Brian Harrison – 1955 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Brian Harrison, the then Conservative MP for Maldon, on 9 June 1955.

I beg to second the Motion.

I am conscious of the privilege of being allowed to second the Motion of thanks in reply to the Gracious Speech, but I realise that it is an honour which I accept not for myself but for my constituents. I must also admit to great personal diffidence in seconding the Motion, as this is my maiden speech. I therefore doubly crave the indulgence which the House customarily extends on both these occasions.

Already today my constituents have made one contribution to the ceremonies we have witnessed, for in the division is the market town of Braintree, where surprisingly enough in such a rural area there is a flourishing textile industry, and it was the Braintree craftsmen and women who were chosen to supply the velvet for Her Majesty’s State robes which were worn at the opening of Parliament this morning.

It is not from Braintree that the ancient borough of Maldon takes its name. It is from a famous old borough which stood out against the Danes for some 70 years and which at one time even sent two Members to this House. Around these two places lie some of the most fertile and best farm land in the Kingdom, and, therefore, I welcome the intention to maintain the maximum economic agricultural production. No farmer wishes to see his prices guaranteed by real or artificial shortages, causing, as they often do, suffering and rationing.

The Government have already shown how it is possible to carry out the guarantees of the 1947 Agriculture Act in conditions of comparative plenty. We welcome the reference to the efficient marketing of food and to producer marketing schemes which should prove of benefit to producer, consumer, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

It is, however, no use guaranteeing prices and insuring markets unless there is labour to produce the food. Here I must say that the standard that the unions require from their worker members is extremely high. Within the last 18 months I have taken a correspondence course with the agricultural section of my union, the Transport and General Workers’ Union. Everything possible must be done to look after those who work on the land. Too often the workers’ loyalty to the land and their diligence in long hours and foul weather go unrecognised. We must raise the status of the agricultural worker and recognise that he is no longer the poor relation among manual workers.

Britain has now the most highly mechanised agricultural industry in the world, but the accident rate has gone up considerably. It is right, therefore, that legislation should be introduced to guard the health, the safety and the welfare of those employed in this great and important industry.

We welcome the intimation that rural areas are to receive special attention in connection with education. Distances and sparsity of population add to the present difficulties, but they have been overcome elsewhere and they can be overcome here. It is on the teaching profession itself that the country largely depends. Since the war it has had a particularly difficult time with large classes and makeshift classrooms. I am glad that the teachers’ superannuation scheme is to be looked into. This consideration will, I hope, remove one of the feelings of injustice under which teachers are at present labouring.

As one who was born and spent most of his life in one of the other great realms of the British Commonwealth, I welcome especially the mention in the Gracious Speech of the continuance of consultation within the Commonwealth. The closeness of the home country and the overseas Dominions means all the more to me when I recall that not many years ago my father was a Member of the Australian House of Representatives. Now I have “come home,” which is as we refer to these islands, and I stand here still an Australian citizen but a British subject and a Member of the greatest of Parliaments.

I hope the increased consultation which is referred to in the Gracious Speech may lead to a sharing of the burden and the responsibility for mutual defence and aid more equitably throughout the Commonwealth. It is a healthy sign that this already has begun, but it should go further. Whilst on the subject of the Commonwealth, and because of the reference in the Gracious Speech to clean air, I ask whether we should not take note of the achievements in Australia, where there is no smog, no fog, and—at present—no Ashes?

We further welcome the reference to the Colombo Plan, initiated as it was by an Australian Minister for External Affairs, Sir Percy Spender. We in the United Kingdom refer to that area as the Far East, but we must not forget that to Australia it is the near north. This Plan is one of the foundations on which stability can be built in South-East Asia. It is a fine concept and one which must be made to expand and prosper in order to bring a higher standard of living to the people there.

The world is too small a place today for the peoples of Asia and Europe to try to live their lives separately. We can all help the nations in these areas in their struggle against famine and disease, and there are many ways in which we can do it. This help need not be in the form of charity because, as their standard of living increases, so will their markets, to our future benefit. But we cannot help each other unless there is an easing of tension and a development of mutual trust in these areas. I hope we may continue to play a leading part in bringing that about.

Throughout the world the thoughts of all peace-loving people will be on the talks which we hope are to take place between the leaders of the great Powers, and we join with the people all over the world in wishing our representatives well in these talks, for without peace, which we so earnestly desire, the programme laid before us in the Gracious Speech will in itself not be worth even the paper on which it is printed.

Queen Elizabeth II – 1955 Queen’s Speech

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Below is the text of the speech made by HM Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Commons on 9 June 1955.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

The grave situation created by the interruption of the railway services has made it necessary to advance the date of the Opening of Parliament. I have proclaimed a state of emergency under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, to enable My Ministers to take the steps needed to maintain supplies and services which are essential to the life of the community.

In their relations with foreign Powers My Government will resolutely go forward with the policies to which they are pledged. The United Nations, the Atlantic Alliance and the new association of Western European Union will all receive their whole-hearted support. They will continue to work in close accord with the United States of America.

Fortified by the growing unity and strength of the free nations, My Government look forward, in a spirit of confidence and goodwill, to fruitful negotiations with the Government of the Soviet Union.

My Government welcome the progress which has recently been made in the United Nations’ discussions on disarmament and will zealously maintain their efforts to reach agreement on a comprehensive disarmament plan designed to bring peace and security to all countries.

My Government have warmly welcomed the signature of the State Treaty for the re-establishment of an independent and democratic Austria. The text of this Treaty will be presented to you before ratification.

In consultation with the other Governments concerned, My Government will continue earnestly to seek a peaceful settlement of the situation in the Formosa Strait.

My Government will continue their efforts to uphold the Indo-China settle-merit concluded at Geneva and to promote the peace, security and prosperity of South East Asia through the regional organisations set up for that purpose.

My Government will maintain and strengthen consultation within the Commonwealth for the fulfilment of our common aims and purposes.

The economic development of the Commonwealth and Empire will be steadily encouraged, and My Government will continue to support the Colombo Plan.

My Government look forward to further progress in establishing the British Caribbean Federation.

My Forces will continue to play their full part in maintaining peace and stability in the world.

My Ministers are reviewing the problems of Home Defence and the measures required to meet new forms of warfare.

Members of the House of Commons

Estimates for the public services will be laid before you in due course.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

The full employment of My People will continue to be the first care of My Ministers. To this end they will actively seek the co-operation of employers and workers in ensuring that full employment and expanding output shall not be jeopardised. They are convinced that, with a steady expansion of production in industry, commerce and agriculture, an ever higher standard of living can be secured for the whole nation.

My Government will actively promote the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Legislation, consistent with My Government’s international obligations, will be introduced to permit the imposition of countervailing and anti-dumping duties on imported goods.

My Ministers will take such further action as may be required in the public interest to deal with abuses in the field of monopolies and restrictive practices.

It will be the aim of My Government to strengthen the balance of payments and to extend overseas markets for our goods and services. Together with the other Governments of the Commonwealth and of Europe, and with the Government of the United States of America, they will work for a further advance towards a free flow of international trade and payments.

My Ministers will not relax their efforts to secure the utmost economy in public expenditure, and by sound handling of financial affairs to check the dangers of inflation.

My Ministers recognise the need for maximum economic production from our land. They will continue, through guaranteed prices and assured markets, to ensure a fair return to producers, and will encourage the efficient marketing of food.

Legislation will be introduced to safeguard the health and provide for the safety and welfare of those employed in agriculture and forestry.

My Ministers will continue to promote the well-being of the fishing industry and to support the efforts of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board to improve the condition of the fishing fleets and enable them to operate on an efficient basis.

My Ministers will ensure that steady progress is made with the modernisation and re-equipment of the railways, so that they may give better service to the public and provide improved working conditions for railway workers.

My Government will press forward their far-reaching programme of road construction and improvement and their plans to ease the flow of traffic and reduce danger on the roads. A measure will be laid before you to amend the Road Traffic Acts.

In the light of proposals recently agreed among the local authority associations My Government are examining the problems of local government in England and Wales with a view to introducing legislation on this subject.

While maintaining a high rate of house building, My Ministers will encourage action to secure the more rapid clearance of slums in both town and country and to relieve urban congestion. They will introduce such legislation as may be found necessary to further these objects.

In step with the continued expansion in the building and improvement of schools My Government will give close attention to the number and needs of the teaching profession. They have very much in mind the special requirements of rural areas. Secondary schools will be encouraged to provide a choice of courses; and facilities for technical education will be extended.

My Ministers will propose amendments to the scheme of superannuation for teachers following the discussion now proceeding with representatives cob/ teachers and local authorities.

A Bill will be laid before you to extend the period during which family allowances are payable for children who remain at school.

Legislation will be introduced to amend the law of valuation and rating in Scotland in the light of the recommendations of a Departmental Committee; and an inquiry into the working of the arrangements for ascertaining Equalisation Grant in Scotland will be made in consultation with the associations of local authorities.

You will also be invited to pass measure to amend the law relating valuation and rating in England at Wales.

Legislation will be proposed reform the law of copyright on the basis of recommendations in the report of the Copyright Committee.

My Government will proceed with a Bill to enable them to carry out the obligations under the Commonweal Sugar Agreement, and to bring to a end the present system of State trading in sugar.

My Ministers will bring forward legislation to reduce the pollution in the air by smoke and other causes.

Steps will be taken to extend legal aid to proceedings in county courts in England and Wales, and the jurisdiction of these courts will be increased. A measure will also be introduced to set up new criminal courts at Liverpool and Manchester, and to amend the law relating to recorders and stipendiary magistrates.

An inquiry will be held to consider practice and procedure in relation to administrative tribunals and quasi-judicial inquiries, including those concerning land.

Further consideration will be given to the question of the composition of the House of Lords.

Other measures will be laid before you in due course.

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

Anthony Eden – 1955 Speech on Re-Election of William Morrison as Speaker

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Below is the text of the speech made by Anthony Eden, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 7 June 1955.

Mr. Speaker-Elect, in accordance with time-honoured custom in the House, it is my privilege to be the first to voice our congratulations to you on the signal honour, the greatest honour that the House corporately can bestow on any man, which has this afternoon been repeated in acknowledgment of your services. I do so with great pleasure, not only on my own behalf but on behalf of all my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House. Perhaps I may also say that I do it with all the greater fervour as the first Englishman who has ventured to intrude at all in this afternoon’s ceremony.
As the House does this act of congratulations to you, in truth we all feel that we are congratulating ourselves. As the last Parliament developed, we all felt to an increasing degree how much we owed to your guidance. Your ease of dignity, the clarity of your decision, the width of your experience, and certainly not least the native wit of Scotland placed us many times under an obligation to you. I am sure that the whole House feels fortunate indeed that you should be here and willing to preside once more over our proceedings.

I think it was said that Mr. Speaker’s principal duties were to guard minority parties and even guard the rights of individual Members. About that I have no doubt that you will be zealous, even against the wishes of the Executive. That is as it should be. But there is something even wider than the rights of individual Members which you guard and cherish for us, and that is the character of the House. Each new Parliament develops its own personality. As we do that, as most certainly we shall, I believe that we shall have in mind that this new Parliament, like so many that have gone before it, in what it achieves and how it achieves it is showing leadership to all the free institutions throughout the world.

It is perhaps at this time that special responsibility which we all value most and which I know, Mr. Speaker-Elect, you have so well understood in the past and will so cheerfully guard in the future. I feel every confidence that under your tolerant, wise and experienced guidance the House will receive all the help which it is in the power of the Chair to give. In all sincerity, we wish you good fortune and good health in the discharge of your duties.

Anthony Eden – 1955 Statement on Becoming Prime Minister

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Below is the text of the speech made by Anthony Eden in the House of Commons on 6 April 1955.

I must, first, try to acknowledge the very generous words which have been used by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and all those who have spoken in the House this afternoon—in well-deserved terms—about my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Attlee) rightly said that this is not the time for us to appraise my right hon. Friend’s work. For one thing, he is, fortunately, still among us; and we all know quite well that whenever he returns to us from his holiday he will still be the dominating figure among us.

But while we admit that this is not the time for such an appraisal, perhaps the House would permit me a very few words on this subject, because for more than sixteen years we have been so intimately associated in political work, and, as it so happens, I have never spoken about this before. As I reflect over those years, and think of them in the terms of what we yet have to do, certain lessons seem to me to stand out for us in the message of what we have done.

First, I think, in work, was my right hon. Friend’s absolute refusal, as his War Cabinet colleagues knew so well, to allow any obstacles, however formidable, to daunt his determination to engage upon some task. With that, courage; and the courage which expresses itself not only in the first enthusiastic burst of fervour but which is also enduring, perhaps the rarer gift of the two.

Although my right hon. Friend has perhaps the widest and most varied interests in life of any man we are likely to know—and that is true—I still think that his great passion was the political life and that he brought to the service of it a most complete vision. No man I have ever known could so make one understand the range of a problem and, at the same time, go straight to its core. I believe that in statesmanship that will be the attribute which many who knew him would place first among his many gifts.

Apart from these things, in spirit there was the magnanimity, most agreeable of virtues; and, let us be frank about it, not one which we politicians find it always easy to practise, although we should all like to do so. In part, perhaps, this was easier with him, because I think he always thought of problems not in abstract terms but in human values; and that was one of the things which endeared him to all this House.

Finally, as has been so well said, there was the humour—the humour based on the incomparable command of the English language, which was so often our delight, not least at Question Time. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be deeply moved by the things which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have said of him this afternoon, for he loves this House—loves it in companionship and in conflict.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and others have been kind in their welcome to me. I enjoyed very much the Melbourne reflections. The right hon. Gentleman, with his deep knowledge of history, will not, however, have forgotten that Melbourne, although always talking of leaving office, contrived to stay there for a very long time indeed. But I have no desire, I beg him to believe, to emulate that in its entirety. For the rest, I can only say to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Father of the House, too, that I have been deeply touched by what has been said this afternoon and that, for my part, I will do all I can to serve our country.

Anthony Eden – 1955 First Speech as Prime Minister

Below is the text of the first speech of Anthony Eden in the House of Commons as Prime Minister made on 6th April 1955.

I must, first, try to acknowledge the very generous words which have been used by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and all those who have spoken in the House this afternoon – in well-deserved terms – about my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Attlee) rightly said that this is not the time for us to appraise my right hon. Friend’s work. For one thing, he is, fortunately, still among us; and we all know quite well that whenever he returns to us from his holiday he will still be the dominating figure among us.

But while we admit that this is not the time for such an appraisal, perhaps the House would permit me a very few words on this subject, because for more than sixteen years we have been so intimately associated in political work, and, as it so happens, I have never spoken about this before. As I reflect over those years, and think of them in the terms of what we yet have to do, certain lessons seem to me to stand out for us in the message of what we have done.

First, I think, in work, was my right hon. Friend’s absolute refusal, as his War Cabinet colleagues knew so well, to allow any obstacles, however formidable, to daunt his determination to engage upon some task. With that, courage; and the courage which expresses itself not only in the first enthusiastic burst of fervour but which is also enduring, perhaps the rarer gift of the two.

Although my right hon. Friend has perhaps the widest and most varied interests in life of any man we are likely to know – and that is true – I still think that his great passion was the political life and that he brought to the service of it a most complete vision. No man I have ever known could so make one understand the range of a problem and, at the same time, go straight to its core. I believe that in statesmanship that will be the attribute which many who knew him would place first among his many gifts.

Apart from these things, in spirit there was the magnanimity, most agreeable of virtues; and, let us be frank about it, not one which we politicians find it always easy to practise, although we should all like to do so. In part, perhaps, this was easier with him, because I think he always thought of problems not in abstract terms but in human values; and that was one of the things which endeared him to all this House.

Finally, as has been so well said, there was the humour — the humour based on the incomparable command of the English language, which was so often our delight, not least at Question Time. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be deeply moved by the things which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have said of him this afternoon, for he loves this House — loves it in companionship and in conflict.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and others have been kind in their welcome to me. I enjoyed very much the Melbourne reflections. The right hon. Gentleman, with his deep knowledge of history, will not, however, have forgotten that Melbourne, although always talking of leaving office, contrived to stay there for a very long time indeed. But I have no desire, I beg him to believe, to emulate that in its entirety. For the rest, I can only say to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Father of the House, too, that I have been deeply touched by what has been said this afternoon and that, for my part, I will do all I can to serve our country.