Cledwyn Hughes – 1978 Speech on the Loyal Address

Below is the text of the speech made by Cledwyn Hughes, the then Labour MP for Anglesey, in the House of Commons on 1 November 1978.

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:

Most Gracious Sovereign,

We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

This is an unexpected privilege, but one that I greatly appreciate. I did not think, as I left the House for my constituency at the beginning of August, that I would be speaking here on 1st November. However, I am not surprised because unpredictability is one of the hazards and charms of political life and I am not sorry to be here for a while longer and, I hope, to be able to enjoy a few more farewell parties.

My constituents share this honour, and it has been a joy to represent the island of Anglesey in the House for more than 27 years. There have been enormous changes in Anglesey in that period. From being an island economy dependent, in the main, on agriculture and the port of Holyhead, it now has a range of new small and medium industries and one large aluminium smelter. Anglesey Aluminium Limited has plans for expansion that would provide over 400 new jobs in the Holyhead area. I hope that the Government will do everything possible to ensure that that materialises.

During my period as the Member for Anglesey the population of the island has increased by over 30 per cent. We have retained more of our young people on the island because of the new industries that I have mentioned. Others have come to Anglesey to live because of its attractions. The tourist industry has flourished greatly during the past few years.
Our unemployment problem remains serious. I am glad that the Gracious ​ Speech stresses the evil of unemployment at the outset and undertakes to

“pursue every available means of moving to full employment.”

The Government are entitled to take credit for the wide range of special employment and training measures that they have taken and for the measures that are proposed in the Gracious Speech, but still more needs to be done. The effect of high investment in industry must be studied far more profoundly, because its effect on future employment prospects could be significant.

I welcome the promise of legislation to provide additional finance for the Welsh Development Agency as well as for the National Enterprise Board and the Scottish Development Agency. The Welsh Development Agency and the Welsh Rural Development Board have achieved a great deal and they deserve our support. I also warmly welcome the reference in the Gracious Speech to the examination of the special problems of slate quarrymen suffering from pneumoconiosis. The problem is especially acute in Gwynedd and the Government have shown a determination to resolve it. For this we are grateful.

As the House knows, Anglesey is a beautiful island. There is a convention that the sitting Member for the island is always one of the presidents of the annual eisteddfod of Anglesey. That event is held at Whitsuntide. I have fulfilled the task on 27 occasions; whether I do so next Whitsun is largely a matter for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minster.

In 1907 one of the presidents was one of my predecessors—namely, Ellis Griffith. The other president was David Lloyd George. Speaking in the afternoon, Lloyd George said in his peroration that Anglesey was an excellent platform from which to view the grandeur of Caernarvon, for which he was one of the Members. In the evening session Ellis Griffiths retorted that Caernarvon stood on tiptoe in wonder to see the incomparable beauty of Anglesey. This is still there for all hon. Members to see if they have not already paid us a visit. I have cause to be grateful to the people of Anglesey for their kindness to me over a long period.

I read the Gracious Speech with particular interest on this occasion because it was suggested in some quarters that there would not be enough work for us to do. The Speech seems to be just right as regards quality and volume. There is a school of thought that believes that a Gracious Speech is defective unless it is bursting at the seams with exciting legislation. As my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip knows, I am not a member of that school. Of course, there are times when essential and adventurous legislation to which a Government have pledged themselves must be dealt with promptly; there are also times when it is advisable that the legislative field should lie fallow.

We should consider from time to time the effects of heavy legislative programmes not only on the House—for example, the manning of Standing Committees—but on those outside who are affected by legislation. I am not suggesting that it has happened over the past few years, but legislation that is inadequately processed can bring the House into disrepute. As I have said, I consider that this Speech is just about right. There are some extremely important Bills in the pipeline.

Again in the context of Anglesey and the Welsh coast, I welcome a merchant shipping Bill which, among other things, will help to control marine pollution. We have had some unpleasant experiences in recent weeks with the “Christos Bitas”, and “Eleni V” and the “Amoco Cadiz” before those off the coast of Brittany. We need the oil, and all of us use oil. However, I think that the House would welcome a full statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at an early date. I believe that the House would wish very soon to debate what he says and the near disasters to which I have referred.

I am glad that the Gracious Speech refers to the

“expansion of food production in the United Kingdom and its efficient processing and distribution.”

I mentioned earlier the significance of agriculture to Anglesey.

It is, of course, crucial to the whole country. North Sea oil is important and it is accepted that it can make a timely contribution if the revenues are properly used for the benefit of the country as a ​ whole. However, in the longer term agriculture is even more important than North Sea oil. The human race one day will have to live without oil, but it cannot live without food. The increasing world population and the demands and needs of the third world make it imperative that we and other advanced countries concentrate on producing more food. It frightens me sometimes when I remember that even today, after all the exhortations to produce more food and after what successive Governments have done to make that possible, we still import about half of all the food that we eat.

We must get away from the myth that the producer and the consumer are at opposite sides of a great divide. Their interests are identical and our policies must recognise that.

Improvements in the common agricultural policy are imperative as the Gracious Speech recognises. The surplus in European milk production is especially worrying, and great thought needs to be given to its implications.

The most important section of the Gracious Speech is that which deals with the economy. If we do not get that right, and if we cannot keep inflation down, the future is not bright for us. The Government have achieved a great deal over the past three years and I pay a warm tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for what he has already done and the lead that he has given.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has borne a heavy burden for a long time. He has occupied the office of Chancellor for longer than most of his predecessors. He has been criticised, and he will have expected that. He has been abused at times, and he can take that as well. He has shown courage and determination and he deserves our praise. I am glad to have this opportunity to give it to him.

I can see no real alternative to the reasonable control of incomes. There is a danger that the term “free collective bargaining” has become an outdated slogan, as outdated as “Two acres and a cow” or “We want eight and we can’t wait”. What is essential, and what takes place in the main, is informed and constructive negotiation based on three factors, namely, the cost of living, the state of the industry or firm concerned in the negotiations and, last but not least, the ​ state of the nation’s economy at any given time.

If we allow inflation to get out of hand again, we shall be courting disaster. I believe that the country as a whole is conscious of that. An effective incomes policy and a skilful control of the money supply are essential. It is not always easy to get the right balance, but that is the key to our survival.

For those of us who remember the 1930s—I have regard to what is said about foreign affairs in the Gracious Speech—the greatest achievement of the post-war period is stability in Western Europe. Remembering Western Europe in the 1920s and 1930s and considering it today, one sees that fundamental change has taken place. Notwithstanding our continuing economic difficulties, we in Britain have retained our stability and our basic values.

There has been a tendency for some to denigrate and belittle Great Britain in the past few years. We must be careful, because if we do that others will take us at our own valuation. We have much to be proud of. It is not for a Welshman to tell Englishmen about their inheritance. It is one of the greatest heritages of any nation on earth. I believe that we have the skills, imagination and experience to compete with any country. But much depends upon this House. It is here that the maintenance of stability, of freedom under the law and of the rule of law itself must be guarded and here that leadership must be given, and it is from the House that leadership is expected. I hope and pray that we can provide that leadership. I believe that the Prime Minister is doing his utmost to give us the right lead now. We must give that leadership in the years to come.