Gerald Malone – 1985 Speech on the Loyal Address

Below is the text of the speech made by Gerald Malone, the then Conservative MP for Aberdeen South, in the House of Commons on 6 November 1985.

I suppose that the first thought that always occurs to those of us who are given this task and honour is why the eyes of the Patronage Secretary should have turned on us.

As I contemplated that thought over the past few days, I concluded that the Patronage Secretary’s decision must have had something to do with his reading matter during the recess. I believe that I was mentioned in only one book that was published during the recess, and I thought that my right hon. Friend might have read the flattering reference to me in that book.

I refer hon. Members on both sides of the House to the publication “Humming Birds and Hyenas”. Of course, I maintain that the humming birds are on the Government side, and I shall say nothing about the hyenas. I was sure that the Patronage Secretary had read the reference to me, which started, rather flatteringly:

“No one should doubt Malone’s profound commitment to getting on.”
So far, so good. It went on, rather strangely:

“Malone, though, is ill-served by his physical appearance”—

[Laughter.] I am glad that the House contradicts that view— ​

“He has very small eyes that, as they constantly swivel for a better view of the main chance, seem to be operating independently of one another.”

It is one thing to be thought of as having an independent mind; it is quite another to have the fact testified to by one’s eyeballs. The reference continued:

“He is also a hard, combative, aggressive man, temperamentally not equipped for the graceful side of politics.”

No wonder the Patronage Secretary chose me for this great honour.
However, the quality of the judgment of the author, who seems to be called Edward Pearce—obviously a nom de plume which must have caused great irritation to the sketch writer of the Daily Telegraph—can be assessed by the fact that, after saying all that, he concluded:

“And I like him.”

I am deeply grateful for this honour, which I consider to be an honour not only for me, but for my constituency and for the city of Aberdeen, which is also represented by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), whom I congratulate on his success in achieving shadow Cabinet office. I do not intend to say more about that because I do not want to prejudice his chances on Thursday, when I understand that something else might or might not happen to him.

The hon. Gentleman and I are both proud to represent Aberdeen, It is a city of great contrasts. It is a city which has constantly played a part in Scotland’s affairs, no more so than now, when it is actively involved in the oil industry. Oil is not all that Aberdeen has to offer. Unlike the constituency represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre), my constituency, although residential in part, is active industrially. It has a fishing industry, a fish processing industry and a shipbuilding industry, over which I regret there is some uncertainty, which I hope will be resolved. Aberdeen has a proud shipbuilding history.

A mark of the character of the people of Aberdeen is that the city has always met new industrial challenges. North sea oil was a great challenge, to which the city adapted. The city has changed with that challenge. For that reason, I am fortunate to represent an urban constituency where the unemployment rate is only 6 per cent. This is due mainly to the character of the people of Aberdeen.

Aberdeen has more than that. The House will know that it has a football club which has known some success, and I trust that it will continue to be successful in the coming season. The club is known for its success on the field, and the quality of its supporters is recognised throughout Europe. Aberdeen’s supporters are an example to football club supporters throughout the United Kingdom. Other clubs should try to achieve a similar standard of behaviour.

I am pleased that the Gracious Speech refers to Scotland and particularly to public sector housing in Scotland. In my constituency, selling council houses has been successful, but only up to a point. I am pleased that the policy is now to be taken further. Expenditure on public sector housing in Scotland was successful in the 1930s, but not in the post-war period. It is significant that we have to knock down and rebuild council housing stock built in the 1950s and 1960s, whereas stock built in the 1930s is sought after avidly by council house tenants. Hon. Members on both sides of the House can learn a lesson from that—that the way in which we plan and run council housing stock is unacceptable.

We have taken some steps forward in selling off council housing stock to the private sector, but we must now go ​ further. It is up to the Government to adopt a more radical attitude to public sector housing. Selling it to the private sector is not the whole answer. There are many other options, such as housing co-operatives and other forms of co-ownership. It is crucial that we remove public sector housing stock from politicians’ control. That should be our ultimate priority. I hope that the Gracious Speech will take us one step further in that direction.

The Gracious Speech will be judged by people outside the House on whether the Government continue with their policy to reform our industrial base. I believe that they are doing that, not by measures of the type that would be adopted by the Opposition, which would take us back to the evil days of the past, but by facing the challenges of the future.

Many have said that Governments half way through their second term begin to lose spirit and their radical edge. I am pleased to be able to say today that the Gracious Speech does not reveal that fault. This Government were elected to have a radical edge and to continue to try to bring about change in our society, and especially in our industry to make it competitive so that it will stand head and shoulders above our competitors in Europe and the world.

I regret having to say that in the days to come, when we debate the Gracious Speech, we shall probably hear the prescriptions of yesterday from Her Majesty’s Opposition. We shall hear tales of more state controls, when we have pushed back the boundaries of such controls, tales of the undoing of the reforms of the trade unions which we have undertaken and which have been so successful, and a programme, in contrast with that put forward in the Gracious Speech, which would, quite simply, turn back the clock in Britain and stop our progress toward a more prosperous future.

I am pleased to note from the Gracious Speech that the Government will continue their efforts to reform our industry. I can take that back to the people of my constituency, who have taken on that challenge. It is my wish that the spirit be translated throughout the United Kingdom, so that the understanding that prosperity can be based only on industries that are truly competitive will at least be realised.

I believe that that is the message of the Gracious Speech. It is a message for the future.