Debate on the Address

Part of Orders of the Day — King's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th November 1951.

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Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot 12:00 am, 8th November 1951

That is an agreeable Interruption, just the sort of interruption which I should have expected from the hon. Member. It shows that he has listened to our exhortations. I do not want to make a number of debating points, because things are much too grave for that. The right hon. Gentleman made considerable play with the fact that these terrible measures my right hon. Friend has had to announce are to meet a heritage which is not of our making. I did not notice that that was greeted with any great applause from Members opposite. The facts about our own economy have now become obvious to all, since foreign aid has been removed. I do not want to look too far back, because all this will be too embarrassing to the right hon. Gentleman, but to look forward and try to deal with the situation which confronted us 12 days ago.

It is a great delusion to suppose that you can divorce external influences from internal policy. That was one of the mistakes which ran through all the policies of the recent Labour Government. Let me at the outset say that the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer certainly uttered a number of warnings and gave a number of figures before and during the Election; that is common ground. What he was not able to do—I am not blaming him—was to announce any steps early enough to prevent the full severity of this financial blizzard from striking the nation. The balance of payment crisis had been developing for some months and was clear enough even to an unofficial person like myself; but none of the necessary steps were taken. I do not blame the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), at all, because the plain fact is that he never had sufficient political support in his own party to be able to carry the necessary measures.

The Leader of the Opposition expresses dissent, but I think that any impartial observer looking at the state of his party will know that what I am saying is quite true. In those circumstances a much more straightforward action on his part would have been to resign, but perhaps he thinks that that would not have been in the national interest. That would have been a much more straightforward course than to continue, as he did, while underlining the gravity of the situation, to adopt an entirely negative attitude towards all the measures necessary to put it right.

We can begin to understand some of the reasons which led the Leader of the Opposition to appeal quickly to the country. He must have breathed a sigh of relief when he found that he was not going to be entrusted with the task of solving the problems which are, to some extent, but not wholly, the creation of the Government which he led. I want now to deal with the speeches of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South, and of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland.

First of all, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South. Apart from his apologia for the speeches he made during the General Election, his speech contained one or two criticisms of the speech and policy of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There was also an excursion, in very bad taste, into the subject of Ministerial salaries.