HL Deb 05 July 1995 vol 565 cc1087-9

2.50 p.m.

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

What criteria they apply in deciding which fiftieth anniversaries to commemorate.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, in view of Britain's long and distinguished history, there are not just fiftieth anniversaries, but centenaries, bicentenaries and so on, to be celebrated. The decision whether to participate is the subjective decision of the department concerned, taking into account a very wide variety of factors such as the perceived historic importance of the event, its relevance to modern times, potential public interest and, of course, cost.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, listening to the Government's criteria for such celebrations, would the Minister agree that the fact that today is the fiftieth anniversary of the general election of 1945—

Noble Lords


Lord Dubs

—and Labour's tremendous victory on that occasion that, party politics apart, she and the Government could be a little bit more generous and indicate that that is an event worth commemorating? Is she aware that today the Fabian Society, on behalf of the Labour Party, is having a whole day of events to commemorate the occasion and the election of a government which put full employment, housing, a national health service and social security among their main aims? Is not that an event of significance?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I am really upset that the Fabian Society did not invite me to its full day of celebrations because I would most certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that we should remember the day when the Labour Party was elected. I believe that the electorate should remember that that was a mistake that should never be repeated.

Lord Richard

My Lords, the Minister knows of course that today was polling day in 1945, which led to the election of one of the great reforming governments of this century. Noble Lords opposite may low at that, but history will bear me out rather than them. Is the Minister aware that we on this side of the House wish that the Government would now name an early polling day, which will lead to the election of another such government?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, it is very unwise even to make such a suggestion because when we do have another polling day I can assure the noble Lord that we shall win again. I have no intention of going through my list of the disasters of the last Labour Government, but I shall certainly do so if pressed.

Lord Renton

My Lords, having been elected Member for Huntingdon 50 years ago today, where I remained MP until the people were so wise as to choose a future Prime Minister 34 years later, will my noble friend remind the Fabian Society that six years after the war we were on shorter food rations as a result of socialism than we were at the end of six years of war?

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, no, never! That is not true!

Lord Renton

My Lords, it did happen. Will she also remind noble Lords opposite that, although there was a sellers' market during those six years, the economy was weakened by excessive control of industry and by nationalisation, against which we voted and which is coming to an end?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I say to my noble friend Lord Renton that I have a very long list which includes the particular item that he mentioned. I congratulate my noble friend on having achieved that victory 50 years ago today. While I am doing that, perhaps I may also congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who, 50 years ago, became the first Baron Packenham. I very much wish that that was something we could also celebrate. I do not see him in his usual place, but I hope that those remarks will be passed on.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, while the Minister is being reminded by her noble friend Lord Renton of the measures which the Conservative Opposition of those days voted against, would it also be in order to remind Members opposite that they also voted, line by line, against the introduction of the National Health Service and that they still hold an unending grudge against a free health service for the people of this country?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, the National Health Service came about as a result of a commission under the coalition led by Winston Churchill. I remind the noble Lord that we have been in charge of the National Health Service twice as long as his party and that the amount of money we are spending on it puts to shame the amount of money spent on the service by a Labour Government.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, moving to another approaching anniversary, will the Government consider commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the announcement of the Marshall Plan, which was an immense help to Western Europe's post-war reconstruction? Would it not be a salutary reminder, when some current rewriting of history is conveying a theory that the United States deliberately allowed British wealth and possessions to be lost or destroyed in World War II?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, that is an excellent suggestion and I shall pass it on.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, having missed the opportunity to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1945 general election, will the Government start preparing in good time to celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of the landslide of 1906 in which the Tories were swept from the Government Benches? Would they not consider that the most appropriate way of celebrating that occasion would be to go to the country and give the people an opportunity to repeat that event?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I tell the noble Lord that we look to the future and not to the past.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that these celebrations should be kept for major world anniversaries like VE and VJ Day, the celebration of which was so brilliantly organised by the Leader of the House, the Lord Privy Seal, and should not be debased for party political events, however earth-shattering they may seem?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, we do not believe that these kinds of celebrations should be used as a platform for any political purpose. No such complaint could possibly be made about the worldwide commemorations which are taking place this year.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, does my noble friend realise that that great magazine History Today has taken note of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1945 election by publishing two splendid photographs of a Captain Roy Jenkins and a Major Denis Healey in its extremely interesting article on that event?

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, I thank my noble friend very much for bringing that information to our attention.