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James Keir Hardie (Memorial)

Volume 477: debated on Friday 21 July 1950

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

3.34 p.m.

I desire to raise the subject matter of a Motion which I had the honour of placing on the Order Paper as a result of a recent Private Members' ballot, and I wish to ask the House this afternoon to consider the suitability and desirability of erecting in the Palace of Westminster a memorial to the late James Keir Hardie.

I would say that as I have wandered about the Palace I have been struck by the significance of most of the statues here. If there is any fault at all, it is that this building pays no tribute, for instance, to John Pym, to Earl Grey—for the first Reform Bill—to the great Lord Shaftesbury and to that illustrious Parliamentarian, Samuel Plimsoll. Above all, we on these benches feel that the time has come when we should honour in this building the great founder of the British Labour Party. In the 1892 General Election, 12 Labour candidates put themselves forward. According to Keir Hardie the movement was "spontaneous, irregular and without any natural cohesion." He said:
"A number of ardent spirits would get together, form themselves into a local Labour Party and forthwith consider how best to run a candidate."
Three of these were elected—Havelock Wilson, John Burns and Keir Hardie—and each left his mark on English history. They were by no means the only Labour men in Parliament, but Keir Hardie differed from the other working-class Members of Parliament, first because he was independent of both the Liberal and Conservative Parties, and secondly because he was a Socialist. He came here to create a new Parliamentary Party. As he said:
"A Labour Party, gaunt and grim, which knows neither the Liberal nor the Conservative Parties save as opponents to be guarded against."
Much has been said of Hardie's work in Parliament. I want to refer briefly to his courage and to the political and historic significance of his maiden speech. No Member of this House needs reminding of the courage needed in making a maiden speech, but Keir Hardie came here as a simple working man who was pitting his native wit against the giants of a cultured class. In the House when he made his maiden speech were Asquith, Balfour, Gladstone, Labouchere, Morley, Redmond, Randolph Churchill and a young Welshman named Lloyd George. The whole House was against him—not only those on the Conservative and Liberal benches but his own Liberal-Labour Members renounced him. He had even to face the extremely difficult position of 100 Conservatives supporting for tactical reasons the first resolution which he moved in the House of Commons.

The political significance of his maiden speech lay in the fact that after the Opposition's official Amendment to the Queen's Speech had been moved, Hardie moved his own Amendment, and in so doing was performing the historical act of saying: Here is a new, a third political party in the House. This House usually has a sense of the dramatic but somehow it went wrong on this occasion. After the official Amendment to the Queen's Speech had been voted down, Keir Hardie did not hear the Speaker call on him. He protested; nothing happened; and the House immediately adjourned in those spacious and comfortable days for six months' holiday. Six months later, in February, 1893, Hardie rose again to move his first Amendment of the Labour Party in the House of Commons.

Significant as the very moving of the Amendment was, perhaps even more significant to us was the subject matter of Hardie's first speech. Above all, it called attention to the fact that over 10 per cent. of the British workers were unemployed, and to the fact that they were referred to by many people of the times. in terms of Parson Malthus and of Scrooge in the "Christmas Carol," as the "surplus population." For the 10 per cent. of unemployed there seemed to be no means of maintenance inside the country at all. Keir Hardie boldly declared that the State had a responsibility to provide work for the maintenance of the unemployed. He said that these men had a right to look to the House for assistance in finding employment. He asked cour- ageously, "What have the unemployed to thank Her Majesty for in this Speech."

He distinguished the new party from the traditional purposes of supporting either free trade or protection, and said that we could not just afford to wait for better conditions of trade, but must endeavour to deal with the booms and slumps of capitalism. He advocated a 48-hour week in Government factories as an example to others, and a minimum wage of 6d. an hour. He suggested that agriculture, which was even then in a state of decline, ought to be tackled as a serious problem. He ended by saying that the House should speak for the nation as a whole, the unemployed equally with the well-to-do.

No man who came to this House was ever braver. On the occasion of the Royal marriage, he called attention to the fact that a woman at Edmonton on that day had died of starvation, and he shocked the House by calling attention to the fact that she, too, was a human being. The England of which he spoke is revealed in the pages of HANSARD, and not merely from the speeches of Socialist propagandists, as an England where children went to school in a state of starvation; where the Army and Navy were called to the Hull dock strike; where guardians made a condition of assistance the willingness of a man to blackleg; where 30 people died in London in one year from starvation, when 7s. 6d. an acre was the cost of agricultural land and £30,000 the cost of an acre of land in Cheapside; where during the previous 20 years 30,000 agricultural workers had left the land. There were no official unemployment figures except those kept by the highly organised trade unions, and these showed 20 per cent. of the ironmoulders and 15 per cent. of the engineers and shipbuilders were unemployed. At a time when Booth was writing his monumental work describing the poor of London, there began in the House what the Liberals called "The attack on 200 years' accumulated injustice."

I do not want to make a political speech or call attention to the singular contribution Keir Hardie made to the political freedom of women, for example, or to his work for old age pensions. The fact is that many of the things for which he pleaded in those early days have now become part and parcel of the State and society at the present time. He said that we needed a new political instrument for all this work, and that the workers of the country must have a party of their own.

It may be argued against the provision of a statue to this great man that he was not a great Parliamentarian. I would only say that Cromwell was not very distinguished by his contributions to Parliament. The real answer is simply that Keir Hardie's work was to create a political party, and that in the nature of things it was impossible for him to achieve Parliamentary honour in title and distinction. He did not choose to become a Minister in a Liberal Government in the early part of the century, as Burns did, which would have been possible. The very nature and sincerity of the man made his life one of creating a party rather than of seeking honour. In passing, I would draw the parallel of the life of Randolph Churchill to whom a statue exists in the House. In his time he attempted to create a Tory democratic party, and had he lived long enough he might have changed the whole structure of the British Conservative Party.

Keir Hardie built a vital part of Parliament. Without the work of Keir Hardie there would have been no Labour Government at present. Even more important—he made a specific and vital contribution to British Socialism. Keir Hardie is, above all, responsible for the fact that British Socialism is at once democratic Parliamentarian, Christian and humanist, and for the fact that the Socialist movement in this country has taken a line very different from that of the Socialist Parties of almost every other country in the world.

His life was spent, inside and outside this Parliament, in sacrificing himself to the great task of serving the ordinary people. One thing and one thing only he had in common with Robespierre—he was incorruptible. I would say, above all, that in a great movement built on freedom inside a political party, and in a party which is not distinguished by unanimity on anything, there is, on the whole of these benches and throughout the length and breadth of this great trade union-Labour movement of ours, unanimity as to who was the most significant individual in the history of the Labour Party.

We all have our traditions. On the benches opposite the names of men like Disraeli, Gladstone, Asquith and Balfour have meaning. To those of us on these benches names like John Ball, Thomas More, the Chartists, the Tolpuddle Martyrs and Keir Hardie are part of the great tradition of this movement. History belongs to all political parties, and the House, whose decoration in a most curious way pays tribute at the same time to Charles I and Cromwell, by paintings of the Civil War depicting the human and historic incidents on both sides, the House where Walpole and Fox and rival political statesmen of the various centuries can look at each other in St. Stephen's Hall, should be big enough and historic enough to contain at the same time statues of Disraeli and Keir Hardie.

I would end by echoing and applying to this great man the tribute paid to the late Mr. Asquith on a similar occasion when the House considered whether it might not honour that great man, and when the leaders of both sides of the House, as I hope they will in this case, came to the House to move a unanimous resolution that a memorial be erected to the late Mr. Asquith. This was the tribute paid to him, and I suggest that it applies very aptly indeed to the man of whose work I have endeavoured to speak:
"At a time when democracy is being challenged and free institutions are being imperilled it is right that the House of Commons should pay their homage to a man who added so much to its renown and influence."

3.49 p.m.

It may be convenient if I indicate at once the view that the Government take of the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King). I should like to congratulate him on his speech and on the non-provocative and substantially impartial and non-partisan way in which he has raised this matter. It is desirable that in anything which any of us have to say we should be as impartial as possible because, at the end, this must be the subject of discussion between the Parliamentary parties. It is desirable that agreement should be reached.

I should like to say at once that as far as the Government are concerned we are sympathetic to the view put by my hon. Friend in his speech. I hope that I shall justify that to the satisfaction of the House a little later, but it might be convenient if I were to indicate something of the history of this matter of a memorial to the late Mr. Keir Hardie so far as our records of Parliamentary proceedings go.

The matter was first raised in July, 1924, by Mr. Dunnico. He only asked for facilities for the placing of a bust which would be presented by subscribers in recognition of Mr. Hardie's services. At that time, Mr. Jowett was First Commissioner of Works, himself a great friend and fellow worker with Keir Hardie. He replied that the request could be more properly made when it was clear that the desire for such a memorial was general and did not come solely or mainly from Members belonging to one political party. The matter was again revived on the suggestion of Mr. Arthur Henderson, in March, 1925. After consulting Mr. Baldwin, Viscount Peel replied that whatever Mr. Hardie's qualities might have been as a social reform theorist and a propagandist of new ideas, he certainly did not think that Mr. Hardie ever attained a Parliamentary standing sufficiently high to qualify him for this distinction.

Perhaps it would be well if I were to deal with that point straight away. Certainly, Mr. Hardie never became Prime Minister or even an occupant of the Treasury or Opposition front bench in any capacity. He lived in days when the Labour Party was of a size in this House which, I imagine, made it not easy for any of them to become Parliamentarians in the full and outstanding sense of the term. The forces that they mustered were not exactly conducive to that end. Undoubtedly, Mr. Keir Hardie was a considerable Parliamentary figure. He was a famed Parliamentary figure, and although there may be something understandable in the view that Viscount Peel expressed it misses fire on the real status that Keir Hardie had in the world of politics and on the extraordinary influence he ultimately had on the shaping of our Parliamentary Government.

He was, as my hon. Friend has indicated, as near as may be the founder of the Labour Party. Any of us who is now asked, at a public meeting, "Who was the founder of the Labour Party?" would almost inevitably reply, "Keir Hardie." There were other great men who took part in the process, Socialists, trade unionists and others, but as near as we can get it the symbolic and, to a great extent, the actual figure, was Keir Hardie. His important and significant contribution to British Parliamentary and political history was that he inspired the formation of a new and independent political party, with its own finances, and when it arrived in Parliament, with its own Whips. That political party became, in due course, responsible for the Government of the country, under Parliament, with two minority Labour Governments and, in these later years, two majority Labour Governments. There may be views as to whether this result was desirable, and such views will inevitably exist.

That was the historical significance of the life of this man and the sequence of the events of history. Upon our Parliamentary institutions and our Parliamentary situation, and upon the whole sweep and sphere of Government in economic and social affairs, this man, James Keir Hardie, Scots miner, had an outstanding and distinguished influence. His name is symbolical of this great development. In Parliamentary and extra-Parliamentary spheres his life and work are as significant in relation to Parliamentary institutions and to the Government as, in their way, were the lives of other great men whose statues we are happy to see in the Palace of Westminster.

Even if it be the case that in the sense of being Parliamentarians there were greater Parliamentarians with a longer experience of the handling of great affairs in this House—it may be a perfectly fair point to argue—nevertheless, in relation to the development of British public affairs and in relation to British Parliamentary affairs, Keir Hardie stands, I think, equal in importance and significance to a large proportion of the great men whose memory is recorded by the memorials which exist in the Palace of Westminster.

Therefore, in so far as the Opposition will be consulted about this—they will be consulted about it; it is right that they should be—I ask them to take into account this broad significance of the man and his work, and I am sure that I shall not appeal in vain for a degree of tolerance and understanding, including the understanding of the deep feeling which Labour Members and Labour people outside have that it is time that recognition was given. I hope that we may be able to secure agreement about an appropriate memorial to the memory of James Keir Hardie.

I thought I would pause to comment upon the view which was taken by Viscount Peel in 1925. Mr. Ammon—now Lord Ammon—raised the question again in December, 1929, and now there comes into the picture Mr. Lansbury, another old friend and colleague of James Keir Hardie, who had become His Majesty's First Commissioner of Works and Public Buildings at the time when that office held a title of dignity which has now fallen, in these utilitarian days, into the "Minister of Works." I am ready to change it, subject to Parliament, at any time under whatever Act it is by which these titles can be changed by Order.

Mr. Lansbury restated his predecessor's point that any memorial should receive the general assent of the House as a whole and not of one party only, but he continued:
"If you think that the time is ripe for a fresh move to he made, perhaps you will consult the Opposition Whips as to what they consider the views of the other parties might be."
I do not quite know what the result of that consultation was, but, anyway, nothing much happened. In a moment I will tell the House what happened, but I do not think that it was adequate.

Mr. Lansbury added that the Conservative Party had a bust of Joseph Chamberlain in their Whips' room at the House of Commons and that there was no reason why the Labour Party should not hang a portrait of Keir Hardie, which was already in the possession of the Office of Works, in the Labour Whips' room. It is historically interesting to note that the portrait was eventually hung in the Labour Whips' room in February, 1930; but it cannot now be found in the Whips' room, and it is learnt—I think it is accepted as a fact—that it was destroyed at the time of the bombing of the House of Commons Chamber. That is historically interesting, and I thought that I ought to report that sad occurrence to the House.

Later there was a movement to have a bust of John Redmond in the House. Again, the question of memorials generally came up and consideration was given to the question generally and in relation to Mr. Keir Hardie. As a result certain rules of procedure in these and similar cases were adopted. There have been some other incidental matters, but not on this scale. The rules drawn up for the guidance of the Ministry of Works are to this effect:
"Any request that a statue, bust or other memorial to any persons be erected within the precincts of the House of Commons should be made, in the first instance, to the First Commissioner of Works, who, if he considers the request worthy of examination, should invite Mr. Speaker or his representative and the Whips of all three parties to consider the matter with him."

The other rules deal with consultation—

It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Kenneth Robinson.]

There is also provision whereby the Royal Fine Art Commission should be consulted and various other matters of procedure. The consent of the Lord Great Chamberlain is also required if the memorial involves any structural alterations to the buildings, and it is also provided that no memorials may be erected to any person within 10 years of his decease, except in accordance with a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. That point does not arise in this case.

It seems to the Government and to myself that we should like this matter to be pursued, and therefore, I would propose to suggest to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works that he should consult Mr. Speaker, whose view in the matter is important, of course, and the Whips or whoever it may be as representing the other Parliamentary parties. Clearly, this is not the sort of thing that anybody would want a big row about, or any controversial or bitter discussion. The Conservative Party and Liberal Party may have their views, and they must, of course, be taken into account.

This is a Friday afternoon, and there are not many of us here, and I would only like to say this to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I can understand the possibility that they might say "Well, he was not a great and powerful and outstanding figure of the Gladstone and Disraeli type of person in the House of Commons, but he was, notably, a Socialist agitator in the country," which he was. I have been one myself and I am still one, in all parts of the country, including the Highlands of Scotland. They might, therefore, say, "He does not quite come within this category."

In that case, I would only urge upon the Opposition that they should recognise that, in our judgment, and I think the judgment is fair, James Keir Hardie, miner, Scotsman, the man who taught himself to write shorthand with chalk at the coal face, and all those things which made him a man of great character to us, is a spiritual founder of this modern Labour Party which has become a great party in the State—and it is to the credit of the British Constitution that a great and new party should be able peacefully to become a predominant party in the State, although some people think it is a pity that happened. I understand that.

Keir Hardie is regarded in that light, and I make the statement that this man, agitating, propaganding and functioning in this House, did materially influence the course of British Parliamentary and constitutional history, and economic and social policy, and I would hope that the Opposition, together with the Liberal Party, would say that, although he is perhaps not quite in line with the figures that are there, he was, none the less, a very great man who influenced events to an enormous extent.

I hope we can reach agreement, not about the doctrines he preached, but on the view that he was a great man in the history of our country, with a very substantial influence on the course of British public affairs and Parliamentary institutions, and that we may agree that, in all those circumstances, it would be right and proper that the House of Commons should take note of that and erect a suitable memorial to his memory.

4.5 p.m.

I think the House will sympathise with me in following the speech of great dignity with which my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King), opened this Debate, and also in following my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, who, I feel sure, has spoken, in a very special way, in accordance with the general traditions and sympathies of our party. I say this in no controversial way, but would point out that I belong to the party which, at the last General Election, polled the largest number of votes gained by any political party in history. I suggest, therefore, that if democracy has any meaning the founder of such a party as that might secure a worthy place in this House.

Just now I saw my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael), attempting to rise, and I even noticed the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) nodding his head in sympathy at one point during the speech of the Lord President of the Council. I say to both Scottish hon. Members that Keir Hardie is more than one of the historic figures of Scotland. When he raised the banner of Socialist revolt in Mid-Lanark in the early 90's of the last century, it was significant that the Scots rejected both the gospel and the prophet, and that Keir Hardie had to come to London, to within four miles of where I was born, where the electors of East Ham lifted him on their shoulders and made him a Labour Member of Parliament. It was significant, too, that afterwards he represented Merthyr Tydvil for a time.

We are, therefore, talking of no nationalistic figure but of a man who sprang from the soil of Scotland, a man who came down here first to represent a part of this great Metropolis and afterwards one of the traditional Labour constituencies of Wales. Whether Keir Hardie was a great Parliamentarian or not cannot be judged merely by whether he has spoken across the Floor of this House. What counts is what his life stood for in British Parliamentary history, and the profound impact he has had upon all our institutions.

Other hon. Members who knew Keir Hardie more than I did will perhaps wish to speak. I speak as one who came into this party when I was 16 years of age and who has been in it for 30 years. I came in within a year or two after Keir Hardie's death. He was a great and revered figure then but his stature—

I apologise for interrupting but I should have said that I am among those who knew Keir Hardie personally. I could not speak of him as a Parliamentarian because I never saw him in the House of Commons, but I knew him personally and undoubtedly he was a great man.

Yes, I had assumed the Lord President of the Council knew him personally.

I am astonished that the Lord President should attempt to score a debating point of that kind upon such an emotional occasion. I always assumed that the Lord President knew Keir Hardie personally and he must have been profoundly affected by him, as I was. In those days I knew the Lord President at least by name and I lived fairly near the town where his gifts blossomed.

We are speaking of a prophet whose prophecies have come true. The gospel of "maintenance or work" that he enunciated was almost a foreign gospel in his lifetime. It was a time when there were strata in society which knew the lowest depths of despair, as is shown in Jack London's "People of the Abyss." We had a society at that time at the bottom of which were people who were completely degraded. Keir Hardie at least tried to lay the foundation of the philosophy that would see that there was a level below which the poorest and meanest could not fall. That is, possibly, his greatest contribution.

Though I cannot match the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test, I hope that this House is big enough to recognise the implications of full democracy—that we should honour great men, from whatever party they come. In the opinion of hon. Members on this side of the House, at least, this was a truly great man, in the tradition of British history; and I should be very glad to know that the Conservatives, so long after his death, recognise that.

4.11 p.m.

I must apologise to the House that I did not hear the beginning of the Debate, but the Lord President will understand that that was because we were engaged in entertaining some Canadian boys here. I draw no party line in this matter. I hope we have no party line. I would very much like to support a suggestion that a memorial should be erected in this honourable House to Keir Hardie.

One of the great traditions which this country has given to the world, and to my native country of Canada, is that a man can rise within our way of life by his own ability and character; and if ever that applied to any man, it certainly applied to Keir Hardie. At the moment we are not concerned with whether what he built will eventually prove good or bad. He certainly gave firm substance and philosophy to the rise of what has become the Socialist Party. Historians will decide whether that rise was right or not, but the achievement was enormous.

We should have a memorial as a tribute to him, and as a tribute to historic fact and, possibly, as a memory of the Socialist Party when it has finally disappeared. It may be that hon. Gentlemen opposite think the Socialists are immortal without being divine, that they will live for ever; but I should like to put to the House, as a student of the political scene, that when any party gives birth to another party, the mother dies. The child lives until it becomes mother or father, whichever the case may be. Liberalism gave birth to Socialism. [Laughter.] I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite should deny their paternity. It is a mean party that denies its mother's womb. Out of its loins the Society Party was born and the mother has died. [Laughter.] I am sorry, I am getting confused. In turn, the Socialists gave birth to Communism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh! No."] I am sorry, but even Communism must have a parent, and I think the Socialist Party is in the process of dying. Fortunately, the Conservative Party is sterile. It gave birth to nothing.

That is why the Conservative Party will live on for ever, because in our case the mother does not die.

I intended this to be an entirely sincere speech. Since Keir Hardie played this enormous part in the creation of the Socialist Party, I should like to pay a tribute to the Socialist Party. This may rob me of my chance of office when we come to power. [An HON. MEMBER: "Don't worry."] The Socialist Party—the Labour movement and the trade union movement generally—has definitely awakened the social conscience. I pay that tribute unblushingly to the efforts of the party opposite. It has hastened the democratisation of life. If only it had remained a missionary and evangelical force in the country, what value it could have been for a long time. Only when the missionaries decided that they could take over the economic life of the country did the disaster reveal itself.

Since I believe that hon. Members opposite must be swept out of office and power soon because of their economic failure, I say to them in my farewell and adieu: We acknowledge that you did much for the spiritual awakening of the country, and, while we are delighted at the thought that you will soon disappear, we shall remember you, and we think that we should have in this House a permanent memento that you once existed.

4.16 p.m.

I hope that I shall say nothing which will mar the general feeling of the House today. I do not speak merely as a narrow-minded Scotsman. I go to the other extreme and I say that it would be unfitting for a Scotsman in this House to hear a Debate of this kind without at least attempting, in his own humble way, to make his contribution. I will not enter into controversy with the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter) about the future of the Socialist Party or the Conservative Party. We are, I hope, anxious to recognise the place of a man in the history of British political democracy, and I think we are bound to regard Keir Hardie as a great Parliamentarian in the broadest sense of the word.

If anyone studies the history of the Socialist movement he is bound to recognise that Keir Hardie actually made a challenge within the Socialist movement itself—a challenge to figures like H. M. Hyndman and others as to the trend of political thought in this country. If he was a champion of any one thing, he was a champion of Parliamentary government. In that sense he went among the working class of this country emphasising the importance of Parliamentary government. That was at a period when there was serious discontent among the working class.It is quite true that that discontent was not canalised in any way which could be regarded as giving significance to any political thought, but there was discontent and he tried to organise them along constitutional lines.

It is quite true—I give this point to the hon. Member for Southgate—that he made an attempt to extend political democracy in this country through the medium of the Liberal Party. In his early days he had a feeling, without having imbibed Socialist thought at all, that there was something radically wrong in this land where the harder people worked the poorer they were, and the less people worked the richer they were. He thought there was something radically wrong in that kind of economy, and he also thought the time had arrived when ordinary working men from the pits and the factories should enter the British House of Commons. He pleaded with the Liberal Party to accept that view, but until then it was unheard of, and he was unable to penetrate their minds with his ideas.

He made the famous fight in Mid-Lanark. It is quite true that he ultimately came down to London, where he was recognised and sent to the House of Commons. Obviously, he could never be a great Parliamentary figure, standing at the Treasury Box. He was in the process of building that great democratic party which made it possible to have ordinary working men standing at the Treasury Box; and, while I do not want to enter into controversy, my view is that they will be standing at the Treasury Box for many years to come. We do not recognise Keir Hardie merely as a figure; he was symbolic of an expanding democracy. The right to enter the British House of Commons, the right of the ordinary worker to speak alongside the privileged person, is not in itself sufficient; what is important is what he is attempting to say, what he is attempting to do, and the things he is attempting to have accomplished in the framework of our constitution.

I can think of other things which Keir Hardie achieved. First, he fought all his life to have the miners regarded as honourable men in society. No man, whatever his political opinions, will dispute that today miners are among the most dignified members of the community. That was made possible by the development of Parliamentary representation, on the basis urged by Keir Hardie, until the party which he championed became the Government of the country. I remember his struggle for the right to work. I did not know him as an intimate; I knew him when I was a minor, a small insignificant lad in the movement in the West of Scotland. He fought for the right to work. It has now been acclaimed from both sides of this House of Commons that the main purpose of government, so far as our internal affairs are concerned, must be the maintenance of full employment. That is now accepted, and in the last five years—in my view at any rate; and I admit that this is a political point—the Government have attempted, in their organisation of our national economy, to work along those lines.

Another point which I should mention was Keir Hardie's great nationalism, as expressed in his love of his fellow men all over the world. He was a great internationalist and a great Scotsman. Those are not conflicting viewpoints. The two harmonise. In my view, the great nationalist cannot give full expression to his nationalism unless he permits the same right to the people of other lands, and Keir Hardie did that; and his outstanding achievement in that field was his agitation on behalf of the people of India. If I may be permitted to say so, I think the most outstanding achievement in the Government's record of the last six years is not only the granting of freedom to India, but the permitting of that freedom to develop while the spirit of co-operation continued on a stronger scale than ever before.

I believe that at this very critical hour in world history, when there are very grave fears and doubts in the minds of men in all corners of the world, India can play a tremendous part in the possibility of establishing world peace. I think we have to look back to the pioneer work of Keir Hardie in that respect. We must recognise it if we are to have a true history of the development of political democracy in this, in my view the freest institution in the world; because, as has been said, a man can come direct from a bench in a factory into this House of Commons and immediately cross swords with someone who has been here many years. It is a great opportunity, this right to express oneself freely.

Keir Hardie made his contribution in that direction in influencing the minds of the people towards constitutional change. He held the view that political democracy was merely a beginning of that great idea of democratic government and he fought not merely for the right to be in this British House of Commons, but ultimately the right to use this great institution so that it might be possible to remove the wrongs and the ills and the uncertainties from this land, and finally to stretch out our hand to the people of the world in permanent peace. I think it would be a great honour for all Members of Parliament if we took the opportunity, through the usual channels, in the most friendly and kindly way, to erect a monument or a statue to one of the great figures in this country, who was, too, a great Scotsman.

4.24 p.m.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter), I did not hear the opening part of the Lord President's speech. I was not aware that this Debate was taking place; I came in to hand in a Question, having torn myself away from the burden of correspondence which all of us here have to carry, and I heard enough of what he said to compel me to take my seat and hear him to the end. I should like here to say that I personally regret that more of our colleagues on this side of the House are not here now, because I feel certain they would have been as deeply touched as I have been by the right hon. Gentleman's speech.

I was born and brought up in the same part of the country as Keir Hardie. I remember quite well, though I was very young at the time, when he first entered this House. I think he played a very great part in bringing to the knowledge of the House of Commons the conditions under which the greatest number of people lived in this country. I think he was a great pioneer. I have often wondered how difficult it must have been for him when he came in as the first Socialist Member of Parliament. I like to believe, however, that the Members of both the historic parties made him welcome. I feel sure they did, though they would have disagreed with his policy, as I should have done and as all of my colleagues on this side of the House would have done.

However, we admire him, and are proud to do so because the great party which now governs our country sprang very largely from his efforts, and of those of other pioneers. I earnestly hope that this proposal, made so well by the Lord President today, will go through with acclamation on all sides of the House.

4.27 p.m.

I think all of us on this side of the House are very grateful to the two hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken in this Debate; and perhaps by their reaction, less emotional than ours, they have contributed more to the success of the proposal made by my right hon. Friend. It is almost impossible for us who have been nurtured in the Labour movement to speak of the memory of Keir Hardy without a great deal of emotion. However, today we are not considering Keir Hardie as a great Socialist. We are considering him as a great democrat. I say as a great democrat advisedly, because I think Peel's formula of a great Parliamentarian was the wrong one. We have done honour to the memory of Oliver Cromwell in this House, but no one would suggest it was in admiration of Cromwell's regard for the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.

I think it is right that we should remember Keir Hardie as the man who gave a new impetus to democracy in this country, and who brought into existence a new political organisation that made it possible for us to widen the democratic basis upon which this Parliament rests; and by so doing, I think, contributed greatly to the preservation of democracy in this country when democracy in other countries of the world was fighting a losing battle.

It is right, as the Lord President said, that any proposal of this kind should be undertaken with the united support of the whole of this House, and I am glad negotiations are to be undertaken. I would suggest to the Lord President that if in those negotiations he has to concede some point to the Opposition, he should concede the point that we on this side of the House are prepared to abrogate any right we may have to erect a statue to the late James Ramsay MacDonald.

Today we have in the Leader of the Opposition another great democrat, a man who has a great heart, and a man who has a great faith in the rightness and quality of parliamentary government in this country, and I hope that this House today will send to the Leader of the Opposition a message of hope that he will once again rise to the greatness of an occasion, that he will show again that spirit which makes him loved by even those of us who strenuously disagree with his point of view, and that he will lead his party in adopting the same line as that taken by the two hon. Gentlemen of his party who have spoken today—lead them to pay honour and respect to that great democrat, James Keir Hardie.

4.29 p.m.

I think it is excellently and, perhaps, characteristically British that there should be unanimity in this House today upon this proposal to erect a memorial to Keir Hardie. I speak as a representative of the constituency which sent him to Parliament for the first time in 1892. That Borough of West Ham has already honoured Keir Hardie. They have unveiled a bust in his memory, and one of the great housing estates that are being built there is called the Keir Hardie Housing Estate. His memory is legendary there, as it is throughout the country. He was a man of the people, and the people honour his name and will be proud to support the recommendation for this memorial.

The Question having been proposed at Four o'Clock and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Half-past Four o'Clock.