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Lords Chamber

Volume 174: debated on Tuesday 6 November 1951

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House Of Lords

Tuesday, 6th November, 1951

The Commons being at the Bar, with their Speaker, The LORD CHANCELLOR delivered His Majesty's Speech to both Houses of Parliament. Then the Commons withdrew.

His Majesty's Speech was as follows:

" My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

"It is a matter of sincere regret to Me that I cannot address you in person on this Opening of a new Parliament. I have been sustained and strengthened through My illness by the prayers and the sympathy of all My peoples.

"It has given Me great satisfaction that the Princess Elizabeth, accompanied by her husband, has been able to undertake her projected journey to Canada and the United States of America, and I have been deeply moved by the warmth of the reception accorded both to her and to the Duke of Edinburgh.

"The Queen and I are deeply touched by the sympathy and understanding shown by My peoples in Australia, New Zealand and Ceylon on learning that We had, for the second time, been prevented by My illness from carrying out Our plan to visit them. Happily My elder daughter and her husband will make this journey in Our stead; and they ardently look forward to their visit to these and other Commonwealth countries through which they will pass in the course of their journey.

"My Ministers will ever be anxious to maintain the intimate and precious ties of friendship and understanding which exist between all the peoples of the Commonwealth and Empire.

"My Government will make it their first duty to ensure our national safety and, in concert with the other members of the Commonwealth, the United States of America and our European partners, will share in a supreme effort to build a more tranquil and prosperous world. They will take the necessary measures to strengthen our defences both in trained men and in equipment, to re-establish the Home Guard and to develop Civil Defence.

"My Government will faithfully support the United Nations as the World instrument for peace and security. They will continue to play their part in Korea with the aim of restoring peace and well-being.

"My Ministers will try to repair the injuries our rights and interests have suffered in Persia.

"My Government regard the abrogation by the Egyptian Government of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of Alliance of 1936 and the Sudan Condominium Agreements of 1899 as illegal and without validity. They are resolved, in conjunction with the Governments of the United States, France and Turkey, to press forward with their proposals for joint defence arrangements in the Middle East. In the meantime they will maintain their position in the Canal Zone under the terms of the 1936 Treaty and will safeguard the international highway. Nothing can be allowed to interfere with the rights of the Sudanese to decide for themselves the future status of their country.

"The text of the Japanese Peace Treaty signed at San Francisco on the 8th of September will be presented to you before ratification. Legislation will be introduced to give effect to certain provisions of the Treaty.

"My Government will introduce legislation to regulate the position of Commonwealth and foreign armed forces who are stationed in this country.

" Members of the House of Commons:

"The estimates for the public services will be laid before you.

" My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

"First steps will be taken to fulfil the plans of My Ministers for the management of Scottish affairs.

"I have approved new arrangements to bring added strength to the counsels of My Government upon the special problems and interests of Wales.

"My Government view with grave concern the economic situation of the United Kingdom about which a full disclosure must be made to the nation. The recent deterioration in the balance of payments causes increasing anxiety and must be urgently remedied in order to restore the fullest confidence in the purchasing power of the pound, so that we may continue to be able to obtain from overseas the supplies necessary to maintain employment and an increasingly high level of production. The measures to this end must include drastic action to reduce the growing inflation in our economy, which threatens the maintenance of our defence programme and which, if unchecked, must cause a continuing rise in the cost of living. My Government regard this problem as overshadowing all other domestic matters. They are giving it urgent examination and will announce their conclusions and make proposals to Parliament in the immediate future. They will make a searching inquiry into Government expenditure with a view to reducing it wherever possible. While pressing on with domestic remedies they will also invite the other Governments of the Commonwealth to confer together on action which should be taken in concert to remedy the adverse balance of payments.

"My Government will seek to promote flexibility in those industries which have been brought under public management and to stimulate free enterprise by giving it a fuller share in our economic activity. They will be mindful of the great demands on our productive capacity, and will consider all methods for creating that spirit of partnership between management and workers on which industrial harmony and a higher level of productivity must depend.

"My Government view with concern the serious shortage of labour, particularly of skilled labour, which has handicapped production in a number of essential industries. They will review, in consultation with representatives of those concerned, the possibilities of making available more labour for those industries and of ensuring the best use of the existing labour force.

"A Bill will be placed before you to annul the Iron and Steel Act with a view to the reorganisation of the industry under free enterprise but with an adequate measure of public supervision.

"Proposals will be made to facilitate the extension of private road haulage activities.

"A measure will be laid before you for strengthening and widening the activities of the Monopolies Commission.

"You will be asked to authorise for a period the continuation in force of certain emergency enactments and defence regulations which are due to expire next month. My Ministers will, however, review the whole subject with the aim of reducing the number of these controls and regulations and, wherever possible, embodying those which must be kept in legislation requiring annual renewal by Parliament.

"My Government will do their utmost to stimulate the building of new houses for My people, using to the fullest extent both public and private enterprise. Their housing policy will have regard to the desire of many people to own their homes and to the special needs of the elderly.

"In their policy towards the social services My Government will pursue the aim of ensuring efficiency and providing value for money spent.

"My Ministers will vigorously encourage production of food by the basic industries of agriculture, horticulture and fisheries.

"Further progress will be made with the consolidation of the statute law.

"Other measures will be laid before you in due course.

"I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels."

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.

Prayers

Several Lords—Took the Oath.

The Earl of Lytton—Sat first in Parliament after the death of his father.

The Lord Douglas ( E. Home)—Sat first in Parliament after the death of his father.

Several Lords—Took the Oath.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed at half past two of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Roll Of The Lords

Garter King of Arms attending, delivered at the Table (in the usual manner) a List of the Lords Temporal in the First Session of the Fortieth Parliament of the United Kingdom. The same was ordered to lie on the Table.

Several Lords—Took the Oath.

Select Vestries

Bill, pro forma, read 1ª.

ADDRESS IN REPLY TO HIS MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS SPEECH.

The King's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.

2.38 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—

"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, first of all, your Lordships in every part of the House will wish me to express to His Majesty, with our humble duty, our heartfelt rejoicing at his steady progress towards recovery. We have watched with grave concern his serious illness, and we wholeheartedly wish him complete and speedy restoration to health. It must have been a great consolation to His Majesty, and to the Queen, to watch the triumphant progress of the Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in Canada and in the United States. We, who know Her Royal Highness so well, have almost come to take her charm and personality for granted. Of course, we were certain that her tour would be successful, but I feel that it has been even more successful than we expected. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me, for the sake of permanent record in Hansard, to read two extracts from Washington newspapers. The Evening Star says:
"The simple truth is that she has conquered the heart of the capital of the United States of America. Together with her handsome husband, she has charmed and captivated this city to such an extent that our oldest inhabitants, searching around among their memories, are hard put to recall the name of any past visitor quite comparable to her in terms of…good looks and sweetness of personality."
The Washington Post says:
"Everyone in this capital city and in the country beyond will…feel closer to the future Queen from now on and we shall understand why the British Commonwealth is proud of her."
The Post is quite right: we are proud of the Princess, and so must be her Royal parents.

When I first joined the House of Commons nearly thirty years ago, I was haunted by some anxiety lest I should be called upon to move or second the humble Address. However, that youthful conceit was soon subdued by the selection of two more honourable Members. You may judge of my surprise, therefore, when I was accorded this high honour in the senior House in the autumn of life and, indeed, upon the thirty-third anniversary of my wedding. The invitation of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House was accompanied by an emphatic reminder that my speech must be non-controversial—a somewhat irksome injunction to a man of my temperament. However, I will do my best to obey him, and will start by stating an incontrovertible fact—namely, that every noble Lord on this side of the House greatly welcomes the return of a Conservative Government to power. We wish, of course, that the verdict of the nation had been more decisive. We feel confident that it would have been more decisive but for a canvassing campaign directed exclusively against Mr. Churchill. Were I to use as descriptive of that campaign the epithets which occur to me as appropriate, I should at once be in conflict with the orders of the noble Marquess my Leader, so I will restrain myself by stating the opinion that events will prove that campaign to have been mistaken and that, far from being a warmonger, the right honourable gentleman, in this last Parliament of his unique career, may well crown his stupendous service to his country by becoming the most potent factor in the pacification of the world.

Your Lordships are well aware that there are two main paths towards that highly desirable objective. The one path is wide and smooth, though our footsteps along it may have faltered somewhat of late—that is, the path towards an ever closer understanding and alliance between the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America. No statesman enjoys such high prestige throughout the Commonwealth and the United States or, for that matter, throughout the world as the present Prime Minister, and I am very hopeful that he, devotedly seconded by his most able Foreign Minister, Mr. Eden, will bring about closer and ever closer understanding and alliance between us and that great nation. The other path is winding and steep, and no progress of any kind has been made along it. That path is the path towards an understanding with Russia, whereby the ruinous expenditure on armaments, upon which all great nations are perforce engaged, could be reduced. One cannot rate the chances here at all high, but it is true that the Prime Minister and Mr. Eden enjoy (if that is the appropriate word) the personal acquaintance of Mr. Stalin and the Russian leaders, and I hope and believe that they will make one more great attempt to get closer to them than has ever hitherto been the case. The gracious Speech does not mention that possibility in so many terms, but the general purport of the opening sentences leads one to hope that that may be the intention.

As a convinced upholder of competitive enterprise, I welcome the intended fulfilment of the pledge to denationalise the iron and steel industry. That will be a big operation, involving some £300,000,000. I have no idea of the detailed method by which it will be carried out, but presumably former shareholders will have the prior claim to resume their holdings. For various reasons, upon which it would not be proper to enlarge on this occasion, I believe that a large number of former shareholders will not exercise that right and, in anticipation of that possibility, I hope that the Bill will contain provisions whereby the workers in the iron and steel industry may be given an opportunity to acquire a proprietary interest in the industry in which they work. Such a proposal would be in accordance with modern industrial outlook and with that sentence in the gracious Speech which talks about the "partnership between management and workers" in industry.

The many other aspects in this vigorous Speech will be dealt with ably by my noble friend who is to second this Motion. I will content myself by referring to that sombre and long paragraph which deals with the economic situation. As your Lordships well know, there are two main adverse factors in the economic situation. The first is entirely the responsibility of Government, and the remedy for the second lies almost entirely in the hands of the people themselves. The first is that we are living much beyond our means. This results in penal taxation, which itself fails to make both ends meet, discourages initiative and incentive and leads, finally, to economic disaster. As I understand it, the policy of the late Administration in regard to this matter was to set small store by retrenchment, and to seek to bolster up the economy and to postpone the day of reckoning by further taxes, probably of a capital nature. What is the policy of the new Government in this matter? There is a sentence in the gracious Speech which speaks of strict examination of Government expenditure with a view to its reduction wherever possible. What does that amount to? According to my right honourable friend Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, opening the debate on the Budget in another place a few months ago, it amounts to £50,000,000 a year. It may be that intimate access to the secrets of Government Departments will enable him now to revise that opinion. Furthermore, it would be unfair to make any pronouncement on this subject in anticipation of the statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to make in a day or two. But what one can say with certainty is that a reduction of £50,000,000—which amounts to a little over 1¼ per cent. of the total Budget, and is equivalent to 4d. on the income tax—or even double that amount, would, in the event, prove wholly inadequate. The fact is that any drastic reduction of expenditure, leading to an equivalent reduction of taxation, cannot be made without a reversal of policy.

One of the closing sentences of the gracious Speech tells us that the new Government, as is well known, are pledged to the full maintenance of the social services. Therefore no reduction is to be looked for in that direction, other than such small reduction as may be brought about by increased efficiency of management. So that leaves only the field of rearmamant, and the whole tone of the gracious Speech forbids us to look for any reduction in that quarter. That points once again to the supreme importance of able handling of our foreign affairs, with a view to the eventual ability to make a reduction in that expenditure on which all the great nations of the world are engaged, and in which, in my view, they are steadily ruining themselves.

The other adverse factor in the economic situation is the fact that we are buying more than we are selling, which leads to adverse trade balances, fluctuating exchange rates, inconvertibility of the pound, and a number of other phrases quite incomprehensible to most male and all female voters. Yet the answer to that is quite simple—namely, to buy less and sell more. The former places upon the Government the highly unpopular duty of rationing, imposing restrictions and price controls and adopting similar methods, all of which cause hardship to the people because of our dependence on foreign supplies for half our food and all our raw materials. So it is infinitely better to sell more. That remedy is entirely in the hands of the people themselves. It lies in the abolition of restrictive trade practices; it lies in increased efficiency in management, and it lies, above all, in more work—two simple, short syllables which politicians of all Parties for some reason unite in translating into the phrase "greatly increased productivity." But in the end it comes back to the people themselves; and at no time has that famous but much hackneyed exhortation of Pitt been as true as it is to-day, that the people must save themselves by their exertions.

In his first words thanking his constituents for his re-election at Woodford the Prime Minister expressed the hope that there might he a lull now in Party strife. Well, the Prime Minister has always been well known for his sense of humour, and nobody must grudge him his little joke. But nobody knows better than he that his Administration will be faced from the start with strenuous and sustained opposition. Therefore, your Lordships must be glad, and complimented, that he has selected such a large number of our more gifted colleagues to sit here, secluded like chiefs of staff in Olympian meditation, while the commander-in-chief and his corps commanders do dusty battle on the plain below. In the cut and thrust of Party strife the Prime Minister pauses from time to time to remind us that beneath it all there is a hard core of basic agreement. It may be that that fact is reflected in the verdict of the nation: the nation seems to think that there is nothing to choose between the Parties. I do not not agree with half the nation, but that is of no importance. The point is that the nation will sit in judgment upon Government and Opposition alike. They will sit in judgment upon the Government for the vigour and effectiveness of the measures which they propose to deal with our difficulties; they will sit in judgment on the Opposition for the fairness with which they criticise and handle those measures.

The gracious Speech which we are to debate next week foreshadows a vigorous and laborious Session which will tax the powers of politicians of all Parties to the utmost. That being so, the time-honoured final sentence, may
"the blessing of Almighty God…rest upon your counsels."
is more than ever a suitable termination to that gracious Speech, for which I now have the honour to move a hearty and humble Address of Thanks.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—( Lord Blackford.)

3.0 p.m.

My Lords, it is my very great privilege this afternoon to second the Motion that has been so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Blackford, although I am afraid that I shall not be able to approach his wit and clarity. I should like at once to thank the noble Marquess the Leader of the House for this opportunity which he has given me so kindly and so unexpectedly.

The noble Lord, Lord Blackford, has already mentioned the grave anxiety which all the King's subjects have felt for his health. That anxiety has not been confined to us in this country, or to his subjects beyond the seas, but has been felt, I believe, by all the civilised world. We have been lately much encouraged by the steady progress which His Majesty has made, and we have also been very conscious of the anxiety which has been felt by Her Majesty the Queen and all the members of the Royal Family. I am sure your Lordships will be glad that we may now feel that their keenest anxiety is past. The concern which we feel is no impersonal sentiment; it springs from a deep personal devotion to our Royal Family, in whom we see the personification of loyalty, courage and devoted service to the nation. We know full well what it must have cost His Majesty to be prevented a second time from visiting Australia, New Zealand and Ceylon, but we are glad to think that the disappointment has been tempered, to some extent, by the sense of understanding and sympathy, and by the knowledge that the visit will be undertaken by their Royal Highnesses, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, and that they will fulfil it so admirably and so ably. We have all been thrilled and delighted at the success of their Royal Highnesses' visit to Canada and the United States of America. The welcome that they have received has been no formal response to the visit of a King's daughter, but has sprung from the deep affection which they have kindled in the hearts of all their hosts.

My Lords, it is traditional on these occasions that we should look forward to the future, but to-day, when the responsibility of the government of the country has been entrusted to new hands, it seems to me to be more than usually important to look ahead, to see clearly the difficulties that we must overcome and the dangers which threaten us, and to review the resources of our country, rather than to look hack to the past, to the tangled web of success and failure. There is no doubt that if this small Island had to face its problems in the future alone there would be need for despair; but as it is, with the friendship and co-operation of our Commonwealth and Empire, we can look forward with hope and optimism. I trust, therefore. that not only will His Majesty's Ministers maintain the ties of friendship within the Commonwealth but that they will also try to strengthen and improve them by ever closer co-operation in the spheres of trade and defence. We have had ample proof in the past of the strong ties that bind us all together in the Commonwealth, and we should do well, I believe, to trust more fully to them, not trading on past kindnesses but in the sure knowledge that they will never fail us.

I am glad to see the declaration in the gracious Speech that it is the intention of His Majesty's Ministers to make national defence their first duty, and I am sure that in this aim, if the nature of the threat to our way of life is clearly explained to the nation, they will have very wide support in the country. It cannot be too often repeated that a strong and united British Commonwealth is the best preventive of war that we can provide. I am not qualified to discuss the issues involved in our unhappy dispute with the Egyptian Government, nor do I wish to discuss the Persian situation, but I have no doubt that the simple and clear statement that appeared in the gracious Speech can do only good, and we wish His Majesty's Government all success in the conduct of these difficult negotiations.

I welcome the indication in the gracious Speech that it is the intention of His Majesty's Ministers to press forward with plans for the better management of Scottish and Welsh affairs. I hope that it will become possible to decentralise the administration, to some extent, and that it will also be possible to do the same in the conduct of local affairs throughout the country. Mention is made, too, of the aim of the Government to promote greater flexibility in the nationalised industries. It is, I believe, generally agreed that these experiments in public ownership have not been so successful as was at first hoped, and I am sure that one of the contributory causes is the rigidity of these organisations, not least in the sphere of human relations.

We are reminded in the gracious Speech of the shortage of labour in certain industries. That problem, I believe, is closely bound up with that of making the fullest use of the capital equipment in industry, so that we need not spend valuable dollars on the purchase of new machine tools and other equipment while what we already have is not used to the full. I know that these are difficult problems, involving, as they do, the livelihood of thousands of our people, and I am sure that the only way in which they can be solved is by establishing an atmosphere of mutual understanding between those concerned.

I am sure, my Lords, that the proposals in the gracious Speech for strengthening the Monopolies Commission will meet with wide approval, but I would put forward a plea that we should reserve our judgment in each case until we know the full facts. It is so easy to make sweeping statements that monopolies are bad, and cloud the whole issue with suspicion and mistrust. Such views may, in some cases, be well-founded, but if we generalise it is to assume that no finer feelings ever control the conduct of our industries. I suggest that perhaps some similar consideration may apply in the case of the iron and steel industry, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, has already said, and as appears in the gracious Speech, is to be placed back to the hands of private enterprise. Unhappily, that great industry has been disturbed by becoming an issue in political controversy, and we may hope that all energies may now be concentrated anew on the job of steel production. The proposals connected with road haulage will also, I believe, receive a wide measure of support. I think it has been generally agreed that the restrictions applied to the private road haulage firms were not necessary or desirable in themselves, but only in order to help the economy of the railways from whom so much of the profitable business has been taken, and I am sure that if the proposals, when they come before us, are found to have met this difficulty, they will receive support from all quarters of this House.

My Lords, I welcome the reference in the gracious Speech to the building of houses, and I trust that the priority accorded to them will be second only to that of defence. We all know—far too well—the unhappiness that has been caused by the shortage of homes. It may well be that the standards of accommo- dation, and, indeed, all the regulations that are now laid down, are too rigid to meet our present situation; and I hope that, wherever possible, building labour and material may be diverted from less essential tasks to this most urgent one. Lastly, I must mention the social services. No doubt every kind of inference will be drawn front the mention that is made of them in the gracious Speech, but I believe your Lordships will infer that His Majesty's Government intend to make every effort to maintain and to improve the real value of these services. Towards this end, economy and efficiency are as necessary as they are in the conduct of any other great enterprise.

The programme outlined in the gracious Speech is clearly centred round the needs of defence and our economic situation, and I believe that, as such, it will have a very wide measure of support. We live in difficult times, when the problems of government are so great and the issues involved so complex that very few of us can comprehend the whole picture or weigh fairly the pros and cons of any given proposal. It is therefore, I believe, the more vital that we should be guided by a sense of service and loyalty to the common weal we should not have before us an unending vista of restrictions, economy and strife, but should have at least a glimpse, however small, of a rosier future ahead, which we may reach after overcoming our present difficulties by hard work, enterprise and sacrifice. I fully realise that that is something which it is far easier to speak of than to achieve. But I am convinced that the measure of success of our new Government will be the extent to which they are able to encourage a spirit of service and loyalty throughout the country. If the Government can set so clear an example that such a spirit diffuses throughout the country, to the board rooms, the trade union headquarters, reaching out to shop stewards and managers and to every person who has the welfare of this country at heart, then, and then only, I believe, will Britain be surely set on that hard path that leads to a fuller and more Christian life for her people, and to the opportunity and privilege of guiding the peoples of the world away from the stupidity of war and into an era of great prosperity and peace. I beg to second the Motion.

My Lords, I beg to move that the debate be adjourned until Tuesday of next week.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—( Viscount Jowitt.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.

Chairman Of Committees

3.14 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the Earl of Drogheda be appointed to take the Chair in all Committees of this House for this Session.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente.

Committee for Privileges—Appointed.

Committee for the Journals—Appointed.

Appeal Committee—Appointed.

Stoppages in the Streets—Order to prevent, renewed.

Business Of The House

My Lords, I beg to move to resolve that whenever during the present Session of Parliament the House stands adjourned, and it appears to the satisfaction of the Lord Chancellor (or, if the Lord Chancellor is absent, to the satisfaction of the Lord Chairman of Committees after consultation with His Majesty's Government) that the public interest requires that the House should meet at any earlier times during such adjournment, the Lord Chancellor or the Lord Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, may give notice to the Peers that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such Notice, and shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Income Tax Bill Hl

My Lords, I beg leave to introduce a Bill to consolidate certain of the enactments relating to income tax, including certain enactments relating also to other taxes; and to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

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

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

House adjourned at sixteen minutes past three o'clock.