HL Deb 09 June 1955 vol 193 cc10-28

The Queen's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move, 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."

In doing so, I should like first to thank the noble Marquess the Leader of the House for giving me this honour, unexpected indeed, and in the circumstances of to-day perhaps more than usually daunting; for we meet, as the first words of the gracious Speech made clear if we did not know it for ourselves, in times of considerable trouble and anxiety. But it is not a bad thing, perhaps, when we are confronted by a difficult and unpleasing situation, to start counting our blessings before we go on to attack our troubles: and indeed our blessings are numerous.

In the field of foreign affairs it is something—it is a very great thing—that for the first time in over fifteen years there is no formal war in the world. Fighting, unfortunately, there is, but at least the nations of the world are not ranged one against another. Who would have dared to hope even a short year ago that our dispute with Egypt would be resolved; that the wound in Indo-China, which was draining the lifeblood of France, would be at least staunched; that in South-East Asia the collective defence treaty might form a basis for security in that troubled part of the world; and that although, as the gracious Speech recognises, anxieties in the Formosa Straits cannot be altogether set aside, at least the immediate threat of war in that area would, as it seems, have receded? The Austrian Treaty, after far too long, has at last been signed. In the Western European Union there is at least a basis for that further progress towards uniting the nations of Europe which, though we may differ as to how it should be done—and even about when it ought to be done—must, I feel, remain a common aspiration for us all.

Further east, but still in Europe, there are at least signs that the Government of the Soviet Union desire to emerge from the suspicious isolation of the last few years and to play a part in building the foundations of a lasting peace which, quite certainly, the common people of that great collection of nations desire no less earnestly than do those of Western countries. We may hope that those fruitful negotiations to which Her Majesty's Government look forward may be blessed with success. That in these matters we should act in concert with the Commonwealth and with the United States is almost a matter of commonplace, but worthy, nevertheless, of reflection and of satisfaction and of a resolve to go ahead in the same way. We shall no doubt have in the future, as we have had in the past, certain disagreements with all of them, sharper perhaps in appearance, though much less deep in reality, because they proceed from the same basic ideals, sentiments and sympathies which are apt to make people think that we ought on that account to agree over fields where we might and should legitimately differ.

Finally, though, as again the gracious Speech recognises, the test will be whether in the fullness of time it is possible to reach such an agreement as will enable a really substantial measure of disarmament to be undertaken with confidence and safety. The ultimate test of success in that field will be the day when the mention of the words "nuclear energy" or "atomic power" evokes not that rather horrified shudder which is now inevitably our first reaction but the lively expectation of further development of a power to be used, not for the destruction of mankind but for the construction of all those material things which make life fuller and happier.

At home, while we must be conscious, first of all, of the anxieties of these present days, nevertheless there are quite substantial signs of progress which can be commented and reflected upon, and which at any rate should be considerably more lasting in their effects than that economic disunity which is at present making progress less easy of achievement. The gracious Speech refers to the cooperation of employers and workers in the interests of full employment, and looks forward, I think with not too sanguine a confidence, to a higher standard of living if these be realised. It is certainly true that the rate of production in this country has increased over the past few months more rapidly than before. There have been notable examples of British enterprise of which those noble Lords who read the newspapers which report such things will have seen—of the winning of successful contracts abroad against fierce competition and of the many directions in which new ideas and fresh enterprise are enabling our export trade to be expanded. I see that even those two mysterious conceptions, the balance of trade and the balance of payments, are not so wholly unfavourable as at one time they appeared to be. Mysterious conceptions they are, since, as I apprehend them, the balance is only really satisfactory in either of them when the scales are tipped extremely heavily on our side; and I suppose that the strengthening of that balance involves adding some more weight at our end.

In general, the gracious Speech is informed with the notion (I think it is a good notion) that the rôle of government in these matters is not to direct nor even to admonish those responsible for industrial progress, but rather to do what can be done in a gentle way to improve the conditions under which industrial progress can go ahead. In the considerable list of measures proposed there are many which are clearly designed with this in mind. I think it is right that Her Majesty's Government should, consistent with their obligations under G.A.T.T., take powers, although they may not—and I hope will not—need to exercise them, to check dumping if that should be attempted against us. In that connection it is a welcome sign of the rising prosperity of the world that a tariff should be thought a suitable weapon for this purpose, without the necessity for resort to the more drastic and even less efficient quota method.

We can only wish Her Majesty's Ministers well in the attack that they propose to mount against abuses of monopoly. "Monopoly" is one of those words which have in these days acquired such a high emotional content that their true meaning is often obscured. There are a great many kinds of monopolies, and not all of them are bad. Some of them, indeed, are essential. If your Lordships will not think the comparison too fantastic, may I say that I should hesitate to return to a state of affairs where the Armed Forces ceased to be a monopoly of the Crown. And even in the problems which confront us to-day, it may be that some would wish they had to deal with a monopoly among those to whom they look for the supply of labour, rather than with competing organisations, seeking each to justify its existence more strongly than the other. If industry and trade are to proceed in an orderly fashion some regulation and some restriction are inevitable. You cannot have a "free for all" in these matters, in so highly organised a world as this, without risking very considerable harm.

But it is, of course, manifestly wrong that sectional interests should be able to carry that regulation and that self-discipline—for such it often is—to the point where they use it as a weapon by which they seek to secure advantages over the rest of the community. It is that which I understand to be "abuse of monopoly," and it is that which, no doubt, Her Majesty's Ministers have in mind when they propose to tackle it. The worst of an abuse of monopoly is that it brings good monopoly and good regulations into disrepute. I doubt whether the material harm which is done by any single restrictive practice is so great as to justify the irritation which it causes and the tendency which it has, if unchecked, to make people think—to a degree perhaps even greater among our friends on the other side of the Atlantic—that regulation in itself is evil, but self-regulation is more evil still.

What must be uppermost in our minds this afternoon is the question—of which we have had such warnings recently—which affects the whole future of industrial relations and which is centred in the simple but unpleasant word "strikes." Your Lordships will not wish me to comment, even if I were capable of doing so, on the disputes which are engaging us to-day. I should like only to say this. I think it is a very good thing that the gracious Speech contains no reference to legislation designed to deal with strikes. The right to withdraw his labour, either as an individual or in association with his fellows, is one which, I think, cannot and certainly should not be taken away from anyone. It should be limited as a right only by the necessity of honouring agreements which the individual may have entered into himself (as a seaman does when he signs articles) or which may have been entered into on his behalf by people properly qualified and representative to do so.

But a strike—and we all know it—is a brutal and indiscriminate weapon: it is a weapon of mass destruction. It is as hateful to those who use it as to those who suffer from it. Surely to goodness, at this time and age, it should not be beyond the wit of all of us to devise some less crude and more efficient method of settling disputes. It is a fact which I think deserves some consideration that one of the effects of the Welfare State in this closely integrated and complicated society in which we live is to make the effect of a strike less grave upon those who strike—for they are protected by social legislation against the worst consequences of being in a position where they do not earn for a long period—and more grave in its effects upon everyone else. I think that is recognised in a great many quarters, certainly not least among the leaders of the great trade unions and those who direct the affairs of the Trades Union Congress, whose wisdom we have seen and whose patience and whose desire for peaceful settlement have been manifest on more than one occasion in recent months. The rôle of trade unions in this changing world is changing and will no doubt continue to change further. It must be a source of satisfaction to all of us to see that being realised; to see progress being made, slowly, perhaps, and with difficulty, certainly, but fairly steadily along that road.

But the real question to which we have to find an answer in these matters I think is this: What is it that makes men who, in their private capacity, would scorn and dislike and think shame to seek their own personal advantage at the expense of their neighbours, do so unhesitatingly if by chance they should find themselves in the position of being out on strike?— for that, after all, is what being out on strike is. I think it is a question which must be put and somehow or other must he answered if we are ever going to have peace in our industrial life. I would suggest three possible causes. The first of these—and it is perhaps much the least important—is the effect which is produced by those with sectional or even personal ends to serve, who deliberately foment trouble and discontent. They are a nuisance, a very great nuisance, no doubt; but I doubt whether they are much more than a nuisance, and I am pretty certain that they would not be a nuisance at all if there were no "soil," shall I say, however shallow, in which their ideas could take root. In a world of real industrial good will, such people would have no place. The second cause may be, and probably is, that those who are involved in these disputes are not in a position readily to appreciate their full consequences. That is a matter not of blame for them but, perhaps, of misfortune. This is remedied to a great extent by the Press, by the wireless and by other forms of public information; but I think it will always remain, particularly in the case of people who live in small communities where they do not have the opportunities which some of us have of meeting and having to answer other points of view.

I think the third and most important cause is this. There comes a state, as I think we all know, where we become exasperated, rightly or wrongly—at any rate we think rightly—and in that state of exasperation we do things which we should not be likely to do if we sat back and considered them calmly. Losing one's temper is a luxury—rather an agreeable luxury, and occasionally it clears the air, but no one can say that it forms part of rational progress. If there be one single answer to what are the causes of exasperation, I believe it lies in the delay in remedying grievances or, at least, in considering them.

Your Lordships may not think that the docks present a particularly happy example of industrial agreement. But you need only go down to the docks for a day to see how many disputes arise there and are settled there, in a matter sometimes of minutes, without ever being heard of again. Any one of those disputes might, if left unsettled, fester and develop and grow into something really serious. It may be that the men feel that they have not the right gear for handling a particular cargo, that the cargo is difficult, or that the rate for the job is inadequate because of its awkward nature. They complain. A union representative and a representative of the employers are called up. They put their heads together and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the matter is settled on the spot and no more is heard of it. If that were not done, we should find that the loading and discharging of vessels, on whose prompt and efficient completion so much of our very livelihood depends, was a great deal more difficult and inconvenient than it is at present.

I think that the natural development of large-scale organisations has had some unfortunate consequences in that direction. I cannot give your Lordships figures, but I am convinced that, if it were possible to do so, it would be found that the number of strikes in really small concerns is relatively much smaller than the number of strikes in really big concerns. I believe that the reason for that is purely and simply because it is much quicker to get to the boss. The boss may or may not give you the right answer when you get there, but at least you have the feeling that your grievance has been considered, and promptly considered, by someone who knows what he is talking about and is able to give you an answer himself. I do not know how those advantages can readily be developed in enormous undertakings. It is a problem perhaps capable of no simple solution, but it has to be tackled, and the sooner it is tackled the better, for in the emotional atmosphere which strikes always breed, in a sense strikes are the parents of other strikes, and every dispute which can be strangled at birth is one less potential parent of ill-will.

For the rest, my Lords, I should like to say just this. During the few years since the war this country ingested a very large meal of social and economic legislation. Five or ten years is a short period in the life of a nation, and in that period enormous changes have taken place in this one. I think we all know that it takes much less time to consume a meal than to digest it. If the meal is large, if the cooks have thought it necessary to prepare it rather hastily and if each successive course has filled the plate pretty full, the processes of digestion are even more difficult and, if your Lordships will forgive my saying so, are often accompanied by manifestations uncomfortable alike to the digester and to those about him. I believe that many of the diffi- culties through which we are passing at the moment are the natural and, indeed, not unhealthy results of these processes, and I should be far from suggesting to your Lordships that the proper way to treat them would he by a strong purge. What I am sure we want, and what I think the programme laid out in the gracious Speech affords some opportunity of giving us, is a quiet period of digestion, as I have said. A series of measures are foreshadowed which should ease our way and consolidate our development before the next stage on our necessarily, and even rightly, irregular progress towards a better and more prosperous world. It may be that the present Parliament will be remembered, not for the heroic measures which it might have passed, but for those which it has wisely refrained from attempting. If that should be so, it will be none the worse for that. I beg to move.

Moved, 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."—(Viscount Runciman.)

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, like my noble friend, to whose speech I have listened with the greatest interest and admiration, I should like first to express my thanks for the honour that my noble friend the Leader of the House has accorded to me in asking me to second this humble Address. I certainly do so with great pleasure. The task must always be a responsible one, particularly at the time of the opening of the First Session of a new Parliament; but to-day I believe it carries with it more than ordinary responsibility.

The reason is not far to seek. It is to be found, as my noble friend has said, in the very first sentence of the gracious Speech, in the unhappy discords which have made it necessary for Parliament to be called together earlier than would otherwise have been the case and for Her Majesty to proclaim a state of emergency throughout the country. How can any of us put that problem out of his mind? Indeed, I would suggest that, brief as the first sentence of the gracious Speech is, it may well for the moment attract more attention than all the other important matters contained in the rest of the gracious Speech. Surely it is something of a paradox, when the gracious Speech includes so much that is hopeful, so much that is encouraging, in the sphere of foreign affairs and world peace, that we find that it is at home where peace seems to elude us.

The references to the new association of Western European Union, the growing unity and strength of all the free nations of the world, the long hoped for discussions with the Soviet Union, which now look as though they may become a reality, the signing of the Austrian Treaty, the progress which has been made towards the possibility of real discussions which might end in a comprehensive disarmament: plan—all these are gratifying developments, with hopeful prospects. Here I should like to pay my tribute to our Prime Minister, because we must all agree that it is largely to his personal efforts that some of these great events are due. We shall all agree, I think, that the task of maintaining and strengthening peace abroad must always transcend everything else.

The history of this country has repeatedly shown that, although sometimes we may be slow to start, when face to face with the alternative we have shown that there is little, if anything, that any of us would not be prepared to forgo in the cause of peace, whether it be our time, our convenience, our money or anything else; because the loss of peace must inevitably affect every single one of us, every man, woman and child in this country—and more than ever so with modern weapons. When we come to think of it, the loss of peace at home, except in very local, instances, could equally and all too easily affect the lives of every man, woman and child in this country. In that case none of us can be isolationist; none of us can be neutral. We are all in it, whether we like it or not. It is true that internal disaster could never be quite so catastrophic or so sudden as the falling of an H-bomb, but in the long run, like a growing cancer or some deadly virus, it might, if allowed to grow, be equally lethal.

All that, I am afraid, is very hypothetical, and I should like to take things as they are, because it is easy, as my noble friend hinted, to get things out of their true perspective. I think it would be entirely wrong, if we were to try to paint a picture of what this country is like to-day, to compare it to a sick man. I should say that it would be more correct to regard it as a strong man, full of vigour, full of energy, resourceful, in many ways inspired, yet perhaps for the moment suffering from some quite minor, though extremely uncomfortable, infection, such as a swollen tooth or an infected thumbnail—something that might be most uncomfortable; something which could easily raise the temperature for the moment in the whole of the body, and which, if not dealt with, might allow the infection to spread through the whole system. Our troubles to-day in the field of human relations arise from a relatively small number of discordant voices. Certainly our showing in this way for 1955 may not be so good as that for, say, the years 1953 or 1954; but we have not changed all that much since then. Those years were good years, and I should like to give one or two figures to show why I say that.

If we take the days lost by disputes in 1953 and 1954 in relation to the total working population, and compare our position with that of other countries, we find that we are second only to the Netherlands; we are equal with Western Germany; we are twice as good as Sweden or Belgium, three times as good as Japan, four times as good as Canada or the United States, and seven times as good as France. That is a great record, and it is something of which we in this country can be proud. I mention those figures not in any way to underrate or belittle the problems that we have before us to-day, and which must be solved, but to try to get the matter in a proper perspective, and, not least, to give credit where credit is due, because peace in industry is like peace abroad or peace between husband and wife—it does not necessarily come automatically, but often requires conscious effort on the part of both parties. I would say that to-day relations in industry can generally be regarded as exceedingly good. There are, of course, always black sheep in every flock (although I should hesitate to suggest that that applies necessarily in your Lordships' House), but we have only to look at some of the most distinguished trade union leaders and to the countless outstanding and enlightened employers of labour, to recognise that they are, in their way, to be regarded as real statesmen. I sometimes wonder whether the general public fully realise the immense burden that these men and women discharge, with the greatest sense of responsibility, not only for those for whom they may particularly speak but also for the country as a whole. I believe that it would come as a real surprise to many to learn of the complex system for negotiating, from the National Joint Advisory Council, at the top, down through all its ramifications, and to be told of the time, the energy and the careful thought that is given to the subject by so many men and women, every day, week and month, without any material reward.

I am certainly not complacent, and I do not want to give the impression that I think we have reached perfection in this matter. Obviously, there is much that we can do. As my noble friend has said, there is much to be done after the present disputes have been resolved. I should like to see in regard to industry—and I mean the whole of industry, because I take the view that an industrial team, like a cricket team or a football team, if it is going to be successful, must be a one-sided team—the setting aside of all Party political ideas on these subjects and a looking afresh into the whole complex problem of the industrial family life. In saying that, I intend no disrespect to those who are constantly engaged in that work, day in and day out.

I have also in mind to wonder whether most of us have quite woken up to all the implications of the many changes which have taken place and which have been going on over the last few decades at a pace which is accelerating all the time: the increased opportunities for leisure; the impact on our minds of such agencies as the cinema, wireless, television and cheap literature; the growth of travel and the welcome change of scene that that gives; the fruits of the Welfare State; the sense of impregnability and security that comes with full employment; the expanding educational opportunities and the immense power, and therefore responsibility, that is absolutely inherent in any large organisation, whether it be one of the large private industries, the nationalised industries or the trade unions.

Have we realised that so many of these 20th century prizes, undreamt of by our forbears, are not in themselves self-existent; that they depend absolutely on the smooth running of the most complex and delicately balanced machine one can possibly imagine, our present-day economy; a machine which, as we saw only too well in war time, if all the parts are well lubricated and running properly, is infinitely adaptable and can continue to work under the most exacting adverse conditions, but which, equally, can be brought to a standstill by the collapse or defection of one of the tiniest pieces of mechanism? Have we realised that one of the most essential lubricants of such a machine is a far wider sense of responsibility than was ever necessary, shall I say, a hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago? The machines of the 19th century, with their rough castings, their rough forgings and their wide tolerances, no doubt needed oiling from time to time. But I have equally no doubt that if the driver of Mr. Emmett's now immortal "Nellie," or the driver of the somewhat younger "Genevieve," had forgotten the oil can for a day or two, those machines would have gone on chugging along for some time, though the bearings might have squeaked and the insides might have groaned. But if the lubrication of the modern machines—the marvellous creations of the noble Lord, Lord Hives, or the great alternators driven so successfully by the noble Lord, Lord Citrine—were not attended to, they would not stand the strain. So it is with the economic machine to-day. It depends upon a due sense of responsibility, and we must not take it for granted.

The gracious Speech makes important reference to the development of education, both for students and teachers, and I welcome that. I particularly welcome the reference to technical education, though I would add that I hope that throughout our educational system we shall never forget the most important aspect, the abstract instruction in citizenship; because it is from that sort of instruction, coupled with the lessons that a boy or girl can learn in the home, that we hope they will one day, as they grow up, acquire that sense of responsibility to which I have referred, and which is so essential for all to-day.

Reverting to the subject of peace in industry, may I say that I was extremely interested, exactly a week ago to-day, to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, in his address on the B.B.C., say that his long experience on these matters confirmed the view that all great labour disputes were usually settled by public opinion. That may be true again on this occasion, but I am somewhat doubtful whether the real issues at stake in the strikes we have to-day are yet sufficiently clear to the public for public opinion to be crystallised and formed very quickly. I can only hope that, rather than wait for any long time, we shall once more find that there is no strike in this enlightened age which cannot be settled by fair-minded men sitting round a table.

It would be entirely out of place for me to make any comment, or to express any view to-day, on the particular issues which we have before us, but I shall perhaps not be out of order if I say that I should like to praise the zeal, the patience and, in some respects, the courage which has been shown in certain directions. The strikes, of course, will be settled, although we cannot say when. The issues, the heat and the irritations will be forgotten, and Parliament will be able to focus its attention once more on the ordinary and pressing tasks that lie in front of it: foreign affairs and defence; Commonwealth and Empire; trade and industry; the welfare and safety of those who work in industry and agriculture; the building of houses; the clearing of slums; education; local government; and the whole list of important subjects that are referred to in the gracious Speech.

The gracious Speech certainly offers no lack of important work for the months immediately ahead. It may even be that our present troubles will have shown lessons that will be of help in solving some of the problems to which the gracious Speech refers. But there is one lesson that I hope we shall not forget. I hope that we shall re-learn it; and that we shall allow it to be embedded in our minds. It is this: that we all depend for our existence on mutual good will; and that where good will exists there can be no dispute incapable of solution round the table. While we should not wish to deny to any man the right to withdraw his labour if he wishes to do so, strike action in a modern community is as useless and futile as war between civilised countries. My Lords, I beg to second the Motion for an humble Address.

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, I rise in the traditional way to move that this debate be adjourned until Tuesday next. That gives me an opportunity of expressing from this side of the House what I believe I may say on behalf of all Members of the House, in whatever quarter they sit: our gratitude to the noble Lords for the speeches they have made and for 'paving survived the ordeal—for ordeal it must be—and coming through it with such flying colours. The speeches which they have been called upon to make are, as we all know, by no means easy. Those who move and second the humble Address have to steer carefully between Scylla and Charybdis: they have to avoid platitude, on the one hand, and controversy, on the other. They must avoid being dull, but they must be serious; and they must give us an occasional light touch while never degenerating into mere flippancy. All I can say is that the standard which we in this House have set up for these speeches has become a very high one, and I think I can pay no more real and sincere tribute to the noble Lords today than to say that they have amply maintained the standard which has been set. Indeed, I found their speeches of extreme interest, and giving us much about which we might usefully think.

There has been a strange similarity between these two noble Lords, if I may tell your Lordships this. As all the older of us know, they are both sons of distinguished fathers who earned a great place and reputation in the House of Commons. They were both educated at the same school, and they both went to the same university (whether it was the right university or not is not for me to express any opinion upon); and both, no doubt, were covered with scholastic honours. That matter I have not looked up—perhaps it was as well that I did not. They both, of course, went to industry, and when the call came, as we can see from the uniforms they are wearing, they both rendered most distinguished service, the one in the Air Force and the other in the Army.

In the course of the years following, the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, has been President of the Chamber of Shipping and, I believe, President of the Institute of Naval Architects. The noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, has kept his feet, perhaps, more firmly on the ground. He has been President of the National Union of Manufacturers, a member of the Dollar Export Council, and a Governor of the B.B.C. We have here two men who can speak to us from a position of real authority in industry. They are not mere politicians, although that is a very commendable thing to be: they are men whose words we should consider. because they can speak to us on those matters on which our prosperity, and indeed our very life, depends; and men speaking with such authority deserve to receive, and will receive, the careful attention of your Lordships in all parts of the House. When I add that they have said what they had to say with charm. with grace and with modesty, I have paid them the highest tribute it is in my capacity to pay.

I think both noble Lords were right in putting in the forefront of their remarks the question of foreign affairs, and I like to think that among all responsible people in this country there can be no difference of opinion about this: that out Ministers will go to the Four Power Conference with the earnest good wishes and the prayers of all of us, on all sides of the House, that they may be able to achieve a real and lasting peace. The test of that is, of course, as the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, said, that we shall be able once more to beat our arms, or at any rate some of our arms, into ploughshares thereby saving vast expenditure on arma[...]ments, which in itself would ease the situation at home.

Both noble Lords also spoke wise words about the strikes. I think it would be better to-day, since the situation is very delicate, and unless words are care fully thought out in advance one migh[...] easily make a difficult situation more difficult, if I were not to comment further upon that matter, except to say that I am grateful to both noble Lords for what they have said. I feel certain that their words should have an effect on the whole outlook of this difficult situation. I need say no more in moving my Motion excep to express from this side of the House, and I think from the whole House, a sense of indebtedness to the noble Lords for the care and trouble they have taken, and to offer our congratulations on the way in which they have got through their ordeal. I beg to move.

Moved, That the debate he now adjourned.—(Earl Jowitt.)

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Motion on behalf of the Liberal Peers. It is to me a privilege to express, very briefly, their appreciation of the speeches to which we have just listened. I am quite sure that the whole House will share my regret that this appreciation is not this afternoon being expressed by my noble friend Lord Samuel, who is not himself here to do that but has to be satisfied with the very inadequate words of his deputy. As the noble and learned Earl the Leader of the Opposition has just said, the task of the mover and seconder of the humble Address is difficult and responsible. Speaker after speaker, commenting on the speeches moving the humble Address, has frequently pointed to the paradox that the noble and learned Earl has just mentioned: that they have to be non-controversial but they have to be political. The task is a delicate one—it is like walking on a tight rope—but the two speeches to which we have just listened show that it is by no means impossible to make valuable and informative speeches in spite of those limitations and restrictions. The moving ceremonial which we witnessed once again this morning served, as always, to quicken our sense of all that we hold in common and of the ideas that are shared by all classes and all Parties in this country. I am quite certain that, in the circumstances of industrial strife through which we are passing, we are every one of us more appreciative of the unity that really underlies our whole life, and the interdependence of our activities, than ever before.

The two speakers to whom we have listened have made wise and sagacious surveys and objective statements about the situation, and we are grateful for them. It is indeed appropriate that a Member of this House who holds a high position in the world of shipping should have moved this humble Address. Here we have the launching of a new Parliament. It may even be true that this country is launching out into a new way of life and going forward to meet fresh economic conditions. It may be a new phase in Britain's history. But one thing we can he sure about is that in that new phase, whatever the changes that are immediately ahead of us, British shipping will still be the vital industry of this country, a vital means of transport, second to none—railways, roads or anything else—for when shipping prospers and is busy, we all prosper and are busy; if shipping stops, we starve.

The noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, speaks for the great textile industries which, to my mind, have always been the great barometer of Britain's industrial progress. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the various phases through which those industries have passed have been, as it were, the barometer which tested whether industry in Britain was keeping abreast of the times through which we passed. We have been listening to two of our members who represent industries and branches of British activity which will be vitally concerned with the new phase on which we are about to launch. I feel certain that, not merely in the year following this Speech but in the years of this Parliament and hereafter, they will contribute, perhaps with less restraint, even possibly with some sense of controversy, in debates on some of the great issues with which we shall be faced during the next five or ten years. I beg to support the Motion.

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, in supporting the Motion moved by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, for an adjournment of the debate. I should like to add my warm congratulations to the mover and seconder of the humble. Address for the most notable speeches they have addressed to the House this afternoon. As the noble and learned Earl said, they were on thin particular occasion fully up to the high. standard which we have set ourselves in this House. I do not think we could pay them any higher compliment than that. I have listened to a great many speeches of movers and seconders of humble Addresses during the time that I have been in your Lordships' House, and I have never yet heard a bad one. Indeed, I am sure that other noble Lords would agree with me that it is a constant marvel to us that noble Lords who have had this difficult task always seem to have found something fresh, something interesting and, indeed, nearly always something memorable, to say. This afternoon the contributions have certainly been no exception to that rule.

That is remarkable because the circumstances of this particular occasion have been perhaps even more testing than is usually the case. By tradition, as has already been pointed out to your Lordships, these speeches have always, so far as possible, to be non-controversial, and certainly not provocative. That is never a very easy ideal to approach when one is discussing what is, in effect, the programme of one or another political Party for the forthcoming year; and it is even more difficult, I think, when we all come straight off the hustings where a somewhat different atmosphere is apt to obtain. Moreover, on this present occasion there are these other conditions which are in all our minds and to which reference has been made. At a time like this, any unguarded or injudicious word in your Lordships' House, or indeed anywhere else, might easily further impair what we all agree is a sufficiently delicate situation. There are plenty of pitfalls about if people are not careful to avoid them, but these two noble Lords to whom we have listened this afternoon have avoided every pitfall. They have not burked the issues but they have avoided the pitfalls. Indeed, the penetrating analysis of our industrial structure and our industrial problems to which the larger part of their speeches was devoted was, I am sure we shall all agree, particularly wise, thoughtful and statesmenlike, and, being based, as it was, on a lifelong personal experience of industry, it contained a great deal on which I am sure we shall all wish to ponder in the days that lie ahead. I personally learned a great deal from what the two noble Lords said this afternoon.

My Lords, I thought that the same wise moderation permeated everything they said on all the various topics on which they touched. Of course, neither Lord Runciman of Doxford nor Lord Rochdale is in any sense a newcomer to this House. I am sure that I shall be voicing the opinion of all your Lordships if I say that they have already the respect of us all, in all parts of the House, for the contributions which they have made in earlier debates; but, equally, I am sure that it will be agreed that they have never shown to greater advantage than they have this afternoon. We thank them for what they have said, and I think certainly we should congratulate them for rising so triumphantly to the level of an occasion which, if I may say so, they have further embellished by the words that they have spoken to your Lordships this afternoon.

It only remains for me once more to support the Motion moved by the noble and learned Earl.

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