Parliamentary Archives, LG/G/17/7/15
S.O. Davies was elected to represent Merthyr Tydfil at a by-election on 5 June 1934, and made his maiden speech the day before on unemployment. ‘We see communities with a great industrial history dissolving and disintegrating’, he said, ‘and all that the present machinery of government does is to take out a few of the unemployed from those communities, doing nothing, however, to retard the dissolution of the community as a whole’. It was a fierce start to his parliamentary career.
How was Davies seen at Westminster?
Davies was seen as outspoken and uncompromising when speaking about issues which affected his constituency. His attacks on government policy were often brutal. In 1936, during a debate on the Hunger March Petition, in a powerful and moving speech Davies denounced the Prime Minister as ‘helplessly ignorant’ and wondered whether or not the government had any sense of what was going on in the industrial areas most affected by the Depression. ‘It is not inappropriate’, he said, ‘on this day to mention the fact that nearly half of those marchers are ex-service men who served in the Great War’.
At Westminster Davies was seen as an independent mind. He was as likely to disagree with the policies of a Labour government as those of a Conservative administration - for example, in 1950 he gained notoriety when he defied the Labour Party whip and spoke out against involvement in the Korean War. Only a handful of fellow left-wing MPs, such as Emrys Hughes, MP for South Ayrshire and a conscientious objector during the First World War, followed him in doing so.
Calls for Welsh home rule
Reacting to the parliament for Wales campaign, of which he was a leading member, Davies introduced a private member's bill for Welsh home rule in 1955. He proposed a 72-member chamber, comprising dual-member constituencies along the lines of the 36 Westminster constituencies then in existence. His model was the Government of Ireland Act first presented to the House of Commons in 1886 and finally passed, amidst much controversy, in 1914. In commending the Bill to the House, he stated simply – and again with much reference to the 1930s – ‘the Welsh people have one weakness—they are inclined to be long suffering. We ought never to forget the inter-war years’. The Bill, needless to say, failed to gain the support of the House of Commons.