HL Deb 07 November 1956 vol 200 cc61-118

4.26 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, the gracious Speech from the Throne contains the intimation that a Bill will be introduced early in this Session to grant independence to the Gold Coast. There are noble Lords in all quarters of the House who are acquainted with that territory, and I had the honour of being Resident Minister there for some months towards the end of the war, following the far longer and far more distinguished work of my noble friend Lord Swinton. Our tasks were economic, in connection with the war effort, and not political. Nevertheless, I am sure that I voice the feelings of all noble Lords who have teen in that territory, and, indeed, those who, though they have not been there, have watched its growth, in saying that we wish Ghana, this new independent State within the Commonwealth, all good fortune in the years to come; and we shall welcome her as an independent State within the boundaries of the all-embracing British Commonwealth.

The only other topic upon which I should wish to address your Lordships for a very short time is that which the noble Lord, Lord Rea, quite rightly said will be debated at much greater length on sonic fu tire occasion—that of the common market for Europe. I find myself in no great agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, except in one remark which he made: that the decisions of Her Majesty's Government on this matter are decisions which ultimately will decide the economic future of this country for many years to come. While therefore, it would be inappropriate to debate this project in any detail, I feel that in the debate on the Address it is right that we should comment broadly upon the proposals, having particularly in mind what was said by the noble Earl, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaste—that Her Majesty's Government are still pondering upon these matters and have not yet come to any final decision.

Her Majesty's Government have to balance the risks as against the possible gains, and the main case put by the advocates of the European markets is that the six Messina countries will raise their tariffs and include us from those markets, which is a state of affairs which we cannot afford I to contemplate. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, was typical of the ardent protagonists of the scheme—I think he called himself a "whole-hogger"—in presenting a picture which is not quite exact. The kind of picture he painted, which I have heard described in words elsewhere, is that of song 250 million people in Europe, shirtless, ill-equipped, half-starved and all just longing to buy British goods. In fact Europe is the oldest industrialised area in the would, and its possibilities of further great expansion must be weighed against the loss of the ability to obtain a preferential I position in new world areas which have not been exploited and developed to the extent of those we see in Europe—those new areas where expansion is almost limitless.

The pattern of our export trade is, broadly. 50 per cent. to the British Commonwealth and Empire, 25 per cent. to Europe and 25 per cent. to what I would call miscellaneous areas. India. Pakistan, New Zealand and Australia—who dare visualise the tremendous industrial expansion possible in those areas over the next twenty-five years? On this idea that we tie our economic policy directly to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade coupled with this European free trade area proposal, I would submit that the Government must consider whether, in going in for this free trade area scheme, they will be, in fact, surrendering a chance of negotiating a priority position in those areas of vast expansion and already tremendous value which I have just mentioned.

I wonder whether the Government consider that in supporting the European free trade area and still tying our economic policy to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade we are, in fact leading a movement away from the dollar area to a European area of sterling discrimination. That is what it is. Would it not be better to consider becoming the leader of a movement away from the dollar area to a sterling area, first of the British Commonwealth and then of Europe a sort of a two-tier system, as it were, with a first preferential position for the Commonwealth and a second preferential position for Europe.

I should like to submit to your Lordships one more consideration which deals particularly with the home market. In return for membership of this European free trade area, we are to open progressively our home markets to the full blast of free entry and free competition from the six Messina European countries. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has said, many industries would suffer from such a blast of uncontrolled competition. I submit that they would not suffer necessarily because they are inefficient but because the corresponding goods made in certain other countries are made by workers who have lower wage standards or in industries which benefit from hidden subsidies for exports. The motor industry, the jute industry and some part of the textile industries and other major industries are protesting to-day against the dangers of this common market. I must say that I hope the noble Lord. Lord Lucas of Chilworth, when travelling in this country in order to make speeches from public platforms, will go to Coventry, to Dundee and to the textile areas and say from the platforms of the Labour Party: "If we cannot compete—get out." I do not believe that if he did that, he would get a very hearty reception either from the audiences or from the political candidates standing for the Labour Party in the particular districts concerned.

It is axiomatic that a healthy export industry must depend on a sound home production. I do not believe that uncontrolled entry of the Volkswagen into this country can really assist the workers in the motor industry in Coventry to produce cars with greater efficiency for our home market and for our export markets. The reply, Lord Lucas of Chilworth says, is: "We must be competitive." That is a perfectly reasonable reply if one is willing to define what "competition" is. It may be—and here I suggest we come to the truth—that this project is as much political as it is economic. I believe that this policy, to succeed, would require uniformity in standards of wages, uniformity in standards of hours, uniformity in the social burdens that the industries of the various countries would have to carry. It would need also strict regulation for the abandonment of assisted exports such as is the declared policy of France at the present time.

The variables in cost structure which determine the final prices are: transport, taxation, social services and direct wages. Those are the chief variables. How can we expect British industry to compete unless these things are regularised throughout Europe, standardised throughout Europe and finally supervised throughout Europe? As I see it, we are in some danger of losing control of our own wage policy and labour conditions which we have built up in this twentieth century, if we go into this European free market without insistence by Her Majesty's Government upon adequate safeguards. The danger is that, if we have to compete, we shall find ourselves having to conform to the lowest level of our competitors as regards wages and hours of work. The speed of a convoy travelling across the sea is the speed of the slowest vessel.

I believe that organised labour is at the present time studying the implications of this proposal. I am sure that they will be very much alive to the possible dangers to the standards which they have built up and which they are so rightly keen to safeguard. Some time ago, at a Conservative Party Conference, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Butler, said that he saw no reason why we should not double our standard of life over the next twenty-five years. I hope he will be proved to have been right. But let us be sure that we do not take on our shoulders an obligation to double the standard of life of 250 million people in Europe in order to achieve our objective.

My Lords, I am interested in this subject, as is everyone else in Europe but primarily I am interested in the British Commonwealth and Empire where the greatest chances still lie and fewer dangers, I believe, exist. It is because I see these difficulties, which I hope Her Majesty's Government will, allow me in all humility to put forward, that I have tried to flash the red danger sign before we go too far in this direction.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I want to take one paragraph in the gracious Speech: that dealing with Her Majesty's Forces. One could roam over a large area of organisation and scientific and other subjects, but I want to confine myself to one: that is, the activities of the Armed Forces during the past few years. In this time the Forces, especially the Army, have had to undertake a large number and a great variety of tasks—some uncongenial; none, I think, easy. The war in Korea was a long way away and of no very obvious or urgent danger to this country. Yet, without those incentives, the Army played its part to the full, not only ably but with a gallantry and devotion which I think has never been surpassed in its history and in the histories of the regiments concerned.

After the evacuation of the Canal Zone—and its final phase was by no means a pleasant task for the Army—a large number of troops went to Cyprus, where they fully expected to have the amenities and comforts of a well-organised peace station. I myself saw some of the beginnings of this, and very promising they were; but these expectations were not to be fulfilled. Instead, the Army found itself faced with the most distasteful task which it is ever asked to perform—that of acting in aid of the civil power, and doing so in an atmosphere of terrorism and atrocity. When carrying out this sort of task, against an opponent so vicious and treacherous as E.O.K.A., it is of the first importance that the troops should feel absolutely confident that they have the fullest support of the Government behind them. The ramming of Athens Radio and the issuing of information over the Cyprus Broadcasting Service were a great help, and are being a great help, to the Forces there. I realise the difficulties which the Government had in coming to the decision to carry out those two things, but, none lie less, to the men on the spot the start of this propaganda must have seemed very slow.

Then there was the Mau Mau emergency in Kenya. This was not so difficult as the emergency in Cyprus but, equally, it meant sudden moves of units from their normal stations, with the consequent domestic upheavals; and the actual operations themselves in the dense forests of the Aberdares and Mount Kenya were totally different from those for which the troops had been trained. Yet here again, the Army did its duty satisfactorily.

Subsequently, the Services—and again especially the Army—were faced with the difficulty of the reservists. These Reservists had bee n called up in circumstances of peculiar difficulty. On other occasions, such is Korea, reservists with their units went straight to the scene of the emergency, and the reason for their presence was perfectly obvious. On this occasion the reason was not so obvious to them, and for a good reason, although I think it is not generally realised in the country. I believe there is a general view that reservists are not called up unless there is a fight ready for them to go to. To cake that view is to jump too far ahead And to ignore the important and delicate period when diplomatic negotiations may be becoming strained, and even it danger of foundering. It is at this moment that the Armed Forces first appear over the horizon, not to go into immediate action but purely as a deterrent.

In peace the Army is organised primarily to take part in dealing with an emergency of an internal security nature, such as in Cyprus and in Kenya, where in neither case was there any question of calling up reservists. When the Army is required as a deterrent it is essential that it should obviously be prepared to carry out any task which may be required of it. The organisation must be stepped up; reservists must be called up; specialist units, which do not exist at all in peace time, and for which the Army Emergency Reserve was specially designed, must be formed. In my view, that is what happened on this occasion, and it was by no means for the first time. In 1914 when the naval reservists were called up, war was by no means a certainty. They were called up in order to make it quite clear that we were prepared to take action, if necessary, in the hope that that might make the Germans think again. On another occasion, in the Shanghai emergency of 1927, when there was a danger of the Chinese Army overrunning the International Settlement, reservists were called up. A naval force and troops, not only from this country but from other countries interested in the Settlement—the United States, France, Japan and other countries—were sent to the support; and on that occasion the operation was entirely successful. The strength of the garrison in Shanghai was so obvious that the Chinese Army bypassed the city, and there was no question of any destruction or damage being done.

On the present occasion, reservists were called up as a deterrent, and, as was almost inevitable, there was very little for them to do, and, as I have said, no very obvious reason for their being called up. In the circumstances, I think the vast majority of these reservists conducted themselves extremely well. They answered the summons of recall without any question, and they accepted uncomfortable living conditions and other difficulties, with a great deal of grousing, I have no doubt, but just as part of the job. But one cannot ignore the fact that there were incidents, which were not only regrettable and potentially dangerous but might well have undermined the deterrent purpose of their recall by showing an apparent weakness and faltering in our stand. Here I think that one must say that the retreat of the Party of noble Lords opposite from the stand they took on August 2 may well have made it much more difficult for the reservists to appreciate and accept the need for their presence. If it is not taking too much upon myself, I should like to add, in all fairness, that any questions or debates in another place which have directly concerned the troops have been conducted with great restraint.

Then there was the attitude of the Press, of all shades and opinions. The Press, I think, did a grave disservice, not so much to the Army, which is well able to look after itself, but to the men themselves, by headlining the comparatively few incidents which there were, so branding these men, reservists who had been called up and who were doing their duty under difficult conditions, as disaffected and ill-disciplined. A particularly glaring case was the publicity given to the first figures of one of the parties returning to Germany from leave. The final figure of this particular party was not 202, as published, but 22, who were apprehended as absentees, with 10 more who had not been traced. If one takes the worst view, and adds the 10, the percentage is 2 per cent. of absence; and if one gives the 10 the benefit of the doubt, the figure is 1.6 per cent. These are not alarming figures of large-scale absence on the part of reservists.

I should now like to consider how the recall was handled. It appears to me that it was well organised. It was carried out in three stages, so that the number of men who had to be exempted because they were in essential civilian jobs could be checked; and no unnecessary man was, I think, called up. Here I should like to add that the policy of the Government in maintaining the period of National Service, instead of reducing it, did, in fact, mean that many fewer reservists had to be called up than would otherwise have been the case. There are, however, some aspects of the recall which I should like to put to my noble friend who is to reply, and of which I have given him notice.

The first arises from the point I made about the difficulty of ensuring that the reservists realised why they were required. It seems to me that a strong directive should have been issued from the highest level, explaining the great importance of making it quite clear to these men why they were needed, what their duty was, and why, in some cases, it was necessary for them, apparently, just to stand by doing nothing. That applies particularly to the supply services and to the specialist units, whose presence is essential if the Army is required to undertake any kind of operation, but who, until that happens, often have hardly anything to do. It may be that a directive like this was issued, but I have not heard of it, and I should be grateful if my noble friend could tell me.

Then there was the question of National Service grants. The machinery for dealing with these grants was based on the known numbers and regular intakes of the young National Service men who were being called up in the ordinary routine. When it was decided to call up reservists, surely it should have been realised that there would be older men, with heavier financial responsibilities; and it should have been realised also, that, whatever one may think of hire purchase—and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has already dealt with that matter in some detail this afternoon—it is a well-known fact that a large amount of household equipment is bought under that system, so that any sudden reduction of income can cause grave hardship in a home. I feel that an immediate Cabinet decision should have been taken to short-circuit some of the machinery for the issue of these grants, and so make certain that no unnecessary hardship was caused to the men who were called up to honour their engagements.

Having said that—and I think it needed saying—I should like to touch briefly on the Services at the present moment. It is a subject that one obviously has to touch on with great delicacy, because a great deal is still obscure. It seems to me that the forces, and especially the Royal Air Force, were given two tasks in the recent fighting. One was a normal one of reaching a decision as quickly as possible. The other was a difficult one, and one which I doubt has ever been issued in a period of fighting: that the decision should be achieved by inflicting as few casualties as possible—in complete contradistinction to the normal directive in war. As I say, it is too early Li say much on this subject, but it seems at present as though those two objects have been achieved. Finally, having dealt with the reservists and their problems it some detail, I want only to add that, though I have no doubt Her Majesty's government will release as many reservists as possible as soon as possible, I think it would be unrealistic to expect any immediate and large-scale releases.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, my intervention will be short and on one subject only, and happily it is not contentious. My purpose is to draw attention to the fact that in the gracious Speech no mention is made of any intention to introduce the domestic legislation prerequisite to a ratification of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, or to ratify them. On November 1 the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, told your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government were replying to the formal inquiry of the President of the International Red Cross whether the United Kingdom would ratify those Conventions. As the words of the Lord Chancellor in reply are textually important, with permission, I will read them. He said [OFFICIAL. REPORT, Vol. 199, col. 1348]: We are replying that although certain legislation is required before we can ratify the Conventions, Her Majesty's Government accept the Conventions and have every intention of applying their provisions should the occasion arise. The Egyptian and Israeli Governments have both signed and ratified the Conventions and we shall consider ourselves entitled to receive from them the treatment provided for by the Conventions. A similar statement, as your Lordships will know, was made in another place. In the present circumstances, it is surely a matter of great concern to large numbers of families that all rights possible under these 1949 Conventions shall be secured both for members of the Armed Forces and for civilians.

It was in 1949 that our plenipotentiary signed these Conventions; and, therefore we have had some seven years to ratify them. Meanwhile, fifty-eight other States have now ratified or adhered to them. The difference in these two words implies no more than whether they were or were not originally signatories. We must have studied every aspect of these Conventions during the four months in which they were debated and agreed to by our plenipotentiary, who then signed with one reservation—and this is important—that which regarded the death penalty. It has therefore been competent to the United Kingdom for these seven years to ratify, subject to confirmation in its ratification of its own reservation on the death penalty, if this is still desired.

It was as far back as 1952 that the International Red Cross Committee urged ratification as a pressing recommendation, and in that same year Mr. Selwyn Lloyd stated in another place that the United Kingdom intended to ratify these Conventions. Still this has not been done, although the matter has been brought repeatedly to the notice of the Department concerned. As a layman, I find it difficult to assess the value of words which are no doubt easy to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor; so, although I appreciate that his words on this subject, read in conjunction with the Conventions, appear to secure to our nationals the benefit of those Conventions, I am left with some unresolved difficulties. If the statement of Her Majesty's Government last Thursday is fully sufficient, why does the President of the International Red Cross urge us to ratify?

Is our present indeterminate position which, I submit, is hard for a layman to understand, causing needless anxiety in this country? In view of the commentary of the International Red Cross Committee on those Conventions—which I now quote partially in these words: Ratification can alone give these Conventions obligatory force"— have we now achieved the optimum protection for our nationals by last Thursday's declaration, or only something less than the optimum, although the optimum was offered to us seven years ago? We have been told that certain legislation is a prerequisite to ratification. This, after all, has been common knowledge for years, and, surely, the drafting of such legislation must have long been studied and prepared in view of Mr. Selwyn Lloyd's undertaking of 1952, to which I have referred. Yet Her Majesty's Government have not even now promised action in this Session.

Summing this up, I think your Lordships and the whole country are entitled to know two things. The first is why, in this matter, we have refused to accept our proper leadership in supporting to the maximum the greatest of humanitarian organisations and have remained the only great Power which has not ratified. The second is whether Her Majesty's Government now intend, within this Session, to introduce the domestic legislation prerequisite to ratification and then intend at once to ratify these 1949 Geneva Conventions. I hope the noble Viscount who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government will be able to answer these two questions unequivocally. Finally I would say, as I have said already, this matter is no new one to certain Departments, and I know that familiarity breeds contempt. But there is no breeding without familiarity, and I trust that my familiar words may breed action.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, I hope I shall not be thought to be speaking out of turn or breaking the convention that the day is primarily to be expended in talking about matters other than the Egyptian situation. My trouble is this. I have told the Lord Chancellor (I am sorry that he cannot be here at the moment, and I quite understand the reason) that I am sitting in the Privy Council at the present time, and I shall not be able to be here until half-past four to-morrow. Our discussion starts at half-past twelve, and it would be quite idle for me, not having heard what has taken place in the previous speeches, to say anything about it then. Therefore, I have indicated that I have no option but to say to-day what I have to say. I understand perfectly that no answer may necessarily be given to me to-day. I shall not have the smallest complaint if it is not, but it will perhaps be convenient if I state what I conceive the position to be.

There is another reason why I should not sit silent at this time, in view of the most important statement which the Lord Chancellor made the other day, in which he expressed his understanding of our obligations and rights under the Charter of the United Nations. For the Lord Chancellor both as a man and as a lawyer, I have the most profound respect, but that does not prevent my saying, as I must, that on that particular occasion I thought he was quite wrong in the view he took. I thought that if the principle which he enunciated were to apply, it would virtually destroy the whole structure of the United Nations Organisation. I feel strongly about this matter, because the first speech I ever had to make in this House, on August 22, 1945, eleven years ago, was to move that this House agreed with our becoming a party to the United Nations Treaty. I expounded then my understanding of the obligations into which we were entering. I was followed by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury—whom we are all so glad to see back in the House again—and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who were both kind enough to say that they agreed with the interpretation that I had put upon the Instrument which I was quoting to the House.

I did point out (I was dealing particularly with the question of the small nations and, as the noble Marquess knows, one of the many difficulties of those who played a prominent part in getting this Treaty signed was the anxiety of the small nations), that, despite the many imperfections of the Treaty, which I hoped would improve and grow with time [OFFICIAL. REPORT. Vol. 137, col. 113]: The real protection of the smaller States lies in the fact that such unanimity … is a prerequisite of action. … The great Powers have given the most solemn undertakings that they will not use force for national ends. With those observations I think the noble Marquess and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who followed him, expressed their general concurrence.

There is one other observation I should like to make about that debate. If there is one man—though we do not see him very often these days—who has done more in the cause of peace than any other, it is the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood. He said then about the Treaty we were then discussing [col. 136]: … it is well to recognise the really great change it does make…in our conception, that the decision to fight or not to tight in preventing aggression is no longer in the hands of the individual nation but is in the hands of the majority of the Security Council. That is why we all said and believed that the effect of this Treaty was to do away with what are called "private wars" and to substitute for private wars the conception and idea of a public war—that is to say, a war which was waged under the auspices and with the permission of the United Nations. It is just because I venture to think that the principles laid down the o her day by the Lord Chancellor, which I shall examine in a moment, are so far-reaching that they would tend to eliminate altogether the distinction Between what I have termed private and public wars that I feel I must make my observations in regard to them.

Your Lordships are all painfully familiar now—we had all this discussed the other day—with the various Chapters and Articles dealing with this matter. There is Article 33 which says that you must first of all try to pursue pacific means—as, of course, we quite rightly did. Then comes Article. 37; then Article 39: The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression. Those are all Articles, but the broad general conception is that stated in Article 2, which includes the following: 3. All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. 4. All men hers shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against he territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. That is the broad conception. On that we shall all agree.

My difference with the Lord Chancellor arises, and I think arises only, on the construction which he places on Article 51, the "self-defence" Article. And here, let me stress that it is a question of getting our facts right. The facts at the present time are so obscure (I am not making the smallest complaint; I think I shall probably have a I your Lordships in sympathy with me) a at one really does not know what is happening or where one is. I am not blaming the Government—I do not suppose they know either. They may do, but it is not certain what Colonel Nasser is doing at any particular time. The fact that he does one thing on Monday is no guarantee that he is going to do the same or Tuesday. Therefore, we are in a position of great difficulty. I believe that the confusion starts in this way. We have confused, or people tend to confuse, two wholly separate things. There was, first of all the dispute about the Canal, which started, of course, by Colonel Nasser seizing the Canal—as I thought, and still think, in plain breach of the obligation he had entered into. With regard to that, of course, there were all the negotiations the comings and goings which we remember, Mr. Menzies going out and finally the submission of the matter to the Security Council. Then there were suggestions, for which India was largely responsible, that ways should be found of dealing with and making effective the accepted principle. That is the one thing.

The other thing, which is quite different I think, was the war which broke out between Israel and Egypt. I understand—I think I am right—that the Lord Chancellor did not justify the action which we took on the ground of the dispute about the Canal. I think I am not doing him an injustice when I say that he justified the action we took by reason of the dispute which had arisen between Israel and Egypt; and, of course, the armed operations which were taking place. It is essential to get that fact plain. The Lord Chancellor's proposition was this. Israel had invaded Egyptian territory. Whether or not she was justified is a matter which does not concern me; at any rate, it is quite obvious that she had the most extreme provocation. The noble Earl, Lord Home, said the other day that he did not condone her action. I suggest that, if we do not condone her action, it is very difficult to condone our own—but I will discuss that in a moment.

Anyhow, the position was this. Israel had started that war, and we thereupon decided to present an ultimatum to the parties; and, when Egypt did not accept that ultimatum, we decided to occupy a strip of territory, the Canal territory. The Lord Chancellor said that we were entitled to do that on the ground of selfdefence—self-defence, my Lords! Going from the general to the particular, he said that the three grounds on which we were entitled to do it were: first, danger to our nationals at Ismailia; secondly, danger to shipping and, thirdly, danger to the valuable installations on the Canal. There were those three grounds.


Would the noble and learned Earl add one word? The second ground was, of course, danger to shipping and the crews on the ships.


Certainly; and the crews on the ships. The noble and learned Viscount said—and, of course, this is plainly right—that if we are entitled to go in and use force, then manifestly the degree of force which we use has to be dependent upon the resistance which we are likely to meet. With that I agree. I was not very impressed, if I may say so with the arguments derived from a hundred years ago or forty years ago, or any time ago before this Treaty, because this United Nations Charter set up, as we believed, a wholly new system. It is that system that I want to consider.

If the Lord Chancellor's propositions are right, just consider what is left of the Charter and how far he has gone. Let me put the case of Russia and Hungary. There are Russians in Hungary, and the Russians in Hungary, for very obvious reasons. I should imagine. were in considerable danger. Is it really suggested that Russia was therefore entitled to invade Hungary to protect her nationals? because, if so, we may as well realise that this Charter can be scrapped. But I submit to your Lordships that if we are entitled to occupy the Canal Zone because Israel starts a war against Egypt, then a fortiori are not the Russians entitled to go and occupy Hungary, if her nationals are in danger in Hungary? Let us consider, if you like, China, when China becomes, as some day I suppose she will become, a member of the United Nations. Let us suppose that she is a member now. Would she be entitled to invade Hong Kong because the Chinese in Hong Kong are the subject of riots or are being set upon? Equally, would she be entitled to go and invade Singapore? Take the case of Greece and Cyprus. If you can find a handful of Russians anywhere—what is so dangerous is that they are likely to place themselves there if it suits their purpose—is it supposed that the Russians can go and protect their nationals?

I beg the Lord Chancellor to see whether he cannot in some way limit his propositions, because, to my mind, the consequences of those propositions, if they are expressed in the way in which the Lord Chancellor expressed them, are so grievous. Take the case of the Israeli aggression. As I have said, we do not condone that; Lord Home would not condone that Let us just consider if that is wrong in the view of the Government. Israel had been subjected to blockade; Israel had had her ships shot at when they went up the Gulf of Aqaba; Israel had been threatened that she was going to be wiped off the face of the earth by all these people who were ringing round her and she gets her blow in first. That is said to be an aggression which cannot he condoned. I ask your Lordships to consider this: by what possible reasoning can it be said that the aggression by Israel is not to be condoned arid that our aggression in going into the Canal Zone is allowed by the Charter? I cannot see that these things are possible. As I said before, if it means that these exceptions are to apply in this way, then this Charter, on which so many of us worked so hard, and in which so many of us believed, although we knew not to be perfect, is not worth the paper it is written on. I am not going to attempt to define—


Will the noble and learned Earl forgive me for interrupting? I was here when my noble friend said that Israel's action was not to be condoned. I may be wrong, but I had the impression—my noble friend is not here—that what he meant to say was that he was neither condemning it nor endorsing it. But I quite agree, on a literal interpretation of the words, that the noble Earl can quite rightly say what he has said. But I think it would be unfair to my noble friend, if I may say so, to take the words literally, because I had the impression that lie was putting on them the meaning which I have pointed out.


Be it so I am quite prepared to accept that. I do not want to press the matter unduly. The noble Earl may not have committed himself, but the point remains good. If our aggressions can be condoned, then I cannot see why Israel's must not he condoned; and at the present moment it has not been.

Let us see what help we can get from Article 51 of the Charter. I think that often these words are overlooked— Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collec- tive self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the necessary measures; and the measures taken are to be reported at once. Where is there armed attack? I agree with the Lord Chancellor, who made this quite plain. He says—and he is quite right—that the wore s must not be strictly limited to armed attack. You may have a factory in your own territory which is manufacturing poison gas or death-dealing germs, or "what have you?" and which is sending out these things against a neighbouring territory. That would be so like armed attack that it is reasonable to consider that it should be included. The fact that "armed alts" is mentioned indicates that the sort of case in mind is something equivalent to armed attack. In various treaties, countries have tried to define what they mean by aggression, and these are the definitions which have been given: "Declaration, of war"—that is obvious; "The invasion by armed forces, even without a declaration of war"; well, that also is obvious. Other definitions are: "Attack by armed land, naval or air forces, even without a declaration of war, upon the territory, naval forces or aircraft of another State"; "Naval blockade of the coast or port of another State"; "Aid by a State to armed bands operating in its territory invading the territory of another State, and failure to deprive the armed bands of aid or protection."

Those are the cases to which Article 51 might apply. But it has never been applied, so tar as I know to anything like, for instance, the protection of property, even valuable property. We have a pipeline through Syria which has been cut. Are we entitled to invade Syria to put hack our pipeline? I think we should consider exactly where we have gone to and where we arc being led by this definition. Be it remembered that although in the first instance, it is of course essential that a State itself should judge whether or not there has been an armed attack, or the equivalent of an armed attack, in the long run that question must he submitted to some international tribunal which will have to pronounce upon it. Our own Nuremberg Tribunal pronounced with regard to this in the year 1946—I say "our own", but: I mean the International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg, with which both the Lord Chancellor and myself had a certain amount to do. This is what they said in their Judgment: It was further argued that Germany alone could decide whether preventive action was a necessity and that in making her decision her judgment was conclusive. But whether action taken under the claim of self-defence was in fact aggressive or defensive must ultimately be subject to investigation and adjudication if international law is ever to be enforced.


May I ask the noble and learned Earl a question?—I did not catch whether he gave the authority for these various definitions of armed attack, blockades and so forth. I gather it was not in the Charter but came from some other source.


It is from treaties. All these various treaties are stated in Oppenheim's International Law, Volume II—I think in Section 52 (g). The noble Viscount will find them set out there. They are mere illustrations of what has happened. The learned author of Oppenheim says this about them. He talks about the difficulty of definition and he says: If you get a definition, of course, you get rigidity, and that is rather against defining. On the other hand, it is useful. A definition of aggression may also be instrumental in making it more difficult for States to pursue a policy of treating the conception of self-defence as identical with the defence of any interest to which they attach importance. I know the Lord Chancellor will not mind my criticising what he said but I think that the fallacy underlying his speech was that he confused the conception of self-defence, and the circumstances which give rise to it, with the defence of any interest to which he attaches importance, great importance, even tremendous importance. I think those two have been confused. To my mind, that is the difficulty we are in.


My Lords, will the noble and learned Earl allow me to interrupt on one point, for I am following him, as one would expect, with the closest attention? Is the noble and learned Earl going to deal with my main point: that Article 51 does not cut down rights of self-defence under customary international law?


My Lords, yes, it does. I think we have here a new conception under this Charter, and I think Article 51 is drafted as an exception, although I quite agree with the noble and learned Viscount the Lord. Chancellor that there may be grounds for saying that one must not consider too narrowly the words "armed force". If we are going back to previous history, we are altogether overlooking the fact that this was a new start, a new conception, the new conception being that we were doing away with the idea of private war and substituting what we believed to be public war that is, war under the auspices of the Security Council. Therefore it is not legitimate to go back and look at old history as though it were embedded in the Charter.

The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor did not say anything about "police" or "fire brigade" action. Those may be useful descriptions of the particular type of warfare which is going on, but of course it is war. As one newspaper wittily observed to-day, one would not give to the people who take part in this war police or fire brigade medals. Obviously not, for this is war, no matter what one may call it. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for having "butted in" at this stage, even inappropriately: but, having regard to the position which I occupy and the speech which I had to make in b introducing, the Charter, I should put myself in a false and invidious position if I sat silent and said nothing in regard to these matters. As I cannot very well be here to-morrow, I am sure your Lordships will forgive me for coming and speaking to-day.

Let me add one or two other considerations on a slightly different point. I have always believed as I have often said that the ideal system for this country in all its present difficulties is to have what I call a bilateral foreign policy, a foreign policy to which poth Parties can contribute and on which they can make their agreement. We have plenty to fight about in domestic issues and it is a very sad thing that we should find ourselves at loggerheads in diverging on foreign policy. Like the noble Marquess, I had the honour of being a member of Mr. Churchill's great Coalition from the very beginning. The strength which we an derived throughout the whole time was from the fact that we had the whole nation solidly behind us. I may be old-fashioned in wanting a bilateral foreign policy, but that is my belief and nothing will shake it, and I will do everything I can to see that it is brought about.

One other thing: in thinking of these things, my belief is that ultimately the only solution will have to be some kind of world government. It will not come in my lifetime, nor the lifetime of anybody here present—well, it might; perhaps I am being more pessimistic than others. But it will not, and cannot, come until there is a change of heart in Russia, until Russia is prepared to play the game properly by us. Looking back in history, 100 years is not a very long period of time, though it is a very long tune from the point of view of one human life. I do not know how long it will be before this tyranny is passed away, There is this satisfactory aspect: the fact that Russia has sent the sort of letter she has sent and has made the threats she has made has done something to bring the Parties in this country together, and certainly has done something to heal the breach with America, though I believe it would be idle to pretend that grievous damage has not been done.

I should like to ask the noble Marquess a question, if it is convenient for him to tell us the answer: I do not understand how long it is proposed that our Forces or the forces that replace them, when there is a suitable replacing body, are to stay. The noble Marquess may prefer not to answer, or perhaps cannot answer at the present time; but is this the conception: that we, or the forces which supplant us, will stay in the Canal Zone only until the Israeli-Egyptian war is finished; or shall we stay there until we have got some satisfactory settlement in the Middle East instead of these constant threats of war which have been making the whole place miserable. Or is it that we, or the replacing force, shall stay until the problem of the Canal is solved? I am really not clear in my own mind, for documents, resolutions, counter-resolutions and so on, have followed each other so quickly that one gets confused. It would help us to clarify our minds if the noble Marquess could, at some time, though not necessarily to-day, make some statement telling us what is the conception in the mind of Her Majesty's Government as to the length of time during which the force should stay there; for I, at any rate, am confused.

I hope your Lordships will realise that have tried to state firmly the views which I have honestly held. I need hardly say that I very much doubt the correctness of my awn views, from the fact that they differ from those of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, whose judgment generally I prefer to my own. Perhaps on this occasion I am stubborn, for I venture to think that here my own judgment is to be preferred. At any rate, feeling as I do on this matter, I felt that I ought not to pass over the subject in silence, since it might be thought that I was agreeing with views which, however cogently and sincerely expressed were views with which I was in complete disagreement.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, first of all, I should like to offer a sincere apology to the House for having been absent during the earlier part of the debate; but as I am sure they will understand, I have been concerned with other duties connected with the present situation; therefore, I am sure that they will forgive me for not being in two places at once. I hope the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, will also forgive me if I do not fellow him this afternoon into that portion of his interesting and very important speech which dealt with the foreign situation. As he will know, the intention Which has been agreed to between the Parties with regard to this debate is that we should try to concentrate as much as possible on home affairs to-day and deal with foreign affairs to-morrow. I do not say that in any sense on criticism of the noble and learned Earl; because I know that he cannot be here to-morrow, so that if he were to speak at all he had to say what lie was going to say to-day. He asked certain very specific questions and I am trying to arrange for my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who will be replying to the debate, to answer those questions tonight, in order that the reply may be given while the noble and learned Earl is here

For the information of the House however, I should like to repeat a brief statement which has been made this afternoon in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. It is very brief and, if the House will permit: me, I propose to use his own words: I am very grateful to the House for allowing me to intervene for a few moments again as I undertook to try to do yesterday. I hoped to be in a position to give the House rather more information about the discussions which are going to take place at the United Nations this evening, but the position is that we are at this moment in close and detailed discussion about the various forms of the United Nations resolutions to come before the United Nations tonight. We are in consultation with the Commonwealth Governments, the United States Government and the French Government. The Foreign Secretary is still pursuing these discussions at this very minute. I think, therefore, that the House will give us some indulgence if I am not in a position to make any detailed statement about that until the discussions are concluded. I am very sorry to have to say it, but I think the House will understand. At this stage it really would not be possible for me to go beyond that. I wish that I could, but I think the House will understand that it is clearly impossible. I ought to add something on the military side, which is that since the cease-fire took effect we have had reports that Port Said is under control and that our troops have taken up defensive positions. The greatest efforts are being made to clear the obstructions to the harbour as quickly as possible. As regards our offer to assist in clearing the Canal generally, while again I do not want to forestall what may be said at the United Nations I think I should make it clear that we are now clearing obstacles in the area which we control and we should like to continue to clear obstacles in any other area, and gladly would do so under the authority of the United Nations. The situation is, as your Lordships know, very delicate, and in some ways, I am sorry to say, still rather obscure. I hope, therefore, that the House will not press me more closely to-night. Nor do I intend to deal with the greater part of the gracious Speech which deals with home affairs.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess for a word of explanation? He stated that discussions were proceeding with Commonwealth Governments. May I take it that that includes the Governments of India, Pakistan and Ceylon?


Certainly—all Commonwealth Governments.

My noble friend the Earl of Selkirk has already spoken on most of the issues of home policy and there will be further opportunities later. But there are just two subjects with which I have thought that perhaps I, as Leader of the House, ought specially to deal. There is, first the question of reform of your Lordships' House, which, as you will have seen, finds a place in the gracious Speech. I have no doubt that I am not the only person—not the only person on any side of this House—who is glad to see it there. I am perfectly certain that there are many of us in all Parties who know this House and who now feel that some amendment of the composition is necessary—and it is only amendment of the composition that is in question—if the House is to carry on and discharge its duties efficiently.

It is a very great tribute to the competence with which your Lordships conduct your work that so many people outside the House think that no reform is necessary. I am always being told when I go outside the House that the House is doing very well as it is: and I think that it really does its work extremely well. But no one who is not constantly here can realise on what a narrow margin we are performing our duties. I often gaze with mingled astonishment and admiration at the achievements of Peers like the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who have to master at very short notice such appallingly complicated technical measures as the Copyright Bill and the Road Traffic Bill. They do it with great skill: but the strain must be terrible. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has already mentioned this subject to-day. He said—or I understood him to say—that any great measure of change should have the fullest consideration by the country. But I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, will support me in saying that this question has in fact been under constant consideration now for forty-five years. I think he once quoted a remark made in 1911 to the effect that it "brooked no delay": and he poked some fun at us all for not having done anything about it since. Surely Lord Silkin would not say that that was no consideration.


My Lords, would the noble Marquess allow me to say that I imagine that the whole country has been aware that some change was necessary. What I meant to say—and what I hope I did say—was that the country ought to have the opportunity of considering fully the nature of the change that is being proposed.


With that I would entirely agree. No doubt, in due course, that will be done. But I would certainly not accept the noble Lord's doctrine that the presence of a subject in the Election Manifesto of a Party does not justify that Party in proceeding to deal with that subject. If your Lordships remember—I am sure the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, will remember—in 1945 we were put in a very difficult situation because there was a large Labour majority in another place and a large Conservative majority here. We decided that if any measure had been on the Labour programme at the Election we should regard it as having been approved in principle by the country. For that reason we passed all the Government's nationalisation Bills and did our best to improve them, though in principle we disliked them intensely. I hope that Lord Silkin's new doctrine does not mean that lie wants us to alter our practice in that respect.


My Lords, I hope the noble Marquess will not think that because he and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, had agreed on this question, all noble Lords on these Benches are in agreement.


My Lords, I have never thought that the Liberal Party are ever all in agreement. But I entirely agree, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, and everyone else will agree, that some means must be found, if the House is ever to be a really effective body, of bringing in new blood and also of enabling existing members to come here. That means first, legislation, in some form or other to deal with Life Peerages, and it also means, in some form or other, some payment of the expenses of Peers. That was a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, to-day and [...] agree warmly with what he said. We cannot expect people to do their duty if we do not make it possible for them financially to perform that duty. The noble Lord is, if I may say so, banging at an open door over this. I am also inclined to agree with him—though I should not like him to regard this as a firm statement of Government policy—that there is a great deal to be said for separating the payment of the expenses of Peers from any general scheme of reform. I think that is a matter well worthy of consideration.

Lastly, in addition, of course, to the question of Life Peerages, and the expenses of Peers, which have to be tackled in some form or another, there is the problem of the hereditary Peerage, which is different but also equally complicated. I do not pretend that all this makes the problem easy to solve. Indeed, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, knows far better than I do, it has defied the efforts of the most experienced and intelligent men in the country for the last forty years—or rather of a great many of the most intelligent men arid nearly all the most experienced. But the Government have been working very hard on the problem and there have emerged the outlines of a plan which should, I hope and think, avoid all the most obvious objections that have been adduced against preceding plans. The nature of our ideas I cannot divulge today, but I hope to do so in due course. If time permits—and I hope it will—the Government intend to submit proposals to Parliament during the present Session. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do not say any more on this topic to-day.


Will the proposals take the form of a White Paper or Memorandum?


I will certainly consider that when the time comes. It is not at all the desire of the Government to hustle legislation on this subject through Parliament. We are as anxious as the noble Lord that, when the time comes, it should have due consideration by everyone.


May I ask whether it is proposed to appoint a Select Committee or any Blither Committee to go into this matter?


My Lords, no. The Government's view is that they have thought the matter over very carefully and that in due course they will submit proposals to Parliament. I am afraid that another Select Committee would lead only to further delay.

There is only one other subject about which I should like to say a word to your Lordships. It is an extremely thorny one—the question of capital punishment, which also finds a place in the gracious Speech. I do not think that I need recall to your Lordships recent events with regard to this subject. We all remember the introduction of a Private Member's Bill in another place: the decision of the Government to allow a free vote: the approval given to the vote in another place: and the rejection of the Bill in your Lordships' House. I do not propose to-day—it would be quite unsuitable—to retrace the arguments in favour or against that Bill. This is certainly not the time for that.

I would only made one comment. Attempts have been made in certain quarters to represent this controversy as only a conflict between the two Houses. I do not agree at all. What I believe has emerged from all the discussions which have taken place on this question, inside and even more outside Parliament, is that there is a very deep and conscientious cleavage of opinion throughout the country, held by people, who on both sides hold strongly to their own views, for and against the death penalty. That obviously must put any Government—at least any democratic Government—constitutionally, in a position of immense difficulty. As I see it, their duty must be not to try to satisfy only this or that section of opinion on either side of the controversy, but to try, so far as they can, to meet the wishes of the greatest possible number of their fellow-citizens.

It is certain that a great many people favour the abolition of capital punishment. It is equally certain that a large number favour the retention of capital punishment. But, in this latter group of retentionists, there are a great many people who are not happy about the law in regard to capital punishment as it stands at the present time. They want reforms and modifications to the existing law. I thought that the case of these people was put with great power during the debate in your Lordships' House by the most reverend Primate, by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keith of Avon-holm, and others who took part in that debate. The Government, while retaining what they consider, in the light of their responsibility for maintaining law and order, as essential in the present law feel that they must seek a solution which they believe would be acceptable to the largest number of people in Britain. It is on those lines that the Government have been working; and when the Bill is produced, as I believe it will be at a very early date, I think that it will be found that a very real effort has been made to get the points raised by noble Lords whom I have mentioned in our debate. That is all I want to say about capital punishment.


My Lords, will the Bill be introduced into this House or into another place, or would the noble Marquess not wish to say?


My Lords, it has already been introduced in another place to-day. Therefore the noble Viscount will be able to see the terms of it immediately. I am very sorry to have had to interrupt the debate for so short and fragmentary a speech, but it seemed to me, as Leader of the House, that there were one or two questions on which perhaps I ought specially to give guidance. That I have tried to do. Other urgent and grave problems of foreign affairs I propose to leave, if I may, until to-morrow.


My Lords, before the noble Marquess sits down, would he be good enough to tell us what has happened to the Betting Bill which was promised for this Session? If the Government have made up their minds about what should be in it, perhaps they would consider publishing a White Paper to allow the interests concerned to discuss the matter before the Bill is introduced.


My Lords, I am sorry the noble Viscount was not here when I spoke. I dealt with that point, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who raised it earlier on. What I said was that in the course of consultations it had been realised that there are differences in opinion, and it was felt desirable to get the widest common measure of agreement before presenting a Bill.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, for guidance. He has said that he would be speaking to-morrow on foreign affairs, and although we shall very much look forward to hearing him, as a matter of procedure could he tell us whether other noble Lords can speak to-day and tomorrow as well?


My Lords, I understood that the Opposition proposed to put down an Amendment on the subject of foreign affairs, which would enable them and other noble Lords to do just that. If I am wrong, we should all be in considerable difficulty.


My Lords, in my opening speech I said that the position was changing so rapidly that any Amendment put down at six o'clock might be out of date at seven, and that I was waiting for a statement from the noble Marquess before we decided exactly what would be necessary.


My Lords, perhaps I might have a word with the noble Lord after the debate and see what we can arrange if we cannot have an Amendment, I think we may have to strain the rules of the House to enable us to do what obviously ought to be done.

5.56 p.m.


My Lords, it had been my intention to deal almost entirely with domestic matters to-day, but after the speech of the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, I feel that I cannot well do so. However the argument about procedure may be settled, I have no intention, even if it is possible, to inflict myself a second time on your Lordships in the course of this debate. I have often listened to the noble and learned Earl with admiration and respect, and therefore it was with the greatest regret that I heard him make a speech this afternoon which I think did him less credit than any I have ever heard before. It seemed to me that his speech was merely legalistic quibbling and forensic hair-splitting, in order to attempt to put Her Majesty's Government In a false position.

Let us consider what were the alternatives to the action taken by the Government on the Suez question—that is to say, given the position in which they found themselves. I cannot absolve them altogether from blame from being in that position, because they ought never to have left the Canal. It would have been far better if, when the Canal was first seized, a force had been sent in, if that ware physically possible. But, given the situation in which they found themselves had there not been a well-nigh instantaneous intervention it is probable that on a very short space of time the forces of Israel would have cut the Egyptians to pieces and heavy fighting would have taken place on the Canal itself. That would have resulted probably in the sinking of a considerable number of ships belonging to other nations as well as our own, in heavy casualties among their crews and in a much worse destruction of the Canal itself and of the installations which are vital for its running than could otherwise have been done by ordinary sabotage.


My Lords, may I ask, on the noble Earl's argument, would Russia equally have been entitled to intervene?


I do not think that that intervention either is worthy of the noble and learned Earl.

We now come to the second phase of what would have happened. Apart from the destruction of the Canal and possible loss of innocent lives, it is almost certain that with I a period of days the Arab States world have attacked Israel from all sides, not for the benefit of Colonel Nasser, w horn they heartily dislike, as does practically everyone, but simply because they have this undying and unreasoning hatred of Israel, for reasons into which we need not go at the present time, because it would take far too long. Israel could hardly have stood up for long to a concerted attack from all the Arab States. We should then have seen her annihilation, and the annihilation of her population in blood—a massacre unequalled since the Socialist Government left India, with the resulting deaths of anything up to 5 million people.

Not only that, but Colonel Nasser's ambitions were very great. In his wilder moments, King Farouk saw himself as a modern Haroun Al-Raschid, taking the place of the Caliph and ruling over all the Arab States surrounding Egypt. Colonel Nasser's ideas went further. We know that he is already endeavouring to make trouble right down to East and Central Africa. We know that he has been supplying arms to the Algerian rebels—I make no comment on whether the French Government have been wise or not in their handling of Algeria. We know that Nasser throughout the whole of the East is endeavouring to stir up the Moslem world, and would turn the whole of North Africa and Central Africa down to Lake Chad, and East Africa as far down as he could, into one blood bath in order that he could appear as the newest modern sawdust Cesar. Of course, his ambitions could never be fulfilled. If they were, Russia would soon see that he was liquidated, because Russia cannot stand anyone having so much power; and it is probable, also, that his own Arab allies would deal with him, because, as I have said, the Arabs like neither Egypt nor Nasser.

But that is the position with which we were faced, and that is what Her Majesty's Government had to contend with, as I have no doubt they knew well. All the legalistic hair-splitting in the world will not alter the fact that we were faced with a position that was truly desperate. I must confess that even to-day, with the cease-fire, I cannot regard that Middle Eastern position with other than the gravest apprehension; and I am sure that both Her Majesty's Government and the French Government have in mind the possibility that a ceasefire may be used, as in Korea, merely for the building up of new so-called Egyptian forces. I hope they are watching to see that the Soviet are not pouring in a couple of army corps by air so that they may make a sudden attack upon us when the time comes.

It is known that the Soviet are having heavy troop movements near the Persian border, in East Germany and in Central and Eastern Europe, and we know well that when movements like that are made they are not made for fun: they may be only precautionary, but then again, they may not. Because a couple of the chief gangsters came to this country some months ago and were, apparently, affable, a certain number of people seemed to have come to the conclusion that the Soviet leopard had changed his spots. Well, he has not: all he has done is to have a bath in whitewash; and the whitewash is coming off already, if we may judge from what has been happening in Hungary. Here I may say that I expected rather more sympathy with Hungary to come from the Benches opposite. It is not landlords and capitalists who are being liquidated there, but the Hungarian peasants and working classes.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Earl, I think we expressed in the plainest possible terms our sympathy with Hungary. We all feel the same in this House; there is no division about that whatever.


I am only comparing the proportion of time spent in discussing the two issues. As I have said, Her Majesty's Government found themselves in a difficult position indeed, and that position was not improved by the gross and most unfair attacks made upon the Prime Minister. I have known the Prime Minister now for some thirty-seven years since we were both undergraduates at Christ Church together. I have not always agreed with his politics. Sometimes I have considered that he has gone much too far in the direction of trying to achieve peace, sometimes to the extent of taking undue risks. But there is one thing that no one who knows the Prime Minister could rightly call him, and that is a warmonger, or one not devoted to the cause of peace. Yet we get one organ of the gutter-Press putting up in banner headlines "Eden's War"; and another Sunday newspaper, hitherto regarded as respectable, saying in its editorial that the time has passed when a British Government should invade a small country just to protect its own commercial interests. The Prime Minister throughout his whole career has deserved better than to be treated like that; and he has deserved better than some of the epithets and accusations thrown against him in another place, as well as in the country outside and in the Press.

I do not want to take too long, so I must condense my remarks. With regard to what the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House and we are all delighted to see him here again—said about the reform of your Lordships' House, I hope that this will be done, if possible, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, in a way which would meet with general approval. This, however, is rather doubtful, and I must warn the noble Marquess and the Government that if any attempt is made to interfere with the undoubted right of the hereditary Peerage to sit here—not necessarily to vote, but to sit and speak—then there will be considerable and implacable opposition from many Peers. Personally, I see no objection to the creation of a reasonable number of Life Peers, with payment, of course, and anything which can assist the Opposition in their undoubtedly arduous task.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, spoke of the difficulties of carrying on while there was a Socialist Government and Cabinet in another place and a large Conservative majority here. But that point was dealt with very well by the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House. He painted out, quite correctly, that at no time during the period of office of the Socialist Government had any single measure ever been turned down, or so grossly amended as to be unacceptable to another place, if it had appeared on the programme of the Socialist Party. Therefore, there is no reason to anticipate that in the future there will be any change. We can run the Constitution of this country in our own way quite well, and I, personally, would join issue with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, as to whether the present arrangement could not be logically justified. Certainly no-one would fail to agree that it works remarkably well, and also that the prestige of your Lordships' 'House stands high in the country—and in some cases, higher than that of another place.

We have heard a certain amount about the Capital Punishment Bill. I should like to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on grasping the nettle firmly and at once. Although there was in another place a narrow majority in favour of the abolition of capital punishment, I think there is no doubt whatever that there is in the country a decided majority against it. If a referendum could be taken—and I often regret that a referendum is not part of our Constitution—I think it would be found that the people of this country are in favour of the retention of hanging in extreme cases in a proportion of something like six to four. But probably there are ten to one in favour of some modification of the present position, and I am certain that if, as I anticipate, Her Majesty's Government produce a good Bill, we shall find little opposition in another place, less here, and wholehearted approval throughout the country.

There are many other points that have been raised on which I should have liked to speak, but I will say one last word on the subject of housing in Scotland. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will bear in mind that we in Scotland have a more difficult position in regard to housing than is the case in England. The expense incurred by local authorities in building houses is becoming a crushing one, quite apart from the subsidy. In my own county, which is one of the most economically run in Scotland, our rates have just gone up by 2s. in the pound and it would hale been at least another sixpence if we had not had some reserves with which to cushion the shock. That means that, quite apart from a reduction in subsidy we shall have to reduce the rate at which we are building houses unless we are to impose an altogether too severe burden upon our ratepayers. I hope, therefore, that the Government will have special regard to the circumstances of Scotland, and will treat us with reasonable generosity and make provision for a certain amount of money to be given for the modification and bringing up to date of old houses, many of which for a few hundred pounds can be made infinitely more suitable for present-day occupation than modern houses of more flimsy structure, build at three times the cost.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be brief, partly because of the lateness of the hour, and partly because I sense in tie House a feeling that some of the domestic matters which we are discussing tend to be submerged in our general preoccupation with the weighty matters which will be more fully discussed to-morrow. I should like to mention that it would appear, from the speech of the noble Earl who has just sat down, that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House is not only going to find the Liberal Party divided with regard to House of Lords reform, but may also find Members on his own Benches divided on that subject. I should like to be perfectly frank, and to say, to round it off, that I think it more than likely that there will be division on these Benches on the subject also. Therefore, whatever else may happen when the measure comes before the House, it is assured of a lively and controversial reception.

The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, in opening the Government's case to-day, was good enough to refer to me in connection with the proposals set out in the gracious Speech for continuing the lending powers of the National Film Finance Corporation, and the substitution of a statutory levy for the present voluntary levy. I hope that I shall not be regarded as uninterested in this topic if I confine myself to saying that I welcome the proposal to continue the lending powers of the National Film Finance Corporation and, to a lesser degree, the proposal for a statutory levy.

I should like for a few minutes to refer to another matter which is dealt with in the gracious Speech, and to which little, if indeed any, attention has been paid to-day that is, the reference to agriculture. The gracious Speech says: My Ministers will continue to make it their aim to promote conditions which will enable the agricultural industry to maintain its progress in increasing efficiency and to achieve the maximum economic production from our land. These are, of course, quite impeccable sentiments. I might even say that it is a completely innocuous paragraph in the gracious Speech in fact, I might go further and say that it is practically an empty paragraph. It says nothing at all with regard to the Government's intentions for agriculture. I think that is unfortunate, because, as has been said in this House in recent agricultural debates, there is a lack of confidence in the industry at the present time. There is doubt as to its future. Is it safe to continue with high-scale production, with its greater financial risks, or would it be wise to go over to some measure of "dog-and-stick" farming, with its lower returns but lesser risks? That is the type of question that many farmers are asking themselves at the present time. The answers which they give depend, naturally, on their degree of confidence in the future of the agricultural industry of this country.

I should say, at this stage, that I do not expect the noble Viscount. Lord Hailsham, to reply to this subject this evening. I know that he is privately knowledgeable on the subject, but I recognise that it is somewhat outside the scope of his departmental duties. I shall be entirely happy if, at an appropriate date, the Parliamentary Secretary will refer to the matter. I hope that it will very soon be possible for the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister to say something—and something much more substantial than is in the gracious Speech—that will increase the confidence of the farmers, because on the answers to these questions, as to what type of production they are to engage in in the future, depends the future level of agricultural production as a whole.

There is also, I am sorry to say, a lack of confidence in the Minister and in the Ministry. I will give one or two examples of the type of things which I believe have produced that lack of confidence. For some time now it has not been at a very high level, and I feel that it is, if anything, getting less. There was, for example the recent statement by the Minister of Agriculture about the difficult harvest we have had in this country this year. I noticed that the Minister has recently repudiated the suggestion. That there was any difference between the statement as made by him and the statement put out officially by the Ministry. It was merely, the Minister said, that his language was more colourful. I can assure your Lordships that it was not nearly so colourful as the language of the farmers who heard or read the statement, and who could find in it no resemblance to the harvest conditions which they knew and the harvest results which they and their neighbours had experienced. But whether we are going to take the "penny plain" version from the Ministry, or the "twopence coloured" version from the Minister, we are assured that the estimates contained in these statements were based on information collected by the officers of the Ministry.

I should like to ask that an early opportunity should be taken by the noble Earl, the Parliamentary Secretary, to tell us something more about that, and about how the information was obtained. May I say, by way of background to that request that I was recently at a county executive committee of the National Farmers' Union. At that meeting, there was indignant repudiation of the Ministry's statement as constituting a true picture of harvest conditions or harvest results. The question was raised which I am raising here, as to how the Ministry obtained the estimates on which that statement was based. Not a single one of these county committee men had been asked any questions by the local officers of the Ministry, and not one of them knew of any of his neighbours who had been asked any questions. It would seem strange, if the district officers were going round to collect information (I am not suggesting that they should accept all the answers they got; they could qualify them by their own assessment of what they saw), that not a single one of these county committee men should have been asked, or should know of any of his neighbours being asked. Until we are given some information by the Ministry as to how they get their information. I am afraid that many farmers will regard these statements as being based on nothing more than a "think-piece" by some of the officials of the Ministry.

It is very important that there should be confidence in Ministry estimates because what I have said about the estimates of this harvest applies also to the estimates made by the Ministry with regard to harvest yields. These harvest yields are, in some cases, used in part of the calculation of deficiency payments, as for example, in the case of barley. It is most important, if they are to have confidence in the industry, that farmers should feel not only that the Ministry figures are accurate but that they have been collected on some rational and known basis. The same point might be made with regard to the collection of figures relating to the returns which are made from time to time of earnings in the industry. I hope that the noble Earl will try to throw light on this whole subject at a fairly early date.

There is only one other example that I want to give of the sort of thing which has undermined confidence, and that is to be found in the disastrous experience of beef producers over the past many months. So many of your Lordships are yourselves farmers that I need not weary the House with details of how the system of the 52-week rolling average works. It is sufficient to say that it has failed to maintain the promised price level. The beef producers were in despair. Now the Minister has come forward with the offer of some £10 million or £11 million to be used it the form of retroactive back payments. I should be glad if we could be given information at some suitable time as to whether that is in fact, as has been stated in some quarters, an additional butt en on the Treasury, or whether it only using up what would have been short-fall in the payments already provided for under the deficiency payments scheme.

I would crake two comments upon it. One is that, under the many varied and complicated marketing arrangements in this country, there will be many cases in which the back payment will go not to the beef producer out to someone to whom the Ministry do not intend it to go. In many cases it will go to the producer, bit there are a great many cases in winch the producer will not benefit at all from this payment. The other point is that the low price of beef over these past many months has affected the price of other types of cattle, stores, calves, barreners and so on, and all the farmers who have suffered from that low range of price will get no benefit whatsoever from the further payment that is to be made. I had intended to develop a further point, but in view of the lateness of the hour let me content myself by saying that I regret that there is not in the gracious Speech something more positive with regard to agricultural policy which would have brought greater confidence to the industry.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, the proposer and seconder of the humble Address have paid tributes to Her Gracious Majesty and Members of the Royal Family in terms which I cannot hope to emulate, but I should just like to make one comment. I do not believe that a Parliament has ever before been opened in the full panoply of peace-time ceremony at a time of greater strain and crisis. When I look at that single Throne on the dais, I am always reminded of the loneliness of Monarchy. I am sure we must all have felt a particular loyalty and affection to Her Gracious Majesty yesterday in that she had to go through that ceremony without the support at her side of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.

I am going to confine my remarks to-day to one subject only. I want to express my regrets that there is nothing in the gracious Speech which indicates that the Government intend to give any assistance to the hotel industry. At least, there is nothing in the gracious Speech which gives one directly the hope of that outcome, although one paragraph, that dealing with the incidence of the rate burden, says that the Government intend to review the incidence of the rate burden between different classes of property. I hope that when that review is carried out the Government will give particular consideration to hotels. In my view, they should be treated for rating purposes as industrial premises.

When one appeals for a certain industry or a certain class of person, it sometimes, in fact usually, means an additional drain on our resources. In this case, however, I believe that assistance to the hotel industry will bring in a rich return of foreign currency and particularly of the dollar currency which is so vitally needed by this country. Already the hotels are the bottleneck of our tourist industry, and although there is a tendency for the number of visitors to rise each year, we cannot take many more unless we get more beds for them. I would remind noble Lords of the great extra potentialities of tourism which are likely to arise during the next few years. We are coming to the age of jet aircraft. It has been estimated that in four years' time there will be another 600,000 air seats per annum to bring passengers over the Atlantic. That is an enormous figure. Moreover, the third class air fares are coming within the region of practical possibility. I believe it is quite likely that people will be able to cross the Atlantic by air in a few years' time at a return fare of something in the region of £120. This will bring no benefit to this country unless we can house the people when they get here. Already we are losing visitors to Continental countries, either losing them altogether or they are limiting their stay here to two or three days and then going on to Europe for two or three weeks.

The costs of building a new hotel to-day are enormous. It is estimated that in the top class the cost is somewhere around the staggering figure of £5,000 a room, and even in the medium-class hotel it is something in the region of £3,000 a room. Unless the hotel industry can get more help, these hotels will not be built. There are many suitable vacant sites in the West End to-day which are ideally suited for hotels, and unless they can be used for that purpose I think many of them will remain empty, because, as I understand it, the demand for office blocks is much less urgent than it used to be and it is unlikely that many more vast office blocks will be built in the near future. Compare what we are doing which is literally nothing, to other countries in Europe. I believe that no fewer than 500 new hotels have been opened in Italy during the past twelve months. Of course, some of them were small, but that is still a staggering total. Great assistance is given in Denmark, Sweden and Spain. In all these countries one can see brand new hotels in many cities, even in some of the small cities, nearly all the rooms having their own bath, toilet and shower. The new traveller is not going to demand great luxury, but the American, in particular, at least wants a room with a shower and a toilet; and we just have not begun to cope with that demand.

This is a serious problem and we shall lose the benefit of this vast potential of foreign currency unless the Government act quickly to help the hotel and the tourist industry.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, I am very superstitious, and I observe that, including the Lord Chancellor, there are present thirteen Members of your Lordships' House. I only hope that nothing terrible happens to one of us in the next twelve months. I do not propose to mention more than once the names "Russia", "Egypt", or the "Suez Canal"; I propose to talk upon the subject which has been mentioned in the gracious Speech and which relates to a matter of great domestic necessity—namely, the reform as I understand it to be, of the Rent Restrictions Acts.

I do not wish to create any disharmony. One can observe a growing sense of harmony everywhere, especially in your Lordships' House; but I have an idea that the storm in the Suez Canal will be a mere academic discussion as compared with the hurricane which will arise when the Rent Restrictions Acts are discussed. However, I am quite sure that in your Lordships' House, at all events, the Socialist Party will treat this matter with great decorum and restraint. Incidentally (I hope that I may be pardoned for saying so), I am never quite clear whether one should refer to them as the "Socialist Party" or the "Labour Party." But your Lordships know who I mean; needless to say, I mean the Party represented by the good-looking noble Lords who are seated immediately on my left.

So far as rent restriction is concerned, I am not suggesting for a moment that the housing problem has been solved or is anywhere near solution, but I do say that a large measure of decontrol will assist and not retard the solution of the housing problem. There are between 8 million to 10 million hereditaments which are controlled by the Rent Restrictions Acts. Of that number, about 5 million are in a state of what one might describe as "suspended animation"—they are owner-occupied but still alive to the operation of the Rent Restrictions Acts should they be let at any time. I understand that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to free all those 5 million owner-occupied houses from the control of the Rent Acts. As to the remaining 3 million to 5 million hereditaments, we all know that some of these are controlled by what is known as "old control" and that others are controlled by what is known as "new control".

I see no point in floundering over this problem; I should attack it in a very bold way. The first thing to do is to free a number of these houses from control altogether, and I would suggest that the top limits of rateable value, at present £100 in London and £75 elsewhere, should be reduced forthwith to £75 in London and £50 elsewhere. By the gradual process of decontrol over a period of, say, three years, every single house should be freed from the Rent Restrictions Acts. While this process of gradual decontrol is going on, the rents of those houses still under control should be increased and a degree of uniformity obtained while relating the rents to the rateable value. I make this merely as a suggestion, but it may be practicable to fix the new rents at one and a half times the rateable value.

The only other subject I would mention, briefly, is that of rating. I am not clear whether the subject of derating comes within the ambit of "local government finance"—I wish. that people would call a spade a spade, and not a legislative shovel. I do not know whether or not derating comes within the ambit of the gracious Speech, but I hope that legislation will be introduced at an early stage to abolish iterating entirely in the case of industrial hereditaments and, in some degree, to revise the rating of agricultural land. So far as agricultural land is concerned, I appreciate that it may take some three to four years to value agricultural properties and to bring them back on to the valuation roll. There must have been some good reason in 1929 for relieving industry and agriculture from rates, but today the people who want relief are the residents in dwelling-houses. There is a great deal more that one could sty, but I am quite sure that it would be letter said by other Members of your Lordships' House.

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, we hive had an interesting debate to-day, wandering over a considerable number of topics, as is quite necessary on occasions of this kind. At this stage of our proceedings I am not going to add to the fatigues of Her Majesty's Government or other Members of the House by making anything like a long speech. We have not been altogether able to keep out of our discussions affairs in the Middle East. I am one of those who hope that before we start our debate to-morrow the situation will have cleared a little, and that we shall understand a little more what has been going on, what is going on, and what is expected to go on in the early future I thoroughly endorse what the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has aid: that the situation at the moment is very obscure; but I am quite sure that y our Lordships would agree with me that that, in effect, does not apply to the lucid and able speech of my noble and learner friend Lord Jowitt, in his masterly summary of what he believes to be the legal situation with regard to the United Nations and our right to make war while teat body is in existence.

No-one, I think, has mentioned one matter which I feel is of great importance and which is, of course, referred to in the gracious Speech—namely, the matter of Cyprus. I want to put on record my views on this matter. Important as the question of Enosis and self-government, and the forms of all these things, may be, in my own view the really essential point about Cyprus is: what is it that Her Majesty's Government want to do with the island? I believe that, if we are content to have a military base on the island, the inhabitants of Cyprus, the Cypriots, whether they are Greeks or Turks, will be prepared to agree to our retention of the island so long as they have a wide measure of self-government; but if, instead of that, we insist upon turning the whole island of Cyprus into a British military camp, I believe that we shall have opposition which we shall never succeed in beating down.

Now I come to the question of the House of Lords. I listened with great interest to the description by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, of some of the items which he gave us to understand were likely to be in the new reform proposals regarding the House. I need not say (the noble Marquess has already made the point) that there is not, and could not be, anyone on our Benches who for one moment would support any increase in the powers of the House of Lords. I understand from what the noble Marquess has said that there is no question whatsoever of that. But there was one omission in the various points he made which I cannot think was intentional. I cannot believe that in this year 1956, if there is to be reform of the House of Lords, it will not include permission for women to enter our walls. We are about the only institution which at the present time is still holding out in that respect, and I cannot believe that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government still to keep the barrier against the other sex.


My Lords, I cannot go very far, but I believe I can go so far as to say that I should expect that to form part of the scheme.


My Lords, I am very glad to hear what the noble Marquess has said.

On the question of capital punishment, Her Majesty's Government, I understand, hope to introduce a Bill which will more or less satisfy everybody, or at least go some way to doing so. Perhaps I am putting it too strongly, but the suggestion is that the Bill should go some way to satisfying both sides of opinion—in other words, it is to be a compromise Bill. There are only two ways in which one can compromise on this question, or in which one might conceivably think one could compromise, though I cannot see how one of them could come to anything. One might try to compromise between hanging a man and not hanging a man. I cannot see that that is at all possible. The only other way in which one can make a compromise is by having different degrees of murder; that is to say, those guilty of more horrible degrees of murder should suffer the penalty of capital punishment, while those guilty of less horrible degrees should not. As I understand it, it was precisely to decide that that the Royal Commission was set up. The Royal Commission came to a perfectly definite conclusion that one could not do that and I understood that its verdict was that capital punishment must either be kept more or less in its present form, or with some slight alteration, or abolished altogether. I shall be very interested to see the Bill proposed by Her Majesty's Government and if it can find its way through that difficulty I shall regard it with great interest, though I shall not necessarily approve it, because I am a wholehearted abolitionist.

I want now to turn to a question discussed by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. I have taken an active part 'in this question of protection right through my life, and if time permitted I could tell your Lordships many stories on that subject. I believe that where the noble Lord goes entirely wrong is in imagining that we who favour this free trade proposal do so because we imagine that it will bring us large additional markets of starving, naked persons from the 250 million people in Europe. It is nothing of the kind. The position is this. If a great free trade area is started in Western Europe and we keep out of it, then we shall lose the markets we have there at the present time, or at least shall stand to lose a great part of them; and as those markets bring us, in export trade, something in the neighbourhood of £100 million a year, I think we should be very unwise to do that. We do not, of course want to lose our Dominions market by so doing, for that would be another grave blunder. I believe that there is a halfway house, a compromise which I do not see with capital punishment, by which we could keep our great overseas Dominions markets and not lose our markets in Western Europe.

I had intended to deal at some length with the financial aspect introduced at an early stage of this debate by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. He explained how well Her Majesty's Government were doing in their financial methods of securing that there was no great rise in prices at the present time. That may or may not be so, and I am not going to deal tonight with the question of whether or not the methods they have adopted are good. In my opinion, however, there are two great issues which are very unsatisfactory and which, unless they are successfully dealt with, will give Her Majesty's Government no great credit in the financial world. The first is the balance of payments, which at the present time is most alarming. The second is the high cost of money, which is a stranglehold upon the economic life of the country. I think it better to-night not to go into those issues at any great length. Those are the views If wanted to put before your Lordships.

6.47 p.m.


My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, will allow me to say so, I was rather touched when he said that my task of answering to-night was for many reasons not an easy one. We have all been preoccupied, and I suppose all of us have had as anxious and painful a time in the last few days as at any time in our lives. I suppose I am no exception to that, but the noble Lord was quite right when he divined, I thought with sympathy, that one who had the administration of one of our great Fighting Services under his care should have had a particularly heavy burden to bear; and I think the task with which I am entrusted at the present time is one which I might well have performed with less difficulty had this not been the case. Should any of my remarks be found amiss, I hope that due consideration and compassion will therefore be extended to me.

As most of the remarks which we have heard have extended to general affairs. I should like to begin with one or two general observations of my own. To use a term which I would draw from the speech of the Leader of the Liberal Party at the beginning of the debate—with the passage to which I am going to refer I must say [...] wholeheartedly agree—we have all see it in the last few days a great cleavage and a great convulsion of public opinion, probably more violent and more perplexing than has happened for a very long time. Obviously that convulsion will occupy the debates and attention of those who are engaged in controversial politics for quite a time to come, but my own humble suggestion to your Lordships (and here I speak, I hope, without provocation) is a at this is really a moment for constructive statesmanship and leadership on the part of all three Parties. I may be wrong, but my own conviction is, from the little I know of our economic situation, of our practical problems, of the dark and perhaps darkening international landscape, that—whatever the rights and wrongs of cur disputes—we really cannot go on in the mood we are going on now.

It is not that I question the sincerity of anybody One of the most distressing features of the past few days, at any rate to me, has peen the fact that I knew myself to be passionately sincere, and that every morning I begged to know what my duty ' as and to have the courage and resolution to carry it out; but that other people, for whose integrity and patriotism. I have nothing but respect and for whose persons I have nothing but affection, felt as deeply and passionately that the thing I believed to be my duty was the contrary of what was right. So I deny or question the sincerity of nobody when I say this. But may I suggest that a cease-fire does not only extend as a courtesy to our enemies? It is also something we need very much at home.

However much we wish to debate these things in a controversial spirit, we must get down a nation to the profound problems with which we are going to be confronted at every turn—perhaps never more urgently than at the present time. Let us never forget this. If I may also say this—again, I hope, not provocatively those terrible events have been going on w lich have been occupying our minds, there was a voice in Hungary saying: We die[...] Hungary and for Europe. They died for us, because we are part of Europe; and if we ignore their cry or think we can be insulated from their suffering, the next thing will be that it will be us "for whom the bell tolls."

That leads me to answer—in a very few words, I hope—the very remarkable speech made by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, this afternoon. In answering it, I hope he will not suppose that I am setting myself up as an authority on law equal to himself, though he probably realises that for the better part of my life I have practised in the courts and that I have made the law my profession and, in a very real sense, a vocation. So what I have to say is rather as a lawyer, and I must tell him why, though very much less distinguished than he is, I happen to differ in some respects from his opinion. As he will realise better than anyone—indeed, as I think he really said at the beginning of his remarks—when you are giving a legal opinion you have really to do three things. You have to ascertain and state the correct principles of law to be applied. Secondly, you have to appraise, see the significance of and understand the facts. Thirdly, you have to apply the ordinary common judgment and sense of mankind in the application of the principles to the facts. I do not think that the first is for the legal expert quite so difficult as the second and third. That is why I say that the academic lawyers—an excellent race of men, but I must say a word of criticism here—are not always right in particular cases.

By way of answer to the noble and learned Earl, I should like to pose to your Lordships one or two considerations about international law at the present time. We have had a good many analogies. There is the analogy of the policemen, there is the analogy of the fire. But all analogies are misleading, however carefully they are used. I am going to give another probably not less misleading. It is only an analogy, but it is one that appeals to me. I believe the true problem is—and here I speak not having consulted my noble and learned friend—what are the rights, moral, political and legal, of men and nations when anarchy 'breaks out, when either there is no law applicable or law has ceased to be operative because it cannot be enforced?

Suppose I had lived in the United States in the old frontier days, and I had a dispute with a man about a house. And suppose I saw about that house, concerning which I had the dispute, two people I hardly knew—perhaps one of them my antagonist, perhaps some person wholly strange to me—fighting with guns and knives at that house which I believed owned. Perhaps there were a couple of children in the house. There was a state of anarchy, a state where there was no effective sheriff, no law ran and no man's right was effective. Is there a person in the world who, in such conditions, would deny either to a man or to a nation the right of intervention as a matter of urgency—the right to try to stop the fighting and preserve the subject matter? Personally, I believe that a system of jurisprudence which denied a man or a nation such a right in such a state of affairs would not be worthy of the name of civilised jurisprudence. I know of nothing in any charter, pact, or book or international law which has taken away such a right.

I would say respectfully to the noble and learned Earl, for whose opinion and reputation I have such profound respect, that where I think I differ from him is not in his statements of legal principles which, as one would expect, are excellent—but in the question, which is ultimately a question of fact, as to how far my analogy is a correct analogy or an incorrect one. As I say, we do differ. I am not denying that there are differences here. But let us know where we are. I believe it is because I differ in my appraisal of the facts; not because I differ so much from him in his statement of the law. He will, I know, allow me to say this to him without any kind of offence at all. When you are talking about facts and the application of principles to fact, once the law is correctly stated, the opinion of a lawyer as such is worth as much as, but not more than, that of any other intelligent man of affairs. And we are all entitled to make up our minds about this great issue of law and fact—without, I hope, rancour—realising that we cannot rely on experts to make up our minds for us. There was a man in Pilgrim's Progress, a friend of Mr. Worldly Wiseman, called Mr. Legality. Legality is not the same as law. And Mr. Legality, noble Lords will remember, was unable to lift Christian's burden from his shoulders.

I would venture to put before your Lordships this further reflection. We, on our side of the House, like noble Lords on their side of the House, arc no less concerned with the establishment of the rule of law among the nations. But what I think ought to preoccupy us, and noble Lords opposite no less than ourselves, is the danger lest the rules which we have invented for ourselves to prevent aggression become themselves vehicles for encouraging it. We are talking, for instance, about Israel. I should think that if it is going to be aggression for a nation to try to break out of a slowly strangling net, what future is there for the small nations of the world? If the only kind of thing which justifies a nation in resorting to self-help is an all-out blitz attack, which was largely the preoccupation of those who drafted the Charter, what future is there for the Charter?

I ask this second question, which I think should preoccupy noble Lords and which certainly has preoccupied me all the time I have anxiously considered my duties this last week, If it is part of the function of the rule of law to prevent the aggression or attack of the strong against the weak, ultimately what protection should the rule of law offer to prevent the exploitation by an unscrupulous dictator of a small Power from trading upon the unwillingness of a great Power to use its terrific strength? Because if, in the long run, the rule of law gives no protection to the great Power, gradually its force will be nibbled away, and one small act of lawlessness will lead to another until the whole rights and standards of living and future of the great Power, of maybe 50 million or 100 million people, may be utterly undermined and destroyed without regard to law. Whatever one's convictions about the correctness or incorrectness of policy during the last few days, one simply cannot afford to let these problems go unsolved. The only way in which the rule of law can ever be preserved is by preventing anarchy from breaking out. Where anarchy has broken out, self-help becomes one of the natural rights of man: and that is just what all lawyers want to prevent.

May I now turn for a moment—because I have taken too long about this subject, bit I felt that the noble and learned Earl was entitled to a reply this afternoon, even if it was only I who had to answer (if I may say so with due humility)—to some other subjects which have been raised in the course of the debate. As one would have expected, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, criticised the policy Linda-lying the Rent Acts, but I wonder how far he really faced up to the difficulties of the problem. He seemed to think that legislation of some kind was necessary: but hardly this kind of legislation. What sort does he think necessary? He thought that there might be some time at which to legislate; but not this particular time. Well, when does it become right to legislate? What is the evil underlying the Rent Acts? I will tell your Lordships exactly the way in which this problem occurs to me. Not so very long ago somebody said that the difference 'between the two Parties was that the Socialist Party—or rather he Labour Party: I always like to call them by the name they like to be called by—believe that housing is a social service and that the conservative Party believe that it is a source of profit.

I do not think that represents the true difference at all. Of course, it is a social service to provide people with houses. It is a social service to provide people with meat, but I nobody expects the butchers to provide meat at an artificially low price. The quest on is: how long after the beginning of an emergency we can expect to go on letting an adequate supply of new houses or old houses kept in a proper state of maintenance if we provide a hidden subsidy out of the pockets of the persons whose business it is to supply them. No longer, I venture to think, than we would get good meat if we asked the butchers to subsidise the meat supply. Until we face that problem with intellectual honesty, as I try to do, it is no good criticising Government policy. We shall have plenty of debates during the course of the Session in which these problems will be threshed out.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, put a number of problems to me about economics. He seemed to remember that I had said that I knew nothing about economics. If the noble Lord will search his memory a little more deeply, he will remember that I said, perhaps less modestly, that my friends always tell me that I know nothing about economics. I would not commit myself entirely to agreeing with them. It is not Government policy to discourage hire-purchase as such. Hire-purchase is a most useful form of credit. It is a great aid to family budgeting. It is one of the means whereby the weekly wage-earner can obtain the amenities of life. But of course it is also a source of great expenditure upon consumer goods. As I understand it—and I am very conscious that I should be more careful to read from a Treasury brief at this point—the problem of restriction on hire-purchase and credit is only another aspect of the restriction of consumption; and this Bill, which is adumbrated in the rather inscrutable words of the gracious Speech, does not alter the degree or extent of the restriction of credit at all. It is not contemplated that it should do that. It is designed simply to alter the legal basis of the restriction, to put on a permanent footing what was previously under the Emergency Powers. We do not want restriction of credit for ever and a day. Of course, there may be times when, so far from wanting to restrict credit, we should increase it; but we now recognise the necessity of having the power, and, having the power to put it on a legislative footing instead of on a basis of Emergency Powers.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his explanation. It is a short-term policy and not a long-term one.


Yes; the restriction of credit is short-term policy, and the proposed legislation is enabling and not executive.


My Lords, would the noble Viscount always bear in mind, if the policy of the Government is to diminish the demand for home goods in order that there may be more exports, that there is much to be said for stopping the present system of advertising more home goods by television?


Am I right in suspecting that the noble and learned Earl is trying to embarrass me personally? Because if so, he will not succeed on this occasion. At this time of night I do not think it would be wise to embark upon the three-cornered debate between the noble Lords, Lord Rea, Lord Pethick-Lawrence and Lord Balfour of Inchrye. I would support the remarks made by my noble friend, Lord Selkirk, earlier this afternoon about the value of the European market and I do not wish to commit myself further.

The noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, asked a number of questions. I should like, first of all, to thank him for what he said on behalf of the Services. I know that noble Lords opposite would wish to be associated with that. However much they may differ from the Government's policy which necessitated the use of those Services, I know they would wish to extend the thanks of a grateful nation to all three.

My noble friend Lord Stratheden and Campbell spoke particularly from the point of view of the Army. It is natural that I should be particularly preoccupied with the Navy, and I am not sure how much it is realised that this was largely a naval operation. The aircraft were largely naval aircraft: the land forces were largely Marines; and, of course, the carriage was largely by sea. I know that your Lordships would desire me to say, speaking for the moment as a Departmental Minister, that that work was carried on with faultless efficiency and absolutely unswerving devotion to duty. If for no other reason, I am glad that I have been chosen to answer this debate to-day, in that it has enabled me to say that with all my heart, not only on my own behalf but also, I believe, on behalf of a grateful nation.


The Air Force was not used? It has not been mentioned by the noble Viscount.


With respect to the noble Lord, I am certain that it has been mentioned. He and I served as Joint Under-Secretaries of State. Everything that I said about the Services was intended to include the Royal Air Force, and it was only because I have the liveliest recollection that one of my noble friends spoke in glowing terms of the achievement of the Air Force that I did not pay special tribute to them on this particular occasion. It would be less than right if I gave that impression and if I did, I would seek to rectify it. On the special questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell. I hope that we shall learn a certain amount of valuable experience about the National Service grant. I have a long dissertation in my brief which I should like to show to the noble Lord, but I think he would prefer that I should do that privately and not trouble your Lordships at this late hour.

The question of the explanation to the Reservists of the reasons for their recall is not altogether an easy one. A pamphlet was issued, which again I will show to my noble friend, if he so desires. I think noble Lords opposite would probably agree with me that there are two divergent streams of public interest to be observed. It is, of course, intrinsically desirable that all who serve in connection with the Armed Forces should have explained, in the clearest possible language, if possible by their commanding officers, exactly what it is all about. But your Lordships will remember that this was itself a matter of acute political controversy and I think (I do not know whether the House will agree with me on all sides) that there were considerable political dangers in indoctrinating Reservists, from the political point of view, as to the reason for their recall. I think that in a free country, where matters are of political controversy, there are many people who would consider it an abuse of Government power to give Reservists a full explanation of matters which others would want to contradict. We had to be careful in what we did. However, I will show my noble friend what we did.

The noble Earl, Lord Limerick, asked me some questions about the Conventions of 1949. Speaking personally, this is the part of my brief which I like the least, but in what I have to say I will try to be perfectly frank. Let there be no doubt whatever about this. The Government are absolutely wholeheartedly behind their adherence to those Conventions and behind the remarks made by my noble friend only a few days ago. For the reasons which the noble Earl, Lord Limerick. explained, legislation is necessary and is considered desirable, and I do not think—I am now speaking personally, rather than as a Minister—it would present any great difficulties to draft it, although when I came to look into it I found that it would involve a greater amendment of our criminal law and other aspects of our law than I thought when I started to look at it.

Again speaking personally, I have always thought—I do not know whether this opinion is shared by noble Lords—that one of the minor scandals of our time is the inability of Parliament to digest certain aspects of quite uncontroversial legislation. I should have regarded this, legislation, together with some other Bills which have been squeezed out of the Session's programme, as quite uncontroversial. I am bound to tell your Lordships, frankly, that this is what happened to the Bill ratifying the 1949 Conventions. If noble Lords opposite, with their friends in another place. and through the proper channel, could devise a means of getting Parliamentary time for sue h legislation. I know that the Government would try to co-operate. At any rate, again speaking personally, I find it almost impossible to explain to people outside Parliament in this country, left alone in the world outside, why something which obviously ought to be done is something for which Parliament cannot find time in a particular Session. I hope that I have explained that part of my brief with reasonable honesty—though not to my own satisfaction.


I know the noble Viscount will not expect me to be any more satisfied than he is should like to be quite clear about this matter. Is the position that the noble Viscount has been good enough to tell your Lordships that the answer to my question is "No", subject only to his reaching some arrangement with noble Lords opposite about creating from a vacuum a reality of Parliamentary time?


I forget the exact form in which the question was asked, and therefore I hesitate to give an unqualified negative. But if the question was whether it is in the programme for the present, the answer, subject to what: I have said, is "No." I am sorry to say it, but it is the only answer I can give.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, asked me about a debate about railways aid the White Paper on railways. I am not sure that I understand the intrinsie advantage of our putting the Motion down, rather than his doing so, but I am sire that that is a matter which will be favourably considered by those more competent to discuss that particular question than I am.

The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, asked my noble friend Lord Salisbury a question about the duration of the time for which the forces in the Suez Canal might be used. The noble and learned Earl will realise again that, speaking, as I do, not within my own Department and not with very long notice, I must be extremely careful, and for that reason I may be a little indefinite.


I would make it quite clear that if the noble and learned Viscount prefers not to answer I shall not have the slightest objection.


I should like to say this, and I hope that it may give some satisfaction. So far as our own troops are concerned, the sooner we can hand over to the International Force which is contemplated, the better. So far as the International Force is concerned—and if I understood the question of the noble and learned Earl, he was adverting rather to that than to our own troops—I imagine that the answer must be that, as that Force will have been set up by the United Nations Organisation, its terms of reference will have to be determined by that Organisation although naturally, as a member of that Organisation, we should have something to say about them. I do not think I should say more than that, and if it is not definite enough. I apologise to the noble and learned Earl.

I should like to conclude with one observation about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rea. We have lived in challenging, times. I agreed with the remark of my right honourable friend that in such times the only guide is a man's own conscience and a nation's own conscience. I quite agree that, in forming that conscience, one has to take account of the deeply held and cherished convictions of other people. But, having come to a conclusion about what is right, I do not think that one ought to do what one thinks is not right because one is afraid of what other people may say about what one has done. I would say to him quite respectfully, something about this country which emerges from that; and on that note I should like to close.

Of course, it is true that this country with its great complex of interests and friendships all over the world, has most earnestly to consider the aspirations, the interests, the religions, the ideals of almost every other people in the world: and I hope that nothing I may say may cast any doubt on the sincerity with which I say it. I should like, however, to add this. I have sometimes thought, in the last few years, that we were, on the whole, very conscientious about what other people thought of us, and that other people did not perhaps take enough account of what we thought of them.

I believe that it would be a serious thing if that state of affairs were allowed to continue. You cannot go on niggling, provoking, annoying and insulting a people with an honourable tradition like ourselves without creating some kind of resentment at what you have done. I have sometimes thought, in the past few years, that there were people in the world who sought to curry favour with their own populations—sometimes populations whom they ruled by force and not by choice—by trying to score off, or exploit, the British who happened to have interests which they were loth to defend except by force of argument. That is not a situation with which any nation or any Government in this country can indefinitely rest content. I would say respectfully to all here, whatever their convictions, that the time has come when all of us must be quite certain that we should not allow others to exploit either the interests or the standard of life of our own people without a protest.

7.23 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned, and I wish to give the terms of an Amendment which will be moved by my noble friend Lord Henderson when he comes to make his speech to-morrow. The Amendment is to move to add to the humble Address the following words: but, in view of the grave international situation and of the divisions of opinion in the Commonwealth regarding Your Majesty's Government's policy in Egypt, call upon Your Majesty's Government to convene immediately a conference of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth, in order to arrive at an agreed policy in support of the authority of the United Nations.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Mothers.)


My Lords, I should like to ask one question of the noble Lord, Lord Mathers. That Amendment, which is an excellent Amendment, deals with a rather limited aspect of the present international situation. It deals merely with the calling of a meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I take it that it is not the desire of the Opposition that the debate should he limited to that point. I rather hoped that we should have the opportunity of ranging over the whole situation.


The Amendment was intended I to provide that opportunity, and to keep within the rules.

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

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past seven o'clock.