Orders of the Day — Tea (Customs).

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 21st April 1936.

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Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

Undoubtedly that is something, and I always try to play fair, but I am saying that, if the industries of this country are in such a good position as is shown by the Chancellor's figures, if trade is so buoyant and on the up-grade as to allow him to anticipate substantial increases next year, surely we might have expected that something would be done to give the masses of the people, who are outwith Income Tax and Super-tax, a substantial all-round rise in their standard of life. I regret very much that the Chancellor has not seen fit to make any such provision. Imagine the old age pensioner being asked to contribute, out of her 10s., an extra 2d. on tea to defend the country, and, incidentally, to defend the kind of home she can maintain on 10s. a week. Twopence on tea is a bit heavy for the old person with 10s. a week as her total income, and I regret very much that something could not have been done in that direction. It seems to me that the orphans, widows, and all the others who have served the community, are on a miserably low level, and it would be a shocking thing if, in the attempt to provide defence services which in the past have never been a defence for the mass of the people, a large proportion of the homes of the nation have to continue to exist on this miserable pittance.

I have been led to make more in the way of a speech than I had intended to make. The Chancellor has congratulated himself, and, judged by his standard, he was entitled to congratulate himself, on the different position financially as between 1932 and 1936, although I have the feeling, and I said so at the time, that the economic crisis of 1931 was largely an imaginary crisis created by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends when they sat on these benches. I admit that they had carried on their propaganda about the crisis, bankruptcy, the profligate Government and so on, to such an extent that they had almost come to believe it, and certainly had made interested parties in other parts of the world believe it too, but essentially it was an imaginary crisis. The right hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated on having dissipated the imaginary crisis that he himself created when he was sitting in Opposition, and to that extent he deserves the congratulations. He has done his job as Chancellor of the Exchequer of the National Government in a capitalist system of society. I understand from the newspapers that greater distinctions are in very early store for him. I am told that drastic changes are going to be made in the personnel of the National Government, and the Chancellor will receive the promotion which he has so rightly earned, while other people will go into the rest and quiet which they also have so thoroughly earned. Whether that may be so or not, the Chancellor may congratulate himself to-day, if this is to be his last Budget, on having brought it forward and manipulated the country's finances in a most dextrous fashion.