7 MAY 1948, Page 3


THE hopes of those who may have expected an epic contest on the occasion of the debate on the Motor Spirit (Regulation) Bill were doomed to disappointment. The debate on the question whether or not it is a good thing to dye the people's petrol deepest red was perseveringly rather than powerfully conducted in a very thin House. I hasten, however, to except Mr. Hudson from any imputation of lack of power. His was a hard-hitting oration in his down- right manner. He attacked the Bill as being, perhaps uniquely in our history, designed to " create certain offences," adding that, if this was not the beginning of the police state, he would like to know what was. Later by way of illustration he suggested that the Court might make a distinction between, say, the " Nenni goats" and those who are going to The Hague—which drew from Mr. Follick, in apparent reference to the latter, the comment " the ninny goats." Before Mr. Hudson's speech, Mr. Gaitskell had introduced the Bill in a speech setting out the various reasons for a measure of this sort, including the fact that the black market in petrol is a moral scandal which should not be tolerated.'

The debate was replied to by Sir Hartley Shaweross with calm,' skill and clarity.

* * * * Monday evening also saw a spirited double by Sir Hugh Lucas- Tooth. The first leg of his double was the Motor Spirit Bill and the second—appropriately enough—the Dental Service Regula- tions. Sir Hugh found himself in possession of the field, but with no visible champion against whom to tilt his lance. Where, he wanted to know, were the stalwarts of the Ministry of Health ?

Where indeed, echoed Sir Wavell Wakefield and Mr. J. S. C. Reid ?, Their doubts were resolved by the appearance of Mr. Bevan, scowling portentously at his would-be inquisitors. Once in the Chamber, Mr. Bevan lost no time in being heard as well as seen. He assumed the offensive immediately, bombarding Sir Hugh and Sir Wavell with brisk and pointed interrogatories. Neither, how- ever, was disconcerted, let alone unhorsed, by these brusque tactics, in which the Minister had the professional assistance of Dr. Morgan and Mr. Baird, a dentist, who later on proceeded to try to drill a few holes in the Opposition case, and insert a few fillings of his own in the cavities. Ultimately this spirited debate ended with the endorsement by the majority of the Regulations. * *

The great occasion of the Parliamentary week was, naturally, the Foreign Affairs debate. Mr. Bevin's speech, like all his speeches, was of course a world event, and its text will have been studied in many places by many people. But, so far as its delivery in the House was concerned, it would be using the language of hyperbole to suggest that it constituted a great Parliamentary occasion. The truth is that, though Mr. Bevin said one or two things of first importance, he did not manage to say them very interestingly. Making every allowance for the meticulousness with which a Foreign Secretary must watch his step, the genera! verdict was that there was too much of platitude and too little of inspiration in what he had to tell the House. Mr. R. A. Butler also was serious and circumspect, but he managed to induce a greater degree of spirit and liveliness into his speech which, on that

account, was, Parliamentarily, more successful and more effective. * * * * On both days of the debate there were a number of interesting back-bench speeches. From the Government side, Mr. Levy said some interesting if rather unexpected things, which laid him open to the extempore cross-examination of his colleagues Mr. Hale and Mr. Paget. Undismayed by this, Mr. Levy observed that Lord Winterton was bursting to intervene, only to be met with the summary retort : " I have no need ; you are cutting your own throat and your party's." Later, Mr. Bellenger returned to the fray from the back benches. On the other side, Brigadier Head's survey of the military situation was out- standing. But the high-light of the debate was undoubtedly Mr. Eden's speech—statesmanlike, analytical, constructive, spirited, serious