Debate on the Address.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am ar 6 Tachwedd 1928.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

I cannot refrain from cordially endorsing the closing words of the right hon. Gentleman, but there are one or two observations which I must make at this stage of the proceedings, as it is customary for the Leader of the House to do, with reference to the Business of the Session and certain proposals of the Government. I would like, before I begin, again in accordance with custom, to bear my testimony to the manner in which the Mover and Seconder of the Address have dealt with their most difficult task. There are no questions which are more difficult to discuss in this House by the thoughtful and responsible Member than the question of foreign relations. It is always the thinnest of thin ice. Some word may be twisted and distorted which may cause harm across the world. Some word may be misunderstood. But I have never seen skating at the same time more confident and, may I add, more graceful, than that indulged in by my hon. Friends this afternoon. The hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Jephcott) spoke, as all who know him would expect him to speak, with that fervent sympathy for his fellow men which has been characteristic of his career from the first days in which he worked in a Birmingham factory.

I should like to say one word, after what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Banbury (Major Edmondson) and by the Leader of the Opposition, with regard to the loss which we have all sustained in the death of our old friend the late Member for Chelten- ham (Sir J. Agg-Gardner). There is not a man in this House who will not miss that shy, shrinking, hurrying figure as it went with head bent down through the Lobbies, or seated at a table immersed in correspondence, or seated at a little table, quite close to where I sit, in the Members' dining-room, always ready to intervene on behalf of any Member who wanted advice or help in connection with the business for which he was responsible. I think it is a remarkable tribute, both to him and to the House of Commons, the way in which a private Member who had never sought publicity, was little known outside his native town and this House, who rarely spoke in this House, who was never at any pains to court his fellow Members, but, by merely living among them on and off for half a century, passes away with the esteem,. I might almost say the love, of his fellow Members of all parties.

There are one or two Bills of which I think I should advise the House—Bills of importance, but not considered of sufficient importance to be mentioned in the Gracious Speech. There will, of course, be during the Session one or two hardy annuals which have been left over from last summer, such as the Expiring Laws and Public Works Loans Bills; but there will also be a Bill, which hon. Members will expect, to give effect to certain arrangements which were contained in the Imperial Cable and Wireless Conference; and there will have to be legislation, in what form I cannot say at this moment, concerning the services in the Western Highlands and Islands, arising, of course, from the result of the Committee which sat during last Session. But the whole work of this Session is very much complicated by the mass of legislation which it will be necessary to get through in connection with Poor Law reform. It is absolutely necessary, if the de-rating scheme is to come in on the appointed and desired day, that this legislation should get through, because it is wrapped up indissolubly with the finance that will play such an important part in this scheme.

I took some encouragement from the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that he wants to get on with the business and go to the country. Of course it is perfectly obvious, as has been said twice already, that the curtain is rising to-day on the final act. The right hon. Gentleman, apparently did not very much enjoy the drama that has been played, but I followed with interest the simile which was put to the House a moment before the right hon. Gentleman came in; and when we meet again to discuss the King's Speech, there will undoubtedly be a good many changes, and I hope they may be to the satisfaction of the majority of this House. There was one point upon which the right hon. Gentleman touched, and I confess that it is a tender point with me and he got right there. That is the Factories Bill. I will tell him why it is a tender point with me. It is because it is a Bill on which I personally have been very keen for the last two or three years. I had hoped and had promised, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, I did give an undertaking, that that Bill should become law, and it was my intention that at any rate it should become law in this Session. When the right hon. Gentleman becomes the Leader of the House for a long period, he will know, as I am sure he can realise, what the difficulty is in getting through all the legislation that you want to do, sometimes that you have promised to do.

This legislation with regard to Poor Law reform we have had to go on with. So far as we visualised the situation, it was the urgent necessity of embarking on these reforms for the assistance of industry that made us put it before everything else that we had to do. That, we felt, must be completed before the five years of this Parliament's life had elapsed, and there is literally no time for any other important legislation except the legislation that we are already providing for. There is no truth whatever that there is the pressure of any kind of interest in regard to this Bill. [Interruption.] I did not expect certain hon. Members to believe that, and they can take it as they like; that is the fact, and I still hope to see such a Bill go through under the present Government. Another thing arises from the length and complication of the Poor Law Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman asked me a, question about it. We cannot get this legislation through, without encroaching to some extent upon private Members' time; a Motion will be put down on the Paper, and there will be no Ballot for Motions or private Mem- bers' Bills to-morrow. It is customary, as the House knows, on the part of every Government, although naturally opposed in turn by any Opposition, to take the time up to Christmas; but hon. Members will remember that it is only necessary for Governments to do that because the Standing Orders are left in a rather equivocal condition, and it is really not quite clear whether private Members have rights in the Autumn or whether they have not. In any case, every Government—[An HON. MEMBER: "We will remember that when you are in Opposition."]—that will not tax you very much—every Government takes that step, but we shall have to take it rather longer than that; we shall propose to take it until Easter, and the reasons for that I shall give in due course when I speak upon the Motion, which I think will he taken to-morrow. There was just one other point upon which I wish to say a word. The Leader of the Opposition complained about the use of English in the paragraph dealing with our relations with foreign Powers. I shall be perfectly prepared to justify the use of my own tongue in the Gracious Speech at length and in detail, but I understand that Amendments are going to be moved to the Address on the very subjects which were covered by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, although I am not certain from which benches the Amendments will come. In any case, the attack on the action of the Government has been so general from the Opposition during the last few months—