HL Deb 18 May 1954 vol 187 cc642-8

2.39 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to move to resolve, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, assuring Her Majesty on the occasion of her return from her historic Commonwealth Tour, of the loyal and affectionate welcome of this House to Her Majesty and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. My Lords, I do not pretend that I have not found it extremely difficult to find words in any way worthy of this occasion. I am very conscious that anything one can say at such a time must be far below the level of what the occasion requires. How can we tell Her Majesty, in any words that we can devise, all that she means to us and to the whole Commonwealth and Empire? How can we thank her adequately for all that she and the Duke of Edinburgh have done to cement and strengthen that great institution by those five months of arduous and often perilous travel?

My mind goes back to that cold evening of an English November, when she started on this great adventure, and of the last view that we had of her, framed in the doorway of the aeroplane, before she set off across the stormy wastes of the winter Atlantic. That flight set the keynote for the whole Empire tour. There was no endeavour that Her Majesty would not make, no risk she would not run, to make herself known to her peoples—and the results are already to be seen. By millions of people, of almost every race and religion under Heaven, she, who till then had been merely a name, has become revered, has become loved, has become part of the fabric of their being. The Crown has been merged in the Queen, and the Queen has been merged in the radiant personality they know. That, surely, is the very essence of kingship—that human personal relationship which, though so imponderable, is so strong that it will stand up against any strain that may be put upon it; no mere constitutional symbol, but something living and pulsating.

My Lords, the immense service which Her Majesty has done at the present critical juncture of our history by this historic journey through the Commonwealth and Empire is impossible to value. It is, I believe, beyond all value. For we live in times of storm and stress such as have been unknown for centuries, and perhaps in the whole of history. All those foundations on which our civilisation rests are being threatened: in some places they have crumbled and gone down in ruin. There never was a time when it was so vital that in our family of nations, at any rate, those spiritual ties, so impalpable yet so enduring, which above all hold us together, should be renewed and fortified. My Lords, the British Crown is known to-day throughout a distracted world, as the symbol of all that is sane and all that is good. There are many, far outside the boundaries of the Commonwealth itself, to whom it shines out—as we came to know at the time of the Coronation—like a beacon on a dark night. By this new testimony that she has given of her devotion to the cause to which she has dedicated her life, Her Majesty has brought new courage and new hope to her peoples within the Commonwealth, and, to countless millions in countries outside it, a further example of those enduring qualities for which our country and the British Commonwealth stands. My Lords, on this historic occasion, we in this House tender to Her Majesty our loyal, devoted and most heartfelt thanks. May God bless her and keep her! I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, assuring Her Majesty, on the occasion of her return from her historic Commonwealth Tour, of the loyal and affectionate welcome of this House to Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)

2.45 p.m.


My Lords, noble Lords on this side of the House desire to be completely identified with the Motion which the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has just moved. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to make any worth-while addition, either to what has been so finely said to-day by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House or to the eloquent tributes which were paid yesterday in another place. It is plain to everyone that the Royal Tour has been an outstanding success, surpassing even our highest hopes. Her Majesty has proved once more that sense of dedication to her great position of which we have already had so many proofs. By her charm, her grace, her dignity, and by her thoughtfulness for others, she has endeared herself still further to her peoples. It is fitting, too, that we should recognise the unfailing skill, wisdom and tact with which His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh has played his difficult part. To him indeed this country owes much.

By this tour I believe that Her Majesty has demonstrated that this country and this Commonwealth, and the traditions for which we and they stand, have a contribution to make to this distracted world as great as any they could make in the days when our military strength and prowess were pre-eminent. But does not the welcome she has received, alike in old countries and in new countries, reveal the fact that the Throne is broad-based upon the people's will; that in constitutional Monarchy we have an instrument which enables us to meet present difficulties in a way which accords with ancient traditions; that we uphold the ideal of an ever-expanding liberty, guarded and conditioned by order, without which liberty cannot long survive; and that we wish all people, secure in their own freedom, to be allowed the opportunity to work out their destiny, without external interference, and that for this purpose we shall strive to establish the rule of law alike in domestic and international affairs—the noblest contribution that any country can make towards the solution of world problems? All these things seem to me to be the real significance of the visit to which Her Most Gracious Majesty has so splendidly and so ungrudgingly given everything she possesses.

2.48 p.m.


My Lords, I desire to associate noble Lords on these Benches with the Motion now before the House. It has been a long journey, nearly half a year; over great distances, equal to twice round the Equator; not only over sea and land but through the air, and liable to many possible mishaps—accident, fatigue, illness. It is a great relief to everyone that no misadventure has befallen Her Majesty the Queen, or His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, and that the bells were able to ring out and the peoples to rejoice at their safe return. It has been a mission of friendship—friendship for persons, friendship for peoples. One of our great novelists, in one of his novels, has one of his characters say to another, "You make friends wherever you go"; and the answer comes, "It's because I show people I mean well… And besides, they see I look forward. I do hope for the good of the world." The Queen and the Duke might say just that, and that is why they make friends wherever they go.

This great journey has been not only a matter of personal contacts and social gatherings, important as those are, of tribal ceremonies going back beyond history, of triumphal arches, illuminations, cheering peoples. Besides all that, there has been constitutional work done, there have been acts of State: the opening of Sessions of Parliament; Speeches from the Throne, spoken, as here, by the Sovereign in person; meetings of the Privy Council, an organ of the Constitution older than Parliament itself, for wherever the Sovereign is, and three Privy Counsellors are present, there may be meetings of the Council and Orders passed. So, during this tour there have been sessions of the Privy Council in Australia, in New Zealand and in Ceylon, with their own local Privy Council members—members of the one single Imperial Privy Council, but their own local members. The Throne, ever present in your Lordships' House, is a constant reminder that our Parliament consists not only of the Members of the two Houses but of. the Sovereign as well, who is not separate and, possibly, at variance, but an essential element in the Parliament, in our democratic Constitution itself. The Statute of Westminster established the equality of all self-governing Dominions, including this land. It was enacted here, and re-enacted and echoed back from the Parliaments of the other members of the Commonwealth. By these Acts of State by the Sovereign, the Statute of Westminster has been shown to their peoples as a living reality. All their citizens feel themselves part of something greater than themselves, something august, historic and world-wide: it heightens their sense of their own dignity; it gives them a fuller understanding of the meaning and the reality of their own liberties.

My Lords, there is one thing more that I would wish to say. We in this century have had enough, and more than enough, of war and enmity and hatred and cruelty and crime and horror and fear. It is time for a corrective. These are not all that there is in our modern civilisation. We can show that there may be, and that over vast areas of the globe there is, internal peace, order, freedom, friendship, prosperity. And we know, indeed, that all this rests on unseen moral and spiritual foundations, and without them the whole structure will prove fragile and transitory. Bearing that in mind, after so many tribulations, we would wish, I think, in this country and in the Commonwealth, to strike now a note of happiness and cheerfulness. It began two years ago, with the Festival of Britain. Then came the great popular demonstrations at the Coronation. Now, there has been this epic progress through the Commonwealth, and, at the centre and the symbol of it all, our radiant Queen.

2.53 p.m.


My Lords, the Queen's return from a task so triumphantly fulfilled and a service so generously rendered to all her peoples moves us, as the Leader of the House said just now, to those profound emotions which most defy adequate expression. The journey from Westminster Pier has taken Her Majesty all but twelve months, and has taken her right round the world. And in that journey we, as Christian folk and as members of the Commonwealth, have seen fulfilled all that was prayed for, promised and performed in her Consecration and her Crowning.

In our human associations and in our national loyalties, integrity and integration of life are fully found and enjoyed only when what we sometimes distinguish as our religious and our secular emotions are in complete concord and harmony. It is both a religious and a secular truth that men in their civic and their national societies need a focus of their unity and purpose. And if that focus is fully to satisfy their deepest needs it must be in a person who can engage their loyalty and affection; and that person who thus unites and holds them must be so near to them in sympathy as to be accepted as one of them and so above them in position and personal authority as to lift them out of themselves, enlarge their loyalties and increase their understanding of their common purposes. This human need meets its full and final satisfaction beyond the reach of what man can do or be. There is a glory which is celestial; but there is also a glory which is terrestrial, and which has its glory by reflecting the celestial. We properly thank God that He has so provided, preserved and fashioned the Crown in the heritage of this country that it can be the focus of our national unity and purpose, embodied in the person of the Sovereign, placed to be the expression of our common life and the exemplar of our highest purposes. And it is surely one of the marvels of history and of God's good will that, as from this country has grown a Commonwealth of nations and races, like-minded in the laws of government and in the liberties of human life, so, step by step, the conception of the Crown has grown and expanded too. So that, far surpassing its original limits, it can be—and wonderfully is—the focus of unity and purpose, no longer for one country, no longer for an Empire, in the sense in which the word "Empire" was once used, but for a great company of diverse nations and races pledged in fellowship to preserve freedom, to propagate its peaceful laws and to increase and grow in obedience to its exacting demands.

My Lords, these simple and familiar realities lay behind the emotions and prayers that attended Her Majesty at her Coronation. They lie behind the emotions that greet her return from this great tour. The Crown imposes now ever-increasing and more exacting obligations which can be performed only by a rare combination of devotion to duty, personal gifts and spiritual dedication. The Queen has stood up to every obligation and every strain imposed upon her with the power of selfless dignity, of sincere happiness and of inward peace. So she has grown into her office during this year, and into the hearts of all her peoples. And the Commonwealth has grown with her in old loyalties renewed and in new confidence gained. And so it is with gratitude, admiration and affection that we welcome her back once more to this country.

3.0 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to express, on behalf of the National Liberal Party, wholehearted support for the Motion so eloquently moved by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. This unique and unprecedented demonstration, not only of devotion to the Crown but in tribute to the great personal qualities of Her Majesty, has shown the unity and friendship between self-governing nations, democratically ruled, in manifesting their common purpose, through their loyalty and affection so spontaneously shown to the gracious Queen whose destiny it is to wear the Crown. It is often assumed that our greatness is on the wane. This has been shown to be an illusion by the glorious welcome given to Her Majesty by the young nations of the Commonwealth. This could have been inspired only by one who has shown wholehearted devotion to the practical fulfilment of her sense of public duty. Her Majesty has set an example not only to her own peoples but to all the nations who desire to further the cause of human progress in conditions of liberty and peace. It is difficult, as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has said, to set out in words the great service which Her Majesty has rendered to us all, and to express in any full sense our indebtedness to her. God bless the Queen!

On Question, Motion agreed to,nemine dissentiente: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by Privy Counsellors.