Iron and Steel Nationalisation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th September 1950.

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Photo of Mr Clement Davies Mr Clement Davies , Montgomeryshire 12:00 am, 19th September 1950

I am accustomed to that form of kindness from the right hon. Gentleman. I have had it now for something like six years. Anyone listening to this Debate, and especially to the speech just delivered by the Leader of the House, would imagine that the crisis for which this House was summoned back had now disappeared, and that there was no need whatsoever for the arguments about conscription or anything else. The right hon. Gentleman scarcely made a single reference to the seriousness of the situation. I would remind the House that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) began and ended his speech with a very serious reference to it, couched in the most serious terms.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House rightly stated what was the issue before the House—whether the Government are entitled at this moment to implement the Act, which is certainly upon the Statute Book. But before I come to that, and as he has so often referred to us and to our position, may I point out what has been our position throughout? First of all, can anybody deny that we are an independent party, that it is fundamental in our faith that liberty comes before everything else, that we are not Socialists and never will be Socialists? That is fundamental. The right hon. Gentleman has gone through the history of my party. It was the first party to assist Labour people to enter this House; they came here with every assistance which could be given to them by the Liberal Party. When the Socialists became the major party in numbers in this House, it was the Liberal Party which gave them the chance of office, in 1924.

The right hon. Gentleman said that we then turned them out. Surely he remembers all that took place. A very serious question was raised, and Mr. Asquith proposed that an inquiry should be held into it. The Labour Government led at that time by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, did not want the inquiry and preferred to go to the country, with the result that they were defeated. Again, in 1929, the Labour Party had more Members than anybody else, but they were in a minority and, again, it was my party which put them in office. Then, the right hon. Gentleman states, we turned them out of office. What happened was that there was an economic crisis and his own party tendered their resignation. Some of them were prepared to serve under a new Coalition; some were not. He accuses us once again of having turned them out, but they turned themselves out.

What has happened since? The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that we have fallen in numbers. To what is that largely due? So long as I support and vote with the Government, then I have been accustomed, since I have been here, to all kinds of commendations from the right hon. Gentleman. Certainly that is so if I denounce the Conservatives; then, of course, I am a statesman and all is well. But if I dare criticise or disagree with a Socialist policy which I think is not a Liberal policy—