Debate on the Address

Part of Orders of the Day — Queen's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th November 1963.

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Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen 12:00 am, 13th November 1963

As I am sure that the House would wish that I should leave the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), I do not propose to deal with it. I would say at the outset that I thought that the unfortunate speech of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) yesterday was nevertheless singularly appropriate to a party which is attempting to substitute the image of John Wilkes for that of Dr. Johnson. The Prime Minister could well say to his back-benchers: "It is all very well to dissemble your love, but why did you kick me downstairs?" It is indeed a historic occasion when in thanking the Prime Minister in a debate on the Address Caligula's horse is brought in, as it was yesterday.

Speaking personally for a moment I am sorry that the ex-Prime Minister, whose brilliant leadership of his party nobody questions, should have had the last months of his ten years of high office clouded by misfortunes for which he was not responsible and that he should have had to end his career through illness. I need hardly say that everybody here is glad that the former Prime Minister is well on the way back to health and strength. The battle we have in the House is not between persons, even Prime Ministers, but between parties.

The Tory Party, having tried every change of Minister possible, is now trying the desperate expedient of changing its policy. As for those parts of the Gracious Speech which are favourable, I would ask why if the programme is all right the Government have not carried it out during the last twelve years. The simple fact is that everything that the Robbins Committee tells the country about the failure to provide university places for the first infant bulge, for the children who will be disappointed in our sixth forms this year, we on this side of the House have been telling the Government for the last eight or nine years.

A Government who are now accepting the Robbins Report, just as a drowning man clutches at a straw, only eighteen months ago were refusing the University Grants Committee the finances requested for a much smaller programme. I can remember telling the House that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was asking the University Grants Committee to make bricks without straw. The New-som Report on secondary education, on what we are doing for the average child, some of us asked for several years ago.

It reveals gaps and deficiencies in school building, teacher supply, equipment and amenities about which we have been protesting from this side of the House throughout the long life of Conservative Governments. The Report reiterates the demand made by the Crowther Report that we should name a date after which all children in Britain should receive education up to the age of 16, but there is not a word about that in the Gracious Speech. I hope that some day we shall debate fully the Newsom Report, which I regard as even more important than the Robbins Report. One point which I should like to make at this stage is that the emphasis in the Newsom Report on the spiritual and the ethical as distinct from the intellectual part of the education of all our children is admirable and something which the House will, I hope, consider very seriously.

But the whole of the Newsom Report, just like the Robbins Report, is a condemnation of the Government's twelve years' stop-and-go policy in education. If the Government are now proposing to ride on the bandwagon of educational advance, we have the right to ask what has prevented them from taking the lead during the long run of Tory Prime Ministers and Ministers of Education.

It will not be unknown to the House that the old Carthaginians used to crucify defeated generals. The modem Tory Party is not much better. It will do anything to hang on to power. The Tories got rid of a Minister of Education, the then Dame Florence Horsbrugh, to make room for Lord Eccles who was later thrown to the wolves just as callously as was his predecessor. The House is littered with ex-Ministers of Defence and ex-Prime Ministers, and ex-Parliamentary Secretaries are two a penny. Indeed, the Government benches are almost like the old pre-war French Parliament when nearly everybody was an ex-Minister.

And now the last ex-Prime Minister is dropped unceremoniously and, it appears, almost as cheerfully as he himself sacrificed Minister after Minister to regain the confidence of the country in the Tory Party. As for another place, it has now become quite patently, as underneath we always knew it to be, an instrument of Tory policy to be manipulated with lords in, lords out, commoners up and lords down by a party which, unlike the Labour Party, had always professed a veneration for blue blood and the Second Chamber.

Now that the Labour Party has made it possible for them to do so, the lords will cheerfully throw away everything except their huge estates and wealth to preserve Britain from another Socialist Government. There has been nothing like it since that golden moment in the French Revolution when princes threw away their titles and the Duke of Orleans became overnight Philippe Egalite. Just as his predecessor hoped to blame those whom he dismissed for the faults of the whole Cabinet, so the new Prime Minister talks about a new drive, with most of the old horses, and a new policy of expansion here and vigour there and, above all, modernisation, clearly by implication putting all the blame for the lack of these things so far on the one important man not now in the Government—the former Prime Minister.

I pay tribute to the skill and ruthless-ness of our ruling class. As the Prime Minister said at the Lord Mayor's banquet on Monday: There is a direct relationship between wealth and power and influence. It is a relationship which we on these benches seek to destroy.

I went about America during the time of the recent Tory leadership crisis as a good non-party Englishman speaking for my country. I said that the Tory conference was becoming almost democratic, indeed almost like an American convention at moments, and I hazarded a guess as to which Member of Parliament would be chosen leader. I had to give up trying to explain when the Establishment decided that nobody on the Government benches in this House was fit to be Prime Minister.

I should like to turn now from what is the controversial part of my speech to something else. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am sorry that the Government benches do not like the truth.