Conservative Party Policy in Britain
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 17 May 1967, p. 1-17
Heath, The Rt. Hon. Edward, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Some remarks about the office and history of the office of the Lord Privy Seal. The Conservative Party of Britain today: some recent history and recent progress in terms of party policy. Indications of the policies as they have now emerged. A bit of forecasting about the Party under the speaker's leadership: the Party of free enterprise, the Party of freedom of choice and the Party of social welfare. The sort of economy the speaker's Party wants to bring about. Changes that need to be made. Policy on taxes. Social services and education. Foreign affairs. The Commonwealth. Joining Europe. Some British characteristics. A return to the characteristics of fairness and taking risks in the Conservative party. No doubts about the modern Britain.
Date of Original
17 May 1967
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 Canada
Agency street/mail address:

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
MAY 17, 1967
Conservative Party Policy in Britain
CHAIRMAN, The President, Graham M. Gore


Yesterday afternoon--Tuesday, May 16, 1967--was the day of the funeral of Dana Harris Porter, a distinguished Canadian and a Past President of this Club.

Since 1958 Dana Porter had been Chief Justice of Ontario. Before that his posts in the provincial government included those of Education Minister, Attorney General, and Provincial Treasurer. A Conservative by party and by instinct he was, during his lifetime, responsible for many progressive changes--the easing of the censorship laws, the removal of the six per cent ceiling on bank rates, the legalization of Sunday sports, the expansion of the probationary system, and many aspects of educational reform.

Mr. Porter was President of the Empire Club of Canada in the year 1934-1935, and many of us here today have warm memories of him. If I may be permitted a per sonal reference I knew him in his capacity as the Minister of Education for Ontario and as a fellow-elder in the same church. I know that there are many members of this Club who counted him a personal friend and who will miss his learning, his wit, and his counsel.

Mr. Porter is survived by his wife and by his two sons, Dana Jr., and Julian. As a mark of our sympathy to them and in memory of a friend and Past President of the Empire Club of Canada I ask you to rise and observe a moment of silence for Dana Harris Porter.

Mr. Gore continued:

As Victor Hugo lay dying in Paris in 1885, he wrote these prophetic words--"I represent a party that does not yet exist: the party of revolution, of civilization. This party will make the twentieth century. There will issue from it first the United States of Europe, then the United States of the World." Twenty-five years ago, Wendell Wilkie was introducing his concept of one world as the United States was breaking out of the chains of isolationism. Today we are all aware of Marshall McCluhan who keeps telling us that the whole world is now a global village.

The things that these prophets of the future have talked about in different generations are now slowly becoming realities because of the work of men with imagination, initiative and tenacity. One of these realities is the Common Market system of Europe which has been operating effectively the past few years. As you know, the common market is currently in the news because of Britain's renewed application to become a member. Our speaker today is the man who conducted the first negotiations with the heads of the European economic community on the question of Britain's entry into the common market.

He was born at Broadstairs and was educated at the local schools. He went up to Balliol College, Oxford, where he read philosophy, politics and economics and won an Organ scholarship. During his time at Oxford, he was, among other things, President of the Oxford University Conservative Association.

Our speaker had planned to make a career at the Bar, but on the outbreak of World War II he enlisted in the Royal Artillery. He took part in the campaign in northwest Europe, was awarded the M.B.E. (military), was mentioned in dispatches, and was demobilized with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

After the war he worked at the Ministry of Civil Aviation, but in 1947 he resigned in order to enter politics. At the 1950 general election he won the marginal seat of Bexley from a former socialist member, and has held it since.

Between the time of leaving the Ministry and going into Parliament, our speaker worked in journalism and in merchant banking.

He was one of the group of nine young Conservative M.P.'s who wrote an important book "One Nation--A Tory Approach to Social Problems", published in 1950, which had an important influence on the party's thinking on social and industrial affairs.

In 1951 Sir Winston Churchill appointed him an Assistant Whip. When the Conservatives regained power in the autumn of that year he became Lord Commissioner of the Treasury. In December 1955 he was sworn a Member of the Privy Council.

Our speaker became Minister of Labour 1959-60, and from 1960 to October 1963 served as Lord Privy Seal and spokesman in the House of Commons for all Foreign Office affairs.

It was during the latter period that he conducted the negotiations with the heads of the European economic community on the question of Britain's entry to the Com mon Market. Although the negotiations fell through he was widely acclaimed in Europe for his handling of them on behalf of Britain and for his leadership of the British team. His efforts in the cause of European unity were recognized by the award of the Charlemagne Prize--given each year for "The Most Notable Achievement in the Service of International Understanding and Co-operation in Europe". Sir Winston Churchill is the only other Englishman to have received this award.

Since becoming Leader of the Opposition in 1965, he has led in a vigorous and unremitting campaign against socialism. In addition, fact-finding tours have taken him not only to the various regions in Britain to study local problems, but to Europe, the Far East and the United States to keep in personal touch with international affairs. In his personal and private life Mr. Heath enjoys motorboating and fishing, and is an accomplished musician.

It is my pleasure to introduce to you a soldier, a political leader, a diplomat, an 'international' man--Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition in the British House of Commons, the Right Honourable Edward Heath, M.B.E., P.C., MP.


Mr. President and gentlemen, it is an immense pleasure for me to be lunching with you here today in this distinguished Club, about which I have so often heard tell from my predecessors, as Leader of the Conservative Party in Britain, Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and also from Lord Amory, who was here with you so recently. I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for the warm welcome which you have given to me and the words which you have spoken and to say how particularly delighted I was to find in the course of them that I had one supporter present; more than the average usually granted to a politician.

As I listened to that long description with which you regaled this Club today, I noticed the particular emphasis you put upon it, that rather sort of solemn tone you adopted when you said I had been Minister of Labour, expecting thereby to bring about the end of a politician. Fortunately I survived that and went on to be Lord Privy Seal, which you mentioned with a suitable air of mystery, quite rightly because it was quite obvious you didn't know what it was all about, which is understandable because nobody at home does either.

In fact, the Lord Privy Seal is one of the high offices of state which was created in 1372 and it has no departmental responsibility. I took it up when I moved to take charge of the negotiations in Europe and I used to reflect, late at night, that my first predecessor in 1372 would have had a very much easier time, as at that particular period of the century, the King of England commanded by far the greater part of France. I would have liked to be in that position.

So, I was Lord Privy Seal and as I travelled in Europe I found myself described in Germany and Austria as the Lord Siegelbewahrer. Then when I got to Brussels or Paris I was described as the Lord du Sceau Privy the accent on the last word.

This great office was defined by Ernest Beviri, who was asked when he undertook it, what it meant and he said, "I haven't got a clue. All I know is that he is neither a lord, nor a privy, nor a seal."

Being here today and on this visit to Canada, allows me to pay tribute as Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, in this Centennial year to the great achievements of your country and say how much we admire them and, if I may, to say that we share in the pride which you have during this year in your very great achievements.

Naturally as a politician, as a Member of Parliament, and as one who seconded the resolution of congratulations to your own Parliament in the House of Commons just a few weeks ago, I rejoice particularly in the development of your parliamentary institutions and the way in which they have been able to cope with the scale and diversity of this great country over the century.

I have been happy to work with Ministers in this country, both Liberal and Conservative, and see here today many friends, including Donald Fleming. We once travelled across Africa together and if you can remain friends at the end of that, there can't be very much wrong with AngloCanadian relationships.

I greatly admire the work and quality of your civil servants and particularly perhaps of the Diplomatic Service. Again I admire the part which Canada has played, par ticularly in the post-war years, in international affairs, a part which she has been able to play because of her integrity and sympathy and her understanding with those countries, whether they are developed or under-developed, and with the problems which they have in the modern world.

At home we admire as much as anything the immensely rapid rate of economic growth which you have had in this country and the way in which it is continuing; and perhaps above all, the robustness which characterizes Canada in all its aspirations--a characteristic which we in Britain have in common.

Never, I suppose, was it more characterized than by that great man, Winston Churchill himself, to whom we all owe so much.

I was privileged, as you said, Mr. President, to have my first appointment at his hands and I remember very well when I took it. I was completely new and unknown and he patted me on the shoulder and said, "I am glad you are going to do this. It will mean very much hard work" -and it certainly did and still does. He said, "It will be unremunerated"--and it was, almost still is. But he said, "So long as I am your leader, it will never be unthanked." And I thought this was a most charming Churchillian approach to a very young and inexperienced man, taking up his first appointment; and in all the years I served, differences of opinion were not things to be undertaken lightly or wantonly.

When we came into office in 1951 we had a very small majority of 16, which was thought to be a very small majority in those days. At least it was a majority and Mr. Churchill laid down that not more than four Members of Parliament would ever travel in the same airplane together, and if they did so, two must come from each side. He also said they must have approximately the same majorities. Having laid down the principle he said, "It is now for you, the Whips, to see that this is carried out." This is the privilege of these great men, but when you have to watch airplanes from Djakarta to Durban to Detroit to see what Members of Parliament are up to, it is not easy to carry through!

Then one terrible day I discovered suddenly that the next day we had eight Members of Parliament going on a Parliamentary delegation to Finland. The first half of the journey was all right but on the second half they were all in the same airplane. I reported this to the Chief Whip who said in that rather casual way which Chief Whips have, "I think you had better go and tell the Prime Minister yourself about this."

So I went to see the great man. There he was brooding at his desk and he said, "Well?" and I said, "Prime Minister, tomorrow a Parliamentary delegation is going to Helsinki." And he said, "Must they go to Helsinki?" Well, I thought this wasn't really a very auspicious beginning and I said, "Yes, they must, Prime Minister, because the President is going to greet them and everything is arranged." I said, "I have something to tell you. For the first half of the journey they will be travelling in two airplanes to Copenhagen." He looked at me and said, "Copenhaagen."

Well, I was very young and green and brash and I had memories of Danny Kaye going around and around in my head ("Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen") and I said--it makes me go hot and cold now--I said, "Prime Minister, I have always understood it was called Copenhagen." A dark cloud came over his face and he said, "Young man, these words are meant to be pronounced by Englishmen in an English way and in future you will say Copenhaagen. Good day."

Well, by this time I had learnt my lesson and I said, "Thank you, Prime Minister, good day," and he never knew about the eight Members of Parliament. So, it is a robustness which we have in common.

I wanted to spend a few minutes today, if I may, talking to you about the policy of my own Party at home. It is always a difficult lot for a politician abroad. As you known he can never criticise his own home government and he can't comment on anybody's else's government-not that I would wish to do so -but it therefore leaves me only in the position of being able to tell you about our own policies.

The Conservative Party in Britain went out of power in 1964 after 13 years of what, I believe, historians will come to regard as very great achievements in the post war world. But those two and a half years have given us the opportunity of re-thinking our policy, and we have done an enormous amount about it, of re-constructing our organization and developing our research work in a very high degree and of bringing in a very large number of new, young and immensely able candidates.

I therefore am very gratified with the progress which we have so far been able to make. This has been done in what has been a difficult period. In fact, we have had no successes since 1959. Eight years is a long time for a party not to be able to point to specific successes. Nevertheless, we have, in the past two months, seen some of the fruits of the work which we have been doing; very often doing quietly behind the scenes but under great criticism from outside and as a result of the local government by-elections, we now control 56 of the 59 counties in England and Wales and Scotland and we control all the great cities from London downwards, with the exception of two: Glasgow and Sheffield. Never before in the post-war history has any party commanded the whole, almost the whole, of local government in the way in which the Conservative Party at home now does.

But I would like to give you the indications of the policies as they have now emerged. I say as a forecast that the Conservative Party under my leadership is going to be the Party of free enterprise, the Party of freedom of choice and the Party of social welfare.

Those three things, I believe, ought to be compatible and indeed, to be dependent upon each other. We believe in private enterprise, we understand private enterprise, we usually encourage private enterprise because we believe that nothing can be achieved in this world except through the individual efforts of men and women, and for this they need to have encouragement and incentive.

Freedom of choice we believe in expanding as widely as possible and I would like to indicate some ways in the social service in which we believe this can be brought about.

Social welfare is essential for the welfare of our people, but a strong private enterprise economy is essential as a sound basis for social welfare.

Let me then talk for a moment or two about the sort of economy we want to bring about. We want to see a high-wage, low-cost economy. We believe in high wages. We do not believe that you can bring out the best in men and women by holding them back under constant restraint. We have opposed compulsion whenever it has been proposed. We believe above everything that the best can only be produced if there is competition and if people are given the opportunity to give their best.

Therefore, we want to see high wages and we want to see low costs. We believe that this can be brought about by a combination of policies which require considerable changes in the British economy today; particularly a much higher level of training of management, both at the top level and for those who are leaving universities. Much greater scope for the training of skilled labour, which learning from our own lessons of the past, has in fact proved to be the economic bottleneck on every occasion on which we have gone for expansion in the British economy. But above all it is essential, if we are to have a lowcost economy, that we should do away with restrictive practices on the shop floor and this means the complete reform of trade union legislation in Britain.

We have already tackled the problem of restrictive practices in the board room with very considerable success. I, myself, when President of the Board of Trade and against the wish of a considerable part of my Party, forced through the Bill to abolish re-sale price maintenance, or fair trading, as I believe it is described in North America.

I must say I was first of all under the impression that everybody in my Party and everybody in industry and trade believed in competition. I discovered with regret that this is not always the case.

There are some who feel that life is so much easier if there isn't too much competition around, but we fought this one through and the country is now reaping the re wards. As far as Britain is concerned we must have a competitive economy and if we cannot compete at home, we shall certainly never compete abroad. That is fundamental.

Next there is the reform of trade union legislation, for which we have put forward very detailed proposals. We believe that Parliament must create a Registrar of Trade Unions; that Parliament must lay down the guide lines for trade union rules, and these rules must exclude restrictive practices; that trade unions will not have the benefit of exemptions from the law unless they are prepared to comply with the rules. We believe we must establish industrial courts in the main centres of the country to deal with differences between employer and employee and between trade unions and their individual members.

Now, this, of course, is a very comprehensive program of trade union reform but it does go to the root of the problem of a free-enterprise economy, which is that you must keep the balance in the economy.

In the 19th century in Britain the balance was far too heavily weighted on the side of the employer and the corporation. In the post-war world, with the levels of employment which a free democracy expects, the balance has been far too heavily weighted on the side of the trade union officials. Therefore, the balance must be redressed and equalized and you can only do it through trade union reform. Only in that way can you get an effective freeenterprise economy.

Of course, I have been speaking of industry but we are now putting forward proposals for a complete change of our agricultural support price system. We believe we should no longer go on subsidizing, through the treasury, the consumer buying food cheaply. We believe the consumer should pay the price of production in Britain. This should be achieved by levies applied to the imports, which means the treasury takes the levies, it saves the subsidies and at last we can get room for manoeuvre in the British tax system.

This brings me to the next point, which is that if we are to have an effective free-enterprise economy, with the reform of trade union legislation, the training of manage ment, we must change our present tax system. Of course, it has been much complicated in the last two and a half years. It is said the best brains in Britain are today used to find ways and means of avoiding tax. This is quite unfair. That is not the case. The best brains in Britain today are used in trying even to understand the tax system.

So, therefore we need to make a good many changes, to redress the balance between direct and indirect taxation, to accept the corporation tax as a permanent tax, but again to change its structure because it is militating against investment. The result is that companies are naturally maintaining their dividends and being left with much smaller resources for investment in the corporation.

The capital gains tax is on a level which we consider to be vicious and penal, and the selective employment tax is, we believe, one of the most ridiculous taxes ever devised. We shall therefore abolish it. I don't know if you know about it. It is a tax which is applied to employers. If you are in a service industry you pay a tax on each man and half the tax on a woman, which

I think is offensive to women, and if you are in industry you then receive a subsidy. The object is said to be to reduce manpower. It is nonsensical to think those paying 7/6d. for every man and woman employed will encourage the better use of manpower, but we certainly do need to make more effective use of our present resources of manpower.

So, I come now to the question of social services. Here we believe in the comprehensive system as a basic system, but above that we believe the time has now come when the citizen should have his freedom of choice as to the way in which he covers his social security benefits. This, of course, extends to housing and local authority housing. We believe that fair rents ought to be paid except for those in need.

On education we believe people should have the opportunity of paying for their own children's education at private schools if they wish to do so. In health, we wish to encourage people to subscribe to individual schemes of health insurance if they wish to obtain additional advantages over and above the National Health Service. In insurance, we propose that in addition to the basic scheme, everyone should be compelled to take out a scheme of theif own, which is within certain limits and which can be done as a superannuation scheme through their own firms, or if they are self-employed, through their own insurance companies.

So, this is our general approach now to the social services; to get the basic scheme and to enable the individual to develop his own requirements with freedom of choice.

I come lastly in our policy to the whole field of foreign affairs. You have mentioned, Mr. President, the great interest and concern which I have, of course, with Europe. My own Party is now formally committed to a European policy. We supported the present government in their application which has been described as a historic application. This, of course, is not strictly true. We made the application in 1961. What is historic is it is the first time all three Parties in the British Parliament have, in the lobby, given a vote by an overwhelming majority for an European policy. That is the historic characteristic of the present situation.

Now, I don't want to go into the present situation. All I want to say is first of all that I have always regarded the European policy as a long-term policy for Britain. It is a long-term policy if we become a member of the community, and it is a long-term policy if we don't become a member at the moment, because I believe that in the long run this is Britain's part in the world for the rest of this century and the years afterwards.

We now live in a changing pattern of international relationships. We have seen the emergence of the two great super-powers, the United States and the U.S.S.R. There may be the emergence of a third in China. As a country, through all our history, we have had to exploit to the utmost our small-scale and limited resources and we have done so extensively.

Nevertheless, we cannot compete either economically, or politically, or militarily with the great super-powers as they are now emerging. So, I see this as a long-term policy, but it is not a policy of withdrawal. There are some I know, perhaps here in the Commonwealth, elsewhere and in North America who regard it as a policy of withdrawal into a fortressed Europe. My conception is exactly the reverse. It is a policy which gives us a base, a sound economic base with a large market of nearly 300 million people when it is brought together. A sound base from which we can exert our political and military influence elsewhere in the world, and a base which I hope will eventually mean that Europe as a continent will once again exert its influence in the world. How quickly things have changed. One has only to look back at my time in Oxford when Europe was still the centre of world affairs. There were the capitals of the great colonial empires and yet within a few years they had disappeared. The British Empire, unique in its own characteristics, became a family of independent and equal nations, but for the rest, they have disappeared and Europe's influence has gone.

Many of us in Europe want to see that influence, which we believe to be for good, re-created. And so the purpose of the European policy is to give us the basis on which we can do that.

I would like to say just one word about the Commonwealth, because I am one of those who believes if one understands the true nature of the Commonwealth, it has an immensely important purpose still to perform. What is more, I do not believe, I have never believed, that it will be damaged in its essentials by the European policy--if Britain is successful in carrying it out.

All those things that we have in common: the Crown, either as the Crown or as Head of the Commonwealth; the same background of law, of common law; the same back ground of administration; the immensely close professional ties, which in modern years have become closer; and above all the relationship between friends and families which exist over so large a part of the Commonwealth; all of these things will continue.

But in particular, in the political sphere that daily, indeed hourly consultation which goes on the whole time between all the members of the Commonwealth and par ticularly between the members of the older Commonwealth, will continue. Indeed I believe that if we succeed in becoming a member of the European Common Market, it would become even more valuable to the members of the Commonwealth because they would have, so to speak, a direct line not only to London, but from London to all the other centres, to Europe as a whole and to that developing European influence. I have always believed that in the long run in this political aspect, our European policy is of immense importance also to the Commonwealth as a whole.

The Commonwealth is changing and that we accept entirely. In Britain I have always said, we must never presume on the past, neither must we be intimidated by the past. We can be proud of the past but we must not presume upon it.

Today in Britain in any aspect of the matter, whether it is political or commercial, we must stand on our own feet and be judged on our own merits. That is all we ask. Let us have a fair deal and be judged entirely on our own merits. We can ask for nothing more and we cannot complain if we get nothing more. I hope you will feel that this robust attitude towards our position as a member of the Commonwealth is right today.

So Europe becomes the long-term policy and I believe it will help us economically. But above all there is the political reason for wanting to join the influence of Europe.

I suppose the main reason there is to ensure that an emerging Germany economically strong should be bound as closely and as tightly as possible into the European family so that never again can we suffer the strife which we have all suffered in the past, in the two World Wars in which you have played a noble part. Nor can we see Germany going its own way in neutralism or towards the east, because that would be equally damaging to the new and emerging Europe.

This then is the basis in the Conservative Party for the European policy we have developed, Mr. President, and I have tried to put before you the things which are motivating us in the new Conservative Party at home.

There are certain characteristics of the British which I think are of importance at this time. First of all, there is the characteristic of fairness. I think most people about the world, whatever grumbles and complaints they may have about us, say on the whole that the British try to be fair and this is true. But there is always a danger about fairness in that it can deteriorate into equality and egalitarianism. Instead of seeing that people get their dues and merits, it can deteriorate into the question, "Why is he getting more than I am; can't it be stopped?"

The other characteristic of the British is that of taking risks. Sometimes I think the rest of the world admits this as well, and sometimes they think we are a little mad to take the risks. Some, like Francis Chichester do it for the sheer love of doing it. Most of us are not made that way. We do it because we know at the end of it there is something more for our family and something more for ourselves.

The trouble comes when fairness deteriorates into egalitarianism. Then people say, "Why should we take any risks, because there is nothing more in it? We might just as well sit back and not take them."

I regard our last main task in the Conservative Party in Britain today to ensure that once again we return to the characteristics of fairness and taking risks, because these are in accordance with our traditions, with our past history. It is what made us great in former days and I believe they are the characteristics which, supported by energy and determination, can make Britain great once again.

I have no doubt about the present generation in Britain. I have an immense admiration for their energy, for their tirelessness, for their gaiety, for their vitality; it is simply tremendous. Given the opportunity they can do even better than any of their forefathers have done. When you look at Britain today in so many spheres, do not become entirely obsessed with the economics. If you look at the arts and culture, if you look at my own interest in music, London is the greatest musical capital in the world. No other city has five symphony orchestras. No other country has the greatest modern composer of the age of Benjamin Britten. We have great artists of world renown, men like Graham Sutherland and sculptors like Henry Moore.

As for architecture, last Sunday afternoon I was at the opening of the new Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool. The Anglican Cathedral there is almost finished and so also is the Cathedral in Guildford. Which other country can show its spiritual interest by building three great Cathedrals at the same time?

So I have no doubts about the modern Britain. It should be the equal of anything we have been in the past.

I have tried to express to you, not only my Party's views but also what I feel today, as the leader of a great Party, about Britain and the future which lies before us.

by D. H. W. Bath.

Thanks of the meeting were expressed

Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.


Conservative Party Policy in Britain

Some remarks about the office and history of the office of the Lord Privy Seal. The Conservative Party of Britain today: some recent history and recent progress in terms of party policy. Indications of the policies as they have now emerged. A bit of forecasting about the Party under the speaker's leadership: the Party of free enterprise, the Party of freedom of choice and the Party of social welfare. The sort of economy the speaker's Party wants to bring about. Changes that need to be made. Policy on taxes. Social services and education. Foreign affairs. The Commonwealth. Joining Europe. Some British characteristics. A return to the characteristics of fairness and taking risks in the Conservative party. No doubts about the modern Britain.