Review of National Prospects.

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance. – in the House of Commons on 29th October 1919.

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Photo of Mr Austen Chamberlain Mr Austen Chamberlain , Birmingham West

I beg to move That this House, realising the serious effects upon the trade and industry of the nation of the enormous financial burdens resulting from the War, promises its hearty support to the Government in all reasonable proposals, however drastic, for the reduction of expenditure and the diminution of debt. I am glad at this early period of our resumed Session to have an opportunity of reviewing in this House the financial situation of the country and inviting, as I propose to do, the hearty co-operation of the House in the measures which are necessary to deal with it. It must be obvious to us all that in the next few years financial problems are among the most difficult and the most important with which we have to deal. For a satisfactory settlement close co-operation and a complete understanding between the House of Commons and the Government are necessary, and we not only welcome the desire of hon. Members to be informed as to the financial situation, but invite them to help us in dealing with it. I have endeavoured, since I became responsible as Chancellor of the Exchequer, to inform the House with as much particularity as was possible of the true financial position of the country from time to time. I have continued that endeavour in the White Papers which were laid on Monday. Those Papers disclose the present situation.

4.0. P.M.

Before I deal with it, may I make two preliminary observations? For many years past we have recognised in the conduct of Debates upon foreign affairs that what was said in this House was not confined to the ears of this House, hut spread over the whole world, and that our discussions had reactions far beyond our own boundaries, and the House has accordingly, with happily few and rare exceptions, carried on its foreign relations discussions in the light of that consideration and with all the seriousness and the discretion that that consideration demands. To-day the same thing is true of the Debates on our financial situation. They no longer are listened to or read by ourselves alone. They are watched throughout the world, and what we say here will and must have an effect not only upon confidence at home but upon our international credit in the world at large. The position that is disclosed in these Papers is a grave one. Let us treat it gravely. There is every reason fur caution, for economy and for wise husbandry of our resources. There is no reason for panic. Do not let us start it. There are some people who confuse hysteria with strength. They are not the same thing, and 1 hope the House of Commons will not make that mistake. The situation is one that calls for anxious thought, for wise measures to redeem it, and for a policy steadily pursued, not merely through the coming months, but through the coming years. It is in that spirit, without panic and without undue optimism, not as a momentary excitement, but as a continuing policy, that I would ask the House to review the situation which is laid before them.