Debate on the Address [First Day]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd November 1953.

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Photo of Sir Raymond Gower Sir Raymond Gower , Barry 12:00 am, 3rd November 1953

Indeed, were one to take a party view one could debate forcibly that many of these things owed their origin to men of the type of Shaftesbury and Disraeli, among the spiritual founders of the party on this side of the House.

I think the virtue of the very great speech of the Prime Minister was that it outspanned our political differences. It was indeed the speech of someone who, when history is written, will be seen to be of such dimensions that beside him all of us, on both sides of the House, are mere pygmies. That speech signified that the outlook of the Prime Minister is limited neither in space nor in time. The only tragic note I could discover in it was that he was not a man 20 years younger.

I am glad that the Gracious Speech stresses the relaxation of international tension and the preservation of peace as prime objectives of the policy of the Government. It is a good and proper thing that all of us, on both sides of the House, should continually stress those facts. It is a dangerous thing for one section or one party on one side of the House to assume that they are the only friends of peace. It is a dangerous thing, perhaps, for some of us on this side of the House to think that we can get on better with America. It is the duty of us all on both sides of the House to seek the highest measure of agreement with America and with the Soviet Union.

There is strong reason for believing that support for the Prime Minister's constant initiative for peace is not confined to one side of the House. I think it a good thing that those who rule the destinies of Russia should not imagine that this country is divided into those who are seeking peace and those who are seeking some other objects. It is better that they should know that the large majority of us, of all parties, have that ultimate object of peace.

In considering the Loyal Address today, we can recall the different conditions and the different atmosphere from those which prevailed when we discussed and debated the Loyal Address two years ago. At that time—I do not wish to make a political point particularly—it was a fact that we were in the shadow of the continuing conflict in Korea. At that time—although sometimes one is doubtful when one listens to debates today—we did have a very serious economic crisis. Today the fighting in Korea has ceased and today that crisis—again for various reasons, and I do not think all those reasons are political party reasons—has largely ceased. It is a good thing, therefore, that we can consider these proposals in the light of those changed circumstances.

I do not think any of us derived as much pleasure from the ending of hostilities in Korea as we did from the ending of hostilities in the last great war, for the simple reason that, in the minds of most people, there is still anxiety whether the ending of hostilities will lead to that permanent peace we all desire. But the truce is a positive gain on the credit side of the balance sheet, just as the passing of the worst of the economic crisis of two years ago is a positive gain on our economic balance sheet.

The hon. Member for Kirkdale referred to the mention in the Gracious Speech of the possible continuance of the present National Service scheme for a further period. I should like the Minister responsible in this case to consider whether or not the changed circumstances, some of which have been referred to—the slight easing of world tension, to which the Prime Minister referred—although they may not warrant a suspension or removal of the National Service Act, may at least warrant a more generous consideration of applications for compassionate leave.

For example, in my constituency of Barry in South Wales there is a case which strikes me as the sort of case which might be given different consideration in these changed circumstances. It is the case of two brothers one of whom is doing his National Service and the other of whom is in partnership with him in a small bakery business and is now to be called up for Reserve training which follows during the years after National Service. All that either of the brothers desires is that they should not be away from the business at the same time. It does seem that the War Office could sympathetically consider either an application that the brother who is to do his Reserve training should have it deferred until his brother returns from National Service, or alternatively, that the brother on National Service should have compassionate leave whilst his brother is doing his fortnight's Reserve training. That is the sort of case I had in mind when I said that the changed international circumstances might warrant some more generous consideration of compassionate cases.

The Gracious Speech refers to the stability of employment. I am sure that all of us, on both sides of the House must be pleased that largely this has been maintained. I do not think any party—except possibly the Communist Party—have any sort of vested interest in unemployment. We on this side of the House have a vested interest in full employment because unemployment, industrial unhappiness, uneasiness and discontent nearly always lead people politically to the Left. So that merely from the point of view of political expediency it behoves us to seek always the highest possible standard of living and employment for the people of this country. I think that we in Wales particularly are pleased that our worst fears—I believe that is the feeling on both sides of the House; I notice the right hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) here—about the opening of more modern works in the steel industry has not led to that really serious unemployment of which many of us had been afraid.

Then the Gracious Speech deals with the problem of overseas payments. The problem is not so much one of further legislation; it does not, perhaps, require legislation but rather the improved efficiency of all our industry, whether it be State-owned or privately-owned. I well recall, as many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen may recall, how last week, in the last Session of Parliament, the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) made great play of the fact that Ministers of this Government seemed to be praising State-owned industries.

I think that is an indication that Ministers of the present Government are seeking the industrial prosperity and efficiency of industry, whether State-owned or privately-owned. That should be the approach of everyone on both sides of the House. In making that allegation or comment, the hon. Member for Reading, South overlooked the fact that it possibly exposed some of his own hon. and right hon. Friends to criticism in that all too seldom one hears praise from the opposite side of the House for any single industry in private ownership.