On the Defensive, 1950–1

  • Henry Pelling


When Parliament reassembled in early March 1950, the caution of the Cabinet was at once evident in the face of an almost equally-divided House. The King’s speech indicated a complete absence of contentious measures, and Churchill commented that it might well have read ‘My Government will not introduce legislation in fulfilment of their election programme because the only mandate they have received from the country is not to do it.’1 But Attlee announced the Government’s determination to give effect to the Act already on the Statute Book for the nationalisation of Iron and Steel, and this was the issue on which the Government had to face its first major Parliamentary challenge, in the form of an amendment to the Address, which both Conservatives and Liberals were willing to support.2 In spite of this the amendment was defeated by 14 votes, and later divisions on a Housing amendment and on the Civil Supplementary Estimates were won by the Government with larger majorities, because the Liberals were either supporting them or abstaining. In the course of the debate on Supplementary Estimates Cripps declared that the Health Estimates for 1950–1, which were the major component of the Bill, would be regarded in the future as a ‘ceiling’.3 The Government’s first defeat in the Commons came on 29 March, when they lost an adjournment motion after a debate on fuel and oil supplies, but the Prime Minister did not regard this as an issue of confidence. He instructed the Whips, though, in future to try to

avoid divisions between the hours of 3.30 p.m. and 7 p.m., in order that Ministers might be able to devote the afternoons to the work of their Departments; but after 7 p.m. Ministers must be prepared to set an example of regular attendance in the House.4


Prime Minister Security Council Atomic Bomb European Economic Community Labour Government 
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Notes and References

  1. 18.
    Jean Monnet, Mémoires (Paris, 1976) ch. 12.Google Scholar
  2. 20.
    J. W. Young, ‘The Labour Government’s Foreign Policy Towards France, 1945–51’ (Cambridge, 1983) p. 252. This PhD thesis contains the best account of the negotiations that I have seen.Google Scholar
  3. 41.
    David Rees, Korea: The Limited War (1964) pp. 44, 109.Google Scholar
  4. 61.
    Kenneth Harris, Attlee (1982) pp. 425, 472.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Henry Mathison Pelling 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry Pelling
    • 1
  1. 1.St John’s CollegeCambridgeUK

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