HL Deb 26 November 1959 vol 219 cc980-8

3.27 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I count myself fortunate to move the Second Reading of this Bill which bears the name of that outstanding American scholar, statesman and soldier, General George Marshall. His record, as your Lordships know, is perhaps unique in American history. Not only was he during the last war Chief of Staff to the American Forces, but he afterwards became the first Secretary of State who had also been a professional soldier. Again, he was the architect of that great and generous American act which is known as Marshall Aid. I think that without it we of Western Europe should still be floundering in economic difficulties; and, indeed, if it had not been administered with such generosity by the Americans it might well be that history to-day would be something very different.

But while the results of Marshall Aid are enjoyed in Western Europe to-day, and while they will continue to be enjoyed by succeeding generations, succeeding generations have very short memories They will enjoy the results, but they will not know why they enjoy them. The thought of Marshall Aid, or the name of Marshall Aid, is apt to go down as just another thing in history. The problem was how we could find some way of keeping it evergreen in memory and, further, what we could do, in particular, to show our gratitude and thanks to the citizens of America for what they did. A very happy thought came to the then Foreign Secretary, now the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who had the idea that it might best be clone by means of scholarships; and I regard it as a fortunate thing that we are on this occasion to have the noble Lord making his maiden speech in this House. I know that I speak for all your Lordships when I say how much we look forward to it.

As I said, it was the noble Lord who, in the first instance, had the idea of commemorative scholarships, and it happened that there was a change in Government so that it fell to the Conservative Party to put the idea into effect. I have no doubt that it was at the time supported by the Liberals, so we can say this is indeed an all-Party affair, and everyone is behind it. The original Bill was limited to only 12 scholarships and the Bill before your Lordships will increase the number to 24; and if experience shows that it is desired that there should be an even greater number that also will be possible. I think it was probably thought right to start slowly, to build up slowly. One wanted to have experience and see that the scheme was on the right lines and going well; and the organisation, of course, takes a little time.

I should like to take this opportunity, as it is, in a sense, a landmark in the history of the scholarships, to pay our thanks to all those who have been concerned with the administration of the scheme to date. In particular, I should like to thank the four regional committees in America, headed by the Consuls-General, and also those who take part in the Advisory Council to the Ambassador in Washington, which includes such well-known friends of this country as Mr. Lewis Douglas and Mr. Walter Gifford, both former Ambassadors, and, lastly, the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission in this country, whose Chairman for many years was Sir Oliver Franks, and is now the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, and whose other members are well chosen with scholastic knowledge and knowledge of how best to advise on how to operate such a scheme effectively.

Perhaps your Lordships would like a short record of what the Scholars have done to date. There have been 72 of them, of whom 20 have been women. They have been chosen from four regions; from New York, from Chicago, from San Francisco and from New Orleans. They have come, in fact, from 37 different American States or universities. Of the 72, 60 have gone to Oxford, to Cambridge or to London University. Of the other 12, 4 have gone to Scotland and the rest to other universities in England and Wales. I think the predominence of the three universities I have named is rather a pity, and one hopes that when we get the greater number which will come as a result of this Bill we shall find a greater variety in the universities they may go to; and I know that the Committee have that point very much in mind. Scholastically I think the scholars have done pretty well. They have got what I think is known as good Seconds, on average. But there have been three Firsts, and those have all been won by the women Scholars. I think it is high time sonic of the men pulled up their socks and got level with them.

Not only, however, are they chosen for their scholastic achievement but also, and I quote: … with the capacity to play an active part in the life of any university to which they may go". I can say here that I know they have done just that: they play a very real part in the life of their universities. Doubling the numbers will bring the Scholars up to something very close to the number of American Rhodes Scholars, which I think is 32; and, clearly, as the years go on we are going to see more and more of these Scholars and, as they grow up, more and more of the results of their being over here. That, in its turn, will lead, as it were, to a continuing growing memorial and commemoration of our thanks to the Americans for what they have done, and will further cement Anglo-American friendship.

The Bill itself, I think, is very straightforward, and as I have already said there is provision for an Order in Council, subject to the Negative Resolution procedure, for any increase in the number which may from time to time be desired. This procedure is administratively convenient, and it will avoid the need for time for a debate, either in this House or the other House, when an increase in the numbers is proposed. By a happy coincidence (I am not sure whether it is by choice or by chance) the moving of this Bill comes on a day which is of special significance in the United States, namely Thanksgiving Day. And so, my Lords, I have pleasure in expressing our thanksgiving to the United States on this day, and I suggest that the best way we can do it is by approving the Second Reading of this Bill. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Perth.)

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, the occasion of my maiden speech in your Lordships' House could not be a less controversial one, because this is a Bill which I think everybody in the House will support. The situation to-day is different from that which accompanied the first speech I made in another place, a speech which was essentially controversial and too long. I made no request for indulgence. I was not going to admit that I was in the slightest degree nervous—and I do not want to do so to-day, either. My speech was aggressive; it was denunciatory; in short, it was a very bad speech, not only as a maiden speech but as a speech. The honourable member who followed me, Mr. Austin Hopkinson, who came from the Manchester district, was an independent Conservative. He was very independent and, from my point of view, worse than a Conservative. He started his speech by saying, "Mr. Speaker, it is a tradition of this House that when an honourable Member has made his maiden speech, the Member who follows him congratulates him. Sir, I do so." And that was all I got. I must say that it was thoroughly well deserved. Still, I do not regret it. I think that there is a certain degree of humbug in another place about new Members being nervous and frightened out of their lives, especially if they have been brought up as street-corner orators, as I was in London, and have had rough times. Therefore, I disdained it. However, I must not go into any more of these biographical details; but I should like to say that I am very grateful to the noble Earl for his kindly references and to your Lordships for the way in which they were received, and I am glad to have an entirely non-controversial occasion on which to make my first speech in your Lordships' House.

The Marshall Plan was very, very generous, and humanitarian in its motive and its outlook. It was, if I may say so, typically American. There were those, particularly in Communist countries, who thought that this was a deep-rooted plot on the part of the United States to get a grip over the policies and affairs of European countries. For myself, I never suspected it. I regard the American people as a generous warm-hearted people. I do not always agree with all of them or with their Governments, but that does not prevent my feeling and believing that the people of the United States, and a large proportion of their public men, are warm-hearted, generous and kindly. And I think that the United States Government of the day may have thought—I am not sure—"We were a bit late coming into this war; really we ought to have been in it before; and it has left Europe with very great difficulties, economic, political and otherwise." I think that the United States Government said to itself, "We want the people of Europe to be in possession and enjoyment of such a degree of economic equilibrium of economic organisation, as leaves them free to decide on the kind of Government that they wish to have." Because there is nothing more likely to send a nation off the rails than if it is suffering grave economic disturbance, grave poverty and grave insecurity. All the United States could be claiming or thinking, at the most, was that it wanted Europe to be free to decide what to do with itself; and, above all, that it did not want Europe to be a victim of poverty and insecurity.

I think that that was a generous thought, and that Europe, including the countries of Western Europe, should be grateful for the aid that was forthcoming. It should also be remembered that the aid was offered to Communist countries as well as to Western European countries of another political order. That, in itself, was an indication that the Government of the United States was not trying to discriminate against countries of one system of government or another. They could well have done so: but they did not. At the beginning there was one country—I think it was Poland—who was disposed to accept, and did accept, the offer of the United States, but later on that acceptance was withdrawn under the pressure of the Soviet Union and, no doubt, Mr. Stalin, who evidently took the view that if the United States were permitted to be of assistance to Eastern European Communist countries it might make them feel that the United States were not such a bad lot after all. I understand that, but I think it was a pity, because the United States are not such a bad lot after all, and it would have been a good thing if the countries of Eastern Europe had thought so too.

It has been said of our late friend and colleague Mr. Ernest Bevin that he picked Marshall's offer up with great speed at a point when General Marshall did not mean it to be taken up with such speed and such firm contractual acceptance. Mr. Bevin said, "This is a fine idea; I accept it on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and let's go ahead". By which time the Government of the United States could not get out of it, even if they wanted to—and I do not think they did. I think that that was good Foreign Office tactics, if the story is true; and I think it is.

Then it fell to my lot to ask what we could do permanently to register our appreciation and gratitude for this very fine and imaginative action on behalf of the Government and people of the United States. And we thought of this scheme of scholarships. It is true that the amount of money we are spending on it is infinitesimal compared with what the United States spent on the Marshall Plan. We cannot claim that it is in any way comparable to the Marshall Plan itself. But we thought it was a good thing as, at any rate, a titular recognition of our gratitude for what the United States had done; and it was a good thing in itself that American students should come to our country and study at British universities.

I notice that the top number of students are at Oxford. I am not in the least surprised, because Oxford has a great Parliamentary tradition. Cambridge comes next, London third, Scotland afterwards and then the red-brick universities. We are very glad to hear from the noble Earl that the red-brick universities will get more ample consideration in future allocations; but I am not going to enter into that matter because I have honorary doctorates at Oxford, Cambridge and London, and I must keep impartial on this question as well. But I did inaugurate the idea at the Foreign Office, and it was announced, in answer to a Private Notice Question of mine in another place to Mr. Anthony Eden in July, 1953.

Since then progress has been made, and we are very glad that United States students have come here. I have been very happy myself to meet them at some of our universities. We welcome the fact that the numbers are to be doubled by Statute. This growth from 12 to 24 is not extravagant. It is a good thing. There is, of course, a very grave constitutional innovation in the Bill, whereby further increases can be made by Order in Council. I imagine that if another Government had proposed that in another place there would have been a constitutional crisis. But we, being a reasonable Opposition, do not wish to make too much heavy weather over this proposal. In any case, for the comfort of Parliament, the Bill provides that it will be by Order in Council and therefore subject to Negative Motion if Parliament should be dissatisfied with it.

My Lords, we welcome the Bill and think it is right. It is a further recognition of our gratitude to the United States and our recognition of the generous gesture that was made by General Marshall. It is a further indication that we wish our friendship, our comradeship, with the United States to be preserved and developed, and it is important because it will be a great thing and a good thing for the world and for the cause of peace, the security of nations. And I believe that in the end it will be good for the development of the United Nations and the coming together of countries of all sorts for peaceful co-operation and security that there should be close friendly relations between our great country and the great country of the United States of America. My Lords we support the Second Reading of the Bill.


My Lords, I count it a very great privilege to offer congratulations on the charming maiden speech of one who is admittedly a great Parliamentary figure. We hope that we shall hear him very often in this new Chamber which he is now adorning. His Party and mine have worked sometimes together and sometimes against each other for many years. Noble Lords opposite have taken what they probably call a more consistent course, but in both cases we are delighted to have him here.

As regards the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has said, far better than I can, what our feelings are. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, said that he assumed that the Liberal Party would be in agreement with the general principle. I think that I need say no more. I can see from the kindly smile on his face that he knows that at least on this occasion he was telling the very strict truth. I support this Bill with every possible good wish from these Benches.


My Lords, having been in charge of the original Bill on behalf of the Government, I hope that I may be allowed to say one word of gratification that the scheme has, up to this point, attained so considerable a success. It is satisfying to know that, based on the success so far attained, its sphere of influence is going to be extended in the future.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but I should like to record one fact. Before doing that, may I congratulate and give a great, warm welcome to my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth? Last week I had the privilege of attending the N.A.T.O. Parliamentary Conference in Washington as a member of the British Delegation. It was agreed unanimously by the Conference that a wreath should be laid on the grave of General Marshall at Arlington Cemetery, Washington. Last Friday at 12.30, led by the President of the Conference, representatives of fourteen nations attended the simple and solemn ceremony, at which a wreath was laid in the name of the Conference. I believe that we were expressing the heart-felt tribute of the people of Europe to the memory of a very great man.

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Morrision of Lambeth, said that it was traditional for noble Lords who followed after a maiden speech to offer their congratulations. And "I do so". But I do so, not out of tradition but because of the words that he said and because his speech was such a happy and remarkable one. I know that I echo the thoughts of all noble Lords when I say that if, at another time, his speech is not quite the same as his maiden speech was, but is a controversial and hard-hitting one, we shall all look forward to that. The speech that he has just made was in no way controversial, and he said in charming words the things that we all feel about the United States of America and her action and about General George Marshall. What the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said about the ceremony at Washington, was most interesting. I know we all feel that nothing is more important than Anglo-American relations, and to the extent that this Bill helps that great object I am sure that I am right in moving its Second Reading

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.