§ The Queen's Speech reported by THE LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
"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, in moving this humble Address I am sure that you would wish me first to express the great pleasure we all feel in Her Majesty's safe return from her visit to Canada.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
All jobs, as your Lordships are aware, have their occupational hazards—noble Lords opposite will appreciate this—but the hazards to which Royalty is exposed are peculiar in that they are not voluntarily chosen but are thrust upon those who are exposed to them by the accidents of heredity. We salute the courage and the composure with which these risks are faced, and great is our delight when it proves that they have been exaggerated. Now we wish Her Majesty and Prince Philip the warmest success in their forthcoming visits to Ethiopia and to the Sudan. Already they have shown themselves to be most welcome visitors on the Continent of Africa, both to communities within the Commonwealth and to those that are outside it.
My Lords, I cannot but be conscious of the honour which has been thrust upon me in the invitation by the Leader of the House to move this humble Address. It is an honour to myself and an honour to my sex. Indeed, it seems that to move the humble Address is rapidly becoming a traditional feminine privilege. The first among us was the noble Baroness, Lady Horsbrugh, who moved the humble Address in another place. Later, the noble Baroness, Lady 15 Elliot of Harwood, moved it with her customary grace and charm in your Lordships' House. And now the task has devolved upon myself.
As I stand here I am reminded of the day more than fifty years ago when, as a child, I was brought to pay my first visit to London. That was the time when the Parliament Bill restricting the powers of your Lordships' House was under discussion; and my mother, whose politics even at that tender age I realised were far removed from what mine would be, took me for a drive round Westminster. As we passed the Houses of Parliament she pointed to the light in Big Ben and, in ominous tones which I have never forgotten, she remarked, "That is where they are destroying the British Constitution".
That was more than half a century ago, yet the British Constitution has survived, and your Lordships' House has survived, though perhaps changed a little in both its exits and its entrances. Its doors have been opened to the members of both sexes, and through its exits there have passed not only those who have been stricken by the inevitable blows of mortality, but other well-loved faces who have been lured away by the attractions of another place. These, my Lords, we greatly miss, but we wish them well and we like to think that some of them are still housed under the same roof as ourselves.
These are the accidents of modernisation. And modernisation, too, is the keynote of the gracious Speech, and not in any trivial or superficial sense. We are not offered just a face-lift or a "Beatle" hair-do. The gracious Speech implies a profound revaluation of some of the most conspicuous and fundamental features of our society. That society has for more than a generation, perhaps, seemed to be becoming increasingly, as it were, top heavy. Large office buildings, many of them half empty, transform the skyline of our cities, while underneath them are huddled the citizens who still lack homes that are clean and dry and providing the essentials of civilised living. It is strange indeed that in an age when men and women can circle the earth in space and when trips to the moon are about to become a week-end commonplace there are houses in our capital city where ten 16 people have to use one lavatory, and country districts within thirty miles of your Lordships' House where the water supply is so precarious that if the English climate achieves three weeks without rain it is liable to fail, and where the pleasure of watering the garden is always a forbidden luxury.
Even in education the story is the same. A bold and necessary programme of expansion has been designed with, it would seem, scant attention to the foundations on which the whole structure must rest. New universities are born overnight up and down the country, yet the schools from which their students must come are still under-equipped; many of them are without playgrounds and without libraries of their own, and many of them, too, are so dark that they are permanently dependent, like your Lordships' House, on artificial light. It would seem that we have for some time been lulled, by the combination of the evident signs of personal prosperity and the invention of the phrase "Welfare State", into a kind of euphoric coma. But from that coma we are now awakened by the gracious Speech, for the gracious Speech has promised us a fresh social environment in keeping with the needs and the aspirations of the age.
As the foundation of all the rest, we are to have a Lands Commission which will ensure orderly development of the good earth which is the physical basis of everything we do. In England's supposedly green and pleasant land there is much that is neither green nor pleasant, which has been ravaged by private rapacity. It will be the task of this Commission to repair and to halt those ravages. And in keeping with that is the promised restoration of the control of rents, a measure which will relieve a shadow that hangs over thousands of the homes of our fellow citizens and is the cause of great hardships in thousands of their families—a measure, too, which we may reasonably hope will stay the continual and melancholy increase in the number of homeless persons.
The gracious Speech has remembered, too, those who are too often forgotten: those, as the words of the Speech said, upon whom old age, sickness or personal misfortune has imposed special disabilities. A major review of our social security schemes is forecast. It is now 22 years 17 since the late Lord Beveridge made his historic attempt to combine the welfare legislation of the previous forty years into a single integrated and up-to-date scheme for protection against the hazards to which we are all exposed. Yet even his magnificently conceived project failed to eliminate all the injustices and anomalies inherent in that previous legislation, and those injustices and anomalies have inevitably been aggravated by the patchwork that has followed between that time and our own.
The system, if system it can still be called, surely cries out for modernisation. Such absurdities as the rule that elderly millionaires can draw their pensions unabated while thousands of widows and senior citizens are precluded from earning all that they could—such absurdities not only are an affront to personal dignity and social justice, but also deprive the community of a by no means negligible productive contribution. Nor can it be said that our provision is adequate so long as nearly one and a half million persons must ask the Assistance Board each week to supplement their insurance benefits.
On the abolition of prescription charges I think few tears will be shed and few funeral orations pronounced. While the financial burden which these charges impose may have been oppressive only to the few, the administrative irritation that they pause, to doctor and patient alike, has been out of all proportion to their usefulness. Let them go unhonoured, unwept and unsung.
As with social security, so with education. The gracious Speech looks to the foundations. It is, I suppose, in our educational system that the roots of the individualistic and competitive quality of our society are to be found; and for this social pressures, rather than any conscious policy on the part of educationists or teachers, are to be blamed. Competitive selection at or before the age of eleven, and again at the point of university entrance, casts its shadow right back into the earliest years of the primary school; and education too easily degenerates into a series of hurdles to be leaped. For relief from these pressures we can look only to the enlarged educational opportunities which the gracious Speech has promised. But even those opportunities are necessarily contingent upon the 18 adequacy of the quality and the quantity of the teaching profession.
In the past, recruitment to the teaching profession has been inhibited by both social and economic pressures. Teachers' pay, at least in the lower ranks of the profession, has never been commensurate with the high responsibilities which they carry, and the teaching profession has never enjoyed the prestige appropriate to those responsibilities. Partly, I suppose, that is a hangover from nineteenth century attitudes in which the teacher's function was conceived as merely that of teaching "the three R's" to working-class children and providing a continuous flow of adolescents capable of performing necessary but menial tasks. Those attitudes have long been destroyed, but their aftermath, in its effect on the profession, lingers on. To-day, too many teachers are shy to speak with pride of their calling. While the doctor or lawyer will boast of his profession, teachers too often prefer to remain with their professional identity undisclosed. "Schoolmarm" is not yet, as it should be, a title of high esteem.
My Lords, we welcome, too, the promised improvements in the penal system and in the after-care of offenders. I myself have visited prisons in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa and in the Far East, and I must confess that I have formed the opinion that nothing is so beneficial to penal administration as that at some stage in his career the Prime Minister should have been confined within the prison gates. That has happened, indeed, in India, and in more than one African State. But that, my Lords, is an advantage which in this country we have not recently enjoyed; and perhaps we do not particularly welcome the prospect of enjoying it.
But, whether for that or for any other reason, it is clear that much in our penal administration now lags behind the best in modern practice and that the whole system is ripe for a thorough overhaul. That task has already been laid upon the Royal Commission of which I have myself the honour to be a member. But such an overhaul must inevitably be a lengthy process, and in the meantime we are only too glad to welcome new measures for the better after-care of offenders and for the prevention of 19 delinquency. And no less do we welcome the opportunity once more freely to consider our attitude to the abolition of capital punishment. That opportunity, to many of us, means a fresh chance to wipe the bloodstains from our hands.
In its proposals for the reform of law the gracious Speech is as radical as it is imaginative. Everyone knows that the substance of the law is at times as archaic as the language in which it is normally expressed. If it is disrespectful to speak of the law as "an ass", we must, I think, recognise that the law is weighed down with a heavy burden of years. Countries whose law is embodied in precise penal codes find it necessary from time to time to bring these up to date so as to keep pace with the times; and the need is no less great in those communities like our own whose law is scattered in fragments which must be pieced together from hundreds of weighty volumes.
Everywhere the law needs to adapt itself both to technical change and to the changing social climate of the times. If there is nothing in the Ten Commandments about the wickedness of drunken driving, we are not to draw the inference that the ancient Jews regarded this offence as venial. The omission is due to the technical rather than to the moral climate of the day. And if in our own time the penalty of life imprisonment seems disproportionately heavy for blasphemy or for the destruction of baptismal records, we have to recognise that those who first wrote these provisions into our law found them to be entirely reasonable. To-day, however, the pace of both technical and social change is such that intermittent casual revision is not enough; it is too dilatory. Permanent machinery in continuous action is necessary if the law is to express the spirit of the contemporary scene.
It is the contemporary scene, too, which makes necessary the new measures for the redress of individual grievances to which the gracious Speech referred. I fear that there will be grievances even under a Government that is manned by my noble friends and their colleagues in another place, for it is indeed a commonplace that as modern means of communication have made the world get smaller, so the other side of the same process has 20 been a growing sense of the remoteness and inaccessibility of authority, and a sense of the powerlessness of the individual citizen. As the intimacy of the smaller community has declined, so a kind of soulless anonymity seems to have taken its place.
In face of this problem the Scandinavian countries, as is so often the case, have shown themselves to be the pioneers of reform. First in Sweden, then in Finland and then in Denmark, the appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner or Ombudsman has been used as a means of providing a flesh and blood spokesman for the inarticulate citizen and a willing and intelligent ear to listen even to the most foolish of his complaints. In our own country the rights of individuals have indeed been safeguarded by a uniquely complex system of tribunals—pension tribunals, health service tribunals, rent tribunals and a host of others. But they are all specific, and it may well be that in this context the specific is not enough, even though more than 2,000 such tribunals already come under the supervision of the Council on Tribunals. It may be that a wide open channel is still necessary for the unexpected as well as for the anticipated complaints; and perhaps it is not without significance that all the countries which have experimented with the appointment of an Ombudsman have much smaller populations than our own. If such protection is found necessary in those close-knit communities, the case for it in our own much more diverse society may well be stronger still.
My Lords, it would seem that the gracious Speech is imbued throughout with a consistent philosophy, and it is perhaps in keeping with that philosophy that the Speech concludes not with reference to any large legislative programme but with a mention of the rights and liberties of the individual citizen, and that this is set in a context in which it is expressly said that these rights and liberties are guaranteed to all on completely equal terms with the natives—to all men and women, of whatever race and colour, who now live within our shores. It is a philosophy which is at once civilised and contemporary.
If without fear of contamination I might borrow a phrase from the Chinese Communists, I would forecast that the 21 gracious Speech of 1964 will be remembered as the speech which initiated the great "leap forward"—a leap which might have been made by Mary Rand or Lynn Davies, a leap that will bring us into a world where a new balance is struck between personal ambition and social obligation and in which the most advanced techniques of science are harnessed to the ancient virtues of neighbourliness and mutual consideration. My Lords, I beg to move.
Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows: "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".—(Baroness Wootton of Abinger.)
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMSON
My Lords, it is a great honour and privilege to be invited by my noble friend the Leader of the House to second this Motion for an humble Address in reply to the most gracious Speech, which has so eloquently been proposed by my noble friend Baroness Wootton of Abinger. I am conscious that it is the third occasion only upon which a Lady Member here has had this honour of moving the humble Address, and I am privileged that it should fall to me to compliment the noble Lady on this distinction. We all know her magnificent record of wide and distinguished public service, especially in the field of education, and we are therefore not surprised to listen to the splendid speech we have just heard. My noble friend paid a most eloquent and moving tribute to Her Majesty with which I should like humbly to associate myself: a tribute which I think will be warmly welcomed throughout the land, and overseas.
My Lords, I am well aware that I am expected to be non-controversial, and I will try so to be; but should I, unintentionally, err in this respect I trust that I may rely on your Lordships' generous forbearance. It is to be expected that the gracious Speech should give special emphasis to home affairs, in particular to steps to obtain greater and more sus- 22 tained economic growth, on which so much depends; and it is upon that part, and upon related questions that I should like to touch in briefly seconding the Motion.
But however important and vital these questions may be, it would be remiss not to comment on those passages concerned with foreign policy and defence. All aspects of public policy are inter-linked and dependent on each other. None can he considered in isolation. It is a truism that you cannot have an influential voice in world affairs unless you play your full part in the Agencies and Alliances; and you cannot make your full contribution unless you develop your economic resources on a sound financial basis. We must clearly and consistently support the United Nations, and I very much welcome the appointment of my noble friend Lord Caradon, as Minister within the Government, to the United Nations. This appointment, I am sure, is no reflection on those very able and efficient civil servants, devoted servants of the State, who have in the past represented this country in the United Nations; but it is very necessary to make abundantly clear to other member countries our determination to support and work within the Organisation. East—West tension has, happily, declined, but there are a number of areas in the Free World where delicate peace-keeping tasks remain to be carried out.
I believe that we are fortunate in these Islands that, while our politics differ in policies and methods, often violently, nevertheless our great political Parties are motivated by the anxiety to promote the safety and prosperity of the nation and its people. So I trust that there is much in the gracious Speech with which there will be broad agreement. It is not fully realised, in these days of the affluent society, that in something like one generation we have achieved a social and a peaceful revolution in these Islands. If I were asked what I thought were the three greatest achievements over the last thirty years or so, I would say, first, the abolition of poverty; second, the abolition of mass unemployment; and third, not least important, the elevation in independence and dignity of the worker and his family. These are outstanding advances, and while there are still some defects they have been part of a peaceful revolution not equalled at 23 any other time, or in any other period, in the nation's long and turbulent history.
These comparatively new conditions have brought in their train new problems, problems which are as difficult and as baffling as the old and which require the application of new attitudes, new policies, and new solutions. We should therefore welcome the statement in the gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government's first concernwill be to maintain the strength of sterling,and to initiate changes in our economywhich will ensure purposeful expansion, rising exports, and a healthy balance of payments.It is these words wherein lies the challenge to the nation, because I believe that to many, and certainly to the lesser informed, there is dubiety as to the urgency of all this.
We have to import most—I think nearly all—of our raw materials, half our food, and I believe, in a situation of the free flow of world trade, a certain proportion of manufactured goods. The problem is that they must be paid for by a counter-balancing level of exports, more so now than at any time in our history; and to ensure this our goods must be competitive in quality, price and prompt delivery. There is no reason, so far as I can see, why the hallmark, "British made", should not regain its former lustre in the markets of the world.
But, to maintain our living standards, and advance them as time goes on, Governmental policies alone will not suffice. Required, too, are the good will, understanding, appreciation and cooperation of all sections of our society to operate within the framework of Government policies with that high sense of responsibility and social consciousness of which the nation is capable and has proved more than once in the recent past. Waste, inefficiencies, outmoded practices, wherever they operate, are hampering and hindering the nation as sure as the two men are hindered in a three-legged race. I hope, therefore, that we can welcome the reference in the gracious Speech calling on trade unions and employers' organisationsto co-operate in eliminating those restrictive practices, on both sides of industry, which impair our competitive power and the development of the full potential of the economy.24 The incidence of strikes, official or unofficial, represents the extent, for one reason or another, of the failure of industrial relations, negotiation and conciliation. Taking into account the broad field of British industry and commerce, stoppages of work are, fortunately, the rare exception and not the rule. Nevertheless, when they happen they can be, and often are, extremely serious. The tragedy is that they benefit no one, the workers concerned, the industry, or the nation. All lose in consequence. While I believe that the right to strike should be inviolable in a democratic society, I also believe that its strength lies in its reserve, and not in its abuse. It is not disputed that there are blame and short-comings on both sides of industry, and we should welcome the new move by the-Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation to examine closely and, it is hoped, try to remedy the underlying causes of certain unofficial strikes. Your Lordships will, I am sure. wish them well in their efforts
While most industrial settlements are reached by peaceful negotiation, it is inevitable that now and again difficulties should arise which cannot be resolved. I believe—and I am not alone among representatives of British industry, employers and trade unions—that the sensible and broader course in these cases is to resort to the arbitration courts. But a prerequisite of this is that the fullest confidence in arbitration to adjudicate without prejudice should at all times be maintained. As in civil disputes the process of the courts is universally accepted, so there must be encouraged faith and the fullest confidence in courts of arbitration to consider the facts and award with the same degree of impartiality and fairness.
It has been said that technical change in Britain is at present moving far too slowly, and that a major obstacle is the passive or negative attitude of management and trade unions. I should like to say a word about the trade union responsibility in this connection. One of the greatest fears is that of redundancy, which is not a new problem; it has arisen again and again since industrialisation began. But the great improvement in the standard of living, especially during the last two decades, has thrown up the problem in a harsh new light. Its impact has a severity which was not possible 25 fifty years ago. Hand in hand with increasing prosperity and earning power go increased commitments—house mortgages, cars, hire-purchase payments and the rest. When redundancy occurs the gap is much wider than it used to be, and the impact much greater. Because of this, redundancy has become a major problem. In any highly industrialised society redundancy is inevitable, but what we have to do is to control it and mitigate its possible hardships.
The gracious Speech, while proposing that our industries will be helped to gain the full benefits of advances in scientific research and applied technology, promises that action will be taken to improve the arrangements for industrial training and for retraining workers who change their employment. Your Lordships may conclude that the arrangements would include the provision of adequate compensatory allowances to workers displaced, to tide them over the rehabilitation period. Because failing these ambulance conditions and provisions, it is not difficult to understand much of the resistance and opposition to technological change and to the introduction of up-to-date methods.
My Lords, the gracious Speech promises that a Bill will be introduced to give workers and their representatives the protection necessary for freedom of industrial negotiation. I would only say in this connection that the purpose of such a measure will be to remove any dubiety or doubt which might have arisen out of recent interpretations of the law.
The reference in the gracious Speech to the pursuance of more stable prices, and a closer relationship between productivity and the growth in incomes in all forms, is to be expected. These questions of prices, productivity and personal incomes are interrelated, and I do not believe that it is so much a question of people's understanding the economics of the matter as it is of having confidence that any restraint or sacrifice in incomes will be equally shared all round. I think that people, more and more, are beginning to understand and accept that incomes cannot go on increasing year after year without regard to the capacity of the nation to meet them. It is better that the nation should be told the simple truth: that it cannot continue to live above its income and that it should understand fully the inevitable consequences 26 of such folly. It is on a solution of these problems, or some of them, that the vital expansion of our overseas trade will depend.
I should not like to end, my Lords, without saying a word about the developing nations. The gracious Speech envisages not only expanding trade with the recognised trading nations but the promotion of the social and economic advance of the developing territories and the remaining dependent nations,to reduce the growing disparities of wealth and opportunity between peoples of the world.As time goes on, it will become less and less tolerable that hundreds of millions of people throughout the world should be living in poverty, misery and distress. What a wonderful thing it would be if there could be a breakthrough here! A small progressive improvement in the living standards of these masses of dispossessed people would carry in its wake vast expanding markets for the absorption of the mass-production of the industrial nations of the world, including our own. To many ordinary folk on earth this is a much more pressing problem, crying out for solution, than that of putting a man on the moon. My Lords, I beg leave to second the Motion for an humble Address.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, from this unfamiliar, but I hope temporary, geographical location it is my agreeable duty to congratulate the mover and seconder of the loyal Address. The noble Baroness who has moved the humble Address has been a Member of your Lordships' House for some six years; indeed, I think that she and the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, were the first two ladies to be introduced into this House, so she is no stranger to any of us. She is, as we have been reminded, the second noble Lady who has moved an Address and there can be no higher praise. She has maintained in her speech the very high standard which was set by my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood.
The noble Baroness has a formidable reputation—a member of this, Director of Studies of that, Research Officer of the other, Professor of Social Studies and Research Fellow, among other things. I remember thinking to myself, when I first learned of the noble Lady's eleva- 27 tion, that here was a formidable acquisition to your Lordships' House; and so it has been in one sense, because her contributions have always been formidable and her speeches of great quality. But in the other sense I am happy to say that she has not proved at all formidable; and not only do we—and I am sure I speak for all your Lordships—greatly enjoy her presence in this House, but we have often been amused by her rather caustic supplementary questions, provided, of course, that they were not directed against any of us. If I may say so, I hope that she will continue to ask these searching and perceptive questions, even though she has moved from one side of the House to the other.
My Lords, it is always a difficult task to make the sort of speech which the noble Baroness made this afternoon, particularly so when it marks the beginning of a new Parliament and a new Government by a Party which has been in opposition for thirteen years. The temptation to be partisan or exultant must be very strong. But the noble Lady resisted it, or very nearly resisted it, and made, if I may say so. a thoughtful and delightful speech. In the preface of a book she wrote called The Social Foundations of Wage Policy, she recalled that when a lecturer she was earning exactly the same amount of money as the elephant which gave rides to children at the London Zoo. Twelve years later she had increased her earning power to that of two elephants. My Lords, this seems to me disgraceful, and I think it was the noble Lady, and not the children, who was being "taken for a ride." After having listened to the noble Lady on many occasions in this House, and particularly this afternoon, I consider that, if there is any justice in the world, the ratio of elephants to Wootton should be greatly increased.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, is equally well known to your Lordships, though he has been in this House for rather a shorter time. His name, like that of the noble Baroness, is very well known to all who follow public affairs in this country, particularly since he was for many years the General Secretary of the National Union of General and Municipal 28 Workers. He has an unrivalled knowledge of trade union matters, and speaks with great authority on labour relations and conditions; and he gave us this afternoon some of the wisdom which he has accumulated over the years. I remember that when I was First Lord of the Admiralty, for some inexplicable reason known only to Mr. Quintin Hogg, who was then Leader of this House, I was asked to answer in this House for the Ministry of Labour. On one or two occasions I had to speak in debates, and at one stage I had to pilot a Bill through this House on behalf of the Ministry of Labour. It was then a truly nerve-racking experience to be faced by noble Lords opposite who had spent a lifetime on these matters—and, who knows? it might soon be the lot of some noble Lords who sit on the Front Bench opposite to have much the same experience on other matters. But I remember very vividly the courtesy, the knowledge and the constructive help which the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, gave on that particular occasion. That, of course, is true of everything that he has done in this House and during the whole of his career, which, as your Lordships know, was crowned by his chairmanship of the T.U.C.
My Lords, if I may I should also like to take this opportunity of congratulating noble Lords opposite on the various appointments to which they have succeeded. It would, of course, be invidious to single out any one of them, though perhaps some of them are rather better known to us than others; but, on behalf of all my noble friends behind me, I feel I should give a particularly warm welcome to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, as Leader of your Lordships' House, and also congratulate him on his appointment as Lord Privy Seal. He will be in a rather better position to defend the appointment of Lord Privy Seal than was my right honourable friend Mr. Edward Heath, who, when he was asked to explain what the Lord Privy Seal was, had always to start off by saying that he was neither a Lord nor a privy nor a seal. The noble Earl is, at any rate, a Lord.
We shall see more of him, of course, as Leader of this House. He is, I think, the only Member of the Government Front Bench who was a member of the Labour Government in this House during 29 1945–51, and as such he has great experience both in office and in opposition. There was at one time a suspicion that he was once again hankering after membership of another place—being lured, as think the noble Baroness put it, to another place. I do not know how true it was, but whether true or not, my Lords, I am very glad that, it did not happen, because he would have been sadly missed in this House. We all of us greatly admire his intellect, and we have also enjoyed his wit and his kindliness. He knows this House well and he has, I think, a great respect for it. We, for our part, know him well and have a great respect for him. He will, I know, cherish and protect the rights of this House and its traditions.
To the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, arid to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, also, we send our congratulations and good wishes.
My Lords, in all this welter of congratulation we recall that there is one person who no longer sits on the Government Front Bench whom we shall sadly miss. The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, led the Opposition for nine years, I think, at a period when it cannot have been very easy, with comparatively few Labour Peers, long before the trickle of Life Peers became a bustling stream. He maintained the Opposition in this House, and maintained it with great energy and great courage. There was no subject on which the noble Earl did not seem to be an expert—and let the Government spokesman who had not done his homework beware! He was and is jealous of the rights of the House and of the Opposition, and all of us, in whichever quarter of the House we sit, have cause to be grateful to the noble Earl. We all know that he has not been very well lately. We send him our best wishes and hope it will not be long before we hear him again—passionate, indignant and vigorous.
My Lords, the House is unusually dark this afternoon. Whether we are mourning the passing of the previous Government or whether it is an omen of dark things to come, I do not know. In any event, both the mover and the seconder of the Address have greatly lightened our afternoon, and we on this side of the House congratulate them warmly.
§ 4.46 p.m.
My Lords, I rise to support this Motion from these Liberal Benches, but before congratulating the speakers to-day on surmounting the very difficult task, as has been mentioned, of coming up to their own high standards on an occasion which has to combine importance with considerable discretion, I should like also to offer my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, not only for the reasons given by the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, and his colleagues, but also for his courage, his boldness—I might say almost his temerity—in selecting to-day these two speakers for speeches which must be non-controversial. But both he and they have come out of it with flying colours, and I congratulate all three.
The careers and achievements of both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, are well known to all your Lordships, and I find it quite unnecessary to gild either of these two lilies. If any "gilt" is coming to them, it will doubtless be in the course of this Parliament, when they are following the Party line, remembering that Euclid defined a line as something with length but no breadth.
I have sat at the feet of the noble Baroness as a student of her academic erudition; I have sat at her left hand while she has dispensed justice from the bench with kindness and wisdom; I have sat at her right hand in this House, sometimes supporting and sometimes opposing her points of view. Now, my Lords, I come to the extraordinary thing called "confrontation", whatever that is. I do not quite know what the noble Lady will do next, but I do know that if in this Parliament there is such a thing as an underdog walking about, she will be kenneled up with it—and I hope that she will accept that as the sincere compliment that it is intended to be.
My Lords, during the General Election, the Glasgow correspondent of The Times reported that Sir Alec Douglas-Home had referred to the Labour Party as "the harum scarum Party". I am no authority on Scottish spelling, but in The Times it was spelt "harem scarem". I hesitate to deduce anything from this, but I should like to say that we on these Benches have no fear in this House, or even outside this House, of the "monstrous regiment of women".
31 The choice of the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, as seconder is peculiarly apt and good, if I may say so, at this juncture, when industrial matters are so very important. His long experience and levelheaded judgment in all those affairs give him special value, not only to his Party in this House but to your Lordships' House as a whole, and I assure him that we shall always listen to him with as much attention and interest as we have done to-day. I happened to notice that the noble Lord's motto, a rather curiously short one, is "Quantum sufficit". This, perhaps, is almost a little medical, but I shall not translate it except to say that we might think of it, as, "Williamson is as good as a feast". My Lords, I congratulate both speakers on their excellent speeches, and I beg to support this Motion.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (The EARL OF LONGFORD)
My Lords, I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, and also to the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Party, for the all too kind remarks about myself. But before saying anything more on that subject, may i say how thankful we all are on this side of the House—and I am sure in other parts of the House and elsewhere—to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for what he said about the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. We hope, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, that he will soon once again be playing a vigorous part. But as his health has not been very good lately, let me say, in the clearest way possible, that in my view he is one of the great Englishmen of our time, a man whose patriotic convictions are overwhelmingly strong and whose Christian testimony is still stronger, if that is possible. Anybody who has been as close as some of us have, on all sides of the House, to the noble Earl in recent years must feel that we have ourselves gained our moral strength from our close contact with him and we must echo what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington has said, in hoping that we shall see him very soon with us and as vigorous as ever.
My Lords, I should like to express my personal thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for what he said about myself. It was much too kind; but what is too kind is usually all the more acceptable. Certainly I love this House. 32 Whether that makes me a good Socialist Leader in the House of Lords time alone will show; but I warn noble Lords opposite that, though I do not think I shall prove to be a wolf in sheep's clothing, I may prove to be a fox in the same clothing. However, I shall probably not be the only fox in the struggle that lies ahead. I will certainly do all in my power—this is a pledge that it is my duty to give and I can easily give it—to make sure, in conjunction with others, that our standards will be maintained at that high level which the noble Lord and I have experienced now over many years and which I, personally, learned, when first I arrived in your Lordships' House, from the late Lord Addison, the then Leader of the House. and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, at that time the Leader of the Opposition.
My Lords, we in the Labour Party take pride in the variety of our personnel. We are not the only Party that makes that kind of claim. There is a lot of variety in all the great Parties of State. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is not a man of exactly the same calibre—whether better or worse is not for me to say—and is not exactly the same kind of statesman as the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who preceded him. Both have very great virtues and both, no doubt, though they have been concealed from us, have qualities less exalted. At any rate, we are happy to see the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in charge, and nothing could have been more delightful than his remarks this afternoon. It seems only yesterday that he was modestly assuming office and, if I may say so respectfully—and this may be one of the least controversial things I shall be able to say to him in the months ahead—he has fully lived up to the standards of his distinguished predecessors.
The Liberal Party, too, have their variety. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, followed the great Lord Samuel—and what example could be harder to live up to than that? But the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has always been firm, yet gentle, and always brief—a quality which I have always meant to emulate. I am making a new resolve at the moment in regard to that. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, if I may say so, has discharged a task not too easy in a 33 way which has led us all to appreciate him.
Now our own variety is evident once again. People sometimes talk about the Labour Party as a Party of intellectuals and trade unionists. That is putting too narrow an interpretation on the Labour Party. One must not say anybody is not an intellectual, because that suggests they are not highly intelligent, but in fact there have been many great men in the Labour Party who would not ordinarily be called intellectuals and who were not trade unionists. But now to-day we have one of the outstanding intellectuals of our time in the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, who addressed us; and what was said about her and about the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, was most acceptable to all of us. I believe she is the only individual, man or woman, who ever obtained a First Class in Economics at Cambridge, with a star. I do not know what the star signified, except that it meant that she had done better than anyone had ever done before, and, as events proved, better than anyone has done since.
Since then she has become perhaps—indeed, I will leave nut the word "perhaps"—in my view the outstanding criminologist in Britain of our time. She has to-day spoken with great experience not only as a theoretician but as a magistrate and a teacher; and she combines, as we have seen in her speech to-day, a great knowledge of the social sciences with practical experience of the bench and a remarkable tenderness for the individual human being.
My Lords, what pleasure it would have given to the late Hugh Gaitskell to think that the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, was speaking to us this afternoon! The noble Lord has come down to us once again to speak with the special authority of a great trade union leader. I hope I am not already committing an indiscretion if I offer the opinion that the distinguished trade unionists who have come to your Lordships' House have not always found it possible to make the contributions we expected; sometimes because we did not encourage them enough, I think. I want while I am Leader of the House to make quite sure that we gain the fullest bene- 34 fit as a House from all that these great trade union leaders have to offer; and the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, is one of the greatest of our time.
What was particularly interesting to me was the note he struck about the underdeveloped countries. Trade unionism, like every movement in this world for which sacrifices are made, has its imperfect side. It can at times take on a form of group selfishness. But at its best, exemplified by somebody like Lord Williamson, it is not just a search for the justice of his own members; it is a search for human rights everywhere, and the welfare of all human beings. It is truly a universal creed and he expressed it at its best this afternoon.
My Lords, we shall no doubt be involved to-morrow in rather more contentious Business. I come before you in a humble spirit, but I feel, of course, immense pride. To be Leader of the House of Lords is a much greater honour than has come to me at any time in my life or is likely to occur again. It may last long or it may finish abruptly. These things are not settled by me. But to have been selected by Mr. Wilson, following the confidence I received from the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and from Mr. Gaitskell earlier, would suggest that if I do not possess virtue, I possess a certain power of simulating virtue which could be useful in public life. I am profoundly moved by this honour. I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.