Government Policy

Part of Orders of the Day — King's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th October 1947.

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Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley 12:00 am, 29th October 1947

Both the right hon. Gentleman and myself have some experience of this House. Since he challenges me I must frankly admit I am not armed with the precise words. I, therefore, withdraw the remark. But I shall look up carefully the quotation from which I had drawn only a few phrases—I have not the whole thing with me now—and in a proper way I shall certainly publish again what he did say—and I do not think that there will be very much difference in the broad meaning.

Suppose the Government do finally introduce a steel Bill. Why, what then? Why then, it is argued, the most terrible tragedy may happen, because the House of Lords, it is said, may so delay the Bill that it may not be passed before a General Election. But would this be very bad? "Oh yes, very bad," it is said. But why? "Why? Because the Socialists might lose the Election, and then steel would not be nationalised." But would not that be the will of the people? "Oh no," reply the Socialists. "You do not understand how the thing works. When the people vote Socialist, that is the will of the people prevailing and triumphing; but when they vote Conservative, it is the triumph of the forces of reaction." What hypocrisy! What absurdity! The truth of the matter is, hon. Members opposite know that the House of Lords controversy has been revived for reasons of pure political tactics. In the first place, it is a convenient, if rather stale, red herring to distract public attention from the Government's mishandling of affairs. Secondly, as my right hon. Friend said yesterday, it is an act of appeasement towards the Minister of Health. It is a squalid deal between Ministers whose relations with each other remain consistently unfriendly. For all these reasons I confidently ask the House to support this Amendment.

I notice that some observations which I permitted myself to make outside have incurred the censure of the "Daily Herald." Fortunately, I am in good company, because I shared the pillory with the Primate of All England. Continuing this line of criticism, I was challenged in Debate the other day by an hon. Member for whom I have a great respect, since he defeated me at Stockton-on-Tees, who asked me last Friday—and it was a very fair question—whether I really wanted to see us surmount this crisis or to see the Government go down. The answer is that I passionately want to see both, and I firmly believe that the first is impossible without the second. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister for Economic Affairs made a fine appeal on Thursday. What did he say? He said: … let no man stand in our way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 293.] In all sincerity, I make him this reply: Alas! His friends and colleagues stand in his way by their feeble and faulty administration, by their persistent preaching of the class war, by their malicious attacks on ownership and management, and by their ceaseless taunts against those very industries upon which they know we must depend; and now, most foolish and reprehensible of all, when, to use the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own moving words, democracy and Western civilisation are at stake, by their decision, for purely partisan reasons—and the Prime Minister knows it—to prepare the lists, unprovoked as he admits, and unchallenged as he admits, for a bitter and useless constitutional struggle which cannot unite but which must divide our people. I say to him in all seriousness, and I say to hon. and right hon. Members opposite in all seriousness: Let the Government no longer stand in the way of the people.