Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1966.

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Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South 12:00 am, 3rd May 1966

It is not very often that I intervene in these debates, and usually I do so only when I feel provoked, as I felt provoked while listening to the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne). He said that he has been in the House for 21 years. So have I. But obviously we have not been in the same House—or he has a very convenient memory and wishes to forget many of the things that have happened in the 21 years he has been here.

It so happens that the former right hon. and learned Gentleman to whom he has paid the highest praise was my own Member of Parliament for many years, and I probably knew much more about him than did the hon. Member for Louth. I share the hon. Member's admiration for the way in which that late right hon. and learned Gentleman tried to tackle the nation's problems. To listen to hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Louth, speaking tonight, one would think that the situation which we face today is new. May I remind the hon. Member that Sir Waldron Smithers, formerly a Conservative Member of the House, once reprinted from HANSARD a speech which he made in the House in 1926 and issued it to all hon. Members. I sometimes wonder if I am the only one who has retained a copy of that speech. It was a speech which Sir Waldron Smithers made on a Friday afternoon when he moved a Motion the terms of which concerned the adverse balance of trade and the text of which, if repeated in the House tonight, would be precisely and absolutely applicable to our present situation. That was 1926, 40 years ago. There has never been a time, if we are frank about this, when we have not been in the kind of situation which we have experienced in post-war years.

When I hear the hon. Member for Louth pontificating to my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench about what they ought to do in the present situation, I wonder why on earth he did not say those things to his own Front Bench when they were in power for 13 years and had all the opportunities in the world, with huge majorities, to change the economic climate of this country if only they had had the desire to do it.