His Majesty's Government.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 13th May 1940.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Austin Hopkinson Mr Austin Hopkinson , Mossley

As one who has served and loved this House for more than 20 years perhaps I might, as an Independent Member, make one or two remarks on this occasion. My point is this: A special responsibility seems to lie at the present time upon those Members of this House who are not attached to any of the political parties. It is quite obvious that it is the view of the House and the country that it is in the national interest that all political parties in the State should range themselves behind the leadership of the present Prime Minister. But this involves a special responsibility on those whose criticisms of the Government cannot possibly be of comfort to the enemy—I mean those of us who do not belong to any organised party in this House. Therefore, although there are precious few hon. Members in the House who, like myself, have no party attachments or loyalties, I hope they will endeavour, as far as they can, to exercise that useful power of criticism which is really the main function of the House of Commons. There is undoubtedly great danger in the present circumstances, as there was during the last war, that an effort for national unity may mean the destruction to all intents and purposes of our Parliamentary system. It is to avoid that that I have risen to-day to remind hon. Members, not only independent Members but Members of other parties, that we are taking a very grave, though in my opinion a necessary, risk at the present moment.

May I address one word to the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton)?It seems to me that on this occasion, as on previous occasions in a national crisis, the hon. Member has shown a lack of appreciation of the true spirit of democracy. He knows perfectly well that the present arrangement is equally as repugnant to me as it is to him, but the principle of democracy is this. Having striven, as I have, for years to prevent this thing from happening and as the majority of our colleagues here, and undoubtedly the majority of the people in the country, are of the opinion that it is the wisest and best solution in the face of the national danger, it is for him, as it is for me, as true democrats, to give every assistance in our power, to put our personal predilections and opinions entirely in the background, and see if we can help. I think every Member of this House knows this, that from my boyhood onward everything that I had, my money, my blood and my energy, have been poured out for the sake of England, and I hope that the hon. Member and his friends will, if they cannot take an effective part in the Government of the country, at any rate see if they too cannot make some sort of sacrifice for the country which gave them birth.