Expenditure Arising Out of the War.

Part of Supplementary Vote of Credit, 1941. – in the House of Commons on 16th December 1941.

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Photo of Dr William Thomas Dr William Thomas , Southampton

I should like to say a few words arising out of the Chancellor's reference to National Savings. He was careful to explain that he was not merely referring to small savings but that there are considerable savings made, for instance, by insurance companies. He expressed himself on the whole—or that is the impression he gave me—as pretty satisfied that. National Savings were going on just as they should and that, as they gathered force, they would probably go a long way to fill up the gap that we all have in mind. But I am not so sure. I do not believe that National Savings are as great as is imagined when you take certain factors into consideration. Even before the National Savings Movement national savings were considerable. Have they risen at the rate that they should when we consider the general expansion of employment? This has increased enormously. Have National Savings gone up pro rata? Also wages are constantly rising and have increased enormously. Not only are there more people employed, but a great many are getting extra wages. Is the Chancellor extracting sufficient of these in National Savings? Are National Savings growing pro rata with the increased wages? I am not so sure about it.

There is also a lack of outlets for investment. Before the war people had considerable scope. There were building societies and that kind of thing, but I do not believe that building societies are taking people's money to-day to any extent. Is the Chancellor extracting the money that would have been invested in building societies and so on, for his own use? I very much doubt whether he is extracting as much as he should. I doubt very much whether people are making greater savings in the direction of insurance policies than before the war. I think they are probably less. People are not able to spend so much to-day on their food and clothes as they used to on account of rationing. Is the Chancellor getting in sufficient in that direction? He referred rightly to the fact of limitation of goods available, indeed regarding a limitation of goods and increased purchasing power as inevitable during a great war.

Although the right hon. Gentleman deplored the fact that people had too much purchasing power, there are increases of wages going on almost weekly. I stated in a supplementary question the other day that the bodies which get these increased wages are those belonging to powerful interests, and they are able to get more of the limited quantity of goods available. But there are also large numbers of people who cannot save at all, who are on the existence line and no more. They have no one whatever to look after their interests and they cannot come in and get hold of more of these very limited goods. It is high time that these matters were considered with greater severity and sternness. The Government has to consider whether some sort of wage policy could not be hammered out which would help to stabilise the conditions we are going through. It would present enormous difficulties, but I think it should be borne in mind. These are just points that occurred to me while the Chancellor was speaking. I am sure we all wish him well in the great difficulties that lie ahead.