HL Deb 05 November 1957 vol 206 cc6-26

The Queen's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, I beg, to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as followeth:

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."

My Lords, it is my first duty on this occasion to thank the noble Earl the Leader of the House for the great honour he has done me in asking me to move this humble Address—an honour of which I feel quite unworthy. I am not an Admiral of, the Fleet am not a captain of industry; I am not even a Scotsman, nor a Welshman, and I can only assume, therefore, that my noble Leader has asked me to move this Address because it has been decided by Her Majesty's Government not to interfere with the hereditary principle in their plans for the reform of your Lordships' House. Therefore my noble Leader has thought fit to ask someone to move this Address whose sole qualification is heredity.

I am most deeply aware of the responsibility which goes with the privilege I have to-day of voicing for all your Lordships our tribute to Her Majesty—a tribute of gratitude and admiration. The resounding success of her recent visit to Canada and the United States of America is only the latest proof that Her Majesty is her own best ambassador. I am sure that the feeling uppermost in our minds to-day, at this moment of time, must be one of gratitude, a sense of profound thankfulness that the Crown is in such safe hands; that Her Majesty so constantly displays such matchless devotion to duty and such wisdom and, as we saw this morning, such grace, and that she has at her side His Royal Highness Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, who has the vision and the strength of character that fit him so well to help her carry her enormous responsibilities. Our thanks indeed are due to every member of the Royal Family for the support they so constantly give to Her Majesty and for the service they so tirelessly give to us all.

My Lords, I now must turn to the subject matter of the gracious Speech. Clearly, I must refer to foreign affairs first because foreign affairs must come first, for if foreign policy fails and there is war there can be no advance in domestic or social policy. The noble Lord who is to follow me intends to deal with this great subject in more detail, and I will venture to address your Lordships only in the most general terms. It has often been said that war will end civilisation; yet wars have come and civilisation has survived. But to-day, at any rate, or so it seems to a non-scientist like myself, the risks of total calamity are increasing at such a horrifying rate that it would be in the highest degree dangerous to assess what might happen if war broke out to-day by reference to what has happened in the past. At this very moment the first man-made planets—I think one cannot call them heavenly bodies—are in their orbits, encircling the earth. We have, indeed, started upon a new chapter in the history of mankind. But let us surely, in the words of the gracious Speech, be inspired by hope and not retarded by fear. And certainly, by all means let us not fall prey to that almost hysterical despair which your Lordships will so well remember preceded, but did not avert, the war of 1939.

No words from me are necessary in this context to emphasise the profound significance of the Declaration of Common Purpose—the Declaration of Interdependence, as it has been called—that was issued only a few days ago by President Eisenhower and Mr. Macmillan after their three-day meeting, but I should like to quote to your Lordships one small passage from that Declaration: The concept of national self-sufficiency is now out of date. The countries of the free world are inter-dependent, and only in genuine partnership, by combining their resources and sharing tasks in many fields can progress and safety be found. The significance of that, surely, is that it is not merely a declaration of interdependence between this country and the United States of America, though this is the bedrock upon which the whole edifice must be built; it is not even a declaration of inter-dependence between the Commonwealth and the English-speaking peoples. It goes far beyond that. It is to embrace all the free nations of the world, organised as they may be, geographically, in their various groupings. This is the "unity among free peoples" of which we heard this morning in the actual words of the gracious Speech. I do not believe this will be brought about solely by military alliances. Let us never forget nor belittle the strength and the value of the links that are forged by trade.

It must be right, therefore, that steps are to be taken towards the establishment of a European Free Trade area. There are those who fear that any such project must seriously weaken the economic links which help to bind the Commonwealth. I do not share that fear. I do not believe that freer trade in Europe is necessarily incompatible with Commonwealth interests. Doubtless there are dangers and doubtless in these difficult negotiations we must negotiate from strength. I attach, therefore, the greatest importance to the Commonwealth Trade and Economic Conference that is to be held in 1958. Provided that Conference succeeds in its aim of "reinforcing still further" the economic ties between the countries of the Commonwealth, nothing but good can come from an honest endeavour to tackle as well the difficult problems involved in trying to arrive at freer trade in Europe.

I will now turn to what, in my opinion, is perhaps the most heartening and encouraging aspect of the gracious Speech: the forthright determination to tackle inflation. Who can doubt that we are entering on an extremely critical phase in our economic affairs? Our whole future as a world trading nation may well depend on whether, during the next few months, we can arrest, and in the long-term contain, the inflation which is undermining the value of our money, undermining the international status of sterling and undermining the soundness of our economy. I have no doubt whatever that inflation can be stopped, if enough of us want to stop it. But far too many people in all walks of life have come to think that a kind of creeping inflation is inevitable; indeed, some even seem to regard it as desirable. I hold an absolutely contrary view, which has been well summed up in a short passage which I will quote to your Lordships: No greater tragedy, short of war, could befall the free world than to have our country surrender to the easy delusion that a little inflation, year after year, is either inevitable or tolerable. For that way lies ultimate economic chaos and incalculable human suffering. Those words were not used about this country; they were used about the United States of America by Mr. Martin, who has been chairman of the United States Federal. Reserve Board since 1951; and they were used only about a month ago.

What applies to the United States in this context must apply even more to this country because we are so much snore dependent on international trade. Countries such as Germany who in the past have experienced the final stages of inflation are under no delusions whatever about its dangers; they have seen the whole economy brought to a standstill. How can it be, then, that this easy delusion of a semi-desirable creeping inflation has such a hold? If we are honest and face it, the reason can only be that some sections of the community have up till now (and I do not believe it is possible to do so much longer) isolated or insulated themselves from this matter. The real burden has been thrown on others, often those least able to bear it. I am sure that success in tackling inflation will come only when we can create the will to succeed. To create that will we must make people much more fully aware of the facts and of the great dangers inherent in the situation that confronts tits. It is for that reason that I welcome the formation of the Council under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Cohen. Given the co-operation that that Council ought to have from all those who have the true interests of this country at heart, it will, I am sure, make a valuable contribution to public understanding of these matters, which is a prerequisite to success.

It is partly within this context, the determination to tackle inflation, that I welcome the mention in the gracious Speech of local government reorganisation. I do not think it is sufficiently realised how large a proportion of total public expenditure is in the hands of the various units of local government. There is a temptation for the layman to think that local government spends the rates and central government spends the taxes. Local government certainly spends the rates, but it spends a very large proportion of the central taxes as well. So no consideration of total public expenditure can really be undertaken unless we consider local government spending at the same time. The suggestion that percentage Treasury grants should give way to a system of block grants has aroused opposition in some quarters, but I hope that the proposed grant changes will not be considered in isolation or in a partisan manner. They represent only one aspect of the proposed reorganisation of local government, and the proposals must stand or fall according to whether or not they will improve the well-being of local government as a whole and whether or not they can instil a greater sense of shared responsibility.

Clearly, it would be an exaggeration to say that most, or indeed any, local authorities take an irresponsible view; but there can be no doubt that a local authority is tempted to give less careful scrutiny to a proposal that will attract a 100 per cent. Treasury grant than to one that will fall wholly on the rates. I believe that your Lordships, many of whom are very familiar with units of local government, will realise that that is no exaggeration. To quote at random, I believe that the Library Service has no central financial grant at all; the School Meals Service is reimbursed 100 per cent.

Just as we must not have taxes without representation so we must not have expenditure without financial responsibility. But, of course, in this matter of local government reform there are greater considerations involved than financial considerations. What really has to be resolved is whether local government is to be government, democratic government, with all that that implies for elected members responsible to those who have elected them, or whether local government is to be allowed to become merely local administration, mainly by officials, of the edicts of central government. Before I leave this subject of local government, your Lordships will not have missed hearing that there are to be alterations in the system of rating. I confess that these words have a rather ominous ring in my ears. I hope they do not indicate re-rating of agricultural land. But I think, with the paramount duty upon me to-day of being non-controversial, I had better leave that subject and pass on.

I can absolutely welcome the pledges in support of British agriculture that are contained in the gracious Speech. British agriculture can, I hope, be forgiven for an occasional nervous glance over its shoulder to see whether it is being overtaken by the ghost of thirty years ago. But I believe that that ghost is laid, never to return, and that there can be no justification for thinking that Her Majesty's Government is proposing to abandon pledges so frequently and recently given. I believe that the ghost of the 'thirties was laid by those who created and accepted the Agriculture Acts of 1947 and 1948, the most far-reaching and fundamental legislation. If there had been any doubts, surely they were laid to rest when, in the last Session, a further Act was passed which incorporated, amongst other things, the long-term assurances which had been the subject of a White Paper which was debated at length in your Lordships' House.

I do not believe any man wants to see this legislation removed from the Statute Book, but I also feel that few of us who have been directly concerned with agriculture during this last decade, whether as farmers, administrators, landowners or workers, would deny that ten years' experience of the 1947 and 1948 Acts shows, not unnaturally, that some amendments are necessary. Some defects in the Acts have long been apparent, and I am sure it will be generally welcomed that these are to be tackled in the coming Session. The major problems will, I think, be found to centre around security of tenure and discipline. There must be security of tenure, in my submission, for the good farmer. It is right that good farming and good landlording should reap a just reward. But the Acts were never intended to provide almost absolute security of tenure for all farmers, or to insulate bad farming against the natural operation of economic laws. In so far as these tendencies have appeared, amending legislation is clearly necessary. The Acts want bringing up to date, but they do not, in my opinion, want scrapping.

Just as the original Acts of 1947 and 1948 were agreed legislation, so it is most sincerely to be hoped that the proposed revisions of these Acts will again be broadly agreed, not only by the farmer, the owner and the worker but also by the three political Parties. Agriculture has a good record: it is a record no other industry can surpass; record of good labour relations, of increasing productivity and of nonpartisan legislation. Long may this proud record remain untarnished!

I welcome the fact that the Government propose to implement many of the recommendations made by the Sir Oliver Franks Committee on Administrative Tribunals and Enquiries. It is an ageless problem, and one of fundamental importance, that a proper balance should be kept between the efficiency of administration, on the one hand, and the rights of the individual, on the other. This balance has seemed recently, in many instances, to be going against the individual. It is right that it should be restored.

My Lords, I welcome the fact that legislation will, at long last, be introduced next Session for the reform of your Lordships' House. I do not share the view that nothing should have been done until a complete and comprehensive scheme of reform had been worked out and agreed between the Parties. It was many years ago, some 350, I think, on this very day, November 5, that an extremely comprehensive scheme was worked out! I hope that the measure to be introduced this Session will prove a good example of learning to walk before you run. Many other matters are referred to in the gracious Speech, and the Session promises to be a full one. But over and above all I believe that the task which lies before us now is to keep our heads; to keep the peace; and to live within our means. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as followeth—

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Earl Waldegrave.)

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, as I rise to second the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, I am very well aware of a double honour in the occasion. I should like first to echo his words of thanks to our noble Leader for the immense honour he has paid me in asking me to speak to-day at all; and also in entrusting me in part with the perplexing but very welcome task of trying to pay adequate tribute and thanks to Her Majesty The Queen for Her gracious Speech to us this morning. But it is also a privilege to follow so comprehensive and, if I may say so, knowledgeable a speech as that to which we have just listened.

Before I try to continue in the realm of foreign affairs, I should like, if I may, to pick up one of the last topics mentioned by the noble Earl and to say how glad I am that Her Majesty's Government are now to introduce legislation to put into effect some of the recommendations of the Franks Committee. There is no doubt that general anxiety has been roused by the growing power of tribunals in every sphere fundamentally to interfere with the life and livelihood of each one of us. The problem, broadly, is to ensure that, so far as public policy can allow, tribunals should be open, fair and impartial; that, wherever possible, the courts should be allowed to oversee them, and that, in any case, all tribunals should enjoy the same public confidence which is placed in the courts. Any measures which would have these results will. I am sure, be widely welcomed.

Turning to matters further afield, I shall at once repeat that, as in years past so now, the mainspring of our foreign policy must be our alliances with America, with Europe, and with the Commonwealth. As I see it, Great Britain is to-day in a unique and vital position: for the three circles of which I have just spoken—the Atlantic Community, Europe and the Commonwealth—all intersect in this country, and in this country alone. To them I should add another, most important, to the freedom of the world—that of the Baghdad Pact. But the very fact that these alliances all converge on London gives us, I think, a peculiar responsibility. It is perhaps a measure of our national greatness and importance that we should hold this central position. It is certainly a position that provides us with immense chances of leadership in the cause of peace. It also lays upon us the special duty of seeing that these alliances are never torn apart from each other.

Fortunately, the trend towards a firmer establishment of them has never been more marked. One month ago to-day the world was electrified by the news of the launching of the first Russian earth satellite. Yesterday's newspapers carried news of further amazing developments. Implicit in these achievements is cause for grave thought in the free world upon the military and industrial aspects and the advantages which Russia is gaining from the techniques which made them possible. We know, for example, that the rocket which propelled the first satellite on to its orbit was a modified version of the Soviet T4 inter-continental ballistic missile, and the new one was considerably more powerful still; while in industry the electronic and other devices may have great effects upon their automation.

Yet, on the credit side, I believe that this display of Soviet ability has been the final stroke which has convinced the free nations of the world of the urgent fact that no longer can they afford duplication of effort in scientific research. The Russian project is estimated to be costing over five to six years some £5,000 million. Such a target can be reached, and surpassed, by the nations of the free world, but only if they co-ordinate their endeavours. If, therefore, this demonstration, even in part, has helped to foster that unity which, as the gracious Speech tells us, we may hope will be a notable outcome of the recent Conference in Washington between the Prime Minister and President Eisenhower, we may be grateful to the Russians for a very well-received advance Christmas present. At last the commonplace of Anglo-American co-operation may reach new and satisfying fruition.

But the Joint Declaration also emphasises the hope that this understanding will be increasingly widespread. All are invited to join us, and it is in this context that the new look which we can now hope may be given to N.A.T.O. is particularly important. N.A.T.O. is the backbone of my first circle, the Atlantic Community. It has already made great steps towards the integration of the Community's military defences, through the Standing Armaments Committee and the four Regional Commands. In fact, no one in the Forces can fail to be aware of N.A.T.O.'s influence in that field, from the highest commander, with his row of various strategic hats, to the platoon signaller whose code letters "Roger" and "Jig" have now become "Romeo" and "Juliet". But the paragraph of the Declaration which recognises that our collective security efforts must be supported and reinforced by co-operative economic action may perhaps lead to a new rôle for N.A.T.O., after the special meeting next month. For, if N.A.T.O.'s embryonic organisations on non-military matters, such as the technical committees and the small economic side, were to be allowed to grow, N.A.T.O. could become a truly comprehensive and very great alliance indeed; and through it, most fittingly, might be furthered the declared aims of improvement of trading conditions and the expansion of trade throughout the free world.

If that were to be so, it would be only in accord with the movement apparent in my second circle—Europe. The European Coal and Steel Community is already in operation; the European Common Market and Euratom are soon to be inaugurated. We hear to-day that Her Majesty's Government welcome the recent declaration by the Council of O.E.E.C. of their determination to promote the establishment of a European Free Trade Area. Clearly, any scheme which has to fit in with so many other obligations as does this is liable to raise highly complicated issues. Nor is it made easier by our need to protect our own agricultural industry, and the impossibility of binding ourselves to the decisions of any supra-national governing institution which might force on us a tariff prejudicial to the Commonwealth.

Nevertheless, the difficulties are not, I believe, insoluble: even the six European Common Market countries want only a managed market in agricultural produce, so that our own farmers now have even less to fear from a Free Trade Area. Nor is it more than about one-eighth of our imports from the Commonwealth which are in competition with similar agricultural imports from the Free Trade Area nations. Moreover, the advantages for this country would be considerable; a market of about 240,000,000 people would be opened up, which might even be lost if the European Common Market Area became too self-sufficient; freer movement of capital and people, and the encouragement of industrial efficiency and development cannot fail to help our internal economy, dependent as it is on maintaining exports at a high level. Nor do I feel that the Commonwealth is altogether hostile. Mr. Casey, the Australian statesman, recently said: There is an overriding political advantage of a very high order in the integration of Europe. We think the world will be a more stable place when Europe is integrated to that degree; we think it will have general broad trade advantages for the world. Before I finish my survey, however, with the vital circle of the Commonwealth, I must refer to the passage in the gracious Speech on the subject of the United Nations. The new advances of the frontiers of the world have transformed what has been for most people the subject matter for space fiction and children's toys into a realised fact and a concern for every grown person on earth. But just as the project grew out of a truly world-wide International Geophysical Year, so, too, it has been suggested to-day that Her Majesty's Government will pursue their endeavour to ensure that all such projects, to their widest degree, shall remain on a truly international level. It would be tragic if so exhilarating a prospect were to deteriorate into a means by which the tensions which divide the surface of the earth were to be extended into the space which surrounds it. Modern discoveries have let loose dangers far more diverse and appalling than it was possible to imagine a short time ago.

Both, then, for the sake of those who experiment and for the sake of the world's populations who can be placed in so deadly a peril by an unscrupulous use of the knowledge obtained, or even by a small technical slip, these discoveries must be controlled by the highest combined inspiration of all countries. Here might be the supreme chance for the United Nations. That body has already done more than it often receives credit for in smaller schemes, such as the refugee problem or the United Nations Expeditionary Force; but if only now it could solve the dilemma of co-operation for peaceful purposes in all that is new in the realm of science it would have achieved a success which would establish its reputation once and for all.

The last year has added to the Commonwealth two new independent nations. They have already been welcomed in your Lordships' House, but I should like to take this opportunity of repeating that welcome, for their very existence lends weight to that sentence in the gracious Speech which pledges Her Majesty's Government to the continuation of the economic and constitutional development of the territories overseas in their care. Another step in that direction is 'to be taken in Singapore. Malta's special position is also to be examined. I am sure, too, that I speak for all your Lordships in hoping for a successful solution of the problems of Cyprus.

The Commonwealth is the third circle of which I spoke. This country must truly be its pivot. Upon its solidarity, too, rests so largely the balance and sanity of the rest of the world. That solidarity is a real thing. The Conference of Prime Ministers this summer, the recent Conference at Mont Tremblant, and that which has arisen out of it and will take place next year on trade and economic matters, all bear witness to the inter-dependent spirit and kinship within the Commonwealth. Above the work of the statesmen stands that institution which is known by the technical phrase of your Lordships' House as the Head of the Commonwealth. But in fact we have so much more than an institution: we have, in Mr. Dulles's words, "the wonderful personality" of Her Majesty the Queen. It is upon her personal triumph, with the Duke of Edinburgh, in Canada and America that I should like to end.

We are humbly grateful to Her Majesty for her gracious Speech to us this morning when, as Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, she opened her Parliament in Westminster. But we must be more humble and more grateful still for that marvellous power which she has just, once more, demonstrated to us, when she reigned as Queen in Ottawa—that power to awake, both in those who were present and in those who could only hear the reports, the admiration and loyalty innate in all of us throughout the Commonwealth, and to arouse that mighty enthusiasm in America. Every Commonwealth country is an individual panel in the magnificent robe which clothes the Head of the Commonwealth; each new nation adds its own special colour and pattern to the diversity already woven into it. But it is she who bears its weight with so incomparable a grace who, with the other members of the Royal Family, is our proudest and most confident guarantee that that diversity shall remain a unity; and, moreover, that wherever else in the world she may go, the Commonwealth shall be most gloriously represented. May she live long and may she hear and accept the thanks of many more noble Lords, even though they be of a rather different creation, as they move or, as I now beg to do, second the Motion for an Humble Address!

4.24 p.m.


My Lords, according to the practice of your Lordships' House, I rise, as Leader of the Opposition, to move the adjournment of the debate until tomorrow, and at the same time to take the opportunity, also by custom, to pay our tributes to the noble Lords who moved and seconded the loyal Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I do not know whether the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, will agree with me, but I have a feeling in my heart that this has been a great day for Somerset. During the opening of Parliament I sat on the Bench next to His Grace the Duke of Somerset, and the noble Earl who moved the humble Address comes from the same county. We are proud of the county that, whenever the country is in need of them, sends men to deal with its affairs.

I have listened in both places to a great many speeches moving the loyal Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. If I may say so, it was quite wrong for the noble Earl to submit that his sole qualification for being chosen by his Leader for the job was heredity, because it is rarely that we have listened to such a comprehensive, finished, Parliamentary and polished speech on the occasion of a Motion of this kind. I think it is a great pity, as I have said once before, that we did not have the noble Earl in regular attendance at the House earlier in his career, to give us the benefit of his experience. Obviously, heredity is not the main qualification. It is his vast experience as a councillor and alderman in the county of which we are both so proud, and in performing other duties of State in that county and adjacent areas, which entitles him to be regarded as an expert in our debates. I wish to congratulate him very sincerely upon what he has said to-day.

I see that the noble Earl was educated finally at Cambridge University, and I suppose it was another bit of wisdom on the part of the noble Earl the Leader of the House that, in order to balance criticism, he went to New College, Oxford, for the seconder. May I say to the noble Viscount that sometimes we can say complimentary things of the ancestors of the noble Lord who comes to this House because of the hereditary principle, but in a sense I felt a great sorrow for him this afternoon, listening to his fine diction and the way in which he presented his case, quite remarkable for a young man of twenty-four who came down from Oxford not so long ago. I thought: what a tragedy it is that the hereditary principle prevents the noble Viscount, because he has succeeded to the title so early, from contesting a Parliamentary seat! How well he might fulfil the rôle, especially if he took the rather more liberal position of Oxford University in politics than at times is adopted, I think, by Oxonians in another place! I am sure that the House has been charmed by the manner in which he has addressed us this afternoon, and I hope that we shall hear many more speeches from him in this House.

The performance of the two noble Lords on the opposite side this afternoon is all the more remarkable, I think, as they have been trying to cheer up their own Benches in a period of obvious political tension and anxiety, and I hope that as the debate goes on they will not maintain that influence too long. Give the Opposition a chance to put the true picture of the situation to the House and to the country. There was reference to the hereditary principle in both speeches and it is now clear from the gracious Speech that the Government will introduce a measure—perhaps sonic time during the course of the debate we shall be told what is meant by "a measure": whether it is a Bill, or what is the exact procedure which the noble Earl the Leader of the House thinks will be followed—for the embodiment in the Statutes of the principles that he put before the House last week.

As my right honourable friend the Leader of my Party in another place is going to make a statement in the other place to-day, perhaps the House will forgive me for digressing slightly from the practice on this side of the House by saying a word for the guidance of people who may be referring to the matter in their speeches. So far as the proposals of the Government are concerned with regard to the appointment of Life Peers and the admission into that category of women into the House, that will certainly not be opposed from this side of the House. However, we must make it clear that we think that this particular démarche of the question of House of Lords reform by the Government is really quite small—it is like tinkering with a much bigger problem that still remains to be resolved—and if we come down to discussions of the wider question later on, then, I must reiterate, as I indicated last week, that we shall be opposed at all times to a maintenance of the hereditary principle, and we shall be anxious to secure at all costs that the decisions of the elected representative Chamber of our Parliament shall be capable of being passed in the lifetime of the Parliament in which they are proposed on the electoral mandate of the people. Whatever steps might be necessary in that direction we should have to take. I am not debating the matter, but simply giving the information in a slightly different form, because a statement is being made by my Leader in another place to-day.

There are two notable omissions from the gracious Speech from the Throne about which I should like to ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House. The first, and most important, is that there is not a word in it about defence. It is a unique situation for us to have a gracious Speech, especially in such a time of tension and anxiety, that has no reference in it to defence. In view of that, I should like to ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House whether he could arrange for Government speakers at some time during the debate on the gracious Speech to give some indication of the defence situation from a number of points of view. If, however, that should prove to be inconvenient to the noble Earl and his colleagues, I should like to ask whether he will be per-pared to give the Opposition a full day as soon as possible for a discussion of these matters. I am asking this question because it seems to many people that the policy given in the last White Paper of putting the greatest possible emphasis upon the ultimate deterrent, has been rather upset by one or two subsequent events. not the least of which—and I am not going to dilate upon it at the moment—are the newest scientific discoveries, and especially the interview of Mr. Khrushchev with the diplomatic representative of the New York Times on October 7. Once again I do not want to abuse this occasion by going into that matter Further.

Another thing is the disappointing figures of recruitment, although we are cutting our Regular Forces so much and giving up National Service. Is it not time that we had something like a detailed inquiry into the real shortages in our defence, having regard to the extraordinary dispatch of the Commander-in-Chief of our Forces in the recent Suez exploit? That, again, I must not pursue at this moment. But I think I have said enough to show the noble Earl the Leader of the House that we have something fundamental to say on this question of defence, which is not mentioned in the gracious Speech from the Throne. I understand that we are to have a debate on foreign affairs and disarmament on Thursday, following a debate on Commonwealth matters, and I should be glad to know whether, in view of all the other things I have said upon defence, we could have on that occasion some up-to-date statement which would give us some hope in regard to disarmament from the activities of the United Nations Disarmament Commission and its sub-bodies. A good deal of anxiety is felt, and if we could have a statement on the matter it would be a great help.

Lastly, I have to give notice that in the course of the debate on home affairs we will be bound to raise the other omission from the gracious Speech. Your Lordships, in the last Session, spent, at disjointed intervals, nearly seven months in passing the Shops Bill, and when that Bill reached another place, having passed through your Lordships' House, it was dropped altogether on the plea that there was not sufficient time in the Session to pass it into law. It is now completely omitted from the programme. Perhaps the Government will be in a position at the right time in the debate to give us an answer on that point.

My last word is this. I listened with great pleasure to the tributes paid by the mover and seconder of the Address to the success of Her Gracious Majesty's recent visit to Canada and the United States, and in a spirit of thankfulness and respect to Her Majesty and her Consort we should very much like to be associated with those tributes. We pray that Her Majesty may long be spared to go on leading us. I beg to move.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, it is my privilege to second the Motion that this debate be adjourned until to-morrow, and in doing so I propose to confine myself merely to some aspects of the speeches of the two noble Lords who have addressed us and not at this juncture to go into any points of the gracious Speech itself. Those who have spoken before me have touched on a very live issue referred to in the gracious Speech; that measure which we expect to come along and which will transform your Lordships' House into an abode of youth, intelligence, concord and beauty. I mention that matter because I am particularly encouraged to know that these amiable and pleasant tributes seem to have evinced themselves even in this unreformed and presumably degenerate House.

The two noble Lords who have just charmed our ears and our minds—and also, if I may say so, our eyes—by their graceful discharge of a delicate and highly honourable duty have well maintained the high standard which is always expected and almost always achieved on such occasions. The noble Earl from Wessex, Lord Waldegrave, has refreshed us with a whiff of that virility and forthrightness which springs from the seafaring and the cider of his West Country, where he has for so many years, to our loss but to their gain, given tremendous value in municipal affairs and in other ways. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, looking out from behind the Tartan Curtain, gives us a renewed admiration for that master race which rules us from the North of these islands. What other satellite country in the whole world enjoys such a happy position as England? To remain uncontroversial and yet to show independence of mind is no mean feat, and I think we must warmly congratulate both noble Lords on achieving this equilibrium with conviction and with grace.

This independence of mind which both noble Lords have shown leads me to mention one other point. As your Lordships know, in the official lists of Members of this House we on this side of the Chamber have before our names the prefix "La" or "L", signifying "Labour" or "Liberal", and on the Government side the prefix is generally "U", which I am told means "Unionist". I think there seems to be a growing tendency—I hope that it is not a dangerous tendency—towards the more radical letter "C", which I have it on the highest authority does not mean "Communist"—though, of course, there may be a dark horse here and there on the Government Benches. I am encouraged to note that neither of the noble Lords who have addressed us to-day has elected to have the letter "U" before his name. I assure your Lordships that I am not being disrespectful, and am not accusing them of any disloyalty to the Party which they serve, or, indeed, of being "Non-U" in any respect whatever. But it is refreshing that some Members of your Lordships' House should dissociate themselves from the Unionist preoccupation, which, if I understand the word correctly, is, in this year of grace 1957, to strive first and foremost, and irrespective of the Government programme, or whatever may be in the gracious Speech, to resist at all costs the passage through your Lordships' House this Session of the Home Rule Bill of 1866. Therefore, I wish them well, and I think they may be successful in this.

In congratulating the two noble Lords upon their independence of spirit, and more particularly on their excellent speeches, I should also, I feel, congratulate the Government on having within their Party ranks two such notable and valuable Members of your Lordships' House.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to accept the Motion for the adjournment which has been moved by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, and to add my sincere compliments to the mover and the seconder of the Address on the way in which they have accomplished the duty which every year is laid upon two of your Lordships. This opening of Parliament always reminds me a little of Speech Day in earlier and other places in which we are always told we spent the happiest days of our lives. I remember that in the morning the victims used to look as though they were going to the scaffold, and when I saw the two noble Lords this morning they reminded me of some of my contemporaries of that time. Now I hope they are carefree and happy again, because they have every reason to be so. They have, indeed, triumphantly maintained the standard of excellence which your Lordships have come to expect from those who are selected for this task.

The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has already said that he has heard many speeches. I have not heard quite so many but I have heard quite a lot, and certainly the two to which we have listened to-day were as good as any that have been made before. Indeed, the two noble Lords caused additional satisfaction, I suspect, to a good many noble Lords who were here and who made speeches in our debate last week, for seldom can words of wisdom have been so quickly vindicated. If I may say so, the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, is a good example of one whose duties to the county, on the Bench and in agricultural administration have not allowed him to be in your Lordships' House very often. But he has revealed to-day to us in, person what a great value it is to this House to have someone who comes with full knowledge of local conditions and gives us and, through us, the country, the benefit of that knowledge. So I hope, and I am sure all your Lordships hope, that he will come here more often and play a greater and more important part in our proceedings. He speculated as to what were the qualifications which induced me to ask him to move the gracious Speech. As the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said, of course they were not solely hereditary qualifications, as he has proved. All I would say, without, I hope, being controversial, is that in any scheme of reform of your Lordships' House involving selection or election it would be well advised to include him in the list.

There has been a certain amount of talk, both from the mover and from the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, about Somerset. I must say that when I asked the seconder of the gracious Speech to take on the task I thought he had one decisive and perhaps unfair advantage over the mover, and that was that he did not have to overcome the handicap of coming from the South of the Tweed. But he, too, is a notable example of another type of Peer indispensable to this House. When he was still an undergraduate he made your Lordships sit up and take notice many times in his speeches on foreign affairs, and again to-day he has faced those challenging issues vigorously, thoughtfully, and in a way most acceptable to your Lordships. He has opened for us a window and shown us how the younger generation looks out upon the world of affairs. But he has done something much more, which not only appeals to most of your Lordships but has struck a chord in our hearts: he has spoken a tribute 10 the Queen from his heart—from the heart of a young man who feels that he is part of the Queen's great Commonwealth, and a young man, if I may say so, who has all the qualities of leadership n his generation. Therefore, if I may say so, both noble Lords have given us a most auspicious start to our new Parliamentary Session.

The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has kindly taken the opportunity to give us some guidance on the Opposition's attitude to the Bill which Her Majesty's Government will bring in due course dealing with the evolution of your Lordships' House, and we are grateful for that. I will not comment any further, except to say that I think it was helpful that we should know the attitude of the Opposition on the admittedly limited proposals which the Government are putting forward.

The noble Viscount has also drawn attention to two omissions, as he put it, from the gracious Speech. One was that there was little or no mention of defence. The foundations of our defence policy were laid before Parliament in considerable detail only a short time ago, but I agree that the situation is not static. There are new developments which might well be debated, and there fore we will make such arrangements as may be convenient to the Opposition. I suggest that a day of debate on defence might be most appropriate. So far as disarmament is concerned, I think it was agreed through the usual channels that Thursday might appropriately be a day on which we should debate both Commonwealth and foreign affairs, and I will consult my noble friend Lord Gosford as to whether he can say something on disarmament during the course of that debate. I do not wish to enter into controversy with the noble Lord, Lord Rea, as to who in this House is "U" and who is "non-U", but I would assure him, in case he is worried, that whether we are Tories, Conservatives, Unionists or National Liberals, we intend to remain the Government of the country for a very long time.

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