Tobacco (Customs Duty).

Part of Orders of the Day — Customs and Excise – in the House of Commons on 25th April 1939.

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Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

I was not here in 1929. I invite the hon. Member who interrupted me to say whether it is or is not a debt of honour which society owes to these old people that their last remaining years shall not be passed in the bitterness not merely of poverty but of destitution. It cannot be denied that it is destitution that is involved, because it is only destitution which the public assistance authority is entitled to relieve. The mere fact that people with old age pensions are in such large numbers receiving public assistance is an admission that they are destitute. We as a community have no more right to leave these people destitute than any one of us individually would have a right to leave our own parents destitute if we had the means to maintain them. To those who defend the present system as being better than any other system, I would say that if we cannot discharge that ultimate debt of honour we should change the system for some other system that holds out the hope, the promise, of being better able to discharge that debt of honour. Those hon. Members who take that view do pay a poorer compliment to their own system, than I, who am opposed to that system, would pay. I do not think that we are so hard up as all that. Even under our wasteful competitive system I do not believe that we are not able to discharge our debt. Our failure to discharge the debt is failure through lack of will.

I now come to the position in 1931. I am sorry that the hon. Member who drew my attention to 1931 has left the House, but I hope he will do me the honour of reading my reply to his question tomorrow in the OFFICIAL REPORT. In 1931 there was a financial crisis. We were said to be all heading for bankruptcy. This disastrous Labour party had to be turned out and men of good will, other than those belonging to this party, had to come together and form a National Government, in order to deal with the impending national crisis that was driving us into bankruptcy. That was the case made against us, fraudently, dishonestly but successfully, in the country. I say fraudulently and dishonestly. What was the size of the debt that caused the controversy? It was approximately £110,000,000.