Clause 7. — (Short title, construction and extent.)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 19th November 1931.

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Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

I do not wish to delay the House at this late hour, when we have other business to do. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the speed, the unprecedented speed, with which he has piloted this first-class Measure through the House. I hope the Measure will be put very speedily into operation. I advise the right hon. Gentleman to begin thinking about what he is going to do next, when the rare and refreshing fruits that this country has hoped to achieve as the result of Measures of this description are not forthcoming. Very high expectations have been raised in the country by the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House. People voted at the General Election for speedy prosperity. I advise the Government to start now, bending their attention to consider how they are going to produce this prosperity. I am perfectly satisfied that these Measures, so far from taking the nation out of the crisis, are going to accentuate the crisis. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and with the Government, that it is one of the first duties of a State to concern itself with the control and regulation of its import and export trade. It is a primary duty of a State. I have never accepted the individualistic view of trade that has been held up this week by the President of the Board of Trade. I think it is preposterous to allow your national destinies to be entirely at the mercy of the unregulated trading operations of individuals pursuing the end of personal profit, and no one of them having regard to the general welfare of the nation as a whole.

Regulation of our external trade is a primary function of the State. The tariff method of attempting to regulate is the worst. It gives us the worst of both worlds. It leaves private trade still intact. It leaves the motive still personal gain. The general welfare of the State is not the concern of any of the individuals who are carrying on that trade, and all that is done by the State, in this form of regulation, is to interpose between two individual traders, in this country and in some other country, a State bar which may or may not work for the national weal. I think that it will not work for the national weal, and that the old Free Trade argument is sound, to this extent, that imports and exports ultimately must balance themselves, and, if you are reducing imports, then surely and certainly, and to a proportionate amount, you reduce exports. I do not pretend to be able to say how it will happen, but I do believe that the net, primary result of this type of legislation, which we are passing to-day with such speed, will be to reduce the general standard of life of the whole mass of our people at a time, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition so ably states, when general world conditions ought to be raising the standards of life of the people to a higher level than ever they were before. I wish the Measure Godspeed. The sooner it is passed, the sooner it is in operation and the sooner the nation feels its practical effects, the sooner will there be a public demonstration of its futility and a demand from the mass of the people for those fundamental changes which will have to be made before we are on our feet again.