Leo Abse – 1959 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Leo Abse, the then Labour MP for Pontypool, on 22 January 1959.

I would ask for the indulgence of the House for this, my maiden speech. I must ask particularly for your indulgence, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for I am aware of the esteem in which my distinguished and noble predecessor was held in this House. If I attempted to follow the remarks made by the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge), my speech might not be of non-partisan character, so I feel that I should turn in another direction.
I would draw attention to the tardy approach of the White Paper to the acute-problems that arise in primary schools. I should have thought that ere now the danger would have been well understood of under-estimating the importance of the primary schools. They perform the vital function of fostering the potentialities of children when their imaginations are fertile, their minds are nimble and receptive, and, as all of us who are parents know, their curiosities are strong. It is obvious that attention should be given to children at that stage of their life.

I find with much dismay that in the White Paper the real problems of the primary schools are apparently to be postponed until at least 1965. That is particularly distressing. The curricula in the primary schools should be free from the didactic approach. The new techniques which are available for teaching young children involve the use of originative activity. All the techniques of mime, drama, dance, and so on, require proper physical conditions.

I am sure that in the constituencies of other hon. Members, as in my constituency, there is ample evidence that these physical conditions do not exist. I know that in Blaenavon, in my constituency, in one primary school there are two classes of upwards of fifty children in one room. In such physical conditions, how is it possible for the techniques which are available to be applied? How is it possible for any dynamic approach to be given to any elementary education? It is not possible while we have primary schools, as I have in Pontypool, which are more than 100 years old and the teachers have to cope with not only elementary education but the elements, because their classrooms have open fires and, certainly in recent weather conditions, conditions are created when anything is possible except a real, dynamic approach to education.

I am not encouraged by what the Minister has said about the minor works programme to believe that any of these worst evils will be remedied within any measurable period of time. I am aware that the White Paper gives more discretion to local authorities and that it will now be possible for local authorities to put forward schemes twice as large as before, up to £20,000. However, as is apparent from the Minister’s remarks, it does not mean that the volume will be doubled.

In Monmouthshire last year the local education authority put forward a plan costing a little more than £100,000 for minor works. At first it received half the grant. After a considerable amount of effort on the part of the local education authority, the amount was raised, but the total received was still more than 30 per cent. less than was originally intended. The Minister said the increase in volume will be 40 per cent. Opinion in Wales is that that is an exaggeration. Most local authorities there regard themselves as particularly fortunate if they obtain increases in the range of 10 to 15 per cent. Although one may be talking in terms of a five-year programme, it means that it is nothing of the sort. In the case of minor as well as major works, at least the first two years will be spent in trying to catch up the backlog of projects turned down by the Ministry in past years.

An unfortunate aspect of the lack of priority being given to primary schools is that it is bound to be difficult to attract teachers of the proper quality to them. In schools of this character we need people of graduate or equivalent status. It is understandable why few are prepared to go to them. Reference has been made to mathematics. How can one look without some dismay at the teacher training programme when one realises that only 4 per cent. of the women teachers going through the colleges take mathematics? It means that the overwhelming proportion of the women teachers going back into the primary schools are going back to teach without having looked at mathematics since they were fifteen years old. We are bound to wonder how many potential scientists are being extinguished within our primary schools today. I should certainly have hoped that within the White Paper there would have been sufficient understanding of the need to have properly equipped teachers who have had the opportunity of taking real courses with a view to raising the standard, particularly of mathematics, within the primary schools.

The difficulties within the primary schools are not confined to physical conditions and the quality of the teachers. It is now clear that the difficulties will be perpetuated because of the limpet-like attachment of the Minister to the 11-plus examination. Everyone who has any acquaintance with primary schools knows that the curriculum, as a result of the 11-plus examination, becomes appallingly distorted and the teaching becomes bent away from what its true character should be. It becomes perverted so that the child is being prepared for some alleged future educational requirement instead of being given what everybody knows is the most important thing, its immediate needs. I wonder why there is this extraordinary attachment to segregation at eleven. It is clear from the White Paper that there is every intention within the grammar schools to give advanced technical courses and there is every intention to try to have more and more children in the secondary modern schools taking the G.C.E. examination.

What is happening is that the Government are stumbling and staggering into comprehensive education and not looking at the matter rationally. They are evading having a logical programme. They are trying to meet instead of control the pressure of outside events. I hope it will not be considered presumptuous for me to say it, but when one sees that there is a logical approach, one must wonder why it is not adopted. I believe it must come about. There are definite prejudices in existence which look with distaste at the idea that people from all groups should be mixed up together when they are young. Clearly, the more that people of different talents and capacities and from different groups within the community are mixed together, the more possible it is that we should have what we really need, a more homogeneous and more egalitarian form of society in the future.

I trust that I shall not be regarded as having been too intemperate, but I have children of my own who will shortly be entering a primary school. However inadequately I may have expressed my views, I believe I am expressing not only my anxiety but the anxiety of many hundreds of parents in my constituency.

John Morris – 1959 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by John Morris, the Labour MP for Aberavon, in the House of Commons on 3 November 1959.

It is with considerable trepidation that I rise to intervene in such an important debate. I stand in the same place as other young men have done in the past, and I can only hope that they did not do so with as much trepidation as I do. I hope that the House, in putting me in the balance and weighing me, will not find me unduly wanting.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies), I should like to mention my predecessor, Mr. W. G. Cove, who, while the political tides ebbed and flowed, for 30 years represented Aberavon in this House, and before that he represented Wellingborough. While the tides ebbed and flowed Aberavon stood firm, even in 1931, when Mr. Cove’s predecessor, Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, stood in another light and, of course, for another constituency.

I should like in the few minutes at my disposal to deal with that part of the Gracious Speech which concerns the development of a sound system of communications throughout the country and the Government’s intention to press forward with their policy of building new highways and improving existing roads. It would be presumptuous of me, as a new, young and inexperienced Member, to try to paint a broad picture of the country’s system of road communications. I shall try to devote myself to a part of the problem with which I have tried to the best of my ability to familiarise myself in the last few years, and that is the transport system of South Wales, and, in particular, of Port Talbot.

In recent years the problem of who will do something for the Port Talbot by-pass and for the inner relief road scheme for the town has been a burning question in South Wales. This is not a mere constituency matter. It affects the prosperity of the whole of South Wales. Indeed, whenever there is an international match in Cardiff, every sportsman in Wales has his own epithets for describing the Government of the day when he is held up at the Port Talbot bottleneck.

The Minister of Transport said yesterday that he was appalled at the standard of driving on the new M.1 road from London to Birmingham. My sincere hope is that he is equally appalled at the hourly chaos which exists at the Port Talbot bottleneck. Here is one of the greatest bottlenecks in the country. Hour after hour private vehicles and the great vehicles of industry are held up there, causing a tremendous waste of fuel, time and money. I shudder to think of the annual amount of wastage caused by that single bottleneck. The worst period is between five o’clock and six o’clock in the evening. It has been reported that on a recorded occasion 1,278 vehicles crawled through that bottleneck between those hours.

The significance of the bottleneck is that while there is traffic from east and west, there is also traffic from north and south, and a railway crossing across that great highway. In the period between five o’clock and six-thirty it has been estimated that on recorded occasions the railway crossing gates have been shut for no less than thirty-five minutes. In any system of road communications I think that is a considerable time for the road between east and west to be closed.

No doubt the Minister is aware of the controversy which has existed regarding which of two proposed improvement schemes should be carried out, an outer scheme of relief, involving the demolition of 260 to 270 houses, or an inner scheme. It has been stated that the schemes concerning Port Talbot have had a “chequered career,” but it has appeared to me to be more like a game of snakes and ladders, with no one winning. Even though the Minister decided as far back as November, 1957, that the outer scheme should be carried out first, not a single brick has been laid up to now and not a single inch of tarmacadam has been put down.

Local authorities have done their best to assist the Minister in this matter. I wish to stress that at the inquiry in November, 1957, the Minister did not decide against the local authority’s scheme for inner relief; he merely said that he would not alter his order of priorities and that he intended to carry out the outer scheme first. But the problem of inner relief for the town still remains. On 10th March this year the local authority and the Glamorgan County Council resubmitted a scheme for the inner relief of the town. Even on the most optimistic prophecy the outer scheme will not be completed before 1965, and, even so, it will deal only with 30 per cent. of the traffic which now comes through the bottleneck at Port Talbot.

Traffic is increasing year by year by 10 per cent. I shudder to think what a tremendous bottleneck will exist in 1965 even with the construction of the outer scheme. It is absolutely vital that the Minister should decide to do something at the earliest possible moment regarding the inner road. In May of this year the local authorities requested a joint meeting with the Minister, but he regretted that the future of the inner relief scheme must remain in abeyance until after the election, as he did not consider that he should take a decision which would commit a future Administration. Now that the joustings at the hustings have been completed, I hope that the Minister of Transport will see his way clear to meet the local authorities in this matter at the earliest possible moment.

There is also the question of re-housing the people whose homes are involved in the carrying out of the scheme. I said earlier that 260 to 270 houses will be demolished. I am informed that the Ministry has not encountered a demolition problem of this magnitude before, but the problem is one which eventually will affect the whole of the country. There are no houses for sale in this area.

The majority of my constituents are steel workers and at the moment they are members of the most prosperous community in Britain. Many of these people are old and their houses are worth only £700 or £1,000. Where are they to find equivalent accommodation with which to replace their present homes? Those who are tenants will be re-housed by the council which will get a subsidy in order to do that. But the problem of where owner-occupiers will go still remains. Will the council have to re-house these people? Will it get a subsidy to enable it to rehouse owner-occupiers who cannot find other accommodation?

This is a basic problem involving people who have worked all their lives and saved up to buy their house. Are they to be compensated with sums of money which will not be sufficient to provide them with another house? There are no such houses available in modern housing developments. The cost of a new house would far exceed any amount of compensation which they might receive. Even were they re-housed in council houses, the £700 or £1,000 compensation which they might receive would soon be whittled away if they had to pay the economic rent of a council house, which amounts to £2 17s. a week. If they came within the differential rent scheme for council houses and the council received a subsidy for re-housing them, they would still have to pay a weekly rent of £1 6s.

It is no consolation to speak of National Assistance for such cases; indeed it would be tragic, because these people would have to use up the compensation they had received before getting any aid at all. There is a basic principle involved here because the life of a whole community is at stake and if we continue with great plans of road development, in a few years other people will be put in jeopardy in the same way. It will need the wisdom of Solomon to dispense justice in such circumstances.

How can we compensate people who have spent all their lives in a house of a certain type which cannot be replaced under modern housing conditions? Local authorities are anxious to obtain some indication of the attitude of the Government to these problems. Some of these houses are to be demolished as early as next March. The occupants are under notice, but the local authority has not yet been informed whether it is supposed to re-house those people.

There is a tremendous backlog of road work to be done in the country. In Great Britain there are 29 motor vehicles for every mile of road. We have the most congested roads in the world, and if the number of vehicles continues to increase at the present rate it is estimated that by 1962 there will be no fewer than 10 million vehicles on our roads. This means that there will be a motor vehicle for every 35 yards of public road or street.

Compared with twenty-five years ago the yield from motor taxation has gone up nine times, but the expenditure on roads today, even taking into account the present plans, is running at only three-and-a-half times more. The fact that we have three times more traffic on our roads today than we had in 1939 is, in my opinion, convincing evidence of the growing dependence of our social and economic life upon road transport, and it has been estimated that road congestion already costs the country no less than £500 million a year. That amount accrues from delays, wastages, wear and tear and accidents.

South Wales, and South-West Wales in particular, has suffered some hard knocks regarding unemployment in recent years. Industrialists—and who can blame them?—shy away when faced with the tremendous transport problems which exist in South Wales.

After years of talk, of inquiries, of consultations and of conferences, the people of South Wales will hardly believe their eyes when the first part of any scheme for Port Talbot is completed. Good roads are the arteries of our economic existence. The developments at Milford Haven and Swansea and the bringing of new industries to Pontardawe and Llanelly are dependent on the development of a new life link to South Wales. The prosperity of the whole community of South and South-West Wales depends on a good system of communications.

Queen Elizabeth II – 1959 Queen’s Speech

queenelizabethii

Below is the text of the speech made on behalf of HM Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords on 27 October 1959. The speech was actually delivered by the Lord High Chancellor due to HM Queen’s pregnancy.

I am glad that My dear Husband is to pay a short visit to Ghana next month and I hope that the visit which we had planned to make together may take place in 1961.

The warm and friendly welcome accorded to My Cousin, the Princess Alexandra, by the Government and people of Australia has given me great joy; and I have learned with pleasure of the generous courtesy with which His Majesty the King of Thailand and His Majesty the King of Cambodia have received her in their countries.

I look forward with pleasure to the visit which the President of the French Republic and Mme. de Gaulle are to pay to this country next year.

My Government will work in the closest collaboration with the Governments of the Commonwealth in all matters which contribute to peace. They will seek to develop the material resources on which the standard of living of the peoples of the Commonwealth must depend and will at the same time foster the spiritual values which form our common heritage.

The Commonwealth Education Conference which met last July made a number of recommendations designed to spread the benefits of education more widely within the Commonwealth. The consequential legislation will be laid before you.

I confidently expect that a formal request will be received from the Nigerian Legislature for the grant of independence within the Commonwealth to the Federation of Nigeria in 1960. My Government intend to proceed with the appointment of an Advisory Commission in preparation for the review of the constitution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which is to take place next year. My Government welcome the prospect of the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, in accordance with the Agreements concluded at the London Conference.

My Government will continue to work for the improvement of relations between East and West and will use all their efforts to this end.

My Government look forward to taking part in the work of the new Commission of ten nations which is to consider plans for comprehensive disarmament. They will maintain their efforts to achieve agreement at the Geneva Conference on the discontinuance of nuclear weapons tests. They will persist in their support of the United Nations and will seek to increase its influence. They will play their full part in maintaining the North Atlantic Alliance and other regional pacts to which they belong. My Armed Forces will continue to make their contribution to the preservation of peace throughout the world.

The improvement of conditions of life in the less developed countries of the world will remain an urgent concern of My Government. They will promote economic co-operation between the nations and support plans for financial and technical assistance. They have entered into negotiations for setting up a free trade association of seven countries in Europe, and intend that this should assist in the establishment of wider European trading arrangements which will be in the best interests of the Commonwealth and of the world as a whole.

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.

My Ministers will strive to maintain full employment, together with steady prices, a favourable balance of payments and a continuing improvement in standards of living based on increasing production and a rising rate of investment.

In recognition of the place of science and technology in the modern world a Cabinet Minister has been entrusted with the task of coordinating and promoting development in research and other scientific activity.

My Ministers will give urgent attention to the problems of those areas in which there is need to provide further opportunities for employment, and a Bill will be introduced to replace the Distribution of Industry Acts.

In order to develop a sound system of communications throughout the country. My Government will press forward with their policy of building new highways and improving existing roads. They will encourage further modernisation of the railways and will devote special attention to the future of the aircraft industry. A Bill will be laid before you for improving the arrangements for licensing air services and airline operators and to ensure the maintenance of high standards of safety.

My Government will initiate an enquiry into the working of the Companies Act and will introduce a Bill to strengthen the present law relating to building societies. They will put before you legislation to permit the payment of wages through a bank to any employee who so requests.

The well-being of all those whose living depends on the land will remain one of the first cares of My Government. The system of guaranteed prices and the long-term assurances in the Agriculture Act of 1957 will be continued. Legislation will be introduced to provide grants for horticultural growers and My Government will encourage the more economic marketing of produce. In particular, proposals will be put before you for reorganising and improving Covent Garden Market.

Proposals will be put before you also to continue the subsidies and grants given to the fishing industry and to make further provision for co-operation in international measures of conservation. At the Second World Conference on the Law of the Sea, to be held next spring, My Ministers will work for a just and reasonable settlement of the unresolved problems of the breadth of the territorial sea and of fishery limits.

My Government will give close attention to the social welfare of My people, including the needs of the war-disabled and their dependants and of old people. The earnings rules for pensioners and widowed mothers will be further relaxed. New house building will be maintained at a high level and the slum clearance campaign will continue. Measures will be introduced to modernise the law in Scotland relating to mental health and to succession. A Bill will also be laid before you providing for the registration of certain professions auxiliary to medicine.

The needs of the young in the society of today demand special attention. My Government will press forward with their plans to improve school buildings and to enlarge opportunities in the schools, technical colleges and universities. More teachers will be trained, and this will help to reduce the size of classes. With the aid of more trained youth-leaders, with an improved Youth Service and by other means young people will be enabled to put their leisure to better use.

A Bill will be introduced to amend and modernise the law on betting and gaming. A measure will be prepared to bring up to date the various statutes relating to Charitable Trusts. Legislation will be laid before you to make legal aid and advice more widely available.

Further advances will be made in penal reform. A Bill will be introduced to provide more effective means of dealing with young offenders and to extend compulsory after-care to prisoners who, by supervision on discharge, may be prevented from reverting to crime.

Other measures will be laid before you in due course.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons.

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

Edwin Wainwright – 1959 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Edwin Wainwright in the House of Commons on 10 November 1959.

I have waited a long time to speak, Mr. Speaker, but I am very grateful to you for selecting me, even though at such a late hour. As this is my maiden speech, I ask the House to grant me its forbearance. I am supposed to be non-controversial, and obliging, and I expect reciprocity on this occasion. If, inadvertently, I break that rule I trust that hon. Members will forgive me.

I should be very remiss if, on this occasion, I did not say a few words about my predecessor. I refer to the Right Hon. Wilfred Paling, formerly Member of Parliament for Dearne Valley. He came into this House in 1922 and remained here until just recently, except for a period in 1931–33, when, unfortunately, an hon. Member opposite defeated him at Doncaster. Wilfred Paling is a man of very high integrity. He is sincere and has a great honesty of purpose. He also has a great ability. This House has rung many times with his voice on behalf of the working people. In fact, he, along with the Right Hon. Tom Williams and Tom Smith, were considered to be “the terrible three”.

Mr. Wilfred Paling has recently had an attack of pneumonia, from which, I am glad to say, he is recovering. On behalf of every right hon. and hon. Member of the House, I think that I can say to him the next time I see him that we wish him and his good lady good health and a long retirement.

During the last two days we have been discussing the Local Employment Bill. When we read new Bills, it is often hard to discover why they were necessary. The Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, and the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act, 1958, give sufficient powers to the Government to carry out and maintain a policy of full employment. In view of the fact that the Bill has been introduced, and the Government have assured us that they will maintain full employment, we must accept what they say in good faith. I hope that that good faith will be with us in twelve months’ or two years’ time and that they do not treat the Bill, when it becomes an Act, as they have treated other Acts in the past.

There are three things that I should like to say about the Bill. The first concerns Part I, where the words a high rate of unemployment exists or is imminent appear. What do the Government mean by “a high rate of unemployment”? Do they mean 7, 8 or 9 per cent., or 30 or 40 per cent., which we experienced during the depression period, or do they mean what the Board of Trade says is a reasonable percentage of 4 per cent.? The Government should tell the House what they mean by a “high rate of unemployment”.

Secondly, what do the Government mean by the word “locality”? Do they mean that where there are high pockets of unemployment the term “locality” covers a wide expansive area, thus ensuring that the average rate of unemployment is low, or do they mean that they will consider each pocket of high unemployment on its own?

Thirdly, in Part III the Government promise “to be responsible for the difference of 85 per cent. between the cost of the erection of a building and its market value after completion. In a Development Area, one appreciates that there would be a difference between those two values and this provision probably would encourage private enterprise to come along and erect a factory or plant. In an area where there is only a little unemployment, 400 or 500 unemployed could be absorbed if two or three factories were erected. If there is a stable economy, about which we have heard so much from the Government, the difference between the cost of erection and the market value may be insignificant. If it were so insignificant that it would not attract private industrialists, what would the Government do to encourage the erection of factories?

In my division we have 3 to 4 per cent. unemployment. Sixty-five per cent. of the industry is coal mining, but the employment of mine workers has been restricted, with the result that at present 540 men are out of work. In addition, 81 boys, 348 women and 46 girls in the Dearne Valley, which is supposed to be an area of practically full employment, are unemployed. What perturbs me particularly is that we have boys and girls who are unemployed. In fact, 21 boys and 5 girls who are still unemployed left school in July. If we waste our youth like that, what is the good of our educational programme? What is the good of attempting to train technologists and scientists if we allow our youths to be unemployed?

In my neighbouring constituency—and I mention this with the permission of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Kelley)—72 school-leavers have been unemployed since the end of July. The position, therefore, in that area is worse than the position in my own constituency.

The West Riding County Council administrative area has had no help from the Government under the Distribution of Industry Act or the 1958 Act. Personnel are going out of the West Riding County Council administrative area into the large towns and cities for employment. Girls are travelling by bus from my own constituency at 5.15 in the morning to the Halifax and Bradford areas for employment and are returning late at night, between 7 and 8 o’clock. That is not a good thing.

We say, therefore, that light industries should be allowed to come to my division to make certain that there is employment for our female workers, for our aged and sick miners and for persons not physically fit to work in heavy industries. We hope that the Bill will help us to obtain the light industries which are needed in the Dearne Valley area. The contraction of the mining industry, unless it is planned contraction, can have a grievous effect on the economy. I would remind hon. Members opposite that 80 per cent. of the oil that comes into this country comes from a politically unstable area, and in the event of anything untoward happening in that area the economy would immediately be in a very parlous state.

I ask the Government to do a bit of rethinking about their present attitude towards the coal mining industry. Coal is our indigenous fuel, and we should make certain that it plays its full part in the fuel supplied to industry. If it is necessary that the coal mining industry is contracted, let us carry out the purposes of the Bill and ensure that employment is maintained in the mining areas before the pits are closed. Once a mine is closed it is too late to say that we will build a plant or factory there. It is essential to ensure that chaos, social upheaval and degradation do not occur in our small towns and villages.

It has been said by an hon. Member that there is nothing worse than unemployment, except war. To a fit and able man unemployment is degrading. A man feels that it besmirches his character. It upsets his soul and warps his opinions. It is the duty of any Government to ensure full employment wherever labour happens to be at any given time.

I may have been a little controversial. If so, I hope that hon. Members will forgive me. I will save any further comments, caustic or otherwise, for some future occasion. But I must impress upon the Government and upon hon. Members generally that we in the mining industry desire—I nearly used the word “demand”—the Government to consider fully a national fuel policy. I regret that the Minister of Power is not in the House today. It is essential that coal should play its part if we are to make full use of our indigenous fuel.

I suggest that opencast mining should be stopped immediately. Compensation for loss of contracts, which would be the responsibility of the Coal Board, should be taken over by the Government. The situation could be eased by making certain that the personnel and machines at present used in opencast mining were transferred to building our roads, thus making certain that our roads were such that when factories were built the materials required in those factories could be delivered there. If the Government will consider that suggestion and will put it into effect, I am certain that we can build up our economy and maintain full employment.

I hope also that the Government will bear in mind the question of residual oil. The Secretary of State referred to finance in connection with the stocking of coal, oil dumping and opencast mining. We are waiting to see what the Government intend to do on each of those three points.

I am grateful to the House for having listened to me so patiently and I hope that hon. Members will take note of what I have said.