Orders of the Day — Parliament Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th November 1947.

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Photo of Mr Ellis Smith Mr Ellis Smith , Stoke-on-Trent Stoke 12:00 am, 11th November 1947

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the correction. It was a slip. That is quite right. Nevertheless, I would still like him to read the pamphlet. I want the House to remember that the Leader of the Opposition used some extravagant language today. He set us an example. The Leader of the Opposition has travelled a long way since his Lancashire years, about which he talks so much, and his Manchester days. I shall never forget, as a boy of ten years of age, walking to the Salford Docks and seeing the Scots Greys, which were sent by the right hon. Gentleman and for which he was responsible, battling with the dockers there. In those days he was reputed to be a relatively progressive Radical but he now assumes the role of defender of an institution which, 40 years ago he said was out of date.

He is welcome to all the support he has given today to that institution, and to his new friends. He is welcome also to those whom he met at Mount Vernon, in America. It is well known throughout the world who he met there. In his reference to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition brought in a man's name that he never should have brought in, the name of Hitler. That name should never be repeated in a democratic institution. He brought in Hitler with our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I know all the leading Members of the Government, especially those who have been in the party for any length of time. I know them all very well, including his royal highness—no, that is a slip, and I should say the emperor—of Millbank. I am dealing now with the Prime Minister. No one can point a finger at the Prime Minister on account of his integrity or his honesty. To couple his name with the name of Hitler is something to which the Leader of the Opposition should never have sunk.

He made matters worse by adding, "without its criminality or efficiency." That was hitting below the belt; even for the greatest warmonger in the world, it was not becoming. When the Leader of the Opposition was more in touch with the people he said that he stood aghast at the Government's moderation. That was 26 years ago. I now repeat his phrase because it applies more today than in the days when he spoke. The other day the right hon. Gentleman referred to the reckless, malignant partisanship of this Government. Nobody would apply that to this Government. I only wish they had a bit more partisanship, but that day will come. There is no doubt about that. Those who belong to the working class and who try to be worthy of it will live to see the day, if they enjoy the normal spell of life, when this House will be composed of men and women who represent the people of this country and who have worked and toiled for so long to produce its wealth.

The personal insults and abuse by the Leader of the Opposition have set a very bad example of Parliamentary standards to scores of fine, good, honourable young men who have come into this House straight from the war, and I hope we are not to have a repetition. The "Daily Herald" shows some concern, especially when it is dealing with the Second Chamber. Of course, it may well be concerned, after so many of its economists have said what they did a few months ago about the prospects of an economic crisis. If they understood the middle class they would know that if a Labour Government retreats, it loses the confidence of the working class, and that if it goes forward in a constructive rôle, in the advanced Radical sense, and instead of introducing a one-sheet Bill dealing with the Second Chamber introduces a constructive Measure to put that Chamber upon a democratic basis, it goes the right way to win and to keep the support not only of the working class, but also of the Radicals in the middle class. John Morley referred to a Government who, by their small reforms made the future great reform more difficult of achievement. That applies to the Bill. All that the Bill is doing is, so to speak, to pull out two teeth. After generations of trouble, decay and degeneration, a modern, scientific, surgical operation is required, and not the drawing of two teeth. If that operation is not carried out by this Parliament it will be performed some day when we have another Labour Government. [Interruption.] I will say "Socialist" if my interrupter wants me to insert that word. If reaction wants to fight on this issue—a fight of Lords versus the People—all Radicals in this country will welcome an Election on that basis. That will be something more worth fighting for than the taking out of two teeth. The Bill, like the economic policy of the Government, is part of a policy of expediency. The other place should have been dealt with in accordance with Labour's traditional policy on its merits or demerits. The Bill is of a limited character and is not worthy of a Labour Government with the overwhelming majority which now supports it.