Orders of the Day — Statistics of Trade Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st January 1947.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough 12:00 am, 21st January 1947

The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) took it upon himself to quote against me, in connection with this Bill, what I had said at a Rotary Club in Leicester. I do not quite see the relevance of the point which the hon. Member was making, but he quoted me as having said that when the American loan had been spent, we should have to work much harder and produce a great deal more—which is the chief object of this Bill—or we should face a terrible economic crisis. Surely, that is the gospel which the President of the Board of Trade has made his own for the last 18 months, and if in preaching that doctrine I have sinned, I have sinned in very good company. Moreover, we have had issued today a White Paper which, if it means anything, means what I tried to say to Rotarians at Leicester, that unless all classes work considerably harder, nothing can save us from an austerity such as we cannot imagine at the present time. I do not withdraw one word that I said.

I have only one complaint to make about the Bill, and that is its timing. It is possible to do the right thing at the wrong time, and I think the Government can be criticised on that ground. While the House has been in Recess, the housewives of London have been faced with the loss of their rations because of a breakdown in trade union organisation and discipline, which may be repeated. I feel that, on this first day after the Recess, instead of discussing long-term policy, we should attend to first things first. Clearly it is much more important that the President of the Board of Trade should appoint one of his working parties to look into the organisation of the Transport and General Workers' Union than that he should bring forward a Bill of this sort. When a factory is on fire, one does not put in a new filing system; one puts out the fire. That is the position with regard to the nation at the present time. Where I feel the Government have gone wrong is that they are frightened to tackle the one big problem that faces them—that of indiscipline in their regular supporters, and they are afraid of a general wages policy. Until those two things are tackled, and tackled quickly, this long-term policy may or may not be of any use. Therefore, I say the Government are to be blamed for giving this first day to a policy which can only bring results over a long period, and funking—and I use the term advisedly—the real difficulty in their own supporters' ranks.

I also feel that this extra work, which may fall not only on the clerks in our factories but also to some lesser degree on the Civil Service, may be the last straw that will break the camel's back. The clerk of a county council said to me only last week that no one person could possibly keep in touch with all the Bills, memoranda, explanatory notices and Orders that are coming from this House. There is the danger of the whole of the Civil Service breaking down through being overloaded and we face the same difficulties in our offices and factories. The Government are asking the machine to do too much, and to do it too quickly, and I wonder, if instead of bringing forward a long-term policy, whether it would not be a good thing to close this House for 12 months except for Question time and let the Civil Service and industry catch up with the work in front of it. The Socialist policy will break down through trying to do too much too quickly. The Government are trying to bite off more than they can chew and they will choke.