- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 Jan 1952, p. 211-219
- George, Lady Megan Lloyd, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Speaking as a citizen of an old country, known to the Commonwealth as "the Old Country;" here to say a word for Britain. Some of the bills that Britain has run up and is finding it difficult to pay. Britain's national debt. Debts incurred in the cause of liberty and of suffering humanity. The situation today. Paying a very heavy price for peace. Britain making heavier sacrifices today in relation to her resources and difficulties than almost any other country in the world. Spending 23% of income on defence compared to 19% in the United States. Dollars that will be spent in the future. Measuring the extent of the contribution that Britain is making. Cause in Britain to be deeply grateful to Canada and to the U.S. for the generous assistance given. What Britain has paid out in gifts and loans, and in military expenditure to countries like Greece. Figures on the dollars Britain has given out compared to what she has received. Debts with regard to health and social services. The redistribution of wealth that has taken place in Britain as a strengthening of her industrial structure. Narrowing the gap between rich and poor. The slow process that that is. Feelings about the Welfare state. Britain's readiness to make sacrifices, and proof that she has made them in the past. Sharing the burden equally. The speaker's belief as to the remedy for Britain. Britain standing on her own two feet. The spirit of the British people. Britain taking her place once more to provide one of the most stabilizing factors in international politics and providing, with Canada and other Commonwealth nations, a living example of the peaceful collaboration of free nations.
- Date of Original
- 25 Jan 1952
- Language of Item
- Copyright Statement
- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
- Empire Club of CanadaEmail:firstname.lastname@example.org
Agency street/mail address:
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street West, Floor H
Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3
- Full Text
- "TODAY AND TOMORROW IN BRITAIN"
An Address by LADY MEGAN LLOYD GEORGE
Friday, January 25th, 1952
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. D. H. Gibson.
MR. GIBSON: We had at this Assembly yesterday Mr. Henry Ford, a most distinguished guest, marvellous speaker, from the United States of America. The gathering today is equally privileged and fortunate, and I claim that is a far greater tribute than any verbal words I can express in extending to Lady Megan, the whole-hearted reception which the City of Toronto desires to render to so distinguished a lady.
I had the privilege of first going to Europe in 1906, and if time permitted I would greatly enjoy weaving the pattern of Lady Megan's illustrious father, for I had opportunity in those days conferring with governing men, and he was an outstanding man in most of his declarations as Prime Minister during a large part of the First World War, in fact, an important part of it. Following that, we can all recall like yesterday how we hung on his words as he broadcast to the world the progress of that terrific conflict. Generation after generation will owe him a great debt for the magnificent service he rendered to his generation.
It is also a very enticing picture, of how this one family has made a contribution that is outstanding in this generation. First her illustrious father, and now Lady Megan herself, having served twenty-three years in that famous Mother of Parliament, and now we have also her brother invited into Churchill's Cabinet as Minister of Food. Truly few families in history have rendered to the State a nobler service than this distinguished family. I have often felt it must be with peculiar feelings one mingles amid those stately columns of the House of Commons by the River Thames, where for centuries the evolution of democratic government and the sacred regard for law and order ruled an Empire.
Lady Megan has come from a land of free people, tested as by fire in every fibre of the human mind and spirit, as these great people stood alone for fourteen long months preserving for mankind the treasures of civilization. I am convinced of this fact: the hour has come when we in Canada should valiantly, and to the uttermost, stand by these gallant and noble people arising from the altars of sacrifice as a people brave beyond understanding and patient with a devotion that stirs the heart.
The record of our distinguished guest is one of persistent endeavour to lift the standards of human living. She believes in the unfailing resources of the human mind and heart, making collectively a large contribution to progress in our civilization.
Until recently Lady Megan has occupied the position of Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in Great Britain. After Lady Astor, she became Mother of the House, as she was the lady member with the longest years of service in the House. She was also a member of the Broadcasting Commission, called the Beveridge Commission, a very important Commission.
With this, my friends, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have great honour and pleasure in presenting to you Lady Megan Lloyd George!
LADY MEGAN LLOYD GEORGE: Mr. President and Ladies and Gentlemen:
May I say, first of all, that I would like to thank you for the very signal honour that you have done me today in inviting me here as your guest. I can assure you that I appreciate it most deeply.
I should also claim your sympathy, and indulgence in that I have to follow today, a very remarkable special meeting yesterday addressed by a distinguished industrialist of world renown from your great neighbor country.
Now before I come to my theme, I would like to say how wonderful it is to be back again in Canada, because of course this is not the first time I have been here. I have a sense of being in a home from home and it is a wonderful feeling. The last time I came to Canada was--I was not going to tell you when, I thought I could get away with it, but I am afraid you will be making calculations and may get the right answer; but it was in 1923 when my mother and I accompanied my father on his tour. My father was accustomed to receptions of all kinds--warm, not so warm, and much too warm. But I know well that the wonderful welcome he received from the Canadian people was one of the proudest and happiest memories of his long life. That was just after the First World War.
The week before last you gave another great welcome to another British Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill, to whom all citizens of the Commonwealth owe a great debt for his services in the Second World War.
What a transformation has taken place since 1923 in Canada! At that time Canada had a population of 8 1/2 million: now it has a population of 13 1/2 million. The population of Toronto has almost trebled! In 1923 Canada was just beginning to emerge as an industrial power. Now she is taking her proud place in the first rank of industrial countries. Canada can do something today which few other countries in the world can do: in the words of a famous phrase, she can look the American dollar right in the eye! And indeed I was not sure two or three days ago that she was not going to be in a position to just look down on it a little.
It is a very exhilarating experience for anybody in Europe to come into such a rarified atmosphere. In the 18th century it was not considered that any young man had completed his education unless he had made the grand tour of Europe: I believe today that it should be part of the education of every young Briton to come to Canada, to see this vital, maturing country, which has still new worlds to conquer and which is every year tapping and developing new sources of wealth.
Yesterday Mr. Ford spoke to you as the representative of one young country to another. I am going to speak to you today as a humble citizen of an old country, what is known to the Commonwealth as the Old Country. And I come here,--and I am not at all ashamed to admit it--I come here to say a word for Britain. I know it is not necessary in Canada, because one of the things that has impressed me most since I have been here has been the great understanding of the problems of Britain today.
Now there is no place, so I am told and I believe it is true from experience, where you can speak with greater frankness than in your own family circle, and so today I am going to be very frank in this Commonwealth circle. Some pretty hard things have been said about Britain, but not nearly as hard as the things we have said about ourselves. Well that is all right for home consumption; but it is not very good for export, and it is not a very good American dollar earner. We understand these things in Canada. In Britain we have been brought up in that tradition of free political interchange, but it is apt to be misunderstood outside and misinterpreted abroad. As a result, you have a distorted picture of a Britain unable to meet her liabilities, indulging in extravagances, like Health Insurance, Social Services, and all that kind of thing. '
Now I would like for one minute, this afternoon, to look at some of those bills that we have run up and that we are finding it difficult to pay.
I remember attending with my father a luncheon of industrialists in the years of another economic depression. They were very gloomy about the future, and I remember vividly one passage in his speech. He said: "Some countries boast of having the highest mountains in the world, some of having the largest territories." He mentions, "We have the largest national debt in the world." He said, "Let us boast about it!" "Why had we incurred those debts?" His answer was, in the cause of liberty and of suffering humanity.
What about today? Everybody is paying a very heavy price for peace, and all the free countries are prepared to pay that price. But Britain is making heavier sacrifices today in relation to her resources and difficulties than almost any other country in the world. She is spending something like 23% of her income on defence while the United States is spending about 19%. We are going to spend 4 thousand millions in the next few years: that is, if my arithmetic is correct, nearly $12 thousand million dollars. A tidy little sum for a war-worn country to spend in the cause of peace!
How great is the contribution we are making? I tell you if we were not making that stupendous contribution, General Eisenhower's European Force would be 40% smaller for very nearly the half is contributed to the European Force by Britain! I think that is a bill we can be proud of. Should that to be classed as an extravagance?
What else? We have cause in Britain to be deeply grateful to Canada and to the United States for the wonderful generous assistance they have given to us. It has been a very present help in trouble, I can assure you. But is there anything else on the other side of the ledger? Have we paid out anything to any other country, or have we just been at the receiving end? Now here is a fact that is too often forgotten, although I am sure not in Canada. But in all, Britain has paid out in gifts and loans, and in military expenditure to countries like Greece, far more than she has received in generous aid from Canada's Post War Loan and from the whole of the Marshall Aid!
In fact for every 6 1/2 dollars that Britain has received in aid, mostly on a loan basis, she has been giving away $10. Not bad! Was this extravagance? Was this unnecessary? Was she wasting her substance? She gave it to refugees who were driven from their countries, homeless, stateless: she gave it to countries in Asia and Europe whose economic need was so desperate that they were in danger of falling unwilling victims to Communism. She has carried half the burden of feeding Germany for two years. All very necessary expenditure, this!
Just think of what has happened to the United States with all her vast resources. Think of her national debt. It has increased by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Why? It is a measure of the new responsibilities that she is shouldering. It is a measure of the new leadership that she is assuming in world affairs, one of the most significant and far-reaching events that has happened in this century, and we can all thank God for it.
In the same way the National debt of Great Britain is the measure of the part that she is playing in world affairs, in spite of all her burdens and difficulties today!
Now you will say to me--and quite rightly--"Well that is all very fine. What about the social services, what about the food subsidies? What about the Health Services: Do you think that these are debts to boast of? Do you really think that these things are necessary? Could you not have postponed them until better times? Wouldn't it have been far wiser to do that?"
All right; let us face up to those questions as well.
Hitler once said that if there had been no Insurance Services in Great Britain after the first world war, there would have been revolution. How well it would have suited his book if that had happened. In this connection, therefore, may I point out to you how slow has been the progress of Communism in Great Britain as compared with other countries in Europe. In France, in Italy there are strong Communist parties; there is a powerful Communist Party in the French Chamber. What about the House of Commons? We have only had two Communist Members, and they were swept out in 1950. Sometimes good people are swept out also! Today there is not a single Communist Member in the British House of Commons.
Is that just an accident? Is it just that the narrow strip of water, that moat that surrounds our Island fortress has once more been our salvation? I believe there is a great deal more to it than that. It is not only in South East Asia and the underdeveloped countries that the standard of living has got to be raised and maintained, if we are going to fight Communism: it is just as important to raise the standard of living in Europe and to maintain it in Britain. And I say to you today, that to have a healthy Britain, sound at heart--and she is sound of heart--is an incalculable asset to the free world and to the Commonwealth of Nations.
And so I claim that this tremendous redistribution of wealth that has taken place in Britain has been a great strengthening of her structure, yes, of her industrial structure. You have to carry the workers of the country with you, because you have to have a tremendous industrial effort to increase our exports and to restore our economy and I believe this re-distribution of wealth has been thoroughly justified. We have narrowed the gap between great riches and poverty. I do not think that is something that we need hang our heads in shame about. The other day a survey of the conditions in the great City of York was published, and a comparison drawn between today and 1936. It showed that 17% of the people in 1936 lived below the poverty line, and today only 1.7 % are below the poverty line.
Of course that has been a very slow process. It started--I must confess it was set in rather violent motion about forty years ago by my father. It wasn't very popular in those days. I remember very well a story that was told about him--or at the time how Shackleton, the explorer, was setting out on a great expedition to the Pole. He was very short of money, and he thought he would go and ask my father's advice, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. Shackleton said to him, "Can you tell me of any great industrialist that can help?" And my father replied, "I don't think I am very popular in the City of London just now." But nevertheless he suggested the name of a great industrialist. Shackleton went to see him. He came back a fortnight after, to report to me. Father asked, "How did you get on?"
"Wonderfully," he said. "So and So undertook to give $20,000 if I took you with me, and he said he would give me $10,000 for the expedition. He said he would give me $30,000 if I did not bring you back." That was the kind of feeling in certain quarters about the Welfare state then.
But now, make no mistake about it, it was accepted by Parliament during the War, by all parties alike; in its broad outline it is accepted by the nation today. Well, in spite of all this, we realize perfectly we are up against a serious crisis in Britain. The whole Sterling area is up against a serious crisis, the worst it has ever faced. We know that if the drain on our resources continues at the present rate, unchecked, we should be, at the end of nine months, down to our last bar of gold.
We realize we have got to make sacrifices, and I think we have proved our readiness to make sacrifices in the past. For a long time now we have cut down our "utility" coat to suit our cloth. We recently had a cut of £350 million in imports, which means more austerity for the British people. And you know we have not had the "all clear" in Britain since the war. We have been living on war rations in many respects.
They used to say it is the roast beef of old England that makes us what we are today. Well, my brother, who is also Minister of Food--"Alas, my poor brother!" has had to cut the meat ration by 3d. So now it is 1/2d. worth of roast beef which makes us what we are--a very tough old country, a better fed nation taking it all through, from the top level right down to the poorest income group, than we have ever been before, and a healthier nation, so our Chief Medical Officer of Health has told us, than ever before.
There is plenty of muscle, energy and vitality still in Britain. There is still plenty of life in the old Bulldog yet!
But I do say this to you, in all earnestness, that the British people will accept, I believe, all the sacrifices that are necessary if it is shown to them, first of all, that they are necessary, and--and this is the important thing to realize--if the burdens are equally shared, and that they are not allowed to fall on those least able to bear them.
That is why I say to you that I believe the remedy in Britain is not to cut the social services but to produce more wealth: it is not to cut down the slices that you distribute but to produce a larger cake; and to increase our exports, and our production. Sceptics will say: "I know that is all very fine, but can you do it? Can you stand on your own feet?"
As many of you realize, by the end of 1950 Britain had reached the position where she could be independent of foreign assistance, and for that reason Marshall Aid was suspended to Britain. We had bridged the gap, we were standing squarely on our own feet. What happened? Then came Korea with its crippling impact, not only on the economy of Britain but on the economy of all the countries of the world. We had rolled the great stone right up to the top of the incline: we were there. Then suddenly the ground gave way under our feet! But we have done it once, we can do it again, and we SHALL DO IT AGAIN!
People will say, we are going down hill. Don't you believe it! People always say that when the Party of which they do not particularly approve is in office. That is common practice in all countries. I expect it happens in Canada, as it does in all democratic countries. We in Britain have survived Governments of all hues, and we shall continue to do so. We shall fight and win this new battle of Britain. It will be a long and an up-hill struggle, but of the final issue I have no doubt nor after the contacts I have had in Canada, have the Canadian people any doubts either as to the final result.
I say to you today that the spirit of the British people is just the same as it was in 1940, when they "stood alone." It has not changed in any degree; it will respond to any challenge, however difficult and however hard. Britain will, I am convinced, in the future take its place once again with the other countries of the Commonwealth, providing one of the most stabilizing factors in international politics and providing, with Canada and all her proud sister nations of the Commonwealth, a living example of the peaceful collaboration of free nations.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mrs. David MacLaren.