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Earl Of Avon

Volume 924: debated on Monday 17 January 1977

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

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

3.48 p.m.

When we trace the threads of Anthony Eden's political life, we are at the same time drawing a picture of an era in our history that came to an end with his departure from office in 1957, 34 years after he had entered Parliament. He won his first election, in the early 1920s, at a time when Britain seemed still to be at the height of her power. Germany had been defeated in the First World War, and the Russian Revolution had removed that great country from the world scene for a time.

There were no international problems in which we did not exercise a large and, on occasions, a decisive influence, but few recognised that the source of our strength and influence was already on the wane. It came to depend more and more on Britain's Imperial connections and on her control of a vast empire, and less on our own innate industrial strength.

But this was not yet clear, and Britain's all-encompassing rôle in international affairs must have seemed an attractive world for a gifted young man to enter, tempered as he was by his war-time experiences and deeply resolved for peace. With his family background and his talent for patient persistent work he could well have made a successful career in the Diplomatic Service if he had not chosen politics.

Certainly it seems that political life was for him another means of finding his way into foreign affairs, for from the beginning his interest in the Chamber was concentrated on them and was reflected in his speeches in this Chamber. His skills and talents were quickly recognised, leading him shortly from being Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Austen Chamberlain to the high office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the age of 38—the youngest Foreign Secretary in this century.

He maintained his interest and concern in foreign affairs right to the end of his life. It is only a short while ago that he was writing to me on a matter that I had been handling as Foreign Secretary and expressing his views to me.

There is little doubt that his personal experience and knowledge of the horrors of the First World War influenced him very considerably. He had lost two of his brothers during the First World War, one in the Army, the other in the Navy. He was himself courageous. He knew fear, but he overcame it. He became a resolute believer in the need for collective security to face and deter aggression and a strong supporter of the covenant of the League of Nations.

It was his work at the League of Nations which first brought him to public notice, and his stand captured the imagination of the public. He seemed to be a voice speaking out for truth, decency and honour. He was young, he spoke up clearly, he stood for the principles of the League of Nations and the covenant, and he opposed the growing menace of Mussolini and Hitler.

All these things commended him to a great body of men and women in this country, much wider than his own party. He was always a faithful member of the Conservative Party but he did not always agree with it.

This is not the occasion for me to go deeply into the twists and turns of British foreign policy in the 1930s. Those of us who were young then held strong views, as the young always do. We were outside Parliament—we listened to the debates; we read what was said—and Eden seemed to us to be the one saving grace of the Administration. We were not alone in thinking that. The words of Churchill have been recalled more than once in recent days, together with his vivid description of the impact that Anthony Eden's stand against the dictators made on him personally.

What Anthony Eden stood for was even more important than what he did. He symbolised the opposition that the British people felt, ever more strongly as the 1930s wore on, to the unceasing and insatiable demands of the dictators.

He finally broke with the Government, and resigned in 1938. He was right to do so. Nothing became him so much as that courageous stand. He thought at the time, as he wrote since, that he would never return to office. But that was far from the truth. He came back very quickly when the war came. Whatever our party differences and our final disagreement, we shall always remember him, and history will always recall him for the judgment and courage of his resignation.

It was inevitable that when war came he should be recalled and he served successively in the Dominions Office, at the War Office and later in the Foreign Office once more. He was also Leader of the House from 1942 to 1945. Then came six years of Opposition.

His resumed life as Foreign Secretary in the Conservative Government of 1951 was marked by intense diplomatic activity, particularly in the aftermath of the Korean War. Two events of that period which stand out were his policy in the conflict in South-East Asia and the way in which he helped to facilitate a Franco-German understanding at a time when that seemed very difficult to achieve.

He showed a much better understanding than John Foster Dulles about the nature of the conflict in Indo-China, and he was right in his hostility to the proposals for massive American air strikes to assist the French in the war against the Vietminh. All of his very remarkable qualities were shown to the full in the Geneva Conference of 1954 which resulted in armistice agreements being signed which effected at least a temporary improvement in the situation, which, alas was not to last.

As to Europe. it was almost entirely due to his initiative and energy that the nine-Power conference of 1954 came to a conclusion that materially assisted in the permanent reconciliation of France and Germany—a reconciliation which has itself done so much to promote the greater sense of security in Western Europe that we now enjoy.

One of the major strokes of his policy was the unprecedented treaty arrangement under which Britain undertook to maintain on the mainland of Europe permanent armed forces. We have done so to this day at great cost to ourselves. But his decision at that time ensured that France did not feel isolated in Europe and it enabled the Federal Republic of Germany to be given its full place in Western Europe. It led to a concerted Western policy between France, Germany, the United States and Britain, whose purpose was to ensure the peace of Europe—and so it has been.

Anthony Eden always believed in working closely with the United States, even though at times the policies of our two nations diverged. He was on familiar terms with all the world's leading statesmen. They respected and admired his industry and his energy, and his standing undoubtedly contributed to Britain's influence in the early 1950s. He was not only the longest serving Foreign Secretary since Grey but one of the outstanding holders of that great office.

When we come to his period as Prime Minister, we have to accept that his name can never be dissociated from the ill-advised Suez adventure. There are some in the House who can speak about that period with greater authority than I, for they served with him. I can only say, as an observer sitting on the Opposition Front Bench at the time, that when we heard that British troops were actually going ashore in Egypt, the news came as a thunderbolt.

For those of us who had watched the Eden of the 1930s his actions seemed totally out of character. He was one Minister who had always been able to command a hearing from the Labour Benches when we were in Opposition. We listened to him because he spoke without rancour. He was never excessively partisan. Indeed, on one of the comparatively rare incursions that he made into speeches on domestic matters, on an occasion in the 1945–51 Parliament, when he spoke on the Coal Mines Nationalisation Bill in 1945, which a handful of people will still remember, I think it is fair to say that his heart hardly seemed to be in the task at the time. Perhaps he was influenced by his Durham background.

He certainly recognised the need for change. But I wonder whether his intense concentration, which lasted throughout his life, on foreign affairs prevented him from fully comprehending the social revolution that was taking place in Britain. However, we all knew of, and remarked on, his courtesy, his fairness and his truthfulness, and we knew of the great personal courage that he had shown.

But we were not prepared for Suez. I do not pretend to know whether physical disability contributed to the decisions that he took at the time. It may be that he over-reacted because he remembered his experiences with Mussolini and he did not intend to allow what he saw as a dictatorship to prey on British weakness. Ever afterwards he vigorously defended the policy that he had followed, and at the time his actions achieved considerable short-term popularity among many sections of the British people.

On the Labour Benches we thought that he was wrong, very wrong. The policy divided the nation. The successors of the young people who had supported him in the 1930s were now deeply offended because our actions seemed to be naked aggression against the Charter of the United Nations.

Many will recall how the scenes in the House mounted day by day. It was a sad period. They were the fiercest I can ever recall, and they taxed both his health and his nerve. It was no surprise that they taxed them to the limit, and shortly afterwards it led to his resignation.

Anthony Eden never changed his view about the correctness of his policy, and those of us who fought against it most strongly will always recognise that he honestly believed that what he did was in the interests of his country and of the international community. Suez, as we all know now, marked a watershed in our nation's history. As Lord Blake wrote yesterday, Anthony Eden behaved as though Britain was still a great Power, and he had to confront a crisis which proved that she was not.

He was the victim of that period rather than the villain—a period in which he had failed to recognise that our role in the world had changed since the time 20 years earlier when he had first become Foreign Secretary.

I cannot claim to have known Anthony Eden personally, but when our paths did cross, as they do occasionally in this House, he was always kind and courteous, as indeed he was to all younger Members on both sides of the House. Despite those last few weeks of office, which I have touched upon because in any review of this man's life it is necessary to do so, I want to make it clear that he always enjoyed great respect and affection in the House as a parliamentarian who combined a unique experience of foreign affairs with great determination and courage.

Twenty years have passed since Anthony Eden left Parliament. During that period he lived quietly away from politics, yet he kept a close and active interest in foreign affairs. He was dogged by recurring ill-health, but he was rewarded with the enjoyment of a happy family life, and for that we pay tribute to the matchless devotion and care of Lady Avon. Our sympathy and our respect go out to her today as we mourn the passing of this most distinguished man.

4.1 p.m.

May we on this side of the House join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Lord Avon? The death of Anthony Eden, as most of us still think of him, takes from us a distinguished statesman, a gifted parliamentarian and a courageous politician. We honour and mourn him today knowing that his like may never come among us again.

When Anthony Eden came into the House in 1923 at the age of 26 he had already distinguished himself as a brave and gallant soldier. He had gone straight from school at the age of 18 to serve in the Great War. At 19 he was an adjutant, and at 20 a brigade major. He fought in the battle of the Somme and the the Messines. In war, as in peace, the Eden courage never failed. Like many of his contemporaries, the lessons of those early experiences were etched on his mind, and he always remembered those who had served with him and who had sacrificed so much. His great ideal was of a new international order between nations founded on mutual respect, mutual undertakings and mutually honoured. Signatures on treaties would offer hope for a new era, but an enduring peace could be achieved only by carrying out the obligations assumed.

Anthony Eden's association with the Foreign Office began early as a PPS, and he became one of our youngest Foreign Secretaries, at the age of 38. News that he had resigned after only two years shocked Britain. He was the first Foreign Secretary for 60 years to resign on a matter of principle, and the decision was the more significant when we recall that in 1938 it was Britain, not America, that played the leading role in world affairs. Perhaps it was Winston Churchill, that master of the illuminating phrase, who best captured the feelings of many people at that time. To him, Eden seemed to embody the "life-hope" of the British nation. He described him as
"one strong, young figure standing up against long dismal drawling tides of drift and surrender."
While it is right to lay emphasis on Anthony Eden's action in resigning his great office at an early age, we must not forget his achievements at the Foreign Office during the post-war period, between the years of 1951 and 1955. Then, he used to great advantage both his masterly diplomacy and the good will and authority which this country had acquired by supreme exertion in war. His patient handling of the Persian dispute, his expert negotiations at Geneva on Indo-China, his timely offer of a British contribution on land in Europe, after France had rejected the proposals for a European Defence Community, were all personal triumphs for him, and enhanced Britain's international standing.

After longer experience as Foreign Secretary than any previous Prime Minister save Palmerston, Anthony Eden entered on the highest office. In home affairs, many of us will remember him for the emphasis that he gave during that period to individual responsibility and decision. He, more than anyone else, impressed upon the country the merits of a property-owning democracy. In overseas matters, his judgments on the Middle East were, and will be, the subject of debate for many years, but that the principal aim of his every action and policy was the benefit of Britain and the good of the international community has never been in dispute.

We must not overlook Anthony Eden's great talents as a parliamentarian. Others can bear witness to his skilled performance in debate. He records himself that he much preferred to wind up debates than to open them and that he disliked scripted speeches. In 1956, although the scenes in the House distressed him, he retained his natural dignity and composure throughout, and early in 1957, when he was forced to leave office through ill-health, the late Hugh Gaitskell, himself an outstanding parliamentarian, paid a moving tribute to him.

For part of the last war Anthony Eden added the job of being Leader of the House to his many other duties. His energy and zeal were prodigious because, as well as being Foreign Secretary, he was one of the six or seven members of the War Cabinet and a member of the Defence Committee. It was while serving in the War Cabinet that he developed a great admiration for the late Lord Attlee, Herbert Morrison, and, particularly, Ernest Bevin, who later succeeded him as Foreign Secretary. They were very close.

He experienced again, although in a different sphere, some of the comradeship of his previous war years. Of those he had written:
"War promoted working together into something good and true and rare, the like of which was never to be met within civil life."
After the end of the war in Europe, fate was to deal Anthony Eden its cruellest blow. In the war that he had striven to avoid his son Simon was killed in the Royal Air Force in Burma. The Eden courage had passed from generation to generation.

It is difficult to do justice to the many facets of Anthony Eden's personality. There was a natural reserve about him, but no one who spent any time in his company failed to respond to his charm and sensibility. Those who knew him well speak of his tenacity and refusal to indulge in self-pity, his warm appreciation of the qualities of colleagues and opponents alike, his discerning taste in literature and painting, his abiding interest in the universities, and especially in Birmingham University of which he was Chancellor for more than a quarter of a century, his accessibility, his fairness and understanding, and his unfeigned dislike for tyrannies, bullying and intolerance.

Anthony Eden spent most of the last 20 years of his life at his home in the country. Lady Avon, herself a remarkably gifted person, dedicated all her time to caring for him. Her devotion must surely be one of the deeply inspiring examples of our time. To her we can offer only sympathy and admiration, however inadequate those feelings may seem in proportion to her grievous loss.

We are grateful that the Prime Minister and the Royal Air Force enabled Lord Avon to spend his last days in the surroundings of the English countryside that he loved; that same countryside of which his poet contemporary Rupert Brooke, when faced with the possibility of death in the Great War, had written:
"And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given.
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven."

4.10 p.m.

My right hon. and hon. Friends would wish to be associated with the tributes that have been paid to the late Anthony Eden. His qualities have already been fully extolled by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. We subscribe to all that has been said. Mr. Eden, as he then was, was once, in December 1947, called on in this House to pay a tribute on the death of a former Prime Minister. He said this:

"it is too early yet to attempt anything like a final judgment on Earl Baldwin's life work. It will probably be many years before any historian can hope to do this with anything like impartiality. So many facts have to be weighed … a later generation will be able to judge in truer perspective than we can today."—[Official Report, 15th December 1947; Vol. 445, c. 1468.]
Those words about Earl Baldwin are even more true of the Earl of Avon himself.

In the assessment by Lord Blake yesterday—to which the Prime Minister has already referred—he described Anthony Eden as the "heir apparent" to the highest office of State since 1940. Yet after waiting 15 years he enjoyed the office of Prime Minister for little more than as many months.

I never met Anthony Eden. I never even saw him. Yet the abiding impression he left on me was that there can be few men in recent history who have served this country over such a long period with such a pre-eminent combination of physical and political courage. For the last 20 years, with his health impaired, he lived out his life tended by his devoted wife, with whom the thoughts of the whole House must be today.

4.11 p.m.

I would like to add my words to the very eloquent tributes to Lord Avon to which we have listened. I had the privilege of serving him as his Chief Whip for the last year of his premiership and of sitting round the Cabinet table with him during that time.

For my generation at university, in the second half of the 1930s, Anthony Eden personified the struggle against tyranny in Europe. He had a deep and passionate belief in the maintenance of the rule of law. I do not believe it possible to understand any period of his life or any aspect of his career without recognising how deep that belief went. In international affairs it meant the creation and the maintenance of a framework of international law to achieve justice and, he believed, in the long run, peace. He was, therefore, prepared to fight for it, although he believed that what came first was the use of diplomacy to bring about peaceful change to accommodate the various adjustments of power which were necessary in the world. Even more than that he stood, for my generation, as an idealist. He displayed a personal idealism which appeared to be lacking in others even though they agreed with his policies.

We both agreed with his policies and shared his ideals. When he resigned we supported him. When the Oxford by-election was fought after the Munich agreement we fought against Munich and against those who had reached the agreement. We believed, and rightly, that we were following his policies. This was really the nature of the man—that he believed in this principle throughout his life.

During the war years Anthony Eden put his skills to very great effect, and his contacts with the leaders in the Soviet Union, which he maintained even after the Ribbentrop Pact was signed and before the Soviet Union came into the Second World War, proved to be of great advantage to him during the war and afterwards. When he was in opposition here, from 1945 to 1951, as the Prime Minister has said, he was greatly respected and liked by a large number of Members on the Labour side of the House. He used his close association with them, in particular with Ernest Bevin, to lower the temperature of the House on every aspect of international affairs, because he believed it right that Parliament should always try to speak with one voice on great international matters which affected not only this nation but Europe and very often other countries.

Those who say that our position had changed by 1951 when he came back into office might recall that his skill in diplomacy, backed still by strength—because part of his policy was always to enlist the help of others whenever possible—achieved a remarkable string of diplomatic successes. These are names which are now forgotten for the most part—the Anglo-Iranian oil settlement, after Musadiq, Trieste, Dien Bien Phu. We remember his restraint with those who wished to use nuclear weapons at that time. We remember the first settlement in South-East Asia, of which we have heard, and which lasted in substantial form for a decade, the Austrian State Treaty, and, above all, the creation of Western European Union, which brought Germany back into rearmament and then into NATO and, as others have said, ensured the security of France and indeed of the Western European world. This was a string of brilliant achievements for which he, first as Foreign Secretary and then, at the end, as Prime Minister, must take full credit.

He was, of course, a natural diplomatist and anyone who has seen him, as I have, at the Cabinet table going through the Foreign Office telegrams with that extraordinary instinct, his antennae almost visible as he reacted to each message from ambassadors in different parts of the world, knows that he had extraordinary skill and rapidity in dealing with every aspect of foreign affairs. In Cabinet, he was expeditious and businesslike. He was a very good House of Commons man. He was best, I always thought, when answering Questions or, as my right hon. Friend said, when replying to a debate.

I recall his diplomacy—I am sure that the Lord President will recall it, too—during the great debate on German rearmament. He sat on the Front Bench waiting to reply, working out his answer, diplomatically assuring the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), dealing with the differences which had appeared on the Opposition side of the House. He displayed extraordinary skill in drafting what was an almost spontaneous speech in answer to the arguments deployed by the Opposition.

Anthony Eden was a good House of Commons man who loved this place. He also loved the British people, and they loved him. He understood them, I have always thought, for the reason the Prime Minister mentioned—that he came from the North-East and had close contacts with the people there.

So we come to the last part of his career. This is no occasion on which to deal with that in detail. All that I ask is that those who have been writing recently should go back and try to understand the situation which existed then and which was quite different from that which many now, looking back, believe it to have been. That is surely the purpose of a historian, that he should put himself in the world situation as well as the national situation at any particular time.

I return to my former theme, that the one thing which governed Anthony Eden's actions right to the end of his political career was a passionate belief that not only in the interests of this country of Western Europe but in the ultimate interest of the peace of the world it was necessary to ensure the maintenance of the framework of international law. If others were not prepared to accept their responsibilities, he would discharge them.

During most of the sadnesses and disappointments of the last 20 years of his life it was Lady Avon who was always by his side, who cared for him and who brought him the happiness which he then had. His interest in pictures supported him. He was among the first in this country to recognise the importance of Cézanne.

I remember one debate to which he was replying and Emrys Hughes was sitting here in the seat behind me. Interrupting him, Emrys Hughes said, "No, no. Never more." Anthony Eden looked up and said "You know, 'Nevermore' was Paul Gaugin's picture and it is not relevant here." It came out quite naturally, from a man whose interests were so wide and so cultivated.

I have been glad of the opportunity to pay my tribute to Anthony Eden this afternoon. I was proud to serve him and I am grateful for his friendship.

4.19 p.m.

I am grateful for the opportunity of adding a brief word. It is more than 30 years since I first worked with Anthony Eden as his personal assistant and more than 20 years since he made me Minister of Supply in his Government.

The Prime Minister rightly referred to Suez as one of the great episodes. I remember writing a letter to Anthony Eden then saying that I was proud to be a member of a Government who were doing the right thing for this country. What we can both agree upon is that whatever Anthony Eden did, he did out of a passionate conviction that it was right for this country.

I want to add a word or two about the sort of man that he was to work for. I always found him kind, understanding and deeply appreciative of any help that he was given. He was enormously keen and active to help younger men. I and many others owe him a deep and permanent debt of gratitude.

The other thing that I remember most about him was his love of England, not only of the great scale of her traditions and accomplishments, but of the countryside and the roses to which he was so deeply attached. We can say of him that he was a man from whom all who knew him derived much from his humanity. All who knew him will cherish his memory with the deepest respect and abiding affection.

4.21 p.m.

The reason I venture to take part in the tributes to Lord Avon is that I believe that I am possibly the only Member of this House who was a contemporary of Anthony Eden's at Oxford after the First World War. My arrival at Oxford was somewhat delayed because of that war.

The other memory that I have of him is that, although many Oxford men reached political eminence after they went down, they served a kind of apprenticeship with the Oxford Union, but Anthony Eden never took part in the activities of the Oxford Union. He went on to take a first in Oriental languages and in 1922 fought Spennymoor in the county of Durham, to which he and I belonged. He was substantially beaten, but, like many other Durham men, he went south and was elected Member for Warwick and Leamington in 1923 and served as the Member for that constituency until his retirement.

He was always proud to include among the many honours that came his way the fact that he was a justice of the peace in Durham. In fact, he was awarded the freedom of Durham. That was always included in biographies that related to his record.

When I came to the House in 1945 we resumed a casual acquaintance. My last memory of him was January 1971. I happened to be in Barbados. He heard that I was on the island and invited me to call and see him. He was a sick man and he lay on the verandah and for an hour we talked about Oxford and the House of Commons. He was interested in everything that went on.

I shall always treasure the memory of that hour that I spent with him in 1971. He was a cultivated and cultured man as well as a man of great charm. He was a great English patriot. In more than the technical and conventional terms that we use in this House, he was a right hon. Gentleman.

4.24 p.m.

Perhaps I may be allowed to add a short footnote to what has been said. For more than 30 years Anthony Eden—that indeed is the name by which he will be remembered—was the Member of Parliament for Warwick and Learning-ton. Indeed, that constituency was the base for his long and outstanding career as a world statesman.

I am sure that the overwhelming majority of residents of Warwick, Learnington and Kenilworth—of which I am proud to be one—would today like to subscribe to the understanding tributes that have been paid by the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and other right hon. Members.

Many of those residents, even 20 years on from his retirement, remember Anthony Eden personally and with considerable affection. They admired his courage in the long years of physical adversity that he endured. Above all, they held him in the greatest possible esteem as a man whose very name was a byword for integrity.

4.26 p.m.

I merely want to say a few words about adjourning. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that not too long ago we questioned the Leader of the House—we did so last Thursday—about our ability to raise various matters. You will also recall that during the debate on the Queen's Speech requests were made for many other topics to be included. We were assured by the Leader of the House and by many other Government spokesmen that there was not sufficient time to debate these many and varied matters.

For the life of me I cannot understand why the House of Commons, after paying tributes, then packs in for the day. I can well understand the need to pay tributes for a half an hour or an hour to a man who was a member of this club. But hon. Members ought to understand that they are speaking not merely as members of a club, but as legislators. They should understand that people outside, whom they represent, rarely have the ability to down tools and pack in.

I come from the mining industry. I remember that during my period down the pit the National Coal Board introduced a scheme whereby when a man was killed down the pit, however horrific —unless it was a major disaster—miners were begged to stay at work. We got over the problem by introducing the fatal accidents scheme to ensure that the coal was produced. We, as legislators in the House of Commons, have all this business before us, yet, after the tributes have been paid, we are just packing up and going away, for no reason that I can understand.

Last Thursday we discussed devolution. We spent a great deal of time on points of order about the way in which the Bill would be discussed. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that discussion on the first amendment took a great deal of time and it could have taken longer. No doubt there will be many other debates that will take even longer.

I can well imagine my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council saying that unless there is some progress, we shall run out of parliamentary time, telling us of the need for a guillotine. I can well imagine my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Helfer) being berated for continuing to oppose the devolution. Bill and taking a little time about it.

Yet today we are deciding to pack up and go. We can pay tributes to Anthony Eden, as has been done by those who knew him. I can understand that, and people outside will understand that. But those who have to clock on and clock off, who have to get up at 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning and not get home until 4 or 5 o'clock at night. will never understand the way in which the House of Commons adopts these double standards.

Over the last two or three years there has been a small tendency to change this attitude of the club. We have had shorter recesses and we have tended to spend more time in Parliament, which is right and proper. We have not only to act in tune with the people, but in many ways to give them a lead as well. We are not doing that today. Much has been said about the long Christmas holiday. Manufacturing workers who work in physical jobs as well as those who work by their brains were berated and attacked because they had the effrontery to catch up with the Common Market with a few additional holidays. In many respects, they still have not caught up with some countries. I am on the side of those who took that extended holiday.

When I walk into this building, I want in some way, although I cannot do it exactly as I should like, to show that those on these Benches—I am not worried about hon. Members opposite—want to synchronise with the attitudes of those we represent. We are not doing that today. To pack up and go, to abandon the ship after only two hours, is a total and utter disgrace. I can understand the Tories doing it. I can understand what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about convention.

But we on this side are not about convention, are we? Is it convention that motivates us? It is not what motivates me. I am here to change things. The Lord President, who used to be the innovator of change on this Bench below the Gangway for so many years, should have said, "We shall pay the tributes. Many hon. Members want to do so and they will have the appropriate time. But, because of the pressure of business and the need to get some work done and legislation through, we cannot adopt double standards any longer." We must say to those outside who put us here that we shall continue to do a day's work and not pack up in this way. For that reason, I oppose the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

4.32 p.m.

With respect and not without considerable personal regard, perhaps I might be permitted to say two things about what has just fallen from the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).

The Member hates humbug, but he is not the only hon. Member who hates humbug. Those of us who do are under a duty to tell ourselves that sometimes what appears to us to be humbug does not so appear and is not so to other people. Many of those—not only from one side of the House—who purport to speak on behalf of the British people, particularly the working classes, assert that they do not understand that which is historical, that which is traditional, even that which is governed by precedent. I believe that it is those who thus speak who misunderstand the British people, particularly the great mass of them, who are not represented only on one side of the House.

I believe that it is a characteristic of the British people, which has saved them in the past and may again in future, that they have a sense of the history of their country and of the conventions, which are as strong and important as law itself, by which this country has always been bound—and long may it be so.

4.34 p.m.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) began his speech, some hon. Members went out saying that it was disgraceful that he should be making the point that he has made. I do not agree. It took a lot of courage, a lot of guts, to do what my hon. Friend has done. It takes a lot for hon. Members to buck the conventions of this House. My hon. Friend has done it honestly, and I believe that that should be recognised.

I do not entirely agree with my hon. Friend about one thing. In the working-class movement, in the building industry particularly, I have been on jobs when workers have been killed. For that day, other workers have actually stopped work and gone home as a mark of respect to a good comrade who perhaps had fallen to his death.

Nevertheless, we do sometimes have double standards. Too often, hon. Members lecture people about working harder to get the country out of its economic difficulties. Working people resent such lectures, particularly from hon. Members who have never worked in their lives in the sense that a working man works.

I would draw the attention of anyone who thinks that working men do not have a different type of life to an article in The Sunday Times yesterday by a middle-class man who actually went to work as a road sweeper and on a building site. He was amazed by what he found, but I could have told him all that from my own experience. Hon. Members too often lecture people in this way.

I think that people outside will probably understand why the House is doing what it is doing today, but I hope that at least we shall hear no more lectures in future about workers getting down to work, without recognising their great contribution. My hon. Friend has made a contribution today by at least raising the matter as he has.

Question put, That this House do now adjourn: —

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. DONALD COLEMAN and Mr. TED GRAHAM were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, and Mr. DENNIS SKINNER was appointed a Teller for the Noes, but no Member being willing to act as a second Teller for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared the Ayes had it.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty minutes to Five o'clock.