Orders of the Day — Ex-Servicemen (Retail Business Licences)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5 November 1945.

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Photo of Mr Ellis Smith Mr Ellis Smith , Stoke-on-Trent Stoke 12:00, 5 November 1945

If there were time, I would accept the challenge about the Co-operative movement. If hon. Gentlemen understood the growth of that movement, they would understand that there is no comparison between an organisation that was built up by the struggles and sacrifices of the sort of people who have really made this country great, and the monopolists and big business people. Those who served in the last war cannot forget the great contribution made by the engineers, and cannot forget that within two years of that war they suffered a reduction in wages of 25s. a week. Who were then undermining the home market? Who were then taking out of the pockets of the ordinary people the purchasing power which these small business men were dependent on for their livelihood? I do not mind criticism, because when we are sure of our case, and when we have been brought up in such a school as that in which many of us have been brought up in, we know that our case is so strong and unanswerable that we have no doubt on which side the judgment of our people will come on issues of this kind.

The hon. Gentleman said that the ex-Servicemen were looking forward to com- ing back. I agree with him, but let me place on record that the Government, and the men and women who support them, will take second place to no one in their defence of the rights of the Armed Forces. He went on to say that the Board of Trade was the principal barrier to enterprise, especially from the point of view of the returned men. I hope the hon. Gentleman does not really mean that, because the present occupants of the office do not plead guilty to that accusation. Even if he were making it against the present occupants of the office, surely he would not make it against the Coalition Government. If he did, he would make it against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). The Coalition Government were responsible for drawing up these terms of reference and for determining this policy. As I shall show later by producing evidence, it was they who decided this policy and who said that during the transitional period this policy would have to continue.