Oral Answers to Questions — President of the Board of Trade (Speech)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30 April 1959.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington 12:00, 30 April 1959

asked the Prime Minister if the speech of the President of the Board of Trade delivered in Hanover on 26th April, 1959, represents Government policy.

Photo of Sir Leslie Plummer Sir Leslie Plummer , Deptford

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech of the President of the Board of Trade at the opening lunch of the Hanover Trade Fair represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech made by the President of the Board of Trade in Hanover last Sunday represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech made by the President of the Board of Trade in Hanover on Sunday, 26th April, represented the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

asked the Prime Minister whether the statements made by the President of the Board of Trade at the Hanover Industrial Fair on the subject of British Press represent the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

asked the Prime Minister to what extent the President of the Board of Trade's speech in Germany, urging his hearers to disregard the anxiety about German militarism and political intransigence voiced by the British Press, represented the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

asked the Prime Minister if the recent speech made at Hanover, Germany, by the President of the Board of Trade represented the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Such reports of this speech as I have seen contain various expressions of personal opinion but no statement of Government policy.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Is the Prime Minister aware that the President of the Board of Trade has virtually apologised for one statement, but that on the same weekend he said in Germany: I am not bothered at seeing Britain pushed out of second place by West Germany in the list of the world's exporting countries"? Will the Prime Minister instruct Her Majesty's Ministers when visiting foreign countries not to run down and denigrate British effort and British institutions?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, I understand that my right hon. Friend did not touch on this matter in his speech. I believe that on another occasion he said that we had no need to be jealous of German performance in the export field because there was room for both countries.

Photo of Sir Leslie Plummer Sir Leslie Plummer , Deptford

Is the Prime Minister aware that when the President of the Board of Trade was speaking in Hanover he accused the British public of frivolity? He said that all the British public was interested in was racing and football. Is it right and proper that he should make comments of this kind and in circumstances which show that he is so much out of touch with British public opinion? Is he the right Minister to send to Moscow?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I would certainly not dare to accuse the hon. Gentleman of frivolity. He is one of the most serious-minded men I know. He is often inaccurate but he is never amusing. In general, I must say that I think that my right hon Friend's visit to Bonn has done a great deal of good.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that he will resist all efforts, from whatever quarter, to remove his right hon. Friend from the Board of Trade? He is worth a million votes to the Labour Party where he is now.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I have no doubt that the hon. Member is anxious to replace him, but I am afraid he will have to replace the whole Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That may or may not happen; but, as long as I am head of a Government, I shall base it on loyalty to my colleagues and shall be encouraged by reading the reminiscences which are being so well circulated.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

Does not the Prime Minister agree that it was a really incredibly foolish speech, insulting everybody in the land, from the highest to the lowest? It is not the first one which the President of the Board of Trade has made. He has dropped more bricks than would build a house. Would the Prime Minister give an assurance that, in order to bring more discreet remarks from the President of the Board of Trade, he might reconsider replacing the present incumbent by Lord Montgomery?

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

With regard to the reference to the British Press mentioned in my Question, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he would agree that, whilst Members of Parliament and Ministers are, of course, free to criticise the Press and the Press is free to criticise Members of Parliament, it is as unwise to condemn the Press as a whole as it would be to condemn Members of Parliament as a whole?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I think that is a very balanced statement.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

Does the Prime Minister appreciate that what public opinion is concerned about is not so much the habit of his right hon. Friend of yielding to his distorted sense of a neat thing to say—that, after all, is his own funeral, at least we hope it will be—but with the fact that he was urging Germans to disregard anxiety expressed here at the ugly signs of a revival of German nationalism and militarism? The Tory policy of appeasing German nationalism and militarism in the thirties landed us in the Second World War, and we do not want that again.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I do not think that was the intention or character of my right hon. Friend's statement. Surely what we have to do in present conditions is to try to keep a sensible attitude. There are dangers, of course, in all countries. There are extremes and dangerous forces, sometimes merely harmless eccentrics and sometimes sinister forces, but what we have to try to do is to keep a balanced view, to keep our N.A.T.O. alliance in being and to face the quite difficult times which lie ahead of us.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Can the Prime Minister tell us if the President of the Board of Trade is going to Russia to look for trade or for Hanoverian blood? If this is the sort of speech the President of the Board of Trade makes after a glass of sherry, what sort of speech is he likely to make after a couple of vodkas?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

The hon. Member is very experienced in both, I am quite sure. Since he and I travelled together in Russia recently, I shall convey his warnings against excessive vodka to my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

Will the Prime Minister arrange for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to accompany the President of the Board of Trade to Moscow so as to keep the President of the Board of Trade from both vodka and the Press?

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

In view of the extremely unsatisfactory and frivolous nature of most of the replies of the Prime Minister, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.