§ 2.28 p.m.
§ Major Freeman (Watford)
(in military uniform): 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 Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both House of Parliament.It is well known that it is something of an ordeal for a young Member to have the duty of moving this humble Address, and the House will, I feel certain, understand and sympathise with the trepidation I feel in being given this task on the first occasion on which it has been my honour to address this House. My thoughts turn at this moment to the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield), who found himself in the same position in 1935. I should like to hope that he, who must understand my feelings at this moment better than anybody else, will perhaps be generous enough to cross the Floor of this House in spirit, and say a small prayer on my behalf. Moreover there are certain conventions to which the mover of this humble Address is expected to conform, and the most important one is that no controversial matter shall be introduced. I pray the indulgence of the House if, in excess of zeal, or in folly, I should cross that narrow line, so difficult for the newcomer to observe, which divides what is acceptable to the traditions of this House from what is inappropriate.
First, then, I should like to say that I regard my position here this afternoon with some pride, as a well-deserved honour not only to my constituency, but to the Armed Forces in which I serve. I listened with particular thanksgiving to His Majesty's gracious words on final victor over the Japanese aggressor. No hon. Member present knows better than I do, the endurance, sacrifice, and practical ingenuity of countless thousands of 71 sailors, soldiers and airmen which have made this victory possible. I would ask the House, particularly in the coming months, when we shall be much preoccupied with urgent problems here at home, to remember those people who have done their duty well and who long now for nothing more than the opportunity to return to their loved ones, and play their full part with us in rebuilding the better Britain for which we have all been fighting. If I may offer one word of advice, I would say that there is nothing which causes more distress among men and women of the Forces than lack of information. I trust His Majesty's Government, and I am confident, after hearing His Majesty's gracious words on this subject, that every effort will be made to administer the demobilisation and resettlement scheme with the greatest possible human sympathy. But more than that, within the next few weeks His Majesty's Government will have to take big decisions on the subject of demobilisation. I would ask my right hon. Friends on whom the responsibility for taking these decisions will fall, to take their time in reaching final decisions, and, having reached them, to make certain that they are couched in simple language and disseminated to everybody concerned.
I should like also to tell the House a little of my own constituency and the part which it has played in the war, and will play in the years to come. The Division of Watford, in addition to giving its sons and daughters in generous measure to the Armed Forces, has played its part in many other aspects of our war effort. We have been responsible for producing one of the most successful of the antisubmarine devices, and the men and women of Watford have followed with enthusiasm and partnership the long record of successful "kills" by Coastal Command. We have made, and maintained, fleets of aircraft, and our workers have heard the roar of British bombers on their nightly missions with a glow of pride in a task well done. We have printed many of the plans and accounts of some of the most vital operations in this war. The men and women of Watford have been entrusted with secrets of incalculable value to His Majesty's enemies, and they have not been trusted in vain. These people have certain particular problems at the present time. The transition from war to 72 peace is not, in every respect, an easy one. We must make certain that they and their children can look forward to the years to come, in the knowledge that they will be able to enjoy a full, happy and prosperous life, using their great skill and talent for the benefit of the whole community.
There is another aspect of life in my own constituency to which I should like to refer because I think it is important to the well-being of the whole community. We have an unusual number of men and women who hold high-grade technical, managerial, and scientific appointments in industry, commerce, and the Civil Service. I am deeply conscious of the fact that I am charged with representing their well-being as a whole. I must confess that in certain cases the trust is an involuntary one—His Majesty's Government have quite a healthy opposition in the Parliamentary Division of Watford—but, unless we use to the full the talents of these people, we shall not be able to develop our full natural resources. Too often, in the past, they have not felt that their talents were being used to the best advantage. Too seldom, in the past, have they felt a real community of interest with both the workers at home, and the public around them. I look forward to an extension of joint production machinery and parallel devices in other fields, which aim at establishing that community of interest which all good citizens should share, and is so essential to the realisation of our great national assets.
In moving this humble Address, I would like to say a word in particular about His Majesty's gracious words on the subject of international affairs. We have it in our power to plan now a world organisation, which is the only alternative to ruin. There are great difficulties and dangers of which this House is well aware. But we have great advantages on our side, too. All over the world, ordinary men and women are sick and weary of war. It must be the concern of His Majesty's Government to capitalise that desire for a peaceful, ordered life. In future, the housewife and the wage-earner must dictate the foreign policies of the nations. In that connection, let us not forget the tremendous contribution which the world trade union movement can make. We have, in accord with our great Allies, got so far as producing some of the blue prints 73 of the peace; but a blue print is no substitute for a working machine.
It must be the concern of His Majesty's Government to breathe life into these blue prints and to make a living organism of peace and plenty. This can and must be done. But it will not be done, in my belief, by the stereotyped methods of old-fashioned diplomacy. Something new is needed. I see in some of the Allied organisations which have been set up for war, a faint outline of a more productive diplomacy in the future. Is it not reasonable to suppose that in U.N.R.R.A., in Lend-Lease administration, in the integrated staff of the Anglo-American High Command, in the Allied Kommandantura which is functioning in Berlin—is it not reasonable to suppose that we have there an example of international co-operation on a practical, technical level which can, in times of peace, be directed to meeting the needs of the common people all over the world, regardless of colour, race or creed?
In asking the House to approve this humble Address, I would conclude with one general observation. The country is conscious of the seriousness of the years that lie ahead; but our people are not depressed by the outlook nor are they overwhelmed by their responsibilities. On the contrary, on every side is a spirit of high adventure, of gay determination, a readiness to experiment, to take reasonable risks, to stake high in this magnificent venture of rebuilding our civilisation, as we have stakedhigh in the winning of the war. His Majesty's Government has been given a clear mandate for decisive action. By its results shall it be judged. I am confident, having heard His Majesty's gracious words yesterday, that His Majesty's advisers are fully equal to their task. We have before us a battle for the peace, no less arduous and no less momentous than the battle we have lived through in the last six years. To-day the strategy begins to unfold itself. To-day, we go into action. To-day may rightly be regarded as "D-Day" in the Battle of the New Britain.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland)
I beg to second the Motion moved by my hon. and gallant Friend in such happy and eloquent language.
I, too, must crave the indulgence of the House on this, the first occasion on 74 which I have addressed it. I am, however, somewhat relieved by the thought that there is an exceptionally large number of Members present, many of whom, if their feelings are at all like mine, must be comforting themselves with the thought that they are not in my shoes at the present moment. My trepidation, too, is made even greater, because I have been duly warned to avoid the delights of controversy, and to avoid saying anything likely to cause provocation. These are counsels of impossibility. During the past few weeks, I have learned that political truth, if it is existent, is indeed, relative. I have made statements which hitherto, I believed, expressed absolute veracity only to find that there may be, none the less, animated and even fiery controversy upon them.
In discharging the high duty of seconding the Address, I deeply appreciate the honour conferred, through me, on the shipbuilding port in the representation of which I share. Sunderland is proud of her place in the history of our country. Sunderland has played her part in making Britain a great commercial, industrial and maritime Power, and—I hope I am not going to be controversial—Sunderland still claims to be the greatest mercantile shipbuilding town in the country. The workers in her shipyards are second to none in craftsman ship. Quietly and unobtrusively, throughout the war, the managements and the men and the women in the yards have helped us to maintain our supremacy on the seas, and equally quietly and doggedly, the merchant seaman, along with their colleagues from every port in the country, have gone out to face the perils and the terrors of war fare at sea. And what is true of the shipyards and the merchant seamen, is equally true of the miners—those commandos of industry—and indeed of every man and woman in Sunderland. They have not only withstood savage Nazi attacks from the air, but have given their share to that great industrial output which has been Sunderland's contribution to victory. It is in this way that the people of Sunderland have honoured their debt to the Fighting Services who have now destroyed the evil menace that was threatening freedom, not only in Europe but throughout the world.
It is not the first time the people of Sunderland have made great efforts in 75 war-time. They did so during the last world war. Their tragedy was that they were not enabled to continue those efforts for the purposes of peace. Again and again, the town was ravaged by years of distress, by unemployment and haunting insecurity. At times nearly half its working population was unemployed; those fine craftsmen's hands were idle and wasting. I am sure every Member of this House is determined that this shall not happen again. My constituents will be encouraged to learn that the problem of ensuring that the whole resources of the country are fully utilised in the interests of all its citizens has received such serious consideration in the Gracious Speech. In particular, the miners, and I believe the managerial and the technical sides of the industry, will welcome the provision to make coalmining a national responsibility, and to make the industry part of a concerted plan for the co-ordination of the whole of the fuel and power industries. I am rather afraid that I am now at the limits of the non-controversial. Probably even the mention of coalmining is provocation in this House. I will say no more than this. It must be conceded by everyone that the present compromise in the industry cannot be permanent. I hope this House will show forbearance and understanding in the endeavour to find a more permanent solution, a solution which will bring a just and fair reward for their dangerous toil to the miners, who so long in the past have suffered that Britain might be industrially great.
The heavy industries are the key to our industrial future. Unless the heavy industries are prosperous, Britain cannot be industrially prosperous. It is here that the tasks of converting industry from war to peace are the greatest. It may well be that in the solution of these, problems the same sustained effort, and perhaps even sacrifices, will be necessary that were necessary to ensure victory in war. It is in the heavy industries, too, that the toll of industrial disease and industrial injury is the greatest. I especially welcome, therefore, the provision in the Gracious Speech for a comprehensive insurance against industrial injury, and I hope that the prevention of disease and of injury in industry will receive serious consideration. Equally gratifying are the references to social insurance, and to a 76 national health programme. I earnestly hope that special attention will be given to the alleviation of the present hardships of so many of our aged and infirm people. I doubt whether any social problem has ever faced us of such magnitude and such desperate urgency as the present housing shortage which confronts the nation. I am confident that His Majesty's Ministers will spare neither effort, energy nor resources to accomplish a solution. Out of the ruins of our blitzed towns and cities, we must see arise new, beautiful and healthy towns, a worthy and fitting memorial to those who have fallen in the struggle that we might be free.
I have not touched upon, and there is no need for me to mention, those matters which were dealt with so ably by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Watford (Major Freeman), who is far better qualified to do so than I am. For myself, I have played a very humble part in the war which we have now brought to such a triumphant and glorious conclusion. I served in the East End with that citizens' army, the London Fire Service, which, along with the people, fought Fascism in the streets of London. I served with ordinary men and women. I believe we can set ourselves no nobler task than to endeavour to fulfil their great expectations, and that we must judge our success only by their happiness.
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
It is customary, to an extent which has almost developed into routine, for the Leader of the Opposition on this occasion to begin by offering compliments to the mover and seconder of the Address, and I do not think I remember, in 42 years of service in this House, any occasion when that task has not been accomplished. But certainly I can recall few occasions when it was more easy to offer the unstinted compliments of the House than it is today to offer them to the two hon. and gallant Members who have addressed us. I say "two hon. and gallant Members" because service with the Fire Brigade will never be denied a meed of tribute to gallantry, except in the particular conventions which prevail in this Assembly. They have both made speeches which, if they have not plunged deeply into the matters which divide us or unite us, have nevertheless shown that, in achieving power in this country, the 77 Labour Party have gathered most valuable elements into their body. We see, in these two Members who have addressed us for the first time with so much decorum and becoming taste, two who will, we hope, shine in our Debates. Their maiden speeches accomplished, they will wait other less favourable opportunities to take part in our Debates, and we trust that as the vicissitudes of British politics unfold, long and important political careers may await both of them.
Our duty this afternoon is to congratulate His Majesty's Government on the very great improvement in our prospects at home, which comes from the complete victory gained over Japan and the establishment of peace throughout the world. Only a month ago it was necessary to continue at full speed and at enormous cost all preparations for a long and bloody campaign in the Far East. In the first days of the Potsdam Conference President Truman and I approved the plans submitted to us by the combined Chiefs of Staff for a series of great battles and landings in Malaya, in the Netherlands East Indies and in the homeland of Japan itself. These operations involved an effort not surpassed in Europe, and no one could measure the cost in British and American life and treasure they would require. Still less could it be known how long the stamping out of the resistance of Japan in many territories she had conquered, and especially in her homeland, would last. All the while the whole process of turning the world from war to peace would be hampered and delayed. Every form of peace activity was half strangled by the overriding priorities of war. No clear-cut decisions could be taken in the presence of this harsh dominating uncertainty.
During the last three months an element of baffling dualism has complicated every problem of policy and administration. We had to plan for peace and war at the same time. Immense armies were being demobilised; another powerful army was being prepared and despatched to the other side of the globe. All the personal stresses among millions of men eager to return to civil life, and hundreds of thousands of men who would have to be sent to new and severe campaigns in the Far East, presented themselves with growing tension. This dualism affected also every aspect of our economic and financial life.
78 How to set people free to use their activities in reviving the life of Britain, and at the same time to meet the stern demands of the war against Japan, constituted one or the most perplexing and distressingpuzzles that in a long life-time of experience I have ever faced.
I confess it was with great anxiety that I surveyed this prospect a month ago. Since then I have been relieved of the burden. At the same time that burden, heavy though it still remains, has been immeasurably lightened. On 17th July there came to us at Potsdam the eagerly awaited news of the trial of the atomic bomb in the Mexican desert. Success beyond all dreams crowned this sombre, magnificent venture of our American Allies. The detailed reports of the Mexican desert experiment, which were brought to us a few days later by air, could leave no doubt in the minds of the very few who were informed, that we were in the presence of a new factor in human affairs, and possessed of powers which were irresistible. Great Britain had a right to be consulted in accordance with Anglo-American agreements. The decision to use the atomic bomb was taken by President Truman and myself at Potsdam, and we approved the military plans to unchain the dread, pent-up forces.
From that moment our outlook on the future was transformed. In preparation for the results of this experiment, the statements of the President and of Mr. Stimson and my own statement, which by the courtesy of the Prime Minister was subsequently read out on the broadcast, were framed in common agreement. Marshal Stalin was informed by President Truman that we contemplated using an explosive of incomparable power against Japan, and action proceeded in the way we all now know. It is to this atomic bomb more than to any other factor that we may ascribe the sudden and speedy ending of the war against Japan.
Before using it, it was necessary first of all to send a message in the form of an ultimatum to the Japanese which would apprise them of what unconditional surrender meant. This document was published on 26th July—the same day that another event, differently viewed on each side of the House, occurred. The assurances given to Japan about her future after her unconditional surrender had been made, were generous to a point. When we remember the cruel and 79 treacherous nature of the utterly unprovoked attack made by the Japanese war lords upon the United States and Great Britain, these assurances must be considered magnanimous in a high degree. In a nutshell, they implied "Japan for the Japanese," and even access to raw materials, apart from their control, was not denied to their densely-populated homeland. We felt that in view of the new and fearful agencies of war-power about to be employed, every inducement to surrender, compatible with our declared policy, should be set before them. This we owed to our consciences before using this awful weapon.
Secondly, by repeated warnings, emphasised by heavy bombing attacks, an endeavour was made to procure the general exodus of the civil population from the threatened cities. Thus everything in human power, short of using the atomic bomb, was done to spare the civil population of Japan, though there are voices which assert that the bomb should never have been used at all. I cannot associate myself with such ideas. Six years of total war have convinced most people that had the Germans or Japanese discovered this new weapon, they would have used it upon us to our complete destruction with the utmost alacrity. I am surprised that very worthy people, but people who in most cases had no intention of proceeding to the Japanese front themselves, should adopt the position that rather than throw this bomb, we should have sacrificed a million American and a quarter of a million British lives in the desperate battles and massacres of an invasion of Japan. Future generations will judge these dire decisions, and I believe that if they find themselves dwelling in a happier world from which war has been banished, and where freedom reigns, they will not condemn those who struggled for their benefit amid the horrors and miseries of this gruesome and ferocious epoch.
The bomb brought peace, but men alone can keep that peace, and henceforward they will keep it under penalties which threaten the survival, not only of civilisation, but of humanity itself. I may say that I am in entire agreement with the President that the secrets of the atomic bomb shall so far as possible not be imparted at the present time to any other country in the world. This is in 80 no design or wish for arbitrary power but for the common safety of the world. Nothing can stop the progress of research and experiment in every country, but although research will no doubt proceed in many places, the construction of the immense plants necessary to transform theory into action cannot be improvised in any country.
For this and many other reasons the United States stand at this moment at the summit of the world. I rejoice that this should be so. Let them act up to the level of their power and their responsibility, not for themselves but for others, for all men in all lands, and then a brighter day may dawn upon human history. So far as we know, there are at least three and perhaps four years before the concrete progress made in the United States can be overtaken. In these three years we must remould the relationships of all men, wherever they dwell, in all the nations. We must remould them in such a way that these men do not wish or dare to fall upon each other for the sake of vulgar and out-dated ambitions or for passionate differences in ideology, and that international bodies of supreme authority may give peace on earth and decree justice among men. Our pilgrimage has brought us to a sublime moment in the history of the world. From the least to the greatest, all must strive to be worthy of these supreme opportunities. There is not an hour to be wasted; there is not a day to be lost.
It would in my opinion be a mistake to suggest that the Russian declaration of war upon Japan was hastened by the use of the atomic bomb. My understanding with Marshal Stalin in the talks which I had with him had been, for a considerable time past, that Russia would declare war upon Japan within three months of the surrender of the German armies. The reason for the delay of three months was, of course, the need to move over the trans-Siberian Railway the large reinforcements necessary to convert the Russian-Manchurian army from a defensive to an offensive strength. Three months was the time mentioned, and the fact that the German armies surrendered on 8th May, and the Russians declared war on Japan on 8th August, is no mere coincidence but another example of the fidelity and punctuality with which Marshal Stalin and his valiant armies always keep their military engagements.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should remind his hon. Friends on that side.
§ Mr. Churchill
It is not part of the duty of the speaker who for the moment has the honour to address the House, to regulate the applause on either side.
I now turn to the results of the Potsdam Conference so far as they have been made public in the agreed communiquéand in President Truman's very remarkable speech of a little more than a week ago. There has been general approval of the arrangements proposed for the administration of Germany by the Allied Control Commission during the provisional period of military government. This régime is both transitional and indefinite. The character of Hitler's Nazi party was such as to destroy almost all independent elements in the German people. The struggle was fought to the bitter end. The mass of the people were forced to drain the cup of defeat to the dregs. A headless Germany has fallen into the hands of the conquerors. It may be many years before any structure of German national life will be possible, and there will be plenty of time for the victors to consider how the interests of world peace are affected thereby.
In the meanwhile, it is in my view of the utmost importance that responsibility should be effectively assumed by German local bodies for carrying on under Allied supervision all the processes of production and of administration necessary to maintain the life of a vast population. It is not possible for the Allies to bear responsibility by themselves. We cannot have the German masses lying down upon our hands and expecting to be fed, organised and educated over a period of years, by the Allies. We must do our best to help to avert the tragedy of famine. But it would be in vain for us in our small island, which still needs to import half its food, to imagine that we can make any further appreciable contribution in that respect. The rationing of this country cannot be made more severe, without endangering the life and physical strength of our people, all of which will be needed for the immense tasks we have to do. I, therefore, most strongly advise the encouragement of the assumption of responsibility by trust- 82 worthy German local bodies in proportion as they can be brought into existence.
The Council which was set up at Potsdam of the Foreign Secretaries of the three, four or five Powers, meeting in various combinations as occasion served, affords a new and flexible machinery for the continuous further study of the immense problems that lie before us in Europe and Asia. I am very glad that the request that I made to the Conference, and which my right hon. Friend—I may perhaps be allowed so to refer to him on this comparatively innocuous occasion—supported at the Conference, that the seat of the Council's permanent Secretariat should be London, was granted. I must say that my right hon. Friend the late Foreign Secretary, who has, over a long period, gained an increasing measure of confidence from the Foreign Secretaries of Russia, and the United States, and who through the European Advisory Committee which is located in London has always gained the feeling that things could be settled in a friendly and easy way, deserves some of the credit for the fact that these great Powers willingly accorded us the seat in London for the permanent Secretariat. It is high time that the place of London, one of the controlling centres of international world affairs, should at last be recognised. It is the oldest, the largest, the most battered capital, the capital which was first in the war and the time is certainly overdue when we should have our recognition.
I am glad also that a beginning is to be made with the evacuation of Persia by the British and Russian armed forces, in accordance with the triple treaty which we made with each other and with Persia in 1941. Although it does not appear in the communiqué, we have since seen it announced that the first stage in the process, namely, the withdrawal of Russian and British troops from Teheran, has already begun or is about to begin. There are various other matters arising out of this Conference which should be noted as satisfactory. We should not, however, delude ourselves into supposing that the results of this first Conference of the victors were free from disappointment or anxiety, or that the most serious questions before us were brought to good solutions. Those which proved incapable of agreement at the Conference have been relegated to the Foreign Secretaries' Council which, though most capable of reliev- 83 ing difficulties, is essentially one gifted with less far-reaching powers. Other grave questions are left for the final peace settlement, by which time many of them may have settled themselves, not necessarily in the best way.
It would be at once wrong and impossible to conceal the divergencies of view which exist inevitably between the victors about the state of affairs in Eastern and Middle Europe. I do not at all blame the Prime Minister or the new Foreign Secretary, whose task it was to finish up the discussions which we had begun. I am sure they did their best. We have to realise that no one of the three leading Powers can impose its solutions upon others and that the only solutions possible are those which are in the nature of compromise. We British have had very early and increasingly to recognise the limitations of our own power and influence, great though it be, in the gaunt world arising from the ruins of this hideous war. It is not in the power of any British Government to bring home solutions which would be regarded as perfect by the great majority of Members of this House, wherever they may sit. I must put on record my own opinion that the provisional Western frontier agreed upon for Poland, running from Stettin on the Baltic, along the Oder and its tributary, the Western Neisse, comprising as it does one quarter of the arable land of all Germany, is not a good augury for the future map of Europe. We always had in the Coalition Government a desire that Poland should receive ample compensation in the West for the territory ceded to Russia East of the Curzon Line. But here I think a mistake has been made, in which the Provisional Government of Poland have been an ardent partner, by going far beyond what necessity or equity required. There are few virtues that the Poles do not possess—and there are few mistakes they have ever avoided.
I am particularly concerned, at this moment, with the reports reaching us of the conditions under which the expulsion and exodus of Germans from the new Poland are being carried out. Between 8,000,000 and 9,000,000 persons dwelt in those regions before the war. The Polish Government say that there are still 1,500,000 of these not yet expelled within their new frontiers. Other millions must have taken refuge behind the British and 84 American lines, thus increasing the food stringency in our sector. But enormous numbers are utterly unaccounted for. Where are they gone, and what has been their fate? The same conditions may reproduce themselves in a more modified form in the expulsion of great numbers of Sudeten and other Germans from Czechoslovakia. Sparse and guarded accounts of what has happened and is happening have filtered through, but it is not impossible that tragedy on a prodigious scale is unfolding itself behind the iron curtain which at the moment divides Europe in twain. I should welcome any statement which the Prime Minister can make which would relieve or at least inform us upon this very anxious and grievous matter.
There is another sphere of anxiety. I remember that a fortnight or so before the last war, the Kaiser's friend Herr Ballen, the great shipping magnate, told me that he had heard Bismarck say towards the end of his life, "If there is ever another war in Europe, it will come out of some damned silly thing in the Balkans." The murder of the Archduke at Sarajevo in 1914 set the signal for the first world war. I cannot conceive that the elements for a new conflict exist in the Balkans to-day. I am not using the language of Bismarck, but nevertheless not many Members of the new House of Commons will be content with the new situation that prevails in those mountainous, turbulent, ill-organised and warlike regions. I do not intend to particularise, I am very glad to see the new Foreign Secretary sitting on the Front Bench opposite. I would like to say with what gratification I learned that the right hon. Gentleman had taken on this high and most profoundly difficult office, and we are sure he will do his best to preserve the great causes for which we have so long pulled together. But as I say, not many Members will be content with the situation in that region to which I have referred, for almost everywhere Communist forces have obtained, or are in process of obtaining, dictatorial powers. It does not mean that the Communist system is everywhere being established, nor does it mean that Soviet Russia seeks to reduce all those independent States to provinces of the Soviet Union. Mr. Stalin is a very wise man, and I would set no limits to the immense contributions that he and his associates have to make to the future.
85 In those countries, torn and convulsed by war, there may be, for some months to come, the need of authoritarian Government. The alternative would be anarchy. Therefore it would be unreasonable to ask or expect that liberal Governments—as spelt with a small "l"—and British or United States democratic conditions, should be instituted immediately. They take their politics very seriously in those countries. A friend of mine, an officer, was in Zagreb, when the results of the late General Election came in. An old lady said to him, "Poor Mr. Churchill. I suppose now he will be shot" My friend was able to reassure her. He said the sentence might be mitigated to one of the various forms of hard labour which are always open to His Majesty's subjects. Nevertheless we must know where we stand, and we must make clear where we stand in these affairs of the Balkans and of Eastern Europe, and indeed of any country which comes into this field. Our idea is government of the people, by the people, for the people—the people being free without duress to express, by secret ballot without intimidation, their deep-seated wish as to the form and conditions of the Government under which they are to live.
At the present time—I trust a very fleeting time—"police governments" rule over a great number of countries. It is a case of the odious 18b, carried to a horrible excess. The family is gathered round the fireside to enjoy the scanty fruits of their toil and to recruit their exhausted strength by the little food that they have been able to gather. There they sit. Suddenly there is a knock at the door and a heavily armed policeman appears. He is not, of course, one who resembles in any way those functionaries whom we honour and obey in the London streets. It may be that the father or son, or a friend sitting in the cottage, is called out, and taken off into the dark and no one knows whether he will ever come back again, or what his fate has been. All they know is that they had better not inquire. There are millions of humble homes in Europe at the moment, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, in Austria, in Hungary, in Yugoslavia, in Rumania, in Bulgaria—[Hon. Members: "In Spain"]—where this fear is the main preoccupation of the family life. President Roosevelt laid down the four freedoms and these are extant in the Atlantic Charter which we 86 agreed together. "Freedom from fear"—but this has been interpreted as if it were only freedom from fear of invasion from a foreign country. That is the least of the fears of the common man. His patriotism arms him to withstand invasion or go down fighting; but that is not the fear of the ordinary family in Europe tonight. Their fear is of the policeman's knock. It is not fear for the country, for all men can unite in comradeship for the defence of their native soil. It is for the life and liberty of the individual, for the fundamental rights of man, now menaced and precarious in so many lands that peoples tremble.
Surely we can agree in this new Parliament or the great majority of us, wherever we sit—there are naturally and rightly differences and cleavages of thought—but surely we can agree in this new Parliament, which will either fail the world or once again play a part in saving it, that it is the will of the people, freely expressed by secret ballot, in universal suffrage elections, as to the form of their government and as to the laws which shall prevail, which is the first solution and safeguard. Let us then march steadily along that plain and simple linee. I avow my faith in democracy, whatever course or view it may take with individuals and parties. They may make their mistakes, and they may profit from their mistakes. Democracy is now on trial as it never was before, and in these islands we must uphold it, as we upheld it in the dark days of 1940 and 1941, with all our hearts, with all our vigilance and with all our enduring and inexhaustible strength. While the war was on and all the Allies were fighting for victory, the word "democracy," like many people, had to work overtime, but now that peace has come we must search for more precise definitions. Elections have been proposed in some of these Balkan countries where only one set of candidates is allowed to appear, and where, if other parties are to express their opinion, it has to be arranged beforehand that the governing party, armed with its political police and all its propaganda, is the only one which has the slightest chance. Chance, did I say? It is a certainty.
Now is the time for Britons to speak out. It is odious to us that Governments should seek to maintain their rule otherwise than by free, unfettered elections by 87 the mass of the people. Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, says the Constitution of the United States. This must not evaporate in swindles and lies propped up by servitude and murder. In our foreign policy let us strike continually the notes of freedom and fair play as we understand them in these islands. Then you will find there will be an overwhelming measure of agreement between us, and we shall in this House march forward on an honourable theme having within it all that invests human life with dignity and happiness. In saying all this, I have been trying to gather together and present in a direct form the things which, I believe, are dear to the great majority of us. I rejoiced to read them expressed in golden words by the President of the United States when he said:Our victory in Europe was more than a victory of arms. It was a victory of one way of life over another. It was a victory of an ideal founded on the right of the common man, on the dignity of the human being, and on the conception of the State as the servant, not the master, of its people.I think there is not such great disagreement between us. Emphasis may be cast this, way and that in particular incidents, but surely this is what the new Parliament on the whole means. This is what in our heart and conscience in foreign affairs and world issues we desire. Just as in the baleful glare of 1940, so now, when calmer lights shine, let us be united upon these resurgent principles and impulses of the good and generous hearts of men. Thus to all the material strength we possess and the honoured position we have acquired, we shall add those moral forces which glorify mankind and make even the weakest equals of the strong.
I am anxious to-day to evade controversial topics as far as possible, though I am under no inhibition such as cramped the style of the two hon. and gallant Gentlemen to whom we have listened. There is one question which I hope the Prime Minister will be able to answer. What precisely is Mr Laski's authority for all the statements he is making about our foreign policy? How far do his statements involve the agreement or responsibility of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs? We know that Mr. Laski is the Chairman of the Labour Party Executive Committee—[Hon. Members: "Gestapo."] Everybody has a right to 88 describe their own party machine as they choose. This is a very important body. I have been told—I am willing to be contradicted and to learn—that it has the power to summon Ministers before it. Let us find out whether it is true or not. Evidently it has got great power, and it has, even more evidently, a keen inclination to assert it. The House, the country and the world at large are entitled to know who are the authoritative spokesmen of His Majesty's Government.
I see that Mr. Laski said in Paris a few days ago that our policy in Greece was to be completely changed. What is the meaning of this? I thought we were agreed upon our policy towards Greece, especially after Sir Walter Citrine's and the trade unions' report. (Interruption.) I would say to hon. Members not to speak disrespectfully of the report or they may be brought up before that body. That policy in Greece is to help Greece to decide upon its own future by plebiscite and elections according to the full, free, untrammelled will of the Greek people, and that those elections shall be held as early as practicable. The Greek Government have invited official foreign observers to be present and report, so that everyone in the world may judge whether the vote and elections are a free, fair and honest expression of the popular wish. The British, United States and French Governments have accepted this invitation. I was sorry we could not persuade Russia to come along too. Has there been any change in this question, or are we to understand, as Mr. Laski seems to suggest, that, though the Greek people may vote freely, they must only vote the way which he and those who agree with him would like?
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
That is what the right hon. Gentleman said in the General Election.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am sure the hon. Member will never find that I have ever said that people were only entitled to vote in the way I like. I never nursed such an illusion. It is that very freedom which was so vehemently exercised against me and my friends that I am defending now in respect of other countries.
Mr. Laski also made a declaration about France which has most important and far-reaching effects, namely, that if the French people vote Socialist at the im- 89 pending election, Great Britain will renew the offer which was made in June, 1940, that Britain and France should become one nation with a common citizenship. That offer was made in the anguish and compassion which we felt at the fate of France. It is remarkable that the Cabinet of those days, when we in this island were in such dire peril, really seemed more shocked and pained at the French disaster than at our own very dangerous plight. Much has happened in the five years that have passed, and I am of opinion that the idea of France and Britain becoming one single nation with common citizenship—alliance is another question—must, at the very least, be very carefully considered by the responsible Ministers before any such proposal is made to Parliament, still less to a foreign country. I ask, therefore, did the Prime Minister authorise this declaration? Does the Foreign Secretary endorse it? Were the Cabinet consulted? Is the offer to France open only if a Socialist Government is elected? I hope the Prime Minister will be able to give reassuring answers on those points.
Broadly speaking, it is very much better that declarations about foreign policy should be made by Ministers of the Crown responsible to the House of Commons. I am sure the new Government will get into very great difficulties if they are not able to maintain this position firmly. Also, I consider it a great mistake for us to try to interfere in the affairs of foreign countries, except in so far as is necessary to wind up any obligations we may have contracted during the war. It is impossible to understand the domestic politics of other countries. It is hard enough to understand the domestic politics of one's own. But Mr. Laski has spoken with great freedom about French, Spanish and United States affairs during the last fortnight. He has told the United States on the broadcast, for instance, that free enterprise is the most ingenious fallacy which American business men ever put over on the American people. At a time when we have vital need of the material aid of the United States, I cannot feel—and perhaps the Chancellor will agree with me—that such a remark is exceptionally helpful. To-day, we read that Mr. Laski says that the attitude of the British Government towards the United States is favouarble whereas towards Russia there is "a profoundly brotherly affection." I 90 wonder very much—and this is an extremely serious matter—whether these invidious distinctions are likely to bring about the good results which were anticipated and which are absolutely necessary.
Somebody asked about General Franco. I am coming to him. Mr. Laski appears to contemplate vehement intervention in Spain against General Franco. Anybody who has had the opportunity to read the letter which I wrote, with the full agreement of my Coalition colleagues in the War Cabinet, to General Franco some months ago, in reply to one he wrote to me—and I should be very glad to see my letter published here as it has already been practically verbatim in the United States—will see what calumny it is to suggest that I or my friends on this side are supporters, admirers or partisans of the present régime in Spain. We are proud to be the foes of tyranny in every form, whether it comes from the Right or from the Left. Before I left Potsdam, the three major Powers had agreed upon the form of the public announcement about the exclusion of Spain, while under the Franco régime, from the world organisation of the United Nations. No alteration was made, as far as I am aware, by the new Prime Minister or the new Foreign Secretary in the terms of that most wounding, and deliberately calculated wounding, declaration against that régime.
It would, however, be wrong to intervene in Spain in a forcible manner or to attempt to relight the civil war in that country which has already and quite recently lost between one and two millions of its none too numerous population in a horrible internal struggle. However, if that is the policy of His Majesty's Government, it is they who ought to say so, and then we can debate the matter here in full freedom. Let me point out in leaving this unpleasant subject that I make no suggestion to the Government that they should endeavour to muzzle Mr. Laski. Anybody in a free country can say anything, however pernicious and nonsensical it may be, but it is necessary for the Government to let us know exactly where they stand with regard to him. Otherwise, I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that their affairs will suffer and our affairs, which are mixed up inseparably with their affairs, will also suffer.
I now turn to the domestic sphere, which takes up one part of the Gracious 91 speech. I have already spoken of the enormous easement in their task which the new Government have obtained through the swift and sudden ending of the Japanese war. What thousands of millions of pounds sterling are saved from the waste of war, what scores and hundreds of thousands of lives are saved, what vast numbers of ships are set free to carry the soldiers home to all their lands, to carry about the world the food and raw materials vital to industry. What noble opportunities have the new Government inherited. Let them be worthy of their fortune, which is also the fortune of us all. To release and liberate the vital springs of British energy and inventiveness, to let the honest earnings of the nation fructify in the pockets of the people, to spread well-being and security against accident and misfortune throughout the whole nation, to plan, wherever State planning is imperative, and to guide into fertile and healthy channels the native British genius for comprehension and good will—all these are open to them, and all these ought to be open to all of us now. I hope we may go forward together, not only abroad but also at home, in all matters so far as we possibly can.
During the period of the "Caretaker Government," while we still had to contemplate 18 months of strenuous war with Japan, we reviewed the plans for demobilisation in such a way as to make a very great acceleration in the whole process of releasing men and women from the Armed Forces and from compulsory industrial employment. Now, all that is overtaken by the world-wide end of the war. I must say at once that the paragraph of the Gracious Speech referring to demobilisation and to the plans which were made in the autumn of 1944—with which I am in entire agreement in principle—gives a somewhat chilling impression. Now that we have had this wonderful windfall I am surprised that any Government should imagine that language of this kind is still appropriate or equal to the new situation. I see that in the United States the President has said that all the American troops that the American ships can carry home in the next year, will be brought home and set free. Are his Majesty's Government now able to make any statement of that kind about our Armed Forces abroad? Or what statement can they make? I do not want to harass 92 them unduly, but perhaps some time next week some statement could be made. No doubt the Prime Minister will think of that. Great hopes have been raised in the electoral campaign, and from those hopes has sprung their great political victory. Time will show whether those hopes are well founded, as we deeply trust they may be. But many decisions can be taken now, in the completely altered circumstances in which we find ourselves. The duty of the Government is to fix the minimum numbers who must be retained in the next 6 or 12 months period in all the foreign theatres, and to bring the rest home with the utmost speed that our immensely expanded shipping resources will permit.
Even more is this releasing process important in the demobilisation of the home establishment. I quite agree that the feeling of the Class A men must ever be the dominant factor, but short of that the most extreme efforts should be made to release people who are standing about doing nothing. I hope the Public Expenditure Committee will be at once reconstituted, and that they will travel about the country examining home establishments and reporting frequently to the House. Now that the war is over there is no ground of military secrecy which should prevent the publication of the exact numerical ration strengths of our Army, Navy and Air Force in every theatre and at home, and we should certainly have weekly, or at least monthly, figures of the progressive demobilisation effected. It is an opportunity for the new Government to win distinction. At the end of the last war, when I was in charge of the Army and Air Force, I published periodically very precise information. I agree with the words used by the Foreign Secretary when he was Minister of Labour in my Administration, namely, that the tremendous winding-up process of the war must be followed by a methodical and regulated unwinding. We agree that if the process is to be pressed forward with the utmost speed it is necessary for the Government to wield exceptional powers for the time being, and so long as they use those powers to achieve the great administrative and executive tasks imposed upon them, we shall not attack them. It is only if, and in so far as, those powers are used to bring about by a side-wind a state of controlled society agreeable to Socialist doctrinaires, but 93 which we deem odious to British freedom, that we shall be forced to resist them. So long as the exceptional powers are used as part of the war emergency, His Majesty's Government may consider us as helpers and not as opponents, as friends and not as foes.
To say this in no way relieves the Government of their duty to set the nation free as soon as possible, to bring home the soldiers in accordance with the scheme with the utmost rapidity, and to enable the mass of the people to resume their normal lives and employment in the best, easiest and speediest manner. There ought not to be a long-dragged-out period of many months when hundreds of thousands of Service men and women are kept waiting about under discipline, doing useless tasks at the public expense, and other tens of thousands, more highly paid, finding them sterile work to do. What we desire is freedom; what we need is abundance. Freedom and abundance—these must be our aims. The production of new wealth is far more beneficial, and on an incomparably larger scale, than class and party fights about the liquidation of old wealth. We must try to share blessings and not miseries.
§ Mr. Churchill
The production of new wealth must precede commonwealth, otherwise there will only be common poverty. I am sorry these simple truisms should excite the hon. Member opposite—whom I watched so often during the course of the last Parliament and whose many agreeable qualities I have often admired—as if they had some sense of novelty for him.
We do not propose to join issue immediately about the legislative proposals in the Gracious Speech. We do not know what is meant by the control of investment—[Laughter]—but apparently it is a subject for mirth. Evidently, in war you may do one thing, and in peace perhaps another must be considered. Allowance must also be made for the transitional period through which we are passing. The Debate on the Address should probe and elicit the Government's intentions in this matter. The same is true of the proposal to nationalise the coalmines. If that is really the best way of securing a larger supply of coal at a cheaper price, and at an earlier moment than is now in view, I, for one, 94 should approach the plan in a sympathetic spirit. It is by results, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Motion for the Address said, that the Government will be judged, and it is by results that this policy must be judged The national ownership of the Bank of England does not in my opinion raise any matter of principle [Hon. Members: "Oh"]. I give my opinion—anybody else may give his own. There are important examples in the United States and in our Dominions of central banking institutions, but what matters is the use to be made of this public ownership. On this we must await the detailed statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I am glad to say, has pledged himself to resist inflation. Meanwhile it may be helpful for me to express the opinion, as Leader of the Opposition, that foreign countries need not be alarmed by the language of the Gracious Speech on this subject, and that British credit will be resolutely upheld.
Then there is the Trade Disputes Act. We are told that this is to be repealed. Personally, I feel that we owe an inestimable debt to the trade unions for all they have done for the country in the long struggle against the foreign foe. But they would surely be unwise to reinstitute the political levy on the old basis. If would also be very odd if they wished to regain full facilities for legalising and organising a general strike. It does not say much for the confidence with which the Trades Union Council view the brave new world, or for what they think about the progressive nationalisation of our industries, that they should deem it necessary on what the hon. and gallant Gentleman called "the D-Day of the new Britain" to restore and sharpen the general strike weapon, at this particular time of all others. Apparently nationalisation is not regarded by them as any security against conditions which would render a general strike imperative and justified in the interests of the workers. We are, I understand, after nationalising the coalmines, to deal with the railways, electricity and transport. Yet at the same time the trade unions feel it necessary to be heavily rearmed against State Socialism. Apparently the new age is not to be so happy for the wage-earners as we have been asked to believe. At any rate, there seems to be a fundamental incongruity in these con- 95 ceptions to which the attention of the Socialist intelligentsia should speedily be directed. Perhaps it may be said that these powers will only be needed if the Tories come into office. Surely these are early days to get frightened. I will ask the Prime Minister if he will just tell us broadly what is meant by the word "repeal."
I have offered these comments to the House and I do not wish to end on a sombre or even slightly controversial note. As to the situation which exists to-day, it is evident that not only are the two parties in the House agreed in the main essentials of foreign policy and in our moral outlook on world affairs, but we also have an immense programme, prepared by our joint exertions during the Coalition, which requires to be brought into law and made an inherent part of the life of the people. Here and there there may be differences of emphasis and view, but in the main no Parliament ever assembled with such a mass of agreed legislation as lies before us this afternoon. I have great hopes of this Parliament and I shall do my utmost to make its work fruitful. It may heal the wounds of war, and turn to good account the new conceptions and powers which we have gathered amid the storm. I do not underrate the difficult and intricate complications of the task which lies before us; I know too much about it to cherish vain illusions, but the morrow of such a victory as we have gained is a splendid moment both in our small lives and in our great history. It is a time not only of rejoicing but even more of resolve. When we look back on all the perils through which we have passed and at the mighty foes we have laid low and all the dark and deadly designs we have frustrated, why should we fear for our future? We have come safely through the worst.Home is the sailor, home from sea,And the hunter home from the hill.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I have had the privilege on many occasions of congratulating the mover and the seconder of the Address from the other side, but this is the first time on which I do so from the Treasury Bench. I echo what was said by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. All through the years I have been in the House there has been an astonishingly high standard 96 kept in these speeches, and I entirely agree that the hon. and gallant Member for Watford (Major Freeman) and the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Mr. Frederick Willey) have well sustained the old traditions. I think they are two very worthy representatives of the great number of the younger generation who have come into this House to help to solve these problems of the post-war period. I am sure that the Government will bear in mind the advice of the hon. and gallant Member for Watford that it is essential, as anyone who has served in the Forces knows, to let the fighting troops have the facts. There is nothing worse for men, wherever they are fighting or after demobilisation, than not to know the facts. We will try to keep them fully informed.
Yesterday we gave thanks for the final victory over all our enemies, and the world is once more at peace. For the first time for almost six years the Prime Minister can speak in this House without referring to war operations. Later we shall be taking an opportunity of thanking the Fighting Forces, but I think that before I deal with the general policy contained in the Gracious Speech from the Throne and with the speech of my right hon. Friend opposite, which I thought showed him to be in most excellent form, there is a duty which I ought to take the earliest opportunity of performing. It may be that I shall be setting a precedent in doing so, but I have been looking through the speeches of Prime Ministers on these occasions, and I find there are many varieties. The surrender of Japan has brought to an end the greatest war in history, and a General Election, which took place at a time which was not of our seeking, has resulted in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) being on the Opposition benches at a time when the fruits of his long leadership of the nation in war are being garnered.
I think it is fitting that to-day I should pay a tribute to one of the main architects of our victory. However we may be divided politically in this House I believe I shall be expressing the views of the whole House in making acknowledgment here of the transcendent services rendered by the right hon. Gentleman to this country, to the Commonwealth and Empire, and to the world during his 97 tenure of office as Prime Minister. During those years he was the leader of the country in war. We have seen in Fascist countries a detestable cult of leadership which has only been a cover for dictatorship, but there is a true leadership which means the expression by one man of the soul of a nation, and the translation of the common will into action. In the darkest and most dangerous hour of our history this nation found in my right hon. Friend the man who expressed supremely the courage and determination never to yield which animated all the men and women of this country. In undying phrases he crystallised the unspoken feeling of all. "Words only," it might be said, but words at great moments of history are deeds. We had more than words from the right hon. Gentleman. He radiated a stream of energy throughout the machinery of government, indeed throughout the life of the nation. Many others shared in the work of organising and inspiring the nation in its great effort, but he set the pace. He was able to bring into co-operation men of very different political views and to win from them loyal service. At critical times, by his personal relationship with the heads of Allied States, he promoted the harmony and co-operation of all, and in the sphere of strategy his wide experience, grasp of essentials, his willingness to take necessary risks, were of the utmost value.
I had the honour to serve with the right hon. Gentleman in the War Cabinet throughout the whole of the Coalition Government from the days of Dunkirk to the surrender of Germany. There are many things on which we disagree, but I think it right to take this early occasion, before we turn to controversy, to express the gratitude and admiration for his leadership in war which we feel. His place in history is secure, and although he was no longer at the head of affairs when the Japanese surrendered and final victory came, this really was the outcome of plans made long before under his leadership.
History will link with the name of Winston Churchill that of another great leader of democracy, the late President Roosevelt. The one is present with us here to-day; the other did not live to see victory, but his service to the cause of freedom this country can never forget. I should also wish at this hour to acknowledge the great contribution made 98 by all the peoples of the British Commonwealth and Empire to this great victory, by all our Allies, the people of the United States of America, of Russia, of China, and by all others who fought against the common enemy. And perhaps above all I should like to emphasise that victory has come through the contributions of thousands and millions of ordinary men and women. In all the various spheres of activity it has been the steadfastness, courage, and sense of duty of the ordinary citizen that saved civilisation. Speaking to-day in this House, a new House of Commons, I should like to pay a tribute to the House of Commons that has passed away, which sustained and fortified the Government through all the trials, of war. Throughout it set an example of democracy in action which I am sure will inspire the new Members. I thought it right to say these things.
I now turn to deal with the Gracious Speech from the Throne, but before doing so there are one or two matters of Business which I must mention. It will, I think, be obvious to all that the legislative programme set out in the Gracious Speech is heavy. This House will have plenty of work before it. The Debate on the Address will occupy the remainder of this week, and I hope it will be concluded next week. Under your guidance, Mr. Speaker, we shall endeavour to meet the wishes of the House in regard to the general Debate on the Address as regards the specific subjects which may be desired. We shall bring forward a Motion inviting the House to approve of the Charter of the United Nations signed by 50 nations at San Francisco on 26th June, 1945. There is also certain other Business which we desire to pass as a matter of urgency. I hope it will prove non-contentious. There is a Bill to amend the law relating to local government elections, so as to enable Service men who are serving abroad to stand as candidates. There is a Motion to approve Regulations which complete the provision made in the Representation of the People Act, 1945, for proxy voting by Service voters at local government elections. There is also a Motion to continue in force the Proclamation issued under the Government of India Act by the Governor of Bengal.
The Session is begining at an unusual time. Normally the House would be in recess at this date, and I think, therefore, 99 it might be the wish of the House that we should endeavour to conclude the Debate on the Address and deal with the other matters to which I have referred so as to be able to adjourn on Friday, 24th August. In order that we may achieve that and give more time we propose to meet next Monday and as it will be a special Sitting to continue the Debate on the Address, we do not propose to take Questions on that day. I hope this arrangement will be agreeable to the House and I suggest that the general Business arrangements might be discussed through the usual channels. We propose to meet after the Recess on Tuesday, 9th October, when the chief work of the Session will begin. I may say that this interval will give the new Ministers an opportunity of familiarising themselves with the work of their Departments and also will allow many new Members who have come to this House to arrange their affairs. In the Autumn we shall ask the House to sit five days a week and, as was the practice before the war, Questions will be taken on the first four days. We have recently been working on a three-day Questions week, and so there will have to be some reorganisation of the order of Questions. That is being revised in consultation with the authorities of the House. It is a matter which, I think, might be discussed through the usual channels.
I have already informed the House that it is the Government's intention to propose a Motion to-day to give precedence to Government Business, to provide for the presentation of Government Bills only, and to stop the Ballot for Private Members' Bills. I regret the necessity for this, but we have a very heavy legislative programme, and we must have that if we are to carry out the mandate that we received at the Election and deal with the various Measures included in the post-war reconstruction policy, some of which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, were agreed upon in principle, and perhaps largely in detail, during the period of the Coalition Government. We shall, therefore, require all the available time. I have to ask the House for those facilities and to ask it to return to a five-day Parliamentary week. But although we propose to take Private Members' time, we shall endeavour to provide opportunities for debate on matters of general interest, and 100 we propose in the interests of Private Members to safeguard the half-hour Adjournment at the end of each day when grievances can be raised.
During the past few days great events have been taking place. I think that perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the preparation of the King's Speech, with events moving at the pace they have been, has been somewhat difficult. I thought he rather expected us to have adjusted our statements and plans with regard to demobilisation in the light of the surrender of Japan. I am sure he will realise that the time for that was somewhat short. We have been living through great events, and we have got to realise we are living in a new world. We have seen in action a new force, the result of scientific discovery, the far-reaching consequences of which, I think, we find it difficult to grasp; but I think we can all realise we shall have to make a re-valuation of the whole situation, especially in the sphere of international relations. It is easy to have the habit of looking at things in the light of the past and failing to make readjustment, and I think it is perhaps fitting that we should look at these new problems, or old problems, in a new light, with a new House of Commons in which there is such a large number of young Members, and for the first time in our history with a Labour Government in power supported by a great majority.
Perhaps this would be a convenient point for me to deal with a matter that is still troubling my right hon. Friend opposite, and that is the question of Professor Laski. My right hon. Friend has known Professor Laski for many years, although I am afraid he has not sat under him in the school of political science; but he knows that in common with himself Professor Laski has a somewhat ebullient phraseology and at times is apt to be a little impulsive. He claims for himself, as my right hon. Friend so eloquently claimed just now for all people, the right of individual action, and as a citizen of this country he has the right to express his views. Whether or not he is expressing the views of some particular outside body is another matter; it is a matter between him and any body to which he may belong; but I am glad of the opportunity, if it is necessary at all, to say that Government policy is laid down by Ministers, and therefore any newspaper or any foreign Power or any 101 politician who thinks that the policy of this Government is laid down by anybody but the Labour Ministers is making a great mistake.
The Speech from the Throne sets out the programme and policy which the Labour Party believes to be best in the interests of this country and the policy it intends to carry out. Details will be explained more fully by other speakers later in the Debate, but I want, to try this afternoon to bring before the House the gravity of the issues which confront us at home and abroad. It is vital to realise that who have come through difficult years and we are going to face difficult years, and to get through them will require no less effort, no less unselfishness and no less hard work, than were needed to bring us through the war. I know this is a hard saying to people who have worked so much and so hard and suffered so much, but it would be entirely wrong net to represent the facts perfectly plainly before the whole people of this country.
I want to say a few words, first of all, on the international situation. Although the war has been brought to an end, it has left behind it a great aftermath of difficult problems, some of which my right hon. Friend referred to in his speech. I do not want to deal at great length with them because I understand one of the days of this Debate will be devoted to foreign affairs, and I would rather that a full statement was made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary; but no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman opposite how difficult foreign affairs are to-day and how careful we should be not to give false impressions. Almost the whole of Europe has been ravaged and overset. I am not replying just now to the points that my right hon. Friend put to me with regard to the exchanges of population in central Europe. I would rather have a considered statement made by the Foreign Secretary. But I assure the House that that was one of the matters we considered very carefully at Potsdam, because we all of us wish to avoid some of those terrible things that have been happening over the past few years in Europe.
We were in conference only a few days ago, the Foreign Secretary and myself, with President Truman and Marshal Stalin, and we took up the work that had been done by the right hon. Gentlemen 102 opposite. I would like fully to echo what the right hon. Gentleman said about the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and the services he did at Potsdam. We were there dealing mainly with the immediate problems that have arisen out of the defeat of Germany. We did get agreement on many subjects. Others will be considered, and I hope solved, at the meetings of Foreign Ministers, but there are a number of others that must remain over for settlement at the Peace Conference. We have to realise that in all the countries of Europe which have been overrun by Nazi Germany, and in the satellite countries, there are very difficult political problems to be settled. There are many Governments to-day in Europe that rest on no sure foundation of popular election. It is really optimistic to expect the political life in those countries to settle down easily, quickly and smoothly. In many of them political life has never been easy and smooth even in the best of times-of peace. It is our intention everywhere to help to secure that the will of the people shall prevail. We look forward with hope to the emergence of democratic Governments based on free elections to take a part in building up the shattered framework of the European polity. In this task we shall seek to render all the assistance in our power, in co-operation with our Allies, especially with our great Allies, the United States of America and Russia.
But it is necessary to realise that it is not only the political and social life of Europe that has been shattered. The economic situation is very grave. I fear there are many people in Europe who are going to be both cold and hungry this winter despite all that can be done. The reasons are obvious. While the damage done to the industries of the liberated countries has not been as great, I think, as we first feared, the damage to means of communication has been tremendous. Ports, railways, roads and bridges have been destroyed. There is a great shortage of railway rolling stock, a great shortage of lorries, and we have to remember that in countries of advanced industrialisation accustomed to the free movement of supplies from one district to another, there are bound to be local shortages and the general situation will be very difficult. Some of these difficulties are being overcome, but I ought to mention to the House some of the gravest. One is that 103 of coal. All the liberated countries in Western Europe need coal, and without it there is bound to be unemployment. If industry cannot work, railways cannot function, and badly needed food will be lost for want of processing facilities. We must get coal. But it is not easy. Economic difficulties have their repercussions on political stability and all the Governments concerned are doing their utmost to try to improve matters, to try to get an equitable sharing of what there is. We and our Allies are doing our best to increase the production of coal in Germany. There again, time must elapse before we can get anything like back to the pre-war level.
Next in importance to coal is the shortage of transport. Here we will try to do all we can with the release of military vehicles. Thirdly, there is the shortage of food, particularly meat, fats and sugar. It must be realised that there is a world shortage of these due to a number of different causes, and you cannot overtake the shortages, because the food is not there. Owing to the extent of the shipping employed in meeting the needs of the Forces in the Pacific—and it takes time to unravel that—the amounts of raw material that can be moved within Europe and from outside into Europe are very limited. Therefore, these shortages of coal, transport, food and raw materials tend to aggravate each other. We will do our best to help to remedy them, but as the right hon. Gentleman opposite said so well, we have been and still are cut to the bone at home. It is no use thinking this country has some great surplus it can pour into other countries. It cannot. We have cut ourselves very close indeed. While the end of the war with Japan will bring some assistance, it would be unwise to expect it will materially affect the position for some months.
I would like here to make a particular reference about U.N.R.R.A., whose Council is now meeting in London. As the Foreign Secretary has said, we stand by U.N.R.R.A. This organisation has had great difficulties, but it is doing work of the greatest value in those countries that are receiving its aid, and we hope that at this Council meeting arrangements can be made which will enable U.N.R.R.A. to complete its work in the countries where it is now operating and also to extend its full facilities to Italy 104 and Austria, which are at present maintained through military channels.
There is the economic condition of Europe. I am not going to speak of conditions outside Europe, but there is a danger in the Eastern countries as well, and it is in the light of these grave world economic conditions that we must view our own situation. Before the House rises for the Autumn Recess, we are to have a Debate on San Francisco. I do not think that the people of this country have realised sufficiently the importance of this Conference. It may be because it was held a long way away. I think there is a much more vivid realisation in the United States of what is meant, and yet, surely, its purpose—the prevention of a repetition of the horrors of war—ought to appeal to us all, and, today, I think, in the light of recent events, we can say that the achievement of this purpose is not only desirable but vital for the survival of civilisation. Unless the forces of destruction now set loose in the world are brought under control, it is vain to plan for the future. I do not propose to make any statement at the moment with regard to plans for controlling those forces. The thing is new upon us, but it is quite obvious—and statements made by the President of the United States and myself have, I think, made it clear—that this thing must be controlled in the interests of all the people of the world and not exploited for the interests of only one.
The Gracious Speech from the Throne expressed in very few words the policy of the Government in international affairs. As the right hon. Gentleman said, I believe it is a policy on which we can all unite. We sought no advantage for ourselves out of this war. Our desire is to heal the wounds of war, to ensure to all peoples the right to live their own lives in peace and security. We want freedom. I entirely agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the abomination of police rule and about our desire to see freedom, but I equally agree with him when he said that there are limitations on what you can do in intereference with the internal affairs of other States. It is our desire that nations should be free and that the citizens of those nations should be free, but the extent of what we can effect may be more limited. We seek to prevent aggression, to promote an increase 105 of prosperity for all peoples throughout the world by peaceful co-operation, and we seek ourselves, as a free democratic people, to live with all nations, respecting the rights of others and claiming no more from others than what we are prepared to concede to them. As I say, we shall have an opportunity of discussing foreign affairs at more length and in more detail.
I now turn to affairs at home, and, here again, I would like to say something on the general economic position that faces us. I do not think anybody is ignorant of the gravity of the problem. During these last six years, we have deliberately transformed our whole economic system for the single purpose of defeating the enemy in battle. The battle has been won, but the result of the means who had to adopt remains. On the one hand, the machinery of our economic life has been diverted from peace to war, and it is true that, since the end of the war with Germany, we have been making some start in the process of recon version. The right hon. Gentleman said we were in a difficult position with the continuance of the Japanese war, for how long we did not know—a kind of twilight of reconstruction. Well, it is true that we can now move ahead without that war hanging over us, bin it does not alter the fact that the transition is very difficult. We were organised as a war machine to fight the Japanese. That has come to an end, thank Heaven, much earlier than any had expected, but it will take time before the effects can be felt.
That brings me to the point that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned about demobilisation. Everybody knows, and nobody better than the right hon. Gentleman, what happens if you do not have orderly demobilisation. We were looking ahead at the time, and we were not talking of demobilisation, but of the re-allocation of our forces, and we have stated that we would continue the orderly-release of men and women from the Armed Forces, on the basis of the plans announced in the Autumn of last year. Although the actual fighting is over, we have not come to the time of full demobilisation. We have to keep the strength of our Armed Forces at a high level to meet our military commitments. Japan's surrender will not affect our commitments in Europe, and, in the East, 106 we shall still need substantial forces to make our contribution to the occupation of Japan and the recovery of our Colonial possessions and to help in restoring order.
It would be folly to think that you can at once disband your forces. It was one of the weaknesses of the last war. There were no forces in hand to prevent disturbances all over Europe. Therefore, the problem remains one of orderly reduction from the peak strength of total war, to the lower level of this occupational phase, and it was to meet this particular problem that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, when Minister of Labour, devised the demobilisation scheme which was announced last Autumn and which met with very general approval. I think it is essential that demobilisation should continue to be regulated in accordance with those principles. It does not mean that everything is exactly the same, but the broad principles laid down then and accepted by those concerned should be continued: the release in Class A by group based on age and length of service, coupled with limited release under Class B of men whose special skills are needed for the urgent tasks of reconstruction at home.
We propose one addition to the scheme—a Class B release for women, in order to secure the earlier release from the forces of a limited number of women formerly engaged in key occupations, where lack of labour is seriously delaying the restoration of civil production. Although those general principles remain, and the system of demobilisation remains, the surrender of Japan will make it possible, when plans have been re-cast, to accelerate the rate at which men and women are being released. Demobilisation will be speeded up, and while there may be necessarily some variation in the rate of demobilisation between the three Services, we shall see to it that during the next few months we return to civil life as many men and women as can be released from the Forces, consistent with meeting our military commitments and preserving fair dealing between man and man and woman and woman, on which the whole demobilisation scheme is based.
Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of the number he has in mind?
§ The Prime Minister
I think that may be raised later on in the Debate as I have not got the 107 figures with me. The call-up of young men must continue. It has always been a part of the demobilisation plan that the compulsory recruitment of young men should continue in order to bring relief to the older men who bore the burden, and to enable some of them to return to their homes, and the call-up will include numbers of young men at present deferred in the munitions industry. To ensure the speediest possible rate of release, the Government propose that the age at which men may be called up should be retained for the present at 30. There is, of course, a vast demand for labour for the urgent tasks of reconstruction at home, the restoration of civil industries and services to meet the needs both of home markets and the export trade. In the coming months, we shall begin to meet that demand, in part by the release from the Armed Forces, but still more by releases from the munition industry. It is from these sources that we shall provide the early relief for the labour shortage in civil industries. We estimated that within the next eight weeks well over 1,000,000 people will be released from munitions. That is a big readjustment. It is bound to bring a number of difficulties, and, while the total demand for labour will, for some time to come, exceed the supply, some local and temporary unemployment is unavoidable, particularly where factories cannot quickly be reconverted from war-time uses to peace-time production, and in areas where new industries have to be introduced. I think we shall all do a service if we explain to our constituents that they must expect some of these local difficulties.
§ Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)
Hon. Members on that side might have said that at the time of the Election.
§ The Prime Minister
I think the hon. and gallant Member will find that the people on this side were a great deal more temperate in suggestions as to what might be done with regard to demobilisation than the people who, if not actually on the Front Bench, are very influential in the party opposite.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that those who are employed for this limited period will be granted their full wages during that period?
§ The Prime Minister
Perhaps the hon. Member will put that question down. I have not got the immediate answer, but we are trying to make arrangements to see that there will be as little hardship as possible. Perhaps the hon. Member will put that question to the Minister of Labour or make the point in Debate.
From demobilisation and man-power I turn to some other problems. The industries serving the civilian population have not really got under way yet, and our export trade is only a fraction of what it was in pre-war days, and it follows, therefore, that the stocks of consumable goods are still very low, and that to produce them in any great quantities must take time. On the other hand, we are faced with an immense demand for goods and services, which could only be filled by a fully efficient peace-time organisation of all the resources that we can employ. We need a vast increase in homes, in the quantity of household goods, clothing, fuel and everything else. At the same time, there is banked up a great mass of purchasing power in the hands of private individuals and businesses, and people will be anxious to spend it in the satisfaction of their needs.
We therefore face two distinct dangers. The first of all is inflation. No one can doubt what would happen if scarce goods were allowed to go to the highest bidder. Prices would rise. Our limited, precious resources would be wasted without any regard to the order of priority which the national interest demands. The Government are resolved that there shall be no inflation. We are determined that the great principle of the fair and equitable sharing of resources, which has been the basis of our very national existence and our effort during this war, shall not be abandoned, but I would emphasise that, whatever steps may be taken by the Government, we shall require the backing of all the people. I would emphasise again, that whatever controls they abandon people must not abandon self-control. It is a matter of every individual realising that what he does matters, and not assuming that everything is all right for him and that the other man can do the refraining.
There is another danger—unemployment. Much as we rejoice at the sudden victory in the East, it does enhance that 109 danger, and we are trying to release the greatest possible number of men and women with the least possible delay. Bat the adaptation of war industries cannot be effected in a day or two. The places where labour is available may not be those where it is needed for new purposes, and there is the possibility of pockets of unemployment developing. Great efforts will be needed not only by the Government but by employers and workers to reduce to a minimum the waste and wretchedness which would result from delay in fitting those released from war work into peace-time occupations. And there is a further point. The needs of our people at home are very great, but it is as well to face the fact that we shall have to start paying our way for the essential food and raw materials we have to import from abroad. However successful our efforts in the production of food on our own land—and we will do our utmost—we must continue to import a very substantial proportion of our needs if the people are to be properly fed.
A great many of these things have been met by Lend-Lease, by mutual aid, and by increasing our overseas obligation in sterling, and that is a situation which cannot go en indefinitely. Sooner or later, we have to face the fact that we can only buy abroad, if we can pay for imports in goods and services. Therefore, we must set ourselves resolutely to the task of increasing our exports. I have already called the attention of the House and the Government to the shortage of many prominent needs of the community and it is quite idle to suppose that, after all the wastage of the war, we can overtake those shortages rapidly. During the General Election there was some loose talk about the continuance of controls, and some very loose talk by a few irresponsible people about the abolition of all controls but in the existing conditions, which I have tried to describe to the House, it would be absolute madness at the present time to abandon those financial and economic controls which have served us well during the war. There will have to be considerable adjustments, of course. It was precisely because of these conditions of scarcity, and of the need for industry being active in the national interest, that controls had to be imposed, and while those conditions exist, and those requirements continue, controls of one kind or another must remain.
110 I would like to refer to two of the major problems which face the Government and this country. The first is that of housing. I do not suppose that there is anything that is more in the minds of the people. Within the limits open to us, we shall do our utmost to increase and accelerate the erection of houses, but there is a tremendous leeway to be made up. The production and erection of temporary houses has not kept pace with the programme laid down by the late Government, and it must be recognised that nothing we can do in the way of new reconstruction can substantially alleviate the serious position which will arise this winter. We have all had to face that. There was no building, there was the blitz. A start was made and everybody must have realised that we could not recreate those houses in the time at our disposal. It will have to be dealt with by using all our sources of accommodation, by requisitioning empty houses, perhaps by the better use of houses partly occupied through adaptation and conversion. I have been giving consideration to the organisation necessary to ensure the vigorous direction and the concentration of effort in dealing with this urgent need. Any drastic reorganisation of Ministries would require legislation and would cause delay and I have therefore decided, at all events for the present, that responsibility for directing the housing campaign will rest with the Minister of Health, in England and Wales, and in Scotland with the Secretary of State.
The second problem is the very serious coal situation. Last year we only got through by drawing very heavily on our stocks. We face the coming winter with reduced stocks. Output, from causes which have been discussed and are well known, has been declining, and I would make a most earnest appeal to all those concerned in the industry to do their utmost to increase production, and to all coal users to use the utmost economy in fuel, light and power. And that again, is a case where it is no good leaving it to the "other man." It is the mass of individual saving that affects the people. The Government's policy of nationalising the coalmining industry will bring great advantages in the long run [Hon. Members: "How long?"] Wait a moment. I was going to tell hon. Members, but it cannot affect the position this winter. A Bill which could not be introduced until October, would hardly be likely to affect 111 the production of coal this winter, and I must emphasise that, on coming into office, we found a serious situation, and the co-operation of all will be needed if hardships are to be avoided.
Those are the two main anxieties that beset us, but there are many others. We will apply ourselves with vigour to overcoming these difficulties, but we cannot alter the basic facts of the situation. We have the inevitable consequences of a six years' war to grapple with, but it would be a great mistake for a Government to concern themselves only with short-term problems, pressing as these are. Before the war there was, in our view, much that was wrong in the economic and social conditions in this country. A new start is being made under new conditions. We must look ahead to the future and not be for ever casting lingering glances back to a past which cannot be recaptured. We have to set about reconditioning the fabric of the economic life of the nation, in order that our economic resources can be fully utilised in the common interest. We cannot afford to have ill-managed, ill-equipped, unprogressive industries.
It is our policy that the industries and services of this country shall make their maximum contribution to the public good. At the General Election we set very plainly before the electors our policy of bringing under public ownership some of the main factors in the economic life of this country. As has been pointed out in the Gracious Speech, we intend to bring the Bank of England under public ownership and to deal with the problem of the great basic industry of coal. During the whole of the interval between the two world wars, and many years before that, we have heard of the trouble in the coal industry, year by year, and it has had widespread repercussions on our national prosperity and on other industries. Commission after Commission, committee after committee has reported adversely on the structure and organisation. We intend, therefore, to bring this industry under public ownership as part of a wider scheme of converting the provision of fuel, light and power to the public service.
My right hon. Friend opposite referred to the Trade Disputes Act of 1927, which was imposed for the first time in the history of trade union legislation without 112 any discussion with the trade unions. That has long rankled as an act of injustice in the minds of trade unionists. I rather thought my right hon. Friend was going to cite that in another part of his speech where he was talking about freedom. This has lain as an imposition on the right of free association, and has deprived great bodies of citizens of their rights of free association which they had enjoyed for many years without any abuse, so I shall enlist his support, as a libertarian, when we introduce the Bill in favour of this repeal. It may well be that we shall have to consider, after the lapse of years, other matters in connection with the relations of these great bodies to the State, but the first thing is to clear away this thing which has to a large extent poisoned the industrial life of this country. There is one other cogent reason, that if, as we suppose, we have large numbers of citizens entering the service of the State we have to look again at those provisions which were enforced quite unnecessarily on civil servants when this Act was passed.
We also intend to deal with the problem of compensation and betterment, the solution of which is essential for the proper planning of the countryside and the full utilisation of the land in the interests of the people. They are extremely difficult problems. Finally, we intend to introduce legislation which will complete and, I believe, improve the results of the post-war planning carried out in the Coalition Government, providing for a comprehensive scheme of industrial insurance, to extend and improve the existing insurance as part of the system of social security, and to expedite the setting up of a National Health Service.
I freely admit that the programme of work we have laid before this Parliament is heavy, but we are living in a time when great changes are due. The country will expect much from this House. I do not think it will be disappointed. We shall have controversy and keen debate and that is inevitable and right—it is the method of Parliamentary democracy. I have sat too long on the Opposition benches not to be sensitive of the rights of the Opposition and of the rights of Private Members. It is the right and duty of the Opposition to criticise the administration and to oppose and seek to amend the legislation of the Government, but it is none the less the right and 113 duty of the Government to govern and to pass into law the programme which it has been elected to carry out. The successful working of our Parliamentary institutions depends on harmonising these conflicting rights and duties. It will be the object of the Government to preserve the rights of minorities as an essential feature of democracy while, at the same time, ensuring that democratic institutions are not wrecked by a failure to carry out and implement the will of the majority.
I am not asking for any indulgence for this Government—all Governments deserve criticism and should profit by it—but I would like to emphasise again before I sit down, that the situation in which we find ourselves at the end of these six years of war is very difficult. To win through this critical period in our history will require, I think, the continuance of something of the spirit which won the war, a spirit which did not allow private or sectional interests to obscure the common interests of us all and the love which we all have for our native land and for our people.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
May I, in the first place, pay my tribute of congratulation to the mover and seconder of the Motion? I can assure them that, as one who underwent many years ago the same ordeal which they have just undergone, they have my fullest sympathy. Following tradition and, if I may say so, like Agag, they certainly trod with great delicacy, but one realised that they also walked very firmly, and if those two hon. and gallant Gentlemen are a fair sample of the other new Members who have come into this House, then I think our Debates will be strengthened and we shall look forward to hearing those two Members again.
Might I also follow the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in paying my tribute, on behalf of all of us sitting on these benches, to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill)? During long periods of this greatest war in history, when this country and all that it stood for was hanging over an abyss, the depth of which we could not fathom, throughout our darkest peril the figure of the Prime Minister as our leader shone out brilliantly. His sturdy figure, the ringing tones of his 114 voice, his unexampled oratory, were an inspiration to us throughout, and we shall never forget the debt we owe to him. The analogy that often occurred to me with regard to him was that there are times when to each one of us, either in our own selves or with regard to someone who is near and dear to us, there comes an illness and the danger that even the angel of death may be hovering around. While we are waiting with anxiety we hear the firm tread of the physician in whom we have faith, and at once our anxiety is lessened and a new hope arises. Throughout our darkest period we felt in that way with regard to the right hon. Gentleman. Rightly, indeed, has it been said that he has earned his undoubted place in history.
Now we have just congratulated His Majesty and ourselves on coming successfully through this war. That great battle against the outside enemy is over, but a new battle begins here and now, and that is the battle to make peace permanent. There are those of us who will remember at the end of the last war how high were our hopes that that also was a war to end war, and that peace would reign on earth as well as in heaven. How our hopes were dashed, and how we entered an even greater war, is the experience of this generation. The greatest burden will fall upon His Majesty's Government, but I do suggest that there is a responsibility upon each one of us, one and all, to assist His Majesty's Government, as much as it lies in us, to ensure the permanent peace of the world. It can only be secured by a realisation that there must be security for all—strong and weak, poor as well as rich—thatthere must be social justice throughout the whole world, and that each one of us must contribute towards raising the standard of living not only in our country but in every other country.
At the moment, of course, the thought most dominant in our minds is the realisation that the war is over, but I am not sure that in time to come future generations will not mark this year 1945 for the scientific advance that has been made and man's extraordinary conquest over the forces of nature, the full power of which we do not yet know; it may, indeed, be that this is the beginning of an entirely new era; that they will speak of the year 1945 as a year in which, inci- 115 dentally, a war ended but a new force arose in the world which. I hope, and everyone of us hopes, will be for the benefit of mankind everywhere.
I hope that the full effect of this new discovery will be realised. I feel myself that while those two bombs which fell upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought destruction to those places, the full repercussions of the explosion must have been felt in every Chancellery in every country of the world. It brings us, I hope, to a fresh realisation of what is the position to-day and what it is likely to be in the future—that we may need a new valuation, and it may be that it is the idealist who was sneered at in the past who is the true realist of to-day and of the future, and that it was the poet who was nearer the real truth when he visualised "the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world." Security will not come in the future from vast armies or great navies or immense air forces. It may be that one bomb can destroy the navy or the air force in a few seconds. There may have to be a readjustment of these matters, and I believe it can only come by our having throughout the world one rule of law to which all must be subservient—the great nations and the small nations; that that law shall be obeyed by one and all; that there shall be a tribunal to whom all can turn with confidence, to whom they can take their complaints, and which will decide the disputes between States just in the same way as the tribunal now decides between man and man; and that this tremendous power, if it is to be used at any time for destruction, shall be only in the hands of that one sovereign power responsible for the rule of law throughout the world. That is how I see the future, and it may be that it has come at a moment when there will have to be a reconsideration of even the agreements readied at Yalta and at San Francisco.
I can well understand that it is right that this great discovery should be kept secret at the present moment, and it is well that it should be in the hands of that great democratic Power, America, but these matters cannot be kept secret for long. There has been no discovery yet claimed by any single scientist which has not also been claimed by scientists in every other part of the world. Great scientists move on, and it may well be 116 that this secret will also be discovered and even improved upon by other scientists. It cannot be kept from mankind very long. What I am hoping for, what I am longing for, is that the political thought and the political science of this world will at last begin to keep pace with the tremendous movement forward of mechanical invention.
I want to turn for a moment to home affairs. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wood-ford reiterate and re-echo so firmly his belief in the freedom of democracy which he used to utter so well when he was a member of my Party, and which somehow or other we suspect was not uttered so strongly when he joined his new friends. [An Hon. Member: "He turned a few times."] Quite rightly he quoted "Government of the people, by the people, for the people." That has been long the doctrine that we have uttered. We believe sincerely in the freedom of the individual. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear that applause from the Conservative benches. For a whole century we had to persuade them of the value of that. [An Hon. Member: "You were not here then."] No, but our ancestors were.
I was glad to hear, also, the Prime Minister emphasise in regard to controls that in so far as they control individual, liberties they will be removed at the earliest possible moment. But whereas we believe in the spiritual rights which have now been attained for men in this country, we also realise that those rights cannot be enjoyed to the full unless there is also economic security. So far as control over materials is concerned, in order to give fairness and equality I hope those controls will continue, so that there can be, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford, "a better distribution of the blessings of this country."
May I now refer, very shortly, to one or two matters in the Gracious Speech? Other opportunities will arise, but I would like to emphasise now the extreme urgency of the housing problem. I know it is realised by the members of His Majesty's Government, but I hope that they will treat this matter as urgently as any war matter during a war. Death by disease and slumdom is death just as much as if it is caused by a bomb, and I hope that they will tackle this matter, 117 using fully the resources of the country in material and labour until we can provide homes for the people. There have been, I understand, some 3,000,000 marriages during the war. Many of those marriages have been contracted by young people of the Forces. If anybody is entitled to a decent home it is the boy who has fought for the liberty of his country. Before I pass from this subject, may I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health on having attained his great office, which is thoroughly deserved? Those who have sat here and watched him, know his great ability, his great courage and his great heart, always beating on behalf of those who are suffering. I am glad that the housing problem is to be entrusted to him because we know his drive and courage, and I hope he will succeed far better than has been done hitherto with regard to this problem.
The other matter to which I want to refer is coal. Will the Government please bring in their Measure as early as possible? There is nothing worse than uncertainty. One hears of the difficulties of the present moment, that stocks have been reduced to a very low ebb. I am sure that the new Minister of Fuel and Power, whom I congratulate also, will tackle this question as we have watched him tackle other questions in the past. I do not want to take up the time of the House any more with regard to individual matters. I would like to end with this. So far as we are concerned we wish this Government well. Speaking on behalf not only of my colleagues here, but of the 2,250,000 people who voted Liberal in the recent Election——
§ Mr. Davies
Speaking on their behalf I am sure that we can all rejoice at the end of the Tory régime, at the end of reaction and chaos. We are looking forward not only in this country but in all countries of Europe, where democracy is rising with new hope, to this progressive Government. The situation reminds me very much of the new House which assembled in January, 1906. There were a number of young Members here then, all eager and anxious after 20years, practically, of Tory government. They came here in full hope, but unfortunately at that time all they desired to do was being 118 frustrated because the Tories maintained power through another place. To-day, fortunately, the power of that other place has been cut down and the road of this Government towards progress is clear. We wish this Government well, but we want them to take that road firmly. We want them to show plenty of backbone, determination and courage. [An Hon. Member: "Do not worry."] I am not worrying; I am just expressing the hope. Why should I not give them this reminder? If they fail, if there is a breach of faith, they will not only do permanent damage to their own party, but to the cause of democracy throughout the world. They may do more damage even than 20 dictators. I am perfectly sure that they will go on with this great programme; all I hope is that prosperity will follow upon their work.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Cooper (Middlesbrough, West)
It is, I feel, a great honour to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, at this early stage in the Debate on His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, and to have this opportunity of addressing this august and honourable House. The remarks of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have so far spoken have been somewhat more generalised than those which I wish to make to the House to-day. My great interest for some considerable time, I noticed with great satisfaction, has been referred to in His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech and has not yet been mentioned in this Debate. I refer to the Measure which is to be laid before this House for the reorganisation of our air transport. That will give, I know, a tremendous sense of satisfaction to many hon. Members here and to a great many people outside and, not least, to those who, in the Royal Air Force, have learned something of what the air can mean, what it can achieve and something of the technical problems associated with it.
It is very gratifying to all these people to know that His Majesty's Government appreciate the great importance that civil flying means, and will mean, to the future of the world. I think that in particular there are four main headings under which this importance lies. First, our export trade will be enormously facilitated by an energetic, efficient and adequate air line organised throughout the British Empire 119 and beyond. Secondly, civil aviation will aid, I feel, the development of our Colonies, and will link with a closer tie the bonds of union which already exist within the British Commonwealth. Thirdly, we have already, in embryro, the example of a nationalised organisation in the British Overseas Airways Corporation. If this example of nationalisation is made the fine specimen that I feel it can be, it will inspire confidence throughout the country in the Government's scheme of nationalisation to see this existing example achieving great ends. Fourthly, the great importance of the air has been shown in the way in which it has been used for the purposes of destruction in war-time. The air can no less, I feel, be the paramount instrument: for spreading and crystallising peace throughout the world. It can be the means of spreading the principles and spirit of democracy for which this country stands.
The great question which ranks high in the minds of those who are interested in civil aviation is whether His Majesty's Government will be able to succeed in organising it successfully where, in the past 20 or more years, previous Governments have failed. I think they can; in fact, I know they can, and the reason for this confidence is that His Majesty's Government understand something of what is required by the socialisation of industry. It could hardly be expected that a nationalised undertaking such as the B.O.A.C. should succeed during the time that it was controlled by those who did not believe in the great possibilities of socialised industry. Yet, I feel that the Corporation can be made a very fine example of nationalisation which will spread confidence throughout the country if only it is given a chance to succeed. When any enterprise consistently fails to achieve what is expected of it the answer to this failure nearly always rests with those at the top.
Therefore, when, in His Majesty's Speech, it is put forward that a reorganisation is required it gives a great sense of satisfaction to many to know that that can be done, that it will be done and that it will be done at an early date. In other words, it can be the means of expressing the great spirit of democracy. It can be the means of expressing something of that spirit which we have seen expressed by those who have taken part in this war, 120 not only in the Fighting Forces but in the factories where they have devoted their enterprise, skill, and all they had to ensure success, to ensure early victory.
That spirit can still find scope in peacetime in the socialisation of industry, where there is democracy rather than a dictatorship of a small board of directors as the controlling influence. Already we have entrusted, for many years, the affairs of this State to democratic control. During the last 50 years or so democracy has grown up in the family life. In the family, consultation now rakes the place of what was before, during the Victorian period, the autocratic dictation of parents. In this third great field of social activity we can now provide for democratic control which will enable democracy to express itself in reorganised industry I feet that His Majesty's Government will give due consideration to the composition of the boards of control or boards of governors of industries about to be socialised. If in other words there is likely to be represented on these boards those who have first-hand technical and administrative experience suited to these particular industries then this new method of organisation will succeed in a grand and even noble way.
If, further, this particular example of nationalisation which already exists in B.O.A.C. has on its board of governors those who have first-hand experience of aeronautics, of air transport and of business oganisation in preference to what is there at the present time, then this example can be a first-rate example and show that the air transport of this country can be second to none. The board of control of B.O.A.C. should represent, 1 feel, those who are engaged in the business of air transport. If it represents the various sections of those who are keen to see that our air transport shall succeed, then nothing can hold it back. At present, this, is far from the case. Previous Debates in this House have shown that there is widespread inefficiency still persisting in this example of nationalisation, and I am sure it will be the intention of His Majesty's Government to eliminate such inefficiency as exists in this example at the present time.
I would like to close with the remark that I do feel a tremendous sense of confidence in the intentions of His Majesty's Government to reorganise the iron and 121 steel industry, which is of special interest to my constituents. If one example of socialised industry is already in being, it will pave the way for the socialisation of three other industries which it is proposed to carry through at an early date.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Captain Gammans (Hornsey)
It is my pleasant duty to try to express, not only on my own behalf but on behalf of the whole House, our congratulations to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Wing-Commander Cooper) on his maiden speech. It is quite obvious that this House is going to be all the richer for the large number of young men who have come straight into it from the Forces. We have had the good pleasure of listening to three of them this afternoon, and all of them, I think, have set a very high standard not only by what they have said, but by the eloquence with which they have said it. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down will be able to contribute very much in discussions in the future on civil aviation, which is going to take up a large part of the programme of this Government.
I would like to say one word on the Prime Minister's statement with regard to Professor Laski. I do not want to waste much time on it, because I do not think it is worth while wasting much time on Professor Laski. When, yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity of reading for the first time the Gracious Speech, I said to myself: "I have read this all before." I think we had all read it before, because, as far as the domestic programme of the Government was concerned, the whole of that programme had already been broadcast by Professor Laski to the U.S.A. I would like to ask the Prime Minister what is the explanation of that. Was it that he went and saw Professor Laski first, or was Professor Laski revealing Government secrets and Cabinet discussions? It was either one thing or the other, or he could not have got it word for word as it was in the broadcast to the U.S.A. If Professor Laski is to be used as the mouthpiece for the Cabinet, at least his remarks might be broadcast over the Home Service, so that we may have the pleasure of listening to them.
At the recent Election, the Labour Party, I think, put forward two propositions. The first was the usual proposition 122 of abusing their opponents. We an; used to this pharisaical attitude. After all, the Labour Party are the political Pharisees of this generation. They thank God daily that they are not as other men. This time there was something new: there were promises by the bucketful. Although it is a little early in the Session to remind hon. Members opposite of some of those promises, nevertheless the President of the Board of Trade did promise that if the Labour Party got into power they could deal with the housing situation in a, fortnight. I was very pleased to hear the Prime Minister doing a little hedging on that this afternoon. The Foreign Secretary also assured us that the Labour Government were going to abolish the India Office, and we were also promised, if they got into power, that there would be a Minister of Housing. This is very interesting, but in both of these respects they are following the identical procedure of the late Government. We have been told we should not only get houses, but at prices we can all afford. One or two promises have been made with regard to the future of the Jews in Palestine, which I think will prove rather difficult to fulfil in this present Parliament.
However, all this is party and election exuberance from a Party which I do not think expected to be returned with such a majority, or, in fact, expected to be returned at all. I was very interested to hear the Prime Minister this afternoon putting a brake on such enthusiasm, He was reminding this House, and also his own Party, that they must now face the facts. I wish some of his hon. Friends had said this while the Election was on. He rather reminded me of a man who has had a night out at poker and has succeeded in signing a large number of I.O.U.s; and now he is calling on the bank not to press him too quickly to pay them off.
Quite seriously, I do not think the Prime Minister put our economic position in its stark reality, or has warned the people of this country what we shall inevitably be up against in the next few years. In four respects, the economic position of this country has deteriorated catastrophically since 1939. First, we have lost—temporarily, we hope—the greater part of our export trade. The second thing that has happened to us is that the greater part of our overseas investments have now 123 been liquidated. Let us remember that it was the interest on these overseas investments that paid for nearly one third of the imports into this country. We now owe in the sterling area between £3,000,000,000 and £4,000,000,000, which is equal to eight years' pre-war export trade if we did not import anything at all. I imagine that will be funded, but even if we succeed in funding it, at a favourable rate of interest, it is going to add some £200,000,000 to what has to be exported by this country without receiving a single thing in return. We must also note that, in comparison with the United States, our co-efficient of industrial efficiency is showing a very serious lag. In coalmining I think the American miner turns out nearly four times as much in a shift as the British miner; in the textile industry it is two and a half as compared with one. I do not want to go into the reasons for it, but it is up to my right hon. Friends opposite to prove that this lag can be overcome.
These are facts and very unpleasant facts, too. Let us realise what this means, especially so far as the export trade is concerned. We are the most vulnerable economic unit in the world. We can produce only half our food, and we have only one raw material in home production, and that is coal. All the rest has to be imported our oil, timber, steel, rubber, cotton and so on. In the United States, Russia and France exports are a means of paying for imports which, at a pinch, they can do without, but this country has to import or it has to starve, and only so far as we can pay for these imports with a comparable amount of exports are we able to import at all. When we remember the loss of our overseas investments and this additional burden because of the debt we have incurred, our exports compared with 1939 have not only to be brought back to their previous level, but have, virtually, to be doubled. I was hoping to hear far more than we heard this afternoon from the Prime Minister as to how that task is to be done, because unless it is, we cease to exist as a great industrial Power.
What are we living on now? There, at least, the Prime Minister was frank and honest. We are living on the bounty of the United States and on our debts. I imagine now that the Japanese war is over that Lend-Lease from Canada and 124 the United States must soon come to an end. What are we going to do in that interim period between the cessation of Lend-Lease and the building up of our export trade? If there was a time when we should get on with the United States it surely is now, and I cannot help feeling that some of the remarks made during the recent Election and what I would term one of the mischievous remarks made during the Election by the President of the Board of Trade when he suggested that only a Left wing Government in this country could get on with Russia, are not going to do this country any good. Surely, if there are two men in this country to-day who have done their best to get on with Russia it is the former Prime Minister and the former Foreign Secretary. That remark, if it meant anything at all except pure mischief, might be taken in an entirely different connection in the U.S.A. because it must mean that only a Right wing Government can get on with the United States.
I do not know whether hon. Members opposite have a chance to read the American newspapers or listen to the American radio, but if they do, they cannot fail to notice that that remark, and other remarks like it, have had an effect on public opinion in the United States which is not going to make it easier for them to negotiate financial arrangements with the United States during these critical months ahead. I would be the first to agree that it would be wrong of the United States to draw any deductions from remarks made during election exuberance, but mischievous remarks like that may come back on the heads not only of those who made them but on the standards of living of the British people.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Is the hon. and gallant Member suggesting that there is some break between the United States and Russia, and if he were suggesting that, can he imagine anything more mischievous? If he is not suggesting that, what on earth is he talking about?
§ Captain Gammans
The hon. Member must ask the President of the Board of Trade what he meant by his remark. I think it was a most deplorable remark to make at a General Election or at any other time.
With regard to the economic proposals of His Majesty's Government, to my 125 mind there are two acid tests we can apply to them, whether it be the organisation of the cotton industry, the nationalisation of the coal industry or civil aviation, or whatever it may be. It is this: Will these proposals lower costs without lowering wages? The second acid test is, Will it guarantee employment without taking away personal liberty? So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to approach all their proposals in that spirit, not in a spirit of the ideology of the one side or the other. If they can prove to me that their plans for the coal industry will lower costs without lowering wages, that their proposals, while guaranteeing employment, will still allow men to retain their individual liberty, I am prepared to support those or any other proposals. That is the acid test, nothing else.
I wish to say a word on foreign policy. If the economic position of this country has deteriorated catastrophically since 1939, I would suggest that our security position has deteriorated equally catastrophically. During the whole of the 19th century we here could afford to remain more or less isolationist as to what happened on the Continent of Europe. We were protected by the Royal Navy and by the English Channel. In this war the English Channel proved to be little more than a tank trap, and in the end did not save us from flying bombs and rockets. Now we have the atomic bomb. Therefore, I wish to suggest to His Majesty's Government that from now on, the basis of their foreign policy must be the security of this island. We are the most vulnerable political unit in the world, with our vast centres of population and the targets they present from the air. Our other Allies are thinking of the post-war world in that sense. As the result of this war it seems to me that Russia will have nearly double the population of the countries closely associated with her. She has done that in the interests of her own security. The United States of America has acquired bases in the Caribbean and the Far East purely on the grounds of their own security. Therefore, we, who are immeasurably more vulnerable than either of those two countries, must think of foreign policy from now on, only in terms of the security of this island.
What is Labour's foreign policy? I hope I do not have to judge that foreign policy 126 from some of the statements made at the Blackpool Conference, because, if we take these at their face value, what they are interested in is not anything which has to do with security in this country, but the question of whether or not there is a Left wing Government in some other country. We are not interested whether the Government of another country is Left wing, Centre, Right wing, red, pink or yellow. What matters to us is whether that Government of that country is favourable to the security of this country.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
Will the hon. and gallant Member quote the person who spoke about not thinking about ourselves in foreign policy? Is the hon. and gallant Member quoting the Foreign Secretary?
The hon. Member has forced me to be ungallant enough to remind the Minister of Education of some remarks with regard to "upper crust" Governments on the Continent of Europe. To my mind that is a most dangerous aspect from which to regard our foreign policy. After all, what is a Left wing Government or a Right wing Government when one comes down to it? It is perfectly obvious to a lot of us that a lot of Left wing Governments for which my hon. Friends opposite have a soft spot, have certainly nothing to do with democracy. They are not countries where the ballot box rules or has ever ruled. I suggest that in the dangerous days ahead we should put aside all this nonsense and come down to the acid test of whether the Governments with whom we are friendly, are prepared to add to the security of this island. If we approach foreign policy in any other spirit, we are moving into the most dangerous years in the history of this country.
There is one thing more I wish to say. Let me remind His Majesty's Government that they have assumed office, they have assumed responsibility and have assumed power at a time when the prestige of this country is higher than it has ever stood. Prestige is not a matter purely of pride, and certainly not of arrogance. Prestige carries with it, above all, the responsibility of leadership. I, for one, cannot look back at those six tragic years and see the struggle between ourselves and the Axis Powers purely in terms of materialism. When I think of the odds which were against us in 1940, I feel that we were saved then by Providence, not only 127 because there was something in this country worth saving, but because there rested upon us a task which no other country could do—rather, I would say, two tasks. I think we performed one in 1940 when we alone were prepared to go on fighting. I think the other and in some ways the greater task now lies ahead of us.
What is it? Surely, above all, it is to restore to international life the sanctity of the pledged word, to restore to international life the insistence that principles and not expediency must guide us, and must guide all countries in the world. Right is right and wrong is wrong, whether it comes from an enemy, Ally or neutral, and only in so far as these principles guide our foreign policy shall we fulfil that function in the world. I believe that as never before, this Parliament and the people of this country must turn their eyes outwards on the world and not merely on our problems at home, because if our foreign policy fails, everything fails with it, and the plans of His Majesty's Government, whether they be good or otherwise, just become meaningless.
I believe that in home affairs too we have a duty to the world. We are easily the oldest democracy; we are easily the most experienced Legislature that exists to-day. Unlike so many other countries we have solved many of our fundamental problems already—religious intolerance, freedom of the Press, freedom of the individual, and so on. The great task in the economic field to-day is to reconcile economic security and planning on the one hand with individual liberty on the other. I believe that we here in Westminster are fitted above every other country, to carry out experiments in that direction and find the solution for them. These are the real tasks which face His Majesty's Government in the next four years, and it is upon the solution of those tasks that their record will be judged.
§ 5.55 P.m.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I begin, as the other speakers have done, by congratulating the mover and the seconder of the Address and also the other hon. and gallant Member who made his maiden speech to-day. I think what we have heard was in accordance with the highest traditions of this House. I have heard many of these speeches in other Parliaments and I think that to- 128 day's show great promise for the present Parliament. I also take this opportunity, as a Member of the I.L.P., of saying how much we join in the general rejoicing that peace has again been restored to the world. I would further like to say to many of my old friends who are in the Government to-day how much I rejoice that we have the opportunity of seeing another, the third, Labour Government in this country, this time a Labour Government with an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. My colleagues and I hope that this Government may do very great things on behalf of the people of our country.
The King's Speech gives promise of a very heavy programme, and I hope that during this Session the Government will be able to make good many of the points of policy that have been adumbrated in that programme. When the Prime Minister was speaking, he indicated that it is the intention of the Government to take up all the time of the House—all the Private Members' time. I have had occasion to protest about other Governments invading the rights of Private Members. [Interruption.] I would say to the hon. and gallant Member beside me that I will not take any dictation from him or any other Member of his party.
§ Mr. Stephen
I am sorry if the interruption did not come from the hon. and gallant Member, but as he had made a similar interruption when I was cheering the Prime Minister, I thought he was returning to what he then said. I say to his colleagues and to the Independent Conservative that I will not take dictation from any Member of the Conservative Party or from the single Member of the Independent Conservative Party in this House. As one who has been interested in the rights of Private Members, but is more interested in carrying through a great social programme, I say that I would not have much objection to the Government taking this course. I think of what we had in past Parliaments with regard to the rights of Private Members. We had the Wednesday, when Private Members might bring forward Motions, and many Members regarded it as a holiday. We turned ourselves from being a legislative body——
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
On a point of Order. Are we still on the Address, or are we now discussing the Motion on Business and the Sittings of the House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The hon. Member is discussing the Address, and I hope he will confine himself to that.
§ Mr. Stephen
I was referring to the course of Business that the Prime Minister indicated in his speech. I do not want to take up the time of the House in this matter, but I would throw out this suggestion and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will not object if I do so. In connection with the carrying through of the programme and the rights of Private Members, the Government might consider setting up a Select Committee to discuss how best to utilise the ability of all Members of the House, I am putting forward that suggestion now in older to save time in subsequent debate.
I come now more directly to the programme set forth in the King's Speech. To my mind the first priority in the business of this country is the subject of providing houses for our people. There is no question that is of greater importance. It was with a certain feeling of hope that I noticed the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in dealing with this question promised that the Government would deal with it in the same way as we dealt with the subject of munitions of war. [Interruption.] The hon. Member still feels very sore about the tax, but I think the hon. Member and most Members of the Labour Party will agree with me that, if we are to solve this housing problem we have to deal with it on very different lines from those adopted hitherto. We have to use those methods which were employed during the war, and I hope the Government will take full powers to do so. The Minister of Health, whom I congratulate upon his appointment, has been a very sturdy critic of Governments in the past. He has proved himself a man of vision, and I hope he will now add greatly to his reputation by becoming a great Minister of Housing, because only by being a great Minister of Housing can he also be a successful Minister of Health.
So far as Scotland is concerned, the housing position is much worse than it is in England. I would like very much to relate some of my experiences in my own 130 division during past years in connection with this problem. I would like to relate some of the stories that were told to me by the wives of men abroad fighting for the country in the various spheres of war, women who, with their children, were faced with a deadly terror in their own homes, the house being overrun by rats and who were unable to get anything done to deal with the situation. The Prime Minister to-day indicated that the Government were fully seized of the importance of the housing question. I hope the Government will employ the same methods to provide our people with decent homes as were employed to provide the munitions of war.
I wish to say a word with regard to the change-over from war-time industry to peace-time industry. I interrupted the Prime Minister when he was telling us that he wanted the House to realise that the people must have a certain amount of patience, to realise the difficulties there would be and the consequent unemployment which would take place, for the time being, during the transition. I put to him the question whether the Government would not take the necessary steps to see that those people who were displaced curing this interim period would be given their ordinary rate of wages while they were unemployed. I am confident that that is the only just way of dealing with this question. The Prime Minister answered by referring me to the Minister of Labour. I do not notice the right hon. Gentleman on the bench, but perhaps the Deputy Leader of the House will convey to him the importance that hon. Members place upon this question of the treatment of those who are unemployed during this interim period. In the last Government the Minister of Labour raised the rate of unemployment benefit to 24s. a week. There were many criticisms among Members of his own party. There is a feeling among Members of the Labour Party that it was not just, that a working man who was denied employment through no fault of his own should be put into the economic position of losing so much income per week. The Prime Minister promised me that the Government were trying to arrange that there would be as little hardship as possible. I am to-day putting it to the Government that it would make a very good beginning for them if in their treatment of the working people of this country they adopted the principle which 131 I have suggested, and see to it that no man or woman should suffer loss of income through unemployment for which he or she is in no way responsible.
I want also to say a word to the Minister of Pensions. I do not see anything in the King's Speech especially referring to a big change in the treatment of the men and women who have become victims of the war. I put it to this new House that with this overwhelming Labour majority the Government should now adopt the principle which was advocated by the Minister of Pensions and by some of the rest of us who were particularly interested in this question in the days when we were all in Opposition—"Fit for service, fit for pension." I commend it to the Minister of Pensions. It will mean a great deal to many poor people in the country if this principle is accepted. I would also point out that if it is accepted he, the Minister, might possibly close down all the appeal tribunals. He would save very much by giving justice to the people who have suffered disability during the war. I hope that the Minister of Pensions will be as bold now in his position of full responsibility as he used to be when he led for the Labour Party in the Opposition with regard to this matter.
I do not want to be unreasonable with the Government. I know that everything cannot be done all at once, but with regard to housing, the people will feel confidence if the Government indicate that they are going to act, as the Foreign Minister said, by applying war methods to the production of houses. We should all be satisfied if they would say that they would take care that there is no reduction of income for people who become unemployed through no fault of their own, and if they adopt the principle of "fit for service, fit for pension."
I hope that the Government will be very successful. We realise that the position in which the Government take over is difficult in the extreme. They take over a concern that has gone very near to bankruptcy under Tory misgovernment. I want to say a word to the party above the Gangway, on my right here. When they sat on the Government benches I often addressed words of admonition to them, but I always did so with the feeling that I would rather be doing something else. Now I do it with a great deal of satisfac- 132 tion. I want to refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who preceded me. I have no objection whatever to his Laski-it is. Let him keep on with it. I am sure there are a lot of people sitting on the Government benches now because of Laski-it is during the Election. I know that wiser Members among the party now on the Opposition side of the House agree with me on that point. I want to complain about that part of the hon. and gallant Member's speech in which he seemed to indicate that he and others in the Tory Party are going to follow the same line of criticism as they did from 1929 to 1931 of discrediting the Labour Government. My complaint is that during those years the Tory Party in their criticism pursued a policy which lowered the credit of this country as a trading community throughout the world, and almost brought this country into absolute ruin. [Laughter.] Hon Members may laugh——
§ Mr. Stephen
I am sorry if the hon. Member has a frozen lip. Foreign economists took their cue from Members of the Conservative Party in this country, and were persuaded that Britain was a spent force, that we had reached the limit of our greatness and were going into absolute ruin. They were prepared to do that in order to secure party advantage. I hope they will not do it again. I hope they will not say anything that will tend to destroy the economic and financial credit of this country in relation to other countries of the world.
§ Mr. Stephen
Up the Bank-rate or down the Bank-rate, I ask hon. Members to try for one period in their history to put country before party. The I.L.P. have always put the interests of the working people of the country before any of their own individual interests. I am saying that I hope hon. Members above the Gangway will—[An Hon. Member: "We are all right down here."]—The hon. Member who has interrupted me this time made a reference to his present position in the House. My party has occupied this position for many years now, and the hon. Member may take it that we propose to occupy it in this Parliament as well. I say to hon. and right hon. Members above the Gangway, with regard to the 133 housing conditions of the people of this country, that the miserable places in which our people are housed and the general standard of poverty of our people reflect upon the way in which that party misgoverned the country during all those years. I hope that the new Government will carry through a great policy of social reform. I am confident that the people of this country expect great things from the Government. I hope that events will show that the people are not in front of the Government, and that they are not expecting more from the Government than the Government are willing to give. I hope that the Government will meet with the very greatest success in carrying through a policy of progress. We may be critical if we feel that they are disappointing the hopes of the common people of the country, but if they carry their programme through with courage and vision, they will have every support from us. I hope that the people of Britain will, as a result, be in much happier circumstances at the end of this Parliament, than they were when it began.
§ Ordered: "That the Debate be now adjourned."—[Mr. Whiteley.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.