Adjournment (Summer)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th August 1947.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington 12:00 am, 13th August 1947

It is the same Government, or it ought to be. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) must not interrupt, because I have noted a vote which he gave a little time ago. He voted against adjourning for six weeks in the year in which we were winning the war, so he had better be careful not to vote in favour of adjourning for 10 weeks on this occasion.

I want to ask the House to consider our position and to examine the reasons why, in all seriousness, we on this side of the House urge the recall of the House on the date which I have mentioned, namely, 16th September. Nobody will deny—unhappily, nobody can deny—that this country is in a balance of payments crisis, and, according to the estimate which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us yesterday, the American loan will have run out before the House re-assembles, if it does re-assemble on the date suggested in October. There will then be a yawning gap, with little except our reserves of gold and free exchange available to bridge that gap; and, we are all agreed, as the Chancellor told us the other day, that we must not fritter away those last reserves.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: What do the Government propose to do to meet this situation—the final exhaustion of the American Loan—which will arise before this House resumes, on the showing of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself? We do not know what the Government propose to do. All that we have been told so far is that there are to be some cuts in imports, cuts which may, perhaps, reduce this yawning gap by—shall we say?—a third, probably more nearly a quarter. We have also been told there is to be some increase in exports, but not, I should imagine, before we return in October. That increase in exports can only come about at a considerably later date. The Government have not claimed it will be sooner than that.

So we are in the position that we are to adjourn in the certain knowledge that the American loan will run out before we resume, and with no information from the Government as to what they propose to do in these conditions. I say deliberately that such a situation is quite unprecedented. What we are asked to do is to adjourn when the Government have no plan—to adjourn, if you will, to enable the Government to seek for a plan; in other words, to adjourn to enable the Government to do something which they ought to have begun to do a year ago. If the right hon. Gentleman feels any doubt as to the justice of these observations, let him re-read—because I am sure he must have read it before—the letter in the "Daily Herald" of last Friday signed by 19 of his own supporters on the back benches.