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Lords Chamber

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 28 May 1940

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House Of Lords

Tuesday, 28th May, 1940.

The House met at four of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

The War: Situation In Belgium

4.3 P.m.

My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government if they have any statement to make on the war situation.

My Lords, you will be aware that the King of the Belgians yesterday sent a plenipotentiary to the German Command asking for a suspension of arms on the Belgian Front. The British and French Governments instructed their Generals immediately to dissociate themselves from this proceeding, and to persevere in the operations upon which they are now engaged. However, the German Command has agreed to the Belgian proposals, and the Belgian Army ceased to resist the enemy's will at four o'clock this morning. I have no intention of suggesting to the House that we should attempt at this moment to pass judgment upon the action of the King of the Belgians in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Belgian Army. This Army has fought very bravely and has both suffered and inflicted heavy losses. The Belgian Government, which remains the sole constitutional representative of the Belgian nation, has disavowed the action of the King, and, declaring itself to be the only legal Government of Belgium, has formally announced its resolve to continue the war at the side of the Allies, who have come to the aid of Belgium at her urgent appeal. Whatever our feelings may be upon the facts so far as they are known to us, we must remember that the sense of brotherhood between the many people who have fallen into the power of the aggressor and those who still confront him will play its part in better days than these through which we are now passing.

The situation of the British and French Armies, now engaged in a most severe battle and beset on three sides and from the air, is evidently extremely grave. The surrender of the Belgian Army in this manner adds appreciably to their grievous peril. But the troops are in good heart and are righting with the utmost discipline and tenacity. I shall of course abstain from giving any particulars of what, with the powerful assistance of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, they are doing or hope to do. His Majesty's Government expect to make a statement to Parliament on the general position when the result of the intense struggle now going on can be known and measured. This will not perhaps be until the beginning of next week. Meanwhile your Lordships should prepare yourselves for hard and heavy tidings.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister asks me to add that nothing which may happen in this battle can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves; nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way, as on former occasions in our history, through disaster and grief to the ultimate defeat of our enemies.

4.7 p.m.

My Lords, I should like first of all to thank the noble Viscount for the statement which he has made, a statement which causes us all concern; but we receive it without dismay. We cannot pretend, of course, that what it tells us is not serious, and that the situation with which we are now faced is not of an extremely serious character. It is probable that only trained military minds can accurately estimate all that it means and can measure the additional burden that the Allies have now to bear. In these circumstances, perhaps the less said about the situation the better, until it can be examined. One thing, however, it is surely our duty to say and to do: to try to give comfort to our men who are defending a soil that is not their own by assuring them that in this new embarrassment they have our gratitude and our complete admiration.

More than ever they represent a living wall which is defending the liberties of the world, and to them we send our affection and our trust.

4.9 p.m.

My Lords, I merely desire to associate my noble friends here with everything that has just been said by the noble Lord. Nothing that has happened can in any way weaken our confidence in our own Fighting Forces and those of France, or in any way diminish our belief in the certainty that the ultimate result will be victory for the right and for the Allied cause.

4.10 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Viscount, the Leader of this House, asked us to-day to withhold judgment, and he is right in doing so; but I feel that the position is so grave that history alone will say that the action of the King of the Belgians is that of a base, cowardly traitor at the present time.

National Service (Channel Islands) Bill Hl

My Lords, I beg leave to introduce a Bill to provide for the enlistment of men called up in the Channel Islands for service in the armed forces of the Crown; and to move that it be read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a .—( Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Bill read 1a , and to be printed.

Agricultural Wages (Regulation) (Scotland) Bill

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

4.11 p.m.

My Lords, in moving that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill, I should like to make one observation with reference to a point raised by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Addison. I understand that his proposal was that additional powers should be conferred upon the Wages Board to enable the Board to relate a minimum wage to a specified number of hours. I am informed that the present practice is one under which weekly rates fixed by committees are related to specific weekly hours, usually varying, of course, according to the season of the year; and at the end of that number of hours the Orders provide for other rates of pay to be paid, which are really at an overtime rate. There is nothing in this Bill to disturb that exist- ing practice, and therefore I think that the noble Lord may rest assured that the point which he had in mind is really met. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( Viscount Caldecote.)

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Viscount for what he has said with regard to the point which I raised last time. I was of course familiar with the fact which he has mentioned. I will only re-state my belief that before very long the Board will find themselves compelled to adopt a standard of hours to which they will relate a standard wage. However, I take his expression of good intention to include this obvious fact, which will certainly be achieved before long, without legislation, perhaps, within the administrative work of the Board.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Power of Board to direct reconsideration of minimum rates.

1. The Agricultural Wages (Regulation) (Scotland) Act, 1937 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act) shall have effect as if for Section six thereof (which section empowers the Secretary of State to direct a committee to reconsider minimum rates of wages) there were substituted the following section:—

"6.—(1) The Board, if they are of opinion, having regard to the economic conditions of the industry, that any minimum rate of wages should be varied, may direct the appropriate committee to reconsider such rate, and thereupon the committee shall within such time as the Board may direct reconsider the same and notify to the Board the result of their reconsideration.

had given Notice of two Amendments—namely, in subsection (1) of the substituted Section 6, to leave out "having regard to the economic conditions of the industry," and, after the said subsection (1), to insert:

"(2) In proceeding under the foregoing subsection the Board shall have regard to the economic conditions of the industry."

The noble Viscount said: This is purely a drafting Amendment, made for the purpose of leaving out certain words in this part of the clause and inserting them, by the second Amendment which I shall move, at a later point.

Amendment moved—

Page 1, line 13, leave out from the beginning of the line to ("that") in line 14.—(Viscount Caldecote.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

I now come to the second Amendment, and I beg to move the insertion of the words standing in my name.

Amendment moved—

Page 1, line 19, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Viscount Caldecote.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.

Marriage (Scotland) (Emergency Provisions) Bill Hl

House in Committee (according to Order): Bill reported without amendment.

War Charities Bill Hl

Read 3a (according to Order): Amendment (Privilege) made: Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

House adjourned at seventeen minutes past four o'clock.

From Minutes Of May 28

Bournemouth Gas And Waterbill




Brought from the Commons; read 1a , and referred to the Examiners.

acquainted the House, That the Clerk of the Parliaments had laid upon the Table the Certificate from the Examiners that the further Standing Orders applicable to the following Bills have been complied with:

  • Christchurch Corporation,
  • Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Gateshead Gas.

The same was ordered to lie on the Table.

Mid-Wessex Water Bill Hl

The Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.

Gosport Water Bill Hl

Reported, with Amendments.

Cheadle And Churnet Valleygas Order, 1940

Draft Order proposed to be made on the application of the Cheadle and Churnet Valley Gas Company, Limited:

Laid before the House (pursuant to Act) for affirmative Resolution and referred to the Special Orders Committee.

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Blackburn) Bill

Reported without amendment, and recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.