bombs would, I think, almost inevitably use them. Of course, in connection with a treaty against the use of such bombs there is the question of civil defence. Here, again, I had rather hoped that we might have had some statement about what has been done in connection with civil defence. Our old methods of civil defence are clearly obsolete, and the new methods will no doubt have to be very drastic and revolutionary if they are to be effective. But if they are to be so drastic, the sooner we can start making effective preparations the better.
There was one other matter in connection with foreign politics to which 65 wanted to refer and to which no reference, so far as I can see, could be made in the gracious Speech except as instructions to our delegates at the United Nations Organisation. I am thinking of the continued religious persecution in various parts of the Continent. So far as I know, there is no such persecution actually in Russia itself at the present time, but there is undoubtedly persecution in some of the States of Europe which are under Communist control. There is persecution in Czechoslovakia, in Hungary and in Poland. Three or four years ago, the Archbishop of Prague, Archbishop Beran, was put in house custody. Then, as his people still respected him, he was moved away to some castle. There the people came and waited outside the window of the part of the castle in which he was imprisoned, for his blessing. He has since been moved away to some unknown destination. No accusation has been brought against him and he has not been brought for trial. So far as I know, his destination is completely concealed. This man was one of the men most honoured in Czechoslovakia before the revolution.
Or take the Primate of Poland. There charges were brought against him in a vague kind of way. He was ordered to go to a monastery and then, so far as we know—the facts are still uncertain—he was arrested and has been taken away to some unknown place. I have mentioned two single cases of this persecution, but there are a large number of ordinary parish priests and of ordinary laity who are persecuted because of their religion and who, when they practise their religion, know that at any time they may in some way have to suffer for it. I know that this country cannot take up the matter by itself, but it is one of those matters which ought from time to time to be brought before U.N.O., for, after all, U.N.O. does recognise, I believe, as one of the qualifications of a member State, that it accepts the rights of man; and among the rights of man is freedom of religion.
I welcome everything that is included in the more domestic part of the gracious Speech. I am most thankful that the pensions of the aged people are to be raised. Whenever there has been a rise in wages there has been a rise in prices, and the old people with fixed pensions are those who have had to suffer most. 66 I would just add that raising the amount of pension does not by itself solve the problem of the older people. Some are still capable of work and would like to work, and employers should be encouraged to employ them. There are others who are quite incapable of work and who are living extremely lonely lives. In the North I have been struck again and again by tragedies which have occurred through lonely old people who have no relations to look after them and who have been living by themselves in great squalor and destitution. The local authorities ought to do something more to see that these old and helpless people are regularly visited, and every encouragement should be given to the voluntary societies, which in many cases already undertake this work, to undertake it on a still larger scale.
I welcome the statement about the improvement of the roads, for whatever the causes are of these terrible accidents, undoubtedly the ancient condition of the roads is one of them, although not the only one. If we made our roads perfect to-morrow, there would still be moral causes which would lead to accidents. The present position is nothing less than appalling. There are fourteen people killed every day on the roads, and it is stated that every two and a half minutes there is some accident to an individual on the roads. We have been content to allow this to continue year after year. One of the causes is the old-fashioned nature of our roads which were intended for traffic very different from that which we have at the present time.
There are two other references I wish to make, and in both cases the matters are not in the gracious Speech. I had rather hoped that there might be some reference to the "terror comics," as I think they are called. Perhaps it seems oddly undignified for such a matter to appear in a Speech from the Throne. But these "terror comics" are widely circulated among quite young people, and I believe they are doing a great deal of harm. I do not know whether your Lordships have studied any of these "terror comics." I doubt very much whether any of you would be able to purchase one if you went to a shop and asked for one. A Bishop in gaiters and apron would have no chance whatever of buying such a "comic." But various good people have 67 sent me these "comics," asking what I am going to do about them. All I will say about these "comics" is that, while I do not think they could be, in the narrower sense of the term, called "indecent," they are the most horrible productions which I have ever seen—they portray horrible nightmares, cruel crime, brutality and ugliness. They must be produced by people of depraved and perverted minds and sold by people with minds equally depraved.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
I am told that now a considerable number are produced in this country. I have not been able to verify it, but I am told from quite good sources that they are now produced in this country. I am not urging the Government to legislate—I am not quite sure whether legislation is the right way of dealing with this matter. I should like, if their legal advice approves, to see a test case brought against those who are publishing or selling some of the worst of these comics. Then, if that fails it may be necessary to consider the possibility of legislation. I hope the Government will be able to assure us that this matter is very much in their minds and that they are anxious to take whatever practical steps can be taken against what is a growing evil.
What I admit caused me both relief and regret was the omission from the gracious Speech of any proposal regarding lotteries. I believe that there is no suggestion of a Bill to deal with minor lotteries. I think it would be a mistake to deal with one small section of a very big subject, ignoring the rest of it. This particular proposal for legalising in various ways smaller lotteries was one of the suggestions which the Royal Commission, after considering it fully, deliberately and emphatically turned down. It would be strange and inconsistent if the Government had neglected all the recommendations of the Royal Commission and had chosen this particular proposal for commendation and legislation. So I am relieved to find that there is nothing like that and no suggestion of it in the gracious Speech for, if such a suggestion had been made, I am certain that it would have met with a great deal of vehement opposition.
68 On the other hand, I am sorry that the Government are not even contemplating the carrying out of at any rate some of the proposals of the Royal Commission on Gambling and Lotteries. The gambling and betting law (I am not sure of the technical phrase) is just a jungle; and whatever views different people may hold about betting and lotteries, anyone who is at all aware of the law feels it is most important that it should be revised. I should like to see it revised especially in connection with the "Pools." I am not for a moment suggesting that any Government should be so foolish as to attempt to abolish the "Pools," nor should I feel it right that the Government should, by legislation, attempt to interfere with what a large number of people regard as a perfectly harmless amusement.
But there are two directions in which I should like to see some interference with the "Pools." First, I should like a maximum amount to be fixed for the prizes. There can be no moral justification for a person finding himself or herself in possession of, say, £40,000, £50,000 or £60,000 without having done a stroke of work towards it. These large prizes have a very bad influence on the country as a whole. Secondly, I should like to see some control over advertisements. I am not suggesting—and this, again, the Royal Commission ruled out—that advertisements connected with betting should be prohibited. There, again, I think the opposition would be so great that it would be impossible for any Government to carry through such legislation. But the Royal Commission drew a distinction between advertisements which were intended to give information and advertisements which were intended to incite to gambling. Some of the advertisements issued by the "Pools" are not merely to give information but are intended to encourage gambling.
The promoters of the "Pools" must spend enormous amounts of money on the circulars they send round, and cause an enormous amount of trouble to the Post Office. I think also that they must be very optimistic, because almost every week I have sent to me by one of the promoters a coupon to fill up. I have not the intellectual power for filling up such a coupon, any more than I should think 69 of doing a cross-word puzzle. But, now and again, there comes a tempting advertisement. In the last one I received, only a few days ago, the promoters of the "Pool" say that they have not heard from me for some time and that perhaps I have been too busy. They add: "Do you think you can write this week? An investment from you now, and you could be a big winner before Christmas." I am not responding to that tempting invitation; but I can imagine that a large number of people may think: "Here is our chance of getting a very large sum of money before Christmas." The excitement and that attitude towards life which is encouraged by these vast prizes is, I think, thoroughly unhealthy.
There is only one other thing I would say which I ought to have said earlier, and that is that I welcome very much in the earlier part of the gracious Speech the statement about the necessity for the closest possible co-operation with the United States. The future of Europe and the future of the world depend upon that. Although occasionally in the United States things may be said which irritate us and actions are taken which we feel are unwise, we also occasionally do and say things which they dislike. But for us to drift apart would be the greatest victory that Communism could gain. In this country we must do all that we can to show friendliness and hospitality to the thousands of young Americans who now come over to Great Britain for a time. The welcome and the kindness which they receive from the ordinary English people will send them back to their own country as ambassadors of the closest union between the two great nations.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I hope it is for your Lordships' convenience that I should intervene in this debate at this present moment. As quite a number of your Lordships know, it was originally proposed that the economic, commercial and industrial subjects should be dealt with tomorrow and that I should open the debate for the Opposition; but as there are some of your Lordships who want to express their regret at some omission from the gracious Speech, it has been decided, through the usual channels, that we should now go on with what I regard—and my view is shared, I believe, by many noble Lords— 70 as the most important item in the gracious Speech. It was the part of the Speech that was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. It is in these words:In company with other Governments of the Commonwealth, My Government are taking part in the present review of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In this and other ways My Government will seek to maintain the advance towards a freer system of trade and payments, and to extend the markets for our exports.I hold strongly to the view that the present Conference at Geneva on the revision of the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade will set the pattern for the prosperity of this country for years to come, because I think we should not forget that, for our size, we are the greatest trading country in this world.
For myself, there can never be any argument that our future economic prosperity, the future wellbeing of our people, full employment and the higher standard of living which we all desire, can be achieved only in a world where tariffs, import restrictions, currency embargoes, and like artificial restrictions are reduced to the barest minimum, if not eliminated altogether. Surely restrictions upon the free flow of trade must be removed before convertibility can ever become a reality we, the greatest trading nation in the world, must surely seek our markets in every country of the world. So I find myself a keen supporter of the Government's plan, and a rather grateful supporter of the courageous attitude which the President of the Board of Trade is taking at Geneva. I know that this is a matter upon which there is a substantial divergence of opinion especially among noble Lords opposite, and I am not at all certain that there would not be a divergence of opinion amongst some noble Lords on this side of your Lordships' House; but that, I think, is all to the good. I think we should thresh these matters out by honest discussion.
I must confess that I stand here as an unrepentant free trader, with, I hope, those reservations which experience of modern industrial and trading conditions must always inflict upon one. I know that there is a school of thought, not only in industry but amongst some serious thinkers in this country, that we can build a Commonwealth preferential empire, self-supporting within itself and 71 completely independent of the outside world. That expression of opinion was contained in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, when he said (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 190 (No. 1), col. 15):I believe that Great Britain and the Commonwealth and Empire could, in time, form a self-supporting economic unit, and that, as a result, the dollar problem could become a memory of the past.I hope the noble Lord will not think, if I say that I profoundly disagree with him, that that in any way detracts from my admiration of his most competent and charming speech in seconding the Address to the Throne.
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, may I just intervene for one moment? The noble Lord has read what I said perfectly correctly, but I never mentioned the word "preferences." I think the noble Lord's argument is based on preferences. I should just like to make that point.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My argument is based upon precisely what the noble Lord said. I know that what I say this afternoon will also not accord with the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. I have heard the noble Lord express contrary opinions, with sincerity. Whilst I fundamentally disagree with him, I acknowledge the sincerity with which he puts forward his views. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has somewhat of a peculiar record in this matter. When our positions were reversed and I was defending G.A.T.T. at the Torquay Conference, he poured all the scorn he could upon it and asked: what was G.A.T.T.? Was it something you kept in your hip pocket to shoot somebody with? We all change our minds, and perhaps the noble Viscount is, shall I say, not a sinner coming to repentance but a follower of his right honourable friend the Prime Minister in thinking that a slavish consistency is the hobgoblin of a narrow mind.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
May I make my position perfectly clear? When I was dealing with the noble Lord some years ago, I took the view, which I still hold, that it was quite unnecessary to bind 72 oneself never to have any new preferences, when one was making all the individual treaty agreements which got jumbled up together in G.A.T.T. But I face the situation today, when all that has been done. I do not believe that it need have been done. I am now facing the situation which exists at present. A great many things were inherited from right honourable gentlemen of the Party opposite, and we have to deal with them.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
That is a very adroit explanation, but I do not read into the speeches of the President of the Board of Trade at Geneva quite that explanation. He is saying "The same and more." However, it will pass for the time being.
I believe that anyone who thinks we can set up an economic bloc of Commonwealth trade among ourselves, to the exclusion of the countries of Western Europe or the Americas, is really thinking in terms of the Empire of Ottawa of 1932, and not the Commonwealth of 1954. I firmly believe—and I am not alone in this belief—that any attempt to increase preferences or to alter the major principles of G.A.T.T. would split the Commonwealth from top to bottom. So far as I have been able to trace, in the discussions at Geneva the only advocate of increased preferences has been Australia, and the opposition of Canada has been voiced upon many occasions. The other day I came across something that a well-informed Canadian said in a broadcast at the time of the Commonwealth Ministers' Conference in London. His comments upon this Alice in Wonderland conception of an Empire divorced from the world are as follows:The strictly preferential Empire is therefore as impossible and distasteful to us as the idea of annexation by the United States, an idea which has had no powerful political expression in Canada for one hundred and three years.He ends with the words:Don't, please, make us choose.So I would ask: do they really think that the future of this country can be assured by world trading that is negotiated in groups? Our trade spreads to every country in the world, and we must negotiate with every country in the world. Do noble Lords think that the countries of Western Europe, the U.S.A. and Canada, would agree to the kind of General Agreement which allowed the Commonwealth 73 to distribute preferences amongst themselves as they desired? We have to face the fact that, if we want a world from which tariffs and trade embargoes are gradually eliminated, we have to take risks.
I listened with great attention to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, when we were discussing the Nine-Power Agreement recently. The noble Lord said, quite frankly, that there were risks in that Agreement. There must be risks in the Agreement that we shall negotiate at Geneva. I feel certain that we shall have to give up, or see curtailed, some of our traditional markets. We shall have to reorientate some of our industrial thinking at home; but I firmly believe that at Geneva this country is being offered the opportunity of taking moral leadership in the work of trade and commerce, as we were sensible enough to seize the leadership and the initiative in the world of diplomacy in the Nine-Power Conference. This choice of leadership is no-where better illustrated than with Japan. Japan will join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade as a first-class member, in spite of any tacit opposition from us. I am alive to the risks. I have always been alive to some of the difficulties with which the General Agreement confronted this country.
I would ask noble Lords to consider this aspect. We can no more keep Japan out of world trade organisation than we could keep Western Germany out of a European defence organisation. One has to take risks. But what a chance of leadership! We are the last country in this world that can afford to see the Japanese economy collapse. The noble Lord, Lord Barnby, says: "Hear, hear!" I remember the noble Lord's contribution on this question—the Asian question—in a debate on migration in your Lordships' House not many days ago. We have to see that the Japanese economy is brought up to a reasonable level. If we do not, there is somebody waiting on the doorstep to do it for us. The fears of the Asian world may well be at stake. I criticise the right honourable gentleman the President of the Board, therefore, on this one aspect: that he is trying, as I believe, to hide behind the skirts of America, instead of being one of the sponsors of Japanese entry. That is not leadership; it is the negation of leadership.
74 Whilst knowing full well some of the difficulties which will confront us, and some of the alleged malpractices of Japanese manufacturers—rather exaggerated, I would suggest, but still there—I feel certain that this country and Japan can enter into a bilateral agreement, within the scope of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, to safeguard the interests of our manufacturers. Do not lose sight of the fact that Japan is a very good customer of sterling countries, Her sterling imports in 1953 were £240 million, and she purchased some £50 million worth of wool from Australia. When I speak of bilateral agreements, let me add that I believe we shall always need bilateral agreements to safeguard the position of development of Colonies, and of undeveloped countries. All the metropolitan countries in the world will have to join in those agreements, because, in doing our job to develop the Colonies, we, like other countries with colonies, must always perforce, if not shield the shorn lamb from the East wind, at least shield the newly-born lamb from the adverse wind. That can be done under the scope of G.A.T.T. So I find myself wholeheartedly supporting the Government policy. I want them to go forward and seize this moral leadership. This country can come into its own again as leaders of world trade.
Before I leave the world scene, what of America? Can we hope, with the change in the political climate in America, for a more liberal trade policy? To the noble Lord who sorrowfully shakes his head I would say: Hope springs eternal in the human breast. If that is not possible, then we shall have to tell America so—and I think Geneva is the place at which to do it. We must tell her firmly, politely and in a friendly way that she must play her part. Although we can take the leadership I do not think we can travel alone. If America refuses to other countries, by closing her markets behind tariff walls and custom arrangements, the opportunity of earning her currency, she can never be surprised if those same countries retaliate by putting up restrictions against the import of her manufactures and surpluses.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, would the noble Lord permit an interruption to remind him that, whatever may be the desire of those economists in the United 75 States who think that course is right, they have to be subject to the electoral vote, and the vote of workers in the United States. They will vote in favour of their continued employment, instead of the import of goods from low-cost labour. After all, to the American, British labour is sweated labour, when it is paid only one-fourth of what American labour gets. Whatever might be the desirable or proper thing to do, that must be subject to considerations of the vote. And it would seem as illogical for us to ask for that as it would have been, I assume, in the recent negotiations with France, when we made such a sacrifice as to commit our troops until the end of the century in Germany without even asking them to make a contribution, to ask that they should have two years' military service in their country, as we have it here. The answer, I suppose, from the Government would be that it is impossible to enter into a bargain like that because of the proletariat vote in France.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I believe that the appreciation by America of the part she will be forced to play in this world as the greatest creditor nation may be slow, but I think it is going to be exceeding sure. It is better now than it was twelve months ago, and I think it is going to get better still. If it does not, someone must tell the people whom Lord Barnby is afraid of in America that if that country pursues her present policy indefinitely, she will end up with all the dollars, all the goods and no customers whatsoever.
May I now turn to the policy at home? The gracious Speech states that:My Ministers will continue to encourage the expansion of industry and the full employment of My People.Our industrial progress depends upon increasing our productivity, and that brings me to the crux of the matter to which I think we must address ourselves in this country. We have to improve our competitive position in the world markets. There is no doubt that we have shared in the general world prosperity, but the important thing that we have to realise is that we have not increased our share of world exports of manufactures. In my view, that means that our task is two-fold. We have to put more horse power at the hand of the worker, and we have 76 to obtain an increased effort from everyone in this country, manual workers, brain workers and management. That is our task. The first requirement calls for capital investment. I have always thought that there is a great moral to be drawn by us from the fact that the two greatest capital investment-conscious countries in this world are the capitalist United States of America and the Communist U.S.S.R. We have to increase our capital equipment. Now the position in this country to-day is buoyant. We have full employment, and there is all the climate for increased expansion; but I think we should be well advised—and here I am not making a Party political speech—to pay some tribute to the late Government for the foundations they laid in 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949.
I well remember the distribution of industry legislation, and also the development area legislation, which I was privileged to pilot through your Lordships' House. We knew that our first task was to repair and increase our productive capacity. Our first thought was factories, factories, factories. It would have been easy to build only houses. That would have helped to catch the popular vote. But we built factories. Let us not forget that. Let us not forget, when we are invited to "Invest in success," that the success was based upon that wise policy of the late Government and the generous help of the United States of America. It is because of that that we stand where we do to-day. The Chancellor of the Exchequer—and if it is his policy which is enunciated in the gracious Speech he is proving strong and purposeful—does not want that very nice slogan: "Invest in success" turned into a spending spree. We have to invest in capital. We must increase our capital projects.
The noble Lord, Lord Jessel, yesterday drew attention to that fact in regard to the building of factories. He said that there are many factories in this country where it is impossible to have efficient production, and that those are factories which do not add to our competitive position in the markets abroad. The noble Lord was quite right. That is why I view with great satisfaction the words in the gracious Speech that refer to capital development of the roads. I hope that noble Lords will not think I am being cynical when I say that, before I say 77 much about that subject—indeed, before I say anything—I would rather await the event. Lloyd George had a road programme. That went the same way as the others. Chamberlain had a road programme. That went the same way. The only road programme that has been put forward since the war was put forward by my right honourable friend, Alfred Barnes. That went the same way. Why? It was because of what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, called "the Treasury mind." We have to get rid of, or alter, this Treasury mentality.
I can think of no better illustration than that which I am going to give your Lordships, of an industry which was tied hand and foot by penal taxation, was released and is to-day our greatest exporting industry in this country. I make no apology for referring to the motor industry. In 1947, when I spoke in your Lordships' House—I think it was my first major speech pointing out the evils of the horse-power tax—I stressed that whereas our designers were the best in the world, they were being turned into tax-dodging designers to get around a formula of taxation which forced us out of the export markets of the world. There was, I said, only one thing to be done—to do away with that method of taxation and give our designers and production engineers a free hand to design and make motor cars for the markets of the world. That was done in 1947. What happened? We beat the Americans at their own game. We are now the greatest motor vehicle exporters in this world. I have here some figures. Between January and September, the first nine months of this year, the value of our exports of motor cars amounted to £259 million. Our exports of motor vehicles totalled 253,832. The U.S.A. came second with 192,336. Western Germany was next with 131,611. That is something about which we can be justly proud. But there is a cloud upon the horizon, and this is where the Treasury mind really has to be changed. No sooner had those world acceptable models started to go into production—models which had proved acceptable in all countries in the world—than the petrol tax was increased to half-a-crown.
What is the position today? Our designers are being forced to design smaller engines and smaller cars because of the cost of petrol, and on the drawing 78 boards of our car manufacturers there is the same multiplicity of models which proved our undoing in the export markets of the world before 1947. I ask the Government to take that into serious consideration. I am well aware of the reasons why the petrol tax was raised to 2s. 6d. It was at the time of Abadan and the necessity to buy dollar petrol. But the position has changed. The world's oil resources today are great and the refinery capacity in this country is great. We cannot afford to allow taxation to force our engineers and designers once again to be "cost-dodgers." While we have to keep one eye on America, do not forget that Western Germany is coming up very fast, and competition increases month by month.
On many occasions it is asked: "Have we in this country lost our will to work?" No; but I would say that one of the things from which we are suffering is the lack of incentive to work. In an interesting speech in the debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, which I have just mentioned, the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said that in the decade, 1952–62, we shall have a million fewer men of industrial productive age. We are becoming an older nation. While we want more horsepower in the hands of the workers, all sides of industry and the Government have to do some real hard thinking about this question of giving incentive to a diminishing labour force. We mast go back to first principles. It is the hope of reward that sweetens labour. Man does not live to work; he works to live. We have to see that earnings are linked to productivity. We should do away with the old idea that wages should be tied to the cost of living. No man starts to live until his earnings pass what it costs to live. That goes right the way through—manual worker, brain worker and management.
I am not concerned at this moment in sharing out the cake—there is plenty of time to discuss that. I am concerned in increasing the size of the cake, until it reaches the dimensions forecast by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said that in the next twenty-five years we in this country can double our standard of living. The Chancellor was quite right—we can; but we shall never do it, he will never do it, no Government will ever do it, while 40 per cent. of the national 79 income is taken in taxation. That makes it an absolute impossibility. That is my answer to the questions "Are we working hard enough?" and "Can we increase our effort?" It is no use dangling the carrot of incentive and then allowing taxation to snatch it away. We have to see that productivity and earnings are related to each other in some way, and that the worker has left in his pocket more of what he earns. If we can do that and at the same time increase our capital investment, I have little fear that we can do what is said in the gracious Speech: that we can keep full employment and increase the standard of living. There is in this country a huge pent-up force of energy. We have the brains to do this and we have the "know-how." What we want is courageous leadership and the incentive to do the job.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, I should think that very rarely has any Government been so fortunate, in bringing forward the gracious Speech after four years of office, to have so many compliments paid to the Government's policy by members of the Opposition. I think it is a great tribute to the policy and work of Her Majesty's Government during the past four years. As a Backbencher, I should like to express my gratitude to the Opposition speakers for what they have said to-day in praise of the Government's policy.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I apologise: three years. In every direction the contents of the gracious Speech, so far as economic affairs are concerned, reflect the building up of our strength during the past three years. We have our divergences of opinion on these matters, but we debate to-day the ways and means of increasing the success and prosperity which this country is enjoying at the present time. Three years ago we were debating the ways and means of retaining our solvency and saving our currency from collapse. What a contrast, and what a tribute to the work and policy of Her Majesty's Government! But having heard all these speeches in praise of the Government, it remains for me, as a supporter of the Government, to be allowed to raise one or two questions 80 concerning that economic policy. As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, the Leader of the Liberal Party, said, the Government's economic policy is, broadly, a reversion of the traditional Conservative line, which we followed particularly in the 1930s. Let me remind the noble Viscount, and other noble Lords, that it was that policy which we followed in the 'thirties that gave Britain a greater proportionate recovery and a swifter recovery than any other country suffering from the world slump which followed 1929–30.
The Government are following a policy which is based on the belief that Britain's future lies best in a trading and finance policy secured by a combination of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and convertibility. The fixed tariffs of G.A.T.T. are to give sufficient stability and security to our export trades to make it possible for us to embark upon convertibility. Convertibility, in its turn, is to help London as a financial centre, to maintain and expand our invisible exports, and to improve our balance of payments position. That, broadly, is the policy being followed. It is a most attractive policy in a favourable world situation, but I should like to put this thought into the minds of your Lordships. The favourable situation which we are now enjoying has been built up in the post-war years by use of those very artifices which are now being condemned. The favourable post-war position has been built up by the use of discrimination, by the use of preferential policies, by inconvertibility and by devaluation. If, under a rigidly enforced G.A.T.T., rules of non-discrimination and of no preference are added to convertibility, I wonder whether we are not in some danger of knocking away the very props on which our structure has been built since the war. That is a thought which I should like to put to your Lordships.
I would further suggest that the security and stability claimed as a benefit of G.A.T.T. may, in the event, prove illusory. It seems to me that the main danger to our exports is not hostile tariffs, but the competition of our rivals; the possibility of dumped United States surplus production, and competition from Japan, who (and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth), if she enters G.A.T.T. cannot logically be 81 long excluded from full partnership and full participation in home and Colonial markets. I was interested in the pure doctrine of free trade put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, but I thought that, when he spoke about Japan, he was scarcely fair to the President of the Board of Trade when he accused him of "sheltering behind the skirts of the United States." That comes ill from one who comes here dressed in Mr. Gladstone's old collar and Mr. Cobden's threadbare coat. It does not carry much conviction.
I believe the danger exists in any recession or downward trend in the terms of trade in the United States, because then those risks which are undoubtedly attendant on the policy, and which the President of the Board of Trade admits exist, may well become not merely risks but actual menaces to our economic position. Therefore, I would say this to the Government. While they go forward with this policy, they should not lead us along a line of absolutely no retreat at Geneva. I fear the possible outcome of Geneva being a reanimated General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Organisation as a permanent international body—in fact, a sort of International Trading Organisation, which was stillborn some years ago, as we all know, because America refused to accept it. What we have got to do, in pursuing this policy, with its attendant risks, is to be flexible in it, so that we have a line of retreat should these fears which, with great humility, I have put forward to your Lordships this afternoon, eventually become practical matters.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
The noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting. I am following his argument wish great care. Would he not agree that this country, of all in the world, has most to gain by fair play in world trade, and fair rules fairly carried out?
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
Certainly; I am all for fair play. The trouble is that the other chap sometimes does not play fair. Britain has a peculiar way of going into these international organisations and, whether it be in her interests or not, of sticking to the obligations and rules which we have accepted. We know that in times of difficulty there is not always amongst all other countries the same determination to keep to the 82 rules to which in more prosperous times they have given their signatures
I know that in these matters of trade and industry at Geneva Her Majesty's Government wish to take a British-Commonwealth line. That is the reason given for their inability to advance in very positive form certain things which we should like to see accepted, such as an amendment of the "No new preference" rule. We are told that the British Commonwealth will not have it. I must here interpose that I wish we had been told more clearly in 1948 and 1949, when the Conservative Party doctrines were being published, that the proposals we made in our policy documents, Britain Strong and Free and our Imperial Charter, were, in fact, dependent on the agreement of all the other members of the Commonwealth. We were not told that at the time.
I should like to put another thought to your Lordships. Is this pro-G.A.T.T. Commonwealth bloc as solid now as it was a few months ago? It seems to me, reading Press reports, that Australia shows signs of taking the lead at Geneva as regards the modification of certain of the proposals which we should like to see modified. The Central African Federation, we know, would stand with us, and also New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan. On the other hand, I admit frankly that Canada is violently against any modification or weakening of the present G.A.T.T. regulations. But Britain's duty, I would remind your Lordships, is not only to the Dominions but to our Colonial Empire as well; and we have peculiar need to safeguard the basic and primary industries of our Colonies, and particularly the West Indies. I know that at Geneva we are trying to do this.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Perhaps I may intervene for a moment. The noble Lord knows that in many things I sympathise with him, and I was the advocate of getting the "No new preference" rule abandoned. But I think we should be accurate about it. As I understood him, he said that Australia and the Central African Federation were with us. That is quite true. But he added that Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa also were in favour of getting rid of the "No new preference" rule. I cannot say what their attitude to G.A.T.T. is at the moment, but when we were dealing with it in 1952 all 83 those three countries were on the side of the people who wanted to maintain the position as it was; and they did not side with those who wanted to get out. I do not think there is any secret about this, because at the time the views of all the countries were published.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
The point I would put is this. Is the position now with those particular Dominions the same as it was at the period the noble Viscount has mentioned? Does this pro-immaculate-G.A.T.T. bloc still exist with the strength and solidity that it did? I do not know; but that is a matter which may well be exposed when the Prime Ministers come here in the next few months to debate these matters.
I was saying that we have a duty, not only to our Dominions but also to our Colonial Empire, and particularly to the West Indies. I said also that I know the President of the Board of Trade is trying to get some modification. In his Geneva speech recently, when the President turned to the question of Colonial territories, he pointed out that under Article XVIII it is up to the United Kingdom, or any other metropolitan territory, to seek on behalf of a colonial territory approval of the special measures which that territory wishes to take for the purposes of development. He rightly pointed out that there may be cases where the industry to be developed depends not upon the limited domestic market of that territory, but upon export to the metropolitan country. The President of the Board of Trade gave notice that the United Kingdom would seek arrangements to deal with these needs individually, as they arise "within the framework of G.A.T.T." It is not quite clear to me what that phrase means. It could mean that he would like to see the Article again altered, so that a metropolitan country could without question take such steps as appeared necessary, without reference to the contracting parties for permission. I sincerely hope that it does mean that, because if that can be accepted it means that Her Majesty's Government will have the liberty we all desire that they should have to do those things which are essential for the welfare of the West Indies in particular. My hope is that at Geneva our determination will be such that, at any and every cost, we shall be able to fulfil our duties to our Colonial peoples and 84 enable them to have that degree of economic prosperity which I believe a rigid G.A.T.T. would deny them, but which a G.A.T.T. employed in the way I hope the President of the Board of Trade means would enable us to carry out.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD DOVERCOURT
My Lords, I must ask for the indulgence which your Lordships so generously give to anyone addressing this House for the first time. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, referred briefly to a speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently at Blackpool, when he concluded with these words:I see no reason why, in the next quarter of a century, if we run our policy properly and soundly, we should not double our standard of living in this country.That statement met with an ovation; but afterwards both opponents and friends were saying: "That is all very fine, but how are we going to do it?" I should like to make a humble contribution in support of the Chancellor.
Your Lordships will remember that the prosperity of this country was built up in the Victorian era by bringing raw materials in our ships from all parts of the world, manufacturing them into appropriate articles in our factories, and then sending them once more abroad in our ships for sale universally. Our future prosperity, to my mind, depends upon our continuing the same methods that our forefathers pursued in Queen Victoria's reign, but with this difference: we must now develop our industry with the most modern mechanisation which scientists year by year present to the world, partly in order to reduce our costs and partly to reduce the possibility of a falling off in our manpower. This will result in increased profits.
The important thing is, what is to be done with those profits in order that we may double the standard of living in this country in twenty-five years? The task, I think, can be accomplished by directors, managers and workers in industry, by shareholders, by the State and, in a small way, by the individual citizen. I will take those five categories in order. But first let me say something about profits. It has been suggested in some quarters that profits should be compulsorily reduced. No proposal could be 85 more foolish in the national interest. There are already sufficient laws to prevent monopolies or international cartels from operating unfairly, and profits generally are regulated at a proper level by competition. That competition may be between similar industries within a nation, or internationally between a nation and other nations. It should be remembered that every industrial firm or company makes a profit if it sells its goods at a price sufficient to cover not only the cost of materials, wages and salaries, but also overhead charges such as rent, rates and various other items. The higher the production, the less is the percentage of overhead charges and the greater is the profit.
The United Kingdom is to-day raising £4,500 million of revenue each year, and approximately half of this comes from taxation on the profits of industrial firms and companies, from income tax on those receiving wages and salaries, and from surtax from those receiving remuneration or dividends therefrom. Let us make as much profit as we can, but let us see that those profits are properly distributed. I will now deal, if I may, with the five sections of the community which will make their contribution. As regards the directors of companies and partner, in private firms, it is absolutely necessary that they shall put aside from profits an adequate sum to replace plant and machinery which is out-of-date or worn out, and to improve and extend the set-up of their factories. This must be placed before any increase of dividends by companies or the drawing of profits by private firms. It may here be said that an increase in production all round will probably cause, through competition, a reduction in prices which will be for the benefit of the community and, at the same time, should help the export trade.
I now come to the workers. Many years ago, the introduction of machinery was opposed on the ground that it would mean loss of employment to those who worked by hand. Until recently, many workers thought that the way to maintain their employment was to be dilatory and to spin out a job. It is now realised, however, that, for example, if there is a "go-slow" in the building of a terrace of houses, the cost of each house and the subsequent rent are higher, which is a bad thing for the national economy. 86 To-day, in every factory, shop and office, the amount of work done per hour by each man and women employed therein is higher than it was even two years ago. Such additional effort is necessary for achieving the task of doubling our standard of living, and that effort must be rewarded. Therefore, the first use to be made of greater profits must be to reduce them by paying additional wages and salaries to all who deserve them—the incentive to which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, referred.
Next comes the question of shareholders. It has been argued in certain quarters that the increase of dividends should be restrained by legislation. Every Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1945 has refused to take any action, although each in his turn has very properly advocated restraint on the part of the directors of companies in order that sufficient profits might be ploughed back into the business for replacements and new developments. The erroneous picture has been drawn of wealthy men drawing huge dividends while the workers are being paid insufficient to meet the increase in the cost of living. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that a wealthy man does not want increased dividends because he gets only 6d. in the £ and the Treasury take the rest. He would much prefer the money to be retained in the company for future expansion. But every big public company has a large number of small shareholders. Let me give an example of a company which is known to me. It has 40,000 shareholders, and the average shareholding is of a value of about £500 per person. As it is known that the holdings of other individuals, companies, insurance companies, investment trusts and so on, in that company are each of much more value than £500, it is obvious that there are a large number of shareholders Who have holdings of the value of £50, £100, £200 or £300.
Inquiry has been made into this matter and the inquiry has shown that most of those people are living on money saved during their working days plus, in many cases, a pension of some kind. They naturally feel that, in order to meet the increased cost of living, they should receive an increased divided from companies which are able to pay one. I am sure that there are many boards 87 of directors who, after resisting for four or five years the temptation to increase their dividends, have done so in order to meet the appeals from the small shareholders. It should further be pointed out that while every business should retain from its profits a sum sufficient to provide for renewals or improvements in plant, buildings and layout, often there may come a time when a big extension is desirable, in which case an appeal for further capital has to be made. In that event—it is a minor point but an important one—a company which has pursued a fair attitude in the way of dividends is more likely to be successful in its appeal.
The fourth participant in this scheme is the State. It already takes 60 per cent. of the profits of industry, and its revenue will enormously increase if this plan is successful. It would lose little by the increase of wages and salaries which I said should come, because the individual worker would be taxed. Therefore, if we are able to make those increased profits, the State should be able to reduce income tax and taxes on goods of various kinds, and to abolish purchase tax altogether. In that way, the cost of living would be greatly reduced. Finally, as regards the ordinary citizen, with increased wages and salaries, and reductions in taxes and in the prices of goods, the men and women of the country, while enjoying a higher standard of life, would be able to save and could thereby contribute to the investment capital of the country which will always be required. By these means and with good will and effort by the whole nation, I believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's forecast can be fulfilled.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
My Lords, all of us who are in the House this evening will count ourselves fortunate to have been here to listen to that extremely interesting speech which we have just heard from my noble friend Lord Dovercourt. The particular good fortune falls to me to be the one to congratulate him. I know that all of your Lordships will agree with me when I say that I hope we shall often hear the noble Lord, particularly on a subject of which he has such deep knowledge.
Earlier speakers have drawn attention to the Commonwealth, to the Colonial 88 Empire and to the various mechanisms of trade of one kind and another. I am delighted, in reading the gracious Speech, to find right at the beginning reference to the Commonwealth and in paragraph 3 the words:My Ministers will promote the development of the Colonial Empire…Much has been said about devices of trade in that part of the world. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention briefly to what might be called our Colonial system, with particular reference to that Service about which one does not hear very much, Her Majesty's Colonial Service. These men are the framework of our administration. They spend their lives in distant lands, often under the most difficult conditions. They do not ask for thanks—they do not expect them; but what they do get is a frequent, and often slanderous, misrepresentation of their efforts. I am pleased to see the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, on the Front Bench this evening. Twenty years ago, I went out as a young officer in the Colonial Service to Uganda, when he was Colonial Secretary. I think that he will agree with me that the greatest change that has taken place since those days is the removal of what I may call that veil of obscurity which used to hang over our British Colonial possessions.
In those days, I think it is fair to say, the world was not very interested in British Colonies, nor they perhaps in the world. How very different now! The blinding white light of publicity plays on their every action, much of it hostile, much of it slanderous. It has had two effects on the Colonial Service. The affairs of the Colonies are now so hitched to world politics or world economics that if a man is to be the Governor of a Territory he must have some working knowledge of both. Secondly, this light of publicity that plays on these Territories, without any remission, underlines what the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, said earlier about the vital need in this country for a bipartisan Colonial policy. Let me list now one or two things on the debit side of this publicity. Edmund Burke might have been writing to-day when he wrote the words:We are on a conspicuous stage and the world marks our demeanour.The newspaper publicity which the Colonies receive in this country is not often very helpful. That is part of the 89 curiously elusive quality of what is known as "publicity," rather than the blame of any newspaper proprietors. But it is a sad thing that riot, bloodshed and blunder are always news, yet unspectacular and really useful work over a matter of years can catch no eye in any headline.
When I first went to Uganda twenty years ago, the ghastly, hideous disease of leprosy was a blight that was spread over the entire territory. The cattle-owning tribes, with whom I did my short spell of service, herded cattle which were scrawny, useless beasts. In the intervening twenty years, leprosy, by steady and imaginative hard work, has been practically eliminated, and the standard of cattle has reached heights which in my day we should have thought it impossible to attain. That is unspectacular work, and so it does not reach the columns of the newspapers. It is the same if a shipyard is building a ship. It is news when a ship is launched; it is not news to anybody that a ship is being built. The Colonial Service do not ask for applause; they do not even ask for thanks; all they ask for is to be fairly represented.
My Lords, later in the gracious Speech I was glad to see that it reiterates our support of the United Nations Organisation. I think that, so far as Britain goes, we can fairly say that we have done everything we can so far to help the United Nations. But in the Colonial sphere we lost a lot when we lost the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, for they were composed not of politicians but of real experts, who were appointed for a long time and who were not susceptible to any immediate political pressures. I sat in the Fourth Committee of the United Nations for some three months, succeeding Lord Ogmore in that position, and great philippics, compounded of faction and fiction, were directed at our Colonial system, beginning with vile insinuations by the Iron Curtain countries, carrying out Stalin's classic directive that the way to overthrow a Western nation was to get at it through its Colonies. Inevitably, there were other commentators who mostly took the form of small countries wishing to aggrandise themselves by attacking us, and some others who I think used to attack us merely to get their names in their own papers at home. I entirely agree with the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, that we must stand 90 firm on domestic jurisdiction. An organisation like the United Nations, which is wedded to maintain the rule of law, can hardly maintain it well if it starts by breaking its own regulations.
The most reverend Primate made reference to that phrase in the gracious Speech regarding the need for us to keep as close as we can to our friends in the United States of America: he used the phrase "the future of the world depends on it." I entirely agree with him. But I think we cement that understanding the firmer if we realise the things about which the Americans and ourselves find it hardest to agree. After all, we have so much that is similar. Our flags are the same colour; it is merely that the colours are arranged differently. But that difference can go rather deep, and I believe that, when there is frustration with the United States in this country, nine times out of ten it is a frustration with their political system. Similarly, in the United States, much of their frustration with us is about our Colonial system. Both derive from exactly the same reason—the fact that the people of one country do not understand the system of another.
When one comes to think of it, this is one of the curious ironies of history, because the United States political system springs from their Constitution. Their Constitution was largely written by Alexander Hamilton, a citizen of the British Colony of St. Kitts Nevis. He drew up the United States Constitution on the lines of the then Federation of that part of the West Indies. That is why they have British Crown Colony government to this day and not responsible government. It is thus a strange irony that they should find our Colonial system so hard to understand. What I admire the most about them is their ability to learn, and to admit that they were wrong, and I think that now we should not find a majority in the United States who would counsel, as they once did, the abandonment of large tracts of territory which at the present moment are under our Colonial rule and which could then become only whirlpools of chaos—and chaos is a mighty contagious thing.
Those are matters all on the debit side, and I say, without the slightest rancour or prejudice, that we find all over the 91 world—it happens about twice every century—what is called an upsurge of nationalism, rather quaintly called by some "the new nationalism." I wonder what they mean. In 5,000 years of fairly well-recorded history nationalism appears as the oldest political movement. Five thousand years hence it will still be going strong, otherwise the makers of maps would not thrive in trade; a map made a century earlier would suffice for the present day and for a hundred years ahead. All nationalist movements go in spasms. Even in my own country of Scotland we are not entirely ignorant of them. It has always been our policy in all our Colonial possessions to encourage identity. It is therefore not very surprising that we have nationalist movements which may press that identity even further. It is of the essence of a nationalist movement that its members overstate their case. In fact, my real quarrel with my fellow-countrymen, the Scottish nationalists, is that they have spoiled a thoroughly good case by overstating it.
But, in the course of that overstatement, it is easy to come to the conclusion that these countries harbour immense spite and rancour against us. That is far from the case. Indeed, one could hear great epics of debate, perhaps not in this House but in another place, where epithets of the fiercest kind are hurled from side to side by men who do not dislike each other in the very least. The people who make the speeches and write the articles are not all the people of all these countries. There are mute millions of moderate men, who never put a pen to paper and do not even share these views. But, my Lords, adding all that up on the debit side, is it surprising that people meet in the street in Britain and occasionally ask: Are we right to have Colonies, if everybody says it is such a mistake? Is it then surprising that a young man who intended to invest his whole life's capital of strength, health and ability in the Colonial Service, might wonder whether it was quite the right vocation to follow?
I suppose that one of the penalties of being a great Power is that it is inevitably unpopular: the larger and greater the Power, plainly, the larger the target of the critics. I think that our American 92 friends are profoundly concerned by the fact that, after their munificent generosity, their great imaginative and unselfish acts of statesmanship, they find themselves becoming more unpopular and not more popular. That is a perfectly clear sign that they have become a great Power. That is no surprise to us; we have known that for a long time. We could, of course, be very popular very quickly. We could completely abrogate our responsibilities in regard to our Colonial possessions; we could throw millions of people into disaster, suffering, and death; we could live for a short time. It would be rather a short time for this island, because we could never defend its shores or feed its people, and we should then have this brief period of being picturesque, powerless and popular.
My Lords, turning to the credit side—my remarks have been over-long and I will bring them to an end—let me say this: that the obscurity that I spoke about when, twenty years ago, as a very young man, I went out to Uganda, has gone. In many ways that is a very good thing. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, will remember that, largely through lack of interest, but partly owing to the shortage of money in Britain's exchequer, Colonial Budgets were very small in those days. But it was largely because of the fact that the vast majority of the voters of Britain, in whose hands resides the ultimate destiny of these countries, were frankly just not interested. Colonial debates in another place were invariably ill-attended. Now what do we see? The Colonial Secretary in another place has twice within the last month or two had to monopolise the whole of Question time under a deluge of Questions. Colonial debates are now conducted in front of a packed House and will draw a House at least as great as that for a foreign affairs debate. These are admirable things, for no cause is so just that its justice is self-evident. If you do not make a case, in these propaganda-filled days, then it is held that you have no case to make. Here is a chance to make a case for what is being done; but there is no cause for complacency.
Noble Lords may have seen in The Times three days ago a report by a body called "P.E.P." which referred to the humiliation and sadness of many Colonial students who come to this country to 93 find that their native country had not even been heard of here. We have to tackle that ignorance. Every Government since the war has agreed that it is a problem, and every Government has said that it will try to do something about it. It is too big a problem for any one Government, but it is a direction in which we must work; for more empires were destroyed by apathy than ever were destroyed by hostilities. May I reiterate and doubly underline what the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, said: that it would be a tragedy if Colonial affairs ever became a political football. We must have that bipartisan approach. Party politics in the Colonial Service would be at least as fatal as in the Armed Services. Men would be tempted, perhaps, to act not according to their judgment, knowledge and experience but to curry favour with the Party in power, or the Party they thought would be next in power.
I have seen fit to draw your Lordships' attention to the Colonial Service. I, like many others, believe the British Empire and Commonwealth to be the greatest achievement of the British race. Spare a thought for the men and women who, going back to the beginning, must amount to many thousands, whose names will never reach the history books, whose life is made more difficult now by the barrage of adverse propaganda coming at them from all over the world. It is a slow business building up anything that is worth-while, but let the message go out from the Palace of Westminster that we are not unmindful of these people that we entirely believe in what they are doing and entirely approve the way in which they are doing it, and that in this House they have a friend.
§ 6.3 p.m.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, unless one is prepared to inflict oneself upon your Lordships for a quite unwarrantable time in speaking on the gracious Speech, it is necessary to confine one's remarks to one or two particular subjects, and it will probably cause no surprise that the chief subject on which I desire to speak to-night is Scotland. Before doing so, however, there are two other matters on which I should like, briefly, to touch. First, I hope noble Lords opposite will "mark, learn and inwardly digest" the beautiful lesson in elementary economics which 94 has been given to them by the noble Lord, Lord Dovercourt; because too often in the past it would appear that the Socialist Party has relied upon two of the dicta of its former great men: one, that pounds, shillings and pence have become "meaningless symbols," and the second—in an earlier generation —"Why worry about money? Have we not got the printing presses?"
Next, I should like to express my gratification at the early appearance in the gracious Speech of a definite promise of very considerable assistance to the Colonial Empire and of an extension of the services and funds already provided. I should like here to make a special plea on behalf of the West Indies for reasons which do not seem always to be generally appreciated. The majority of the islands of the West Indies are populated almost overwhelmingly by persons of African descent, but it would be absurd to consider them in the same light as the African in his native land. Unlike the native African, all the West Indian Africans are Christians. They wear European dress, they are mostly literate and their mother tongue is English, save in the Islands of St. Lucia and Dominica, where it is French. Their civilisation and culture is European, albeit overlaid, here and there, with a veneer from the United States of America. Their economic position, as I hope noble Lords are well aware, is, in most cases, little short of desperate. A very large population is crowded into small islands whose natural resources, never as great as is imagined, have been much reduced by former unwise methods of cultivation, and where there is, as yet, no industrial development of sufficient importance to take up the surplus population that cannot find a living in agriculture—a population which, moreover, is increasing by leaps and bounds.
These West Indians, mainly literate, are in touch, by radio and by reasonably fast communications, with the civilised world, and they are capable of understanding modern conditions in a way in which their more primitive brethren in Africa cannot. It is essential, if we are to avoid serious trouble, both political and economic, in the West Indies, that their development should be proceeded with to the greatest possible extent and at the earliest possible moment. The West Indian is not by nature a Communist; he is much too devour for that, for practically 95 all of them are practising Christians. But a hungry man is an angry man, and he is still angrier if his family is hungry. Unfortunately, such a state of affairs exists all too commonly in almost every one of the Islands; and it is to be hoped, therefore, that this most admirable plan of assistance will be put into operation throughout many of them at the earliest possible moment. Further, it must be remembered that while the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who unfortunately is not here at the moment, was parading—as the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, commented, dressed in the worn-out garment of Cobden—all the benfits of free trade, these islands are doomed to utter destruction if they are unable to sell to us their main agricultural products, sugar and fruit. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of G.A.T.T. it is absolutely necessary that we should continue to take from the West Indies these products of their soil, their sole method of raising revenue, products for which we are their best customer. May I also remind noble Lords that to the best of their limited resources the West Indians are excellent customers of ours.
Turning to Scotland, I should like to speak first about the proposed improved conditions for the crofters. This is most satisfactory, but I would utter one word of warning: we can never hope to more than maintain the population of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland through the development of its agriculture. The soil is too poor in most places, and the climate too difficult, for there ever to be a great enlargement of the people on the land. Most of the crops are very small, often from only an acre or two. In conversation with a very successful crofter in Wester Ross some years ago when I was a member of the Scottish Farm Buildings Committee, I asked him what he considered to be the minimum amount of land he would require if he were to make a decent living out of it without other resources. In his case, he had a small shop and he held various small local appointments, the result being that he was, by local standards, a well-to-do man. His total acreage of land was only, I think, some six or seven acres. He told me that in order to get the same livelihood out of land alone he would require 96 at least thirty acres. It would be quite impossible to find thirty acres of land for each holder in those Western regions. So however much the existing population may benefit from the proposed legislation—and I have no doubt that they will benefit considerably—if we are to increase the population there I submit it can be done only by a considerable expansion of our afforestation programme.
Throughout history the only crofters who have been able to make a decent living are those who have had, at least to some extent, an alternative employment. Like my acquaintance, they might have had a small shop or held a small appointment. They might have been the local postmen or the local road men. Often, they were fishermen. But for anyone in the Western Isles to make a real living from the average acreage available is a virtual impossibility; it would be an existence and nothing more. If there were an extension of afforestation we should be able to employ whole-time a large number of those who now find it extremely difficult to make a living, and to employ part-time a great many more. I have felt for a long time, and with increasing conviction, that the only way to increase the prosperity of the Highlands and Islands is for us to put far more land under timber. By so doing not only shall we provide much new employment in the woods themselves, but we shall be making raw material which will, in due course, induce manufacturers to set up small local industries on the spot.
I come now to the adoption of the various recommendations of the recent Commission. We are all very glad that the Government have seen fit to adopt them so promptly. So far as they go they are excellent, but I share the views already expressed that they do not go far enough. The terms of reference of the Commission were, unfortunately, rather limited. May I take the Commission's recommendations one by one. The first is one which will be received with 100 per cent. approbation—that is, the transfer of the appointment of justices of the peace to Scottish control. With the greatest possible respect to the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, and to all his predecessors, and despite his most remarkable skill in dealing with the mass of complicated legislation of the Town and Country Planning 97 (Scotland) Act, I do not think that any Lord Chancellor, let alone the present one, can be expected to be an expert in Scots law, It seems, rather absurd that, in the past, justices who were to administer that law should have been appointed by one who used to be—though it is, fortunately, not the case to-day—a purely English functionary.
Then there is the question of sharing the control of animal diseases. Here the position does not appear to be quite as satisfactory. I must say that I should like a little elucidation. It is said that control will remain with the Minister of Agriculture who will consult with the Secretary of State for Scotland. I should have preferred it to be the other way round: that is to say, that control of all local administration in Scotland in respect of animal diseases should rest with the Secretary of State for Scotland who would, of course, consult with the Minister of Agriculture if it were anything that involved a matter of principle or measures which would affect the whole country. It may be that later on I shall receive an assurance that that will be the case. Lastly, coming to the question of roads we are all very glad to see that control of trunk roads is also to be transferred to the Secretary of State.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, SCOTISH OFFICE (THE EARL OF HOME)
My Lords I wonder whether the noble Earl will permit me to intervene now to deal with the point he has just raised? Possibly it may not be convenient to answer his question about animal health at the end of the debate, which is, of course, dealing largely with other subjects. I think that what is visualised is this: that in the case of, say, an epidemic disease, like foot and mouth disease, the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland should get together and formulate a policy. But the actual control of the disease, the operational control, would remain with the Ministry. In the case of all other diseases except epidemic diseases local control will be exercised by the Secretary of State. I think most experts agree that you must have one operational control for big epidemic diseases, and the Ministry of Agriculture actually has the machinery and the experience for that control.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
That solves my doubt, and I am indebted to 98 my noble friend for the explanation he has given. I hope it means that if foot and mouth disease broke out it would be possible for Edinburgh to impose a standstill order within a fifteen mile or a ten mile circle without having to ring up Whitehall previously for permission to do so.
Adverting to the matter of the roads, I would add that much of what I have to say will be applicable to conditions throughout Great Britain. I hope that when the new proposals for improving our roads—which I most heartily welcome—are being thought out in detail, consideration will be given to various important points. First, there is unfortunately the unavoidable fact that it is going to mean further losses to farming of valuable agricultural land. That, I am afraid, we must face. I hope steps will be taken wherever possible to minimise this loss as far as can possibly be done. I believe that a few years ago when a portion of the main trunk road from Perth to Dundee was widened so as to afford lanes for two-way traffic, for every mile of widening we lost fourteen acres of really first-class agricultural land. And that, in a poor country like our own, is a loss which cannot be contemplated with equanimity. Secondly, I hope that the money to be spent will be spent wisely and not on schemes like some of those which have recently been put into operation whereby various bends that were not in any way dangerous have been straightened out and, in my view, a great deal of money has been wasted which could have been employed to much better purpose. It does not increase the safety of roads merely to provide mile after mile of long straight stretches of road. We have, unfortunately, had a larger death rate by car accidents in my own county of Perth this year than previously. Two of the worst in the previous years resulted in the deaths of three and five persons respectively. Both accidents took place on straight stretches of road. They were due undoubtedly to excessive speed, coupled with certain other conditions with which I will not worry your Lordships. The main fact is that the accidents occurred on straight roads.
I should like consideration to be given to the question of trying to improve various road surfaces. A great many of 99 our tar-macadam surfaces are definitely dangerous at the present time. When you get a shower of rain plus a little oil which is dripped from cars, let alone frost, it is possible, however carefully one drives, to skid all over the place. That often happens on the straightest of roads. I wish the Ministry of Transport throughout the country would reconsider their practice of putting high cement kerbs along the edges of trunk roads. I believe they cause far more danger than any other perils which they may seek to avoid. At least three times in my motoring life I have avoided very bad head-on collisions by going up the bank—twice on my own side of the road and once on the wrong side, when a lorry was coming broadside across the road to me at about thirty miles an hour. On most trunk roads one cannot do that because if one tries to take the cement kerb one is almost bound to turn over into the ditch. I feel that however well intentioned the provision of these kerbs may have been, they are a great source of danger.
There are a good many other matters in the gracious Speech to which I should like to allude, but I am going to be perhaps a little more merciful to your Lordships than some of my predecessors. I will conclude by congratulating Her Majesty's Government on a legislative programme which, if not spectacular, is thoroughly sound, which is producing proposals that can be put into effect with the utmost benefit to the whole community, in which industrial and economic progress is going hand in hand with social reform and in which such promises that are made can be really put into effect and are not, as in the case of the previous Administration, merely irridescent soap bubbles, beautiful to look at but quite impossible to grasp.
§ 6.21 p.m.
My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships on only one paragraph of the gracious Speech, but before doing so I should like, as a businessman, to offer my humble but cordial congratulations to the Government, after some three and a half years of office, on the economic situation in which the country finds itself. I think that almost every businessman in the country would agree with me that, had they been asked 100 three and a half years ago whether they thought it possible we should find ourselves in such a prosperous situation as we do to-day, all would have denied the possibility. That is due to a variety of considerations, and it would not be fair to say that it was due entirely to the operations of the Conservative Government. I think it can fairly be said, however, that the Conservative Government have made a marked contribution towards the improved economic situation in which we find ourselves, and that the country has every reason to be grateful to the Government for that aspect of their work during the past three and a half years.
When I made my maiden speech in an economic debate in your Lordships' House about seven years ago, I was followed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who, with his usual grace and charm, conferred upon me the customary congratulations but tempered his remarks by saying at the end that my mind had not yet cleared itself from the fog in which it became submerged during my time in the Lower Chamber. Since then I have had the privilege of listening to the noble Lord on many occasions, with increasing pleasure, because it is clear that he making slow but steady progress from the fog in which his mind has been submerged and is gradually emerging into the light of economic comprehension which envelops the Conservative Party.
The only paragraph in the gracious Speech to which I wish to draw attention is one which has already been touched upon by my noble friend Lord Mansfield; it deals with the roads. Here I think there is some reason for blaming the Government for some dilatoriness in handling the situation. There have been several debates in both Houses of Parliament in which the urgency of this matter has been impressed upon the Government. There was one exactly a year ago, on December 3, 1953, in this House, with special reference to the congestion of traffic in the City. But between that time and now not a single thing has been done to improve the congestion in the City. It was said that underground car parks were to be constructed under various squares in the City of London, but up to date, so far as I know, after a whole year of delay we have got no further than some survey which is being made, 101 I believe, under Finsbury Square and Grosvenor Square; and it will be years, if ever, before those underground car parks, even if they are desirable, are constructed.
My noble friend Lord Dovercourt, to whom as an old friend I should like to add my humble congratulations, drew attention in his interesting speech to the dictum of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which he foretold, or at any rate hoped for, the doubling of the standard of living in this country over the next twenty-five years. If that is going to be the case, as we all hope, there is certain to be an immense increase in motor vehicular traffic. We know that the British Motor Corporation are planning a programme of 2,500 cars a week and there are three other great motor "empires"—Ford, Standard and Rootes—who have their own programmes on a proportionate scale. I know that a large part of their production programme is for export. In addition to private cars, with a rising standard of living and increased productivity the use of the roads by commercial vehicles is bound to increase, and the use of motor vehicles of all kinds will become almost universal. In view of that certainty, the inadequacy of our road system needs no eloquence of mine to emphasise it.
I am delighted to find in the gracious Speech a forecast of expenditure, on this all-important object. I have just been reading Sir Anthony Eden's speech in another place in which he forecasts an expenditure of some £30 million per annum on the construction of new roads, in addition to the £30 million now allocated to the improvement of existing roads. But I must temper my pleasure in reading those remarks because Sir Anthony Eden said that that is the "eventual" sum to be spent—it is to be spent not this year, perhaps not next year, but eventually. I should like something more immediate than that. I know that it means an expenditure of public money. We all want to spend more money on the things we think are important. A boat-load of Admirals is coming down here to-morrow to ask for more money for the Navy—whether they will get it remains to be seen. They want more money for the Navy, but I want more money for the roads, particularly for the improvement of existing roads.
102 The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, spoke about the loss of agricultural land due to the construction of new roads. But can we not do a tremendous lot by levelling out, and by widening bottlenecks? On the road out of London that I know best, the Great West Road, there are numerous bottlenecks which in holiday time and in summer time cause delays, sometimes lasting an hour. There is a small public house which sticks out into the road at Staines. I have known half an hour or more to be wasted getting past that one bottleneck. I can give time and again instances of places on the 125 miles I cover to get to my home in Somerset where bottlenecks could be widened, or villages be by-passed, without loss of agricultural land, and leading to an immense speeding up of traffic.
I do not wish to say anything more about the construction of roads, owing to the lateness of the hour, but there is another aspect of the matter Which does not involve any expenditure, and that is the relief of congestion of traffic in the cities. Recently, I made a business tour by motor through a great many of the provincial cities in England, as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow. In all these cities there is immense traffic congestion; in some of them conditions are almost chaotic. And of all, I should say that Birmingham is much the worst. I do not intend to dilate upon those cities, because I have not enough experience of them to say anything worth hearing; but I do understand London. I have driven a car about London almost daily for thirty-five years, and I can speak from experience of the ever-increasing congestion of the streets of London, which is rapidly making them almost impassable, and will, in the circumstances foretold by the noble Lord, Lord Dovercourt, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, make them impassable in a short time.
This is a Monday-to-Friday problem, from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., and is caused almost entirely by the permanent parker: people who bring in their cars from the suburbs, such as Surbiton, Kingston and the like, at 9.30, put them in their favourite parking place, and leave them there until 5.30 in the evening, taking up twenty feet of pavement space throughout the day. This does not affect large numbers of people; usually there is only one man or woman to each car. One 103 potent reason why they come is that, whereas they cannot charge railway fares to their place of business against income tax, they can charge the expenditure on motor travel. That is something of which the Revenue ought to take notice, because this is an intensely serious problem. Take, for example, Harley Street, a street which is visited by hundreds of patients. In Harley Street one finds that they have resorted to double parking in the street, and traffic can hardly get through. But it is not the cars of patients or doctors which are parked along the street; it is the cars of people employed somewhere else, who have come in from the north, Hertfordshire and so on, and have parked their cars for the day.
This practice must be stopped, and I beg to offer two solutions. One is to make things so uncomfortable for the permanent parker that he ceases to do it. I have been a permanent parker myself; I always used to take my car up to the City. But I found that it was so uncomfortable, and it became almost impossible to leave a car in the City, that I have given up doing so. I now go by tube—and a walk to the tube does me more good. I do not see why other people should not do the same thing. We ought to make it impossible for people to congest the frequented and central parts of London: we should make them park their cars in the unfrequented parts. That is why I put down a Question a few days ago about the expediency of allowing car parking in the Royal Parks. There are many parts of the Royal Parks which are little frequented from Monday to Friday during business hours—and, indeed, some of them which are not frequented at all, but which, for some strange reason, are debarred to the public. For instance, the road between Exhibition Road and Queen's Gate, in front of the Albert Memorial, is permanently free. Why is that so? Hundreds of cars could park along that road, and the people could take a bus from that place to the City, or go by tube from Gloucester Road. Similarly, the road running north of the Serpentine is permanently free. Why should it be? Why should not people park in that road and take the tube from Hyde Park Corner? Why is Belgrave Square sacrosanct? Everybody parks round Grosvenor Square, Berkeley Square and St. James's 104 Square, but not Belgrave Square. Why not? It is the biggest Square in London and could take hundreds of cars. I could go on for a long time dealing with other parts of London.
We do not want to spoil the amenities of our parks or squares, but we are up against a problem which must be solved; and for the time being, until the authorities manage to make other arrangements, such as putting cars underground, for instance, we have got to put up with this loss of amenity as the lesser of two evils. That is all I wish to say. I wanted just to put these two matters before your Lordships: the ironing out of bottlenecks and the question of car parking which, to my mind, is one which must be settled. Somebody has got to grasp the nettle, and do something, instead of just saying that they will do something, as the Government did here a year ago, and not do anything in the intervening twelve months.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ LORD HADEN-GUEST
My Lords, I do not want to follow the noble Lord who has just spoken on the subject of car parking, but I congratulate him on his crusade and hope it will be successful, although I do not think it will. I want to deal with the larger matter of the "strong and united Commonwealth" referred to in the second paragraph of the gracious Speech, which says:My Government are convinced that a strong and united Commonwealth can take a leading part in the councils of the nations.I have been absent from the Chamber for only a short time during this debate, and I do not recall that anyone has referred to that paragraph, which seems to me to be one of the most important statements made in the gracious Speech. There is no doubt whatever that "a strong and united Commonwealth" is the backbone of the United Nations—at least, it is one of the bones backing up the United Nations. I feel that that is the most important organisation in the world to-day, and was never more needed than it is now.
The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, made some remarks about our Colonies—not the Dominions—which I did not think were justified, and I have travelled fairly widely in West Africa, Malaya and other parts. I do not think the Colonies are in such a bad way as the noble Lord 105 indicated. I believe that we in our Commonwealth organisation can create a foundation for a stronger United Nations. The Commonwealth organisation is not only good in itself but is of the greatest value to the United Nations and to the world as a whole. The success of the Commonwealth shows what can be done and is a valuable example in world politics. I believe that we should pay much more attention to it than we do, and the fact that it has been referred to only slightly, if at all, in this debate is, in my opinion, a singular omission.
I do not want to detain your Lordships at this late hour (as it is customary to refer to the time somewhere between six and seven o'clock in this House) but I should like to refer to one other matter which is of importance. I do so because I suppose legislation will be drafted, and I want to make a comment to which I hope some attention will be paid. I refer to the paragraph in the gracious Speech dealing with the provision of better education for children and young people. That paragraph says:Special attention will be paid to the provision of secondary schools, village halls and playing fields in The rural areas.That is a very good thing to undertake but, speaking from my own immediate experience—I have been during recent months inspecting a secondary school in the London area of the type referred to—I may inform your Lordships that the children in this school are partly of a good standard of physical development, who come from the better-paid classes, and partly of bad physical development, who come from the not-so-well-paid classes and from, as I learn from health visitors and others, bad hones. I feel that it would be a good thing if there 106 could be added to the Bill, when it is brought before the House, a provision that children who are badly developed could be sent from London to rural schools, to enable them to get the full benefit of country air and country conditions. To help these physically handicapped children would be of great value to a large number of people in the country.
There are many other points in the gracious Speech upon which one could dilate for a long time. I do not wish to do so, because we have to-morrow to deal with these matters, and no doubt other noble Lords will take them up. But I do suggest that to decry the development of the Commonwealth and the Colonies, as I think some of the words uttered from the Benches opposite seemed to do, does great damage to the Commonwealth and to the Government. I do not think we ought to do that, because the British Commonwealth is one of the leading organisations in the world, and its further development can help towards a more general improvement in education and the provision of good conditions and careers for people living in the backward areas of the world. I believe that the Commonwealth should set an example which could be followed by the United Nations.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Rochdale.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before seven o'clock.