Debate on the Address

Part of Orders of the Day — Queen's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th June 1955.

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Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford 12:00 am, 16th June 1955

I will not follow the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) in his very wide survey. In all the points that he raised there was no mention of the Amendment which is before the House. The right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), who opened the debate, read out the Amendment at the beginning of his speech, but, apart from that, there has been hardly any reference to the Amendment from the Opposition side of the House. It will be necessary to bring our minds back to it, and to realise that we are discussing an Amendment which is a Motion of censure upon the Government.

The attitude of the Opposition, as expressed in the Amendment and by the right hon. Gentleman who moved it, is that the policies in the Gracious Speech will bring about unemployment, soaring prices, industrial unrest and balance of payments crises. The right hon. Member for Leeds, South shakes his head. The Amendment says that those policies will not maintain employment, will not keep prices stable, will not bring industrial peace and will not improve the balance of payments position. It is the same thing, expressed in a negative form.

What memories this Amendment brings back. We heard all this sort of thing during and after the 1951 Election. The only difference between then and now is that the "warmongering" scare was thrown in for good measure in 1951 and was left out today. I am astonished that the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) should have added his name to an Amendment which forecasts unemployment in the future. I should think he would be a bit shy of that this time, in view of the wildly inaccurate statement he made at the beginning of the last Parliament. We must give him this: on this occasion no figure is included. That shows a certain degree of caution and is some improvement on last time.

I do not think that there is any foundation for the assertions in the Amendment. The policies which make up the Gracious Speech are nothing more than a logical follow-up of those which were pursued by the last Government for three and a half years. We had considerable difficulty at the beginning, because we inherited a very severe crisis, but at the end of the time the level of employment was at its highest. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer never had to deal with an economic crisis to the extent that successive Chancellors of the Opposition had to deal with them while they were in power. At the end of our last term of office the standard of living of the people was higher than it had ever been before.

There is no foundation of fact for the statements in the Amendment. If it is true that the standard of living is higher than it has ever been before after three and a half years of Conservative rule, why should a logical continuation of those policies bring about a complete reversal in our fortune?

The kindest interpretation to he placed upon the Amendment is that it is the best that could be produced by the Opposition in, so to speak, their period of convalescence, while licking their wounds—some of them self-inflicted—electing new leaders and conjuring up a new theme for the future. I earnestly hope that the Amendment is not the product of wishful thinking on the part of the Opposition. I like to believe that they hope as fervently as we do that the policies that the Government are to pursue will bring an ever-rising standard of life. As the policies in the Gracious Speech unfold I hope that all hon. Members who have the interests of their constituents at heart will have constant cause to cheer.

A feature of the debate has been the repeated references to profit sharing and co-partnership. They were started by the Prime Minister, when he spoke on the first day of the debate. The matter was referred to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and mentioned by many of my hon. Friends. I am delighted to have heard them, because I have been surprised how little the subject has been talked about in this House in the past. The first debate, to the best of my knowledge, took place in the last Parliament on a Private Member's Motion, and I am agreeably surprised that so much notice has been taken of a vital subject like profit sharing and co-partnership.

How much more imaginative, realistic and exciting as a theme are true co-partnership and profit sharing than nationalisation. The Opposition can say what they like about nationalisation; the fact remains that the workers in nationalised industries do not enjoy that feeling of personal ownership which they were led to believe they would enjoy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ask the miners."] They certainly do not feel that they have as much to say in management or have greater bargaining power than workers in private industry. Nationalisation has benefited nobody unless it be our competitors in world markets. As a theme, it is dead and buried. During the next four years the Opposition will do a lot of serious thinking about their policy towards industry, and they must decide upon a policy before the next General Election. I do not believe that it will be a policy of nationalisation.