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.