Debate on the Address

Part of Orders of the Day — King's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th October 1947.

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Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Orpington 12:00 am, 24th October 1947

I am sure that the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) will forgive me if I do not follow him. I say with all sincerity that I have always admired his great independence of mind.

The Gracious Speech, and many of the speeches that have been made since, emphasised merely our industrial and economic problems, but there is something bigger and more profound which must be hewn from the rock of principle, with which we should build, if Britain is to be snatched back from the very brink of disaster. The Gracious Speech is on all fours with, and is a continuance of the insane Socialist policy put forward at the General Election in 1945. The Election programme has proved a delusion. The proposals in the Gracious Speech will also prove a delusion. Let us compare the acknowledgments that the Government have been compelled to make in the Gracious Speech, and in the speeches made by the Minister for Economic Affairs and the Chancellor of the Exchequer today, with the Election programme of 1945. This Government will go down in history as the Government of disillusionment. The proposals in the Gracious Speech are further evidence that ideologists and theorists, obsessed with vanity and drank with power, are determined to enact their ideologies and their theories, and damn the consequences.

The Government have two alternatives, to resign and own that they have made a mess of things, or to go on and on with the inevitable result of a dictatorship. I would ask hon. Members whether they have read the book "The Road to Serfdom" by Professor Hayek. It is one of the most remarkable books ever written. In that book he said: It is now necessary to state the unpalatable truth that it is Germany whose fate we are in danger of repeating. He goes on to his next warning, which is quite clear and incontrovertible. He says: Some of the forces which have destroyed freedom in Germany are also at work here. The supreme tragedy is still not seen, that in Germany it was largely the people of good will who paved the way, if they did not actually create, the forces' which now stand for everything we detest. In that connection I would ask the Government to note the words of the paragraph in the Gracious Speech which deals with forced labour.

The catastrophe with which we are faced was inevitable because evil principles of Government, as the outcome of 40 years of fallacious propaganda, have been and are being continuously applied. We have been warned about the right hon. Gentlemen in power now in clear terms: False prophets shall rise and shall shew signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. Also: Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves … Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. There is hardly any need for more arguments because, as the result of two years of Socialist Government, by results the Government stand completely condemned. We are in danger of repeating the 1931 crisis. I had the honour to be closely associated with Mr. Neville Chamberlain and the Opposition of that day, and I well remember a speech made by Mr. Ramsay Mac-Donald. He used a sentence which I will quote. It was true then and it is true today: It is not the distribution of wealth which is in danger; it is the very existence of wealth itself. Professor Lionel Robbins of the London School of Economics has been mentioned in the Debate on two or three occasions today. I would ask hon. Members to read his article called, "Inquest on the Crisis," in the October number of "Lloyds Bank Review." As he has been attacked, may I in his defence—he does not really want a defence—quote a short sentence from his article in which he says: In any review of the present economic crisis, the first thing that must be stated is that we are victims of a dreadful catastrophe … The average citizen has tended to regard the breakdown of the experiment in convertibility and the virtual exhaustion of our dollar resources as a matter of comparative indifference. But this state of opinion cannot persist. As the winter comes on, as our rations are cut and our amenities (such as they are) abolished, we shall all realise only too vividly that, for the urban inhabitants of a tightly-packed island, such as our own, to be caught with an annual adverse balance of payments of some £600 million sterling, and inadequate reserves to cover it, is no minor incident. It is the biggest disaster in our long economic history. How has this come about? We cannot undo the past … but we can learn from experience. It is still perhaps possible to rehabilitate our affairs and restore our fallen prestige. But only on one condition—that we understand aright the events of the last two years. I am glad that the London School of Economics has produced one professor who did not come under the influence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In the first paragraph of the Gracious Speech the word "power" is mentioned. This Government is like the Governments of Hitler and of Russia. They are obsessed with the lust for power. All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yesterday, in the "Evening Standard" the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) wrote a very telling article. He said this: The Government is doubly prisoner. It is the prisoner of the trade unions and it is the prisoner of its own left wing. I will sum up with a few lines written by Mr. Rudyard Kipling in a poem entitled "A Servant when he Reigneth", which applies to the Government today: His ears are deaf to reason,His lips are loud in broil,He knows no use for powerExcept to show his might.He gives no heed to judgment,Unless it prove him right,So when his Folly opensThe unnecessary hellsA Servant when he ReignethThrows the blame on someone elseHis vows are lightly spokenHis faith is hard to bindHis trust is easy brokenHe fears his fellow kind. Here I am going to alter one word— The T.U.C. will move himTo break the pledge he gave,Oh! a Servant when he Reigneth,Is more than ever slave. The stress in the Gracious Speech is laid on our economic difficulties, but this catastrophe is neither a financial, economic nor "dollar" crisis; it is a spiritual and moral crisis. We have spent many lives and much treasure and we have sold a great proportion of our overseas investments in the cause of freedom. Without a doubt that has weakened us, but we still have two great assets left, stability and confidence in the integrity, experience and knowledge of our people who conduct international trade. In a balance sheet one cannot assess the value, in money, of confidence or stability, but they are vital to economic and financial recovery. By their policy during the last two years, the Government have, to a great measure, destroyed at home and abroad the credit of and confidence in Great Britain and her people. For two years Britain has not been allowed to recover half as much as she would otherwise have done. Every obstacle has been put in her path to recovery and initiative, and incentive has been killed and, therefore, ability to recover has been taken away. Britain is in danger of losing her soul, and if she loses her soul, she loses her power to recover financially and economically.

The Government's policy has been to weaken the powers of resistance of the people of this country so that they could more easily enact their disastrous policy on a gullible people. I will give just one example of gullible people. It is typical of millions throughout the country. The other day a woman was told that the railways were to be nationalised. She replied, "Isn't that splendid? Then we shall all travel free." The Government have capitalised the financial and economic ignorance of our people in order to enact the disastrous Bills they have brought in. The reason for the catastrophe is the application of evil principles. If good principles are applied; good results will inevitably follow, and the opposite is also true. Without emotion, without any warm feeling of any kind, I say quite coldly to the House and to the country that we have to get back to the principles contained in the Ten Commandments, as fulfilled in the Four Gospels, and make them practical politics, or we shall perish. In 1945 the Election was won by the mass bribery, by the promise of material things to this gullible electorate.

The Command is: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God … and all these things shall be added unto you. So long as the Government keep putting the cart before the horse, there is no hope of material recovery.

Why should America, or anyone else, lend us money or give us dollars or credit, when they have no confidence in the present Government of Britain? America looks across the Atlantic and sees 47 million of customers, but what she wants are 47 million of prosperous customers, who can foot their bills and pay their debts. The first step to restore confidence in Britain abroad and in her ability to recover is to get rid of this present Government, and to return a Government which is pledged to free enterprise within the four walls of the Ten Commandments. The only solution is complete and uncompromising freedom in industry for men and for companies, freedom to trade at home and abroad without Government interference.

The Commandments say: "Thou shalt not steal" and "Thou shalt not covet," but this Government is threatening to steal and is coveting all the time. Where the carcase is, there will the jackals be gathered together. But they can only eat the carcase once! The Government should remove all controls inside three months, and allow the law of supply and demand to operate. That would create—[An HON. MEMBER: "Unemployment."]—a tremendous upheaval, but it would be as nothing compared with the complete disaster that will ensue if it is not done. The responsibility for recovery must be placed in the only place where it can properly be placed, and that is on the shoulders of each individual. If any Government or any person breaks the law of supply and demand, that law will break them, and Dean Inge has put this very concisely. He wrote: The right to life and liberty and the enjoyment of property lawfully come by and conscientiously used have, for 2,000 years, been regarded as the natural rights secured by the Law of Nature, which is older and more sacred than any human enactments. A Government which transgresses these natural rights has no moral claim on the obedience of its citizens. If these controls and all this rationing continue, the black market will increase, and there is nothing that the Government can do to stop it. The strongest instinct in every human breast is self-preservation, and hungry men will go to great lengths to get food for themselves and their families.

Great stress is laid in another section of the Gracious Speech on the adverse balance of payments and expanding exports. I have asked several Ministers personally when they appeal for expanding exports, to add this vital sentence, "We must export at world competitive prices or starve." Hon. Members talk about competition. Thank heaven, the mandate of this Government does not run beyond the shores of Britain. If we want to trade in the world, we have got to send out goods and services at world competitive prices. Ca'canny, Communist infiltration, the 40-hour five-day week, the continual demanding and granting of higher wages, all increase our cost of production, and must impede or destroy our ability to compete in the markets of the world. The Government cannot compel a man or woman to work. A man is free because he is a man, and God in His wisdom gave man the right of free will to use or to abuse. Experience abroad has shown that Governments can put men in concentration camps, torture them or shoot them, but they cannot make a man work, and the responsibility for recovery must come from a change of heart in the men and -women of this country, who, of their own free will, will do their duty first and put their rights a bad third.

The Chancellor referred today to the continuance and increase of the social services. In 1900, the Civil Estimates amounted to £23 million; they are £1,800 million today. The principle behind the budget of my home and the homes of other hon. Members is exactly the same as the budget of the country, except in the size and amount of money involved, and the Government must somehow cut down expenditure and must have the courage to cut down the social services, because just as the Germans were told, "Guns before butter", it is now a case of cutting down the social services or starvation. If hon. Members think I am over-stating this case, let me remind them of what was said by Commissioner Lamb, of the Salvation Army, and he is not a politician but he does know something about the poor. He said: The country has during the last decade spent over £1,000 million on the relief of able-bodied men and women, and has got nothing for it but a heritage of misery and demoralisation.